06/28/17 Local Government
Tampa Bay political leaders often tout taking a regional approach to solve the area's most pressing issues. But the challenge has been getting Hillsborough County and Pinellas County leaders together on the same page.
Or in this case, in the same room.
Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Janet Long has been jockeying behind the scenes to schedule a joint meeting of both county commissions to discuss transportation and infrastructure problems — issues that cross county lines....
TAMPA — Two days after Hillsborough County commissioners decided not to touch a Confederate monument in downtown Tampa, Hillsborough County Democrats have decided to weigh in.
The party’s executive committee released a statement Friday afternoon criticizing the commissioners who voted to keep the monument in front of the old county courthouse — Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman and Stacy White — and asking them to reconsider....
06/21/17 Local Government
TAMPA — As some southern communities move to erase Confederate symbols from their public spaces, one prominently on display in Tampa will stay where it is.
After three hours of contentious debate, Hillsborough County commissioners voted 4-3 on Wednesday to keep a Confederate monument outside the old county courthouse in downtown Tampa.
Commissioners Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman and Stacy White, all Republicans, were in the majority. The board's other Republican, Commissioner Al Higginbotham, joined Democrats Pat Kemp and Les Miller in advocating for its removal....
TAMPA -- Hillsborough County Commissioners voted Wednesday to keep a Confederate monument on public space outside the old county courthouse in downtown Tampa.
The 4-3 vote also included a request for county staff to budget and design a diversity mural that will be painted on the 10-foot high, 75-foot wide wall that stands behind the monument. They also voted to draft an ordinance to protect all of Hillsborough's war memorials from future removal....
TAMPA — Don't take down Tampa's Confederate monument, "rebrand it."
That's the idea from former advertising executive and Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist ahead of Wednesday's expected discussion on the statue's future.
Crist wants to leave the statue and paint a large mural behind it. The painting, which would dorn a 10-foot-high by 75-foot-wide space on a white wall around the statue, would depict the diverse faces of America with the slogan "United we all stand."...
06/16/17 Human Interest
TAMPA — In the streets along Court House Square they sang Dixie and cheered as the veil was finally removed from the white marble obelisk. Necks craned from balconies along Franklin Street as people strained to catch a glimpse.
It was Feb. 8, 1911, and an estimated 5,000 people had flooded downtown Tampa, still a small port city, for the dedication of a Confederate monument.
According to news accounts from the day, various dignitaries paid tribute to the Confederate soldiers who had marched to defend the Old South then returned to build the New South from its ashes. They praised the generals who led them and the women who supported the cause from home....
TAMPA — Three shift commanders with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue were placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday after they were accused of falsifying their time cards when their boss was on vacation, county records show.
Deputy Fire Chief of Operations Newell "Chip" Branam, supervisor for the three, also was placed on paid administrative leave "until further notice" while an outside agency hired by the county reviews the allegations, county spokeswoman Liana Lopez confirmed in an email Thursday to the Tampa Bay Times. ...
TAMPA — Next week, Hillsborough County Commissioners are expected to discuss what to do about the Confederate Memorial in downtown Tampa.
At Commissioner Stacy White’s request, commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting will debate not only the Confederate statue outside the old county courthouse, but all military memorials, according to a draft agenda.
The conversation by the commission will follow a call from one of their own, Les Miller, to remove the memorial, as well as a demand from Confederate advocates to put in place an ordinance to protect all monuments from removal....
TAMPA — Ken Hagan will have quite the fundraising headstart if and when someone else jumps into his race for Hillsborough County commissioner.
Hagan, the county's longest-serving commissioner, has already raised $201,000 in his bid for another term, this time in District 2, according to campaign finance reports. That makes back-to-back months Hagan has pulled in $100,000.
The early fundraising advantage is a playbook Hagan has followed in past elections: Build up a war chest big enough to scare away competition....
TAMPA — Book a room at any hotel in Hillsborough County and there will be a 12 percent tax on the bill. Some of that money goes to the state and some to the county.
The same 12 percent is charged at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa, one of Hillsborough's priciest. But that tax doesn't go to state or local governments. It goes into the pocket of the Seminole Tribe of Florida....
06/08/17 Human Interest
TAMPA — Hillsborough County is preparing a seven-figure bailout of the beleaguered Museum of Science and Industry, and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is going to help.
The museum, known as MOSI, owes more than $2 million to vendors, banks and creditors and doesn't have the money to pay them.
Additionally, MOSI leaders need $350,000 to bankroll their plan to shutter part of the museum's building and move operations to a smaller wing of the 80-acre north Tampa campus. Downsizing operations is expected to save money, but in the meantime, they need cash to close the old building and reopen as a smaller science center....
Hillsborough commissioners approve cap on medical marijuana dispensaries but state lawmakers may void it06/07/17Local
TAMPA — A limit on medical marijuana dispensaries passed the Hillsborough County Commission on Wednesday, but it may not last long.
Commissioners voted to cap marijuana storefronts at one for every 44,800 residents in unincorporated Hillsborough, or 20 dispensaries. The new policy reverses a position adopted just three months ago, when commissioners decided not to limit licenses.
As the vote took place, reports emerged that the state House and Senate had finally reached an agreement on medical marijuana that, if approved, would override the commission vote. ...
TAMPA — Aakash Patel, a Tampa businessman and Republican, is jumping into an increasingly intriguing race for Hillsborough County Commission.
Patel filed to run Friday afternoon for the District 1 seat, the first Republican to do so. Tampa City Councilwoman Yolie Capin, a Democrat, announced her bid last week....
TAMPA — Call it a re-doobie.
Just three months after declaring Hillsborough County open to boundless medical marijuana businesses, commissioners now may put a cap on how many dispensaries can set up shop.
Such a reversal so soon after setting policy is rare for the commission. And the about-face comes amid an intense lobbying campaign by a state-approved medical marijuana company that would benefit greatly from less competition in one of Florida's largest markets....
PALM RIVER — A year and a half after the Maydell Drive Bridge was closed as unsound, the people who relied on it still are taking detours.
That's not likely to change for at least a couple more years.
The 616-foot long bridge carried traffic over the Tampa Bypass Canal and needs to be replaced entirely, Hillsborough County officials have learned. That will take until 2020 at the earliest....