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Florida Democrats debut ad charging Rick Baker as climate change denier

Rick Baker's views on climate change are subject of new state Democratic Party TV ad

Cherie Diez (2017)

Rick Baker's views on climate change are subject of new state Democratic Party TV ad

The Florida Democratic party today debuted an ad linking former mayor Rick Baker to President Donald Trump and depicting him as a climate change denier.

The party's ad says Mayor Rick Kriseman is the right choice to lead a city surrounded on three side by water as it grapples with a changing climate. 

"Florida can't afford climate change deniers like Rick Baker and Donald Trump. We've seen the devastation that climate change and extreme weather events bring. We need leaders like Mayor Rick Kriseman who will take immediate action to build climate resilience in our coastal cities and mitigate the effects of climate change. Politicians like Rick Baker will keep their heads in the sand on climate change if it means more campaign cash. St. Petersburg voters, who are already facing the realities of climate change, understand what's at stake and that regressive climate change deniers like Baker belong in the past, not in elected office." said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Johanna Cervone in a astatement accompanying the ad. …

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Harry Cohen: Political tide will turn toward compromise — and Tampa is going to need it

Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen

City of Tampa

Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen

With only a few hours’ sleep separating him from a 1:30 a.m. adjournment of the City Council meeting, Harry Cohen said Friday that this year’s messy end to Tampa’s budget process foreshadows both the challenges and the promise of the way city politics is changing.

“Five months ago, what I would have told you the next round of mayor and City Council races were going to be about are not the things that really emerged” over the summer, Cohen told more than 50 people at the weekly political discussion group known as Café con Tampa.

For one thing, Cohen said, there’s a new set of issues to be dealt with, including storm preparation, coming to terms with climate change and pursuing regional transportation solutions.

On transportation, he said, the question is not roads vs. transit. The area needs both, plus autonomous vehicles, a robust bus system, ferries and every other alternative.

“Whoever the next mayor of Tampa is, and there’s some wonderful people who are going to run, that person must make transportation an issue that they are willing to champion on a regional basis from their bully pulpit,” he said. …

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In marathon meeting, Tampa City Council further trims Bob Buckhorn’s property tax increase

The Tampa City Council was working into the night Thursday on the city budget for 2018.

City of Tampa

The Tampa City Council was working into the night Thursday on the city budget for 2018.

It wasn’t easy, quick or pretty, but the Tampa City Council voted early Friday morning to make another reduction to Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s proposed property tax increase for 2018.

 

As a result, Tampa’s property tax rate will rise next year from $5.73 to $6.21 in city taxes for every $1,000 in assessed, taxable property value. That's 14.7 percent above the state's "rollback" rate, which is the rate the city would have to set to account for the growth in property values and to take in the same amount of property tax revenue next year as this year.

 

That means a homeowner whose house is assessed at the city average of $166,579 and has a homestead exemption will pay about $91 more next year. The average home in South Tampa, where values are highest, would pay an estimated $174 more a year.

 

To make the new tax rate work, the $969.2 million budget will not carry forward $2.1 million that had been earmarked to help cover debt payments that are expected to shoot up over the next six years. The city also will cut $1.1 million from the increased spending that Buckhorn had proposed for the parks, transportation and facilities maintenance departments.

  …

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Vegas, Baby! Casino magnate Steve Wynn donates $25,000 to Rick Baker's campaign

Casino magnate and RNC finance chairman Steve Wynn donated $25,000 to Rick Baker's PAC in August.

Associated Press

Casino magnate and RNC finance chairman Steve Wynn donated $25,000 to Rick Baker's PAC in August.

ST. PETERSBURG — The mayoral race — the most expensive in the city's history — is no stranger to celebrity donations.

Jimmy Bufffett and Susan Sarandon (sister-in-law of Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin), for instance, have donated to incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman’s re-election campaign.

Steve Wynn, the international casino magnate, may not sing or act, but he is the finance chair of the Republican National Committee. And in August he gave $25,000 to Seamless Florida, the political action committee supporting former Mayor Rick Baker’s attempt to unseat Kriseman.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

Wynn donated the cash on Aug 11.  So why does Wynn have an interest in a non-partisan mayoral race, albeit one in which both parties have taken a strong interest (remember former President Barack Obama’s endorsement of Kriseman?).

There was no immediate response from Wynn made through a request for comment to the RNC. The Baker campaign declined to say if Baker knows Wynn, but issued a statement. …

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Pinellas property appraiser seeks clarity in fire district property tax dispute

The Pinellas County property appraiser filed a motion seeking clarity in a dispute over the legality of a property tax.

[Screenshot]

The Pinellas County property appraiser filed a motion seeking clarity in a dispute over the legality of a property tax.

 

UPDATE: In light of the property appraiser's motion, the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District will hold an emergency meeting at 2 p.m. Friday. Commissioners will consider adopting a property tax rate of $0. If commissioners approve the change, it would replace the 50-cent property tax rate commissioners approved Wednesday, according to a district notice. The meeting will be held on the fourth floor of the Indian Shores Municipal Center, 19305 Gulf Blvd.

The Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Office is asking for clarity in a dispute that has left the legality of a fire district’s property tax — and how the office should proceed after the new fiscal year begins Sunday — in question.

Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold this month threw out a referendum granting the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District the authority to start collecting a property tax, the result of a lawsuit filed by district resident and Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Edward Hoofnagle.

The ruling puts Property Appraiser Mike Twitty in a precarious spot. His office is in charge of preparing the tax roll, which determines what will show up on your tax bill. …

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Tomalin addresses public outcry to her racial profiling claim

Kanika Tomalin, pictured just prior to Rick Kriseman's State of the City address in January, has vociferously denied her actions were meant to gain political advantage in a tight, nasty mayor's race.

CHRIS URSO | Times

Kanika Tomalin, pictured just prior to Rick Kriseman's State of the City address in January, has vociferously denied her actions were meant to gain political advantage in a tight, nasty mayor's race.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin wrote a lengthy explanation Thursday addressing of her decision to post on her personal Facebook account over the weekend about an incident she perceived as racial profiling in a Central Avenue boutique last weekend.

The store's owner disputed Tomalin's account. Sara Stonecipher, who owns MISRED Outfitters, supports former mayor Rick Baker in his attempt to unseat Mayor Rick Kriseman, Tomalin's boss. 

Tomalin has vociferously denied her actions were meant to gain political advantage in a tight, nasty race.

She writes that the incident presents an opportunity for education and public awareness. Tomalin's latest comments about the incident appeared on her official Facebook page on Thursday morning. 

Here is the text of Tomalin's second Facebook post: …

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Baker debuts another TV ad as campaign reboot continues

Rick Baker releases his second TV ad in two days as his campaign continues to reboot

Cherie Diez (2017)

Rick Baker releases his second TV ad in two days as his campaign continues to reboot

The former mayor has a brand new bag---full of commercials.

For the second day in a row, the Baker campaign released a TV ad. The latest is set in a record store (filmed in St. Pete's iconic Bananas) and casts the former mayor as a guitar hero with discography full of hits--Grand Prix, Beach Drive, Midtown revival---that thrills younger voters. The Kriseman record bin? One lonely record about which the store owner intones: "The Kriseman record? No one's buying it."

In strolls Baker, guitar strapped to his back, clad in a black campaign t-shirt to deliver... wait for it ... a stack of new releases. 

After losing to Mayor Rick Kriseman in the Aug. 29 primary by 70 votes, Baker has retooled his image, donning sunglasses and dressing casually. 

Meanwhile, Kriseman's campaign sent out a fundraising appeal Wednesday that blasted Baker's newly-released plan for St. Pete---the tagline of Baker's ad--- that the mayor said was devoid of new ideas and "political grandstanding."

Here is the Baker ad: 

 

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Rick Baker debuts new campaign ad to woo younger voters

In a new ad, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker surprises a group of people in a restaurant who are talking about his accomplishments. He says, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Image from video

In a new ad, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker surprises a group of people in a restaurant who are talking about his accomplishments. He says, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Former mayor Rick Baker's campaign unveiled a reboot of sorts Tuesday with the debut of a new TV ad.

"Diner" shows a group of people at a restaurant extolling the virtues of Baker's two terms as mayor while not realizing that he is sitting nearby. Baker takes off his sunglasses and says, "You ain't seen nothing yet." 

Baker lost by 70 votes to Mayor Rick Kriseman in the Aug. 29 primary. Kriseman's campaign targeted voters who had never voted in a mayor's race before, many of them younger, new arrivals to the Sunshine City.

Is this Baker's attempt to steal some of those voters for the Nov. 7 election?

 

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Pinellas: It could cost $15 million to remove storm debris

Pinellas County estimates it will take at least four weeks to remove debris from unincorporated areas.

Pinellas County estimates it will take at least four weeks to remove debris from unincorporated areas.

CLEARWATER--The removal and processing of debris from Hurricane Irma in unincorporated Pinellas County could cost an estimated $15 million.

County administrator Mark Woodard told commissioners Monday the county is working to "optimize" reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The county estimates it must clear 600,000 cubic yards of debris, enough to fill a line of 50,000 dump trucks stretching 221 miles.

"It will take approximately four weeks to complete its first pass through," Woodard told commissioners. "The county will continue to do multiple passes thereafter."

The county's primary vendor, AshBritt Environmental, has 17 trucks working in the county and will add three more this week, Woodard said. The county is paying the firm $7.75 per cubic yard to haul the debris to one of four collection sites, he said.

To expedite the removal and disposal process, a secondary vendor is expected to bring in 25 trucks this week, he added. The county is also considering activating more of its own equipment to pick up the waste, Woodard said. …

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Update: Ethics investigator finds no probable cause in Go Hillsborough contract complaint

Florida Commission on Ethics will hear complaints next month against Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, as well as Commissioner Sandy Murman.

Times File Photo

Florida Commission on Ethics will hear complaints next month against Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, as well as Commissioner Sandy Murman.

TAMPA — A state ethics investigation has found no probable cause to the complaints accusing Hillsborough County officials of steering a transportation contract to a politically connected firm.

The recommendation from investigator Melody Hadley from the Office of the Attorney General was included in a letter informing county commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman that after two years the ethics board would finally hear their case on Oct. 20.

A complaint was also filed against Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, but his office could not say Monday night whether he received similar news from Hadley.

In a summary of her investigation sent to the officials, Hadley found there was no evidence that officials violated state statutes.  

The October hearing in Tallahassee will evaluate the results of the preliminary investigation. Buckhorn, Hagan and Murman will each get 10 minutes to speak but cannot introduce new evidence at that time. …

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Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter

Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle

Charlie Kaijo (2017)

Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle

Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

In December 2015, Kriseman barred then-candidate Trump from St. Petersburg after Trump called for a total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. That tweet went viral and landed the mayor on national television shows.

You're invited to visit us in St. Pete, @StephenCurry30. No White House, but a beautiful Pink Hotel + plenty of sunshine. pic.twitter.com/oqLvMLj9AD

On Saturday evening, Kriseman again tweeted about a Trump action. After the president attacked Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry earlier in the day for rejecting an invitation to visit the White House with his NBA championship teammates, Kriseman tweeted out an invitation to Curry to visit the Sunshine City.

“You’re invited to visit us in St. Pete, @StephenCurry30. No White House, but a beautiful Pink Hotel +plenty of sunshine,” Kriseman tweeted at 6:51 p.m. with a picture of the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club attached.

Shortly before 8 p.m., Kriseman’s tweet had been retweeted 38 times.

Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby said the mayor likes to keep St. Pete on Twittersphere's radar. …

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Kriseman and Baker cash race continues as campaigns officially reset

Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker are emerging from Hurricane Irma mode and getting back into campaign form

Times File Photo

Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker are emerging from Hurricane Irma mode and getting back into campaign form

The mayoral campaign, mostly operating in stealth mode during the two weeks of Hurricane Irma's build-up, arrival and recovery, has entered its stretch run, a compressed schedule of ten days before ballots are mailed to tens of thousands of voters in the Sunshine City.

On Friday, Rick Baker released the “Baker Plan” on his campaign website, which outlines the campaigns into five points familiar to most who paid attention during campaign up to the Aug. 29 primary: public safety, schools and education, jobs, neighborhoods and city services.

Baker said in a statement that there are some new ideas mixed in with previous policy positions. 

"The Baker Blueprint is a combination of the many ideas we have been talking about. Programs like the privately funded apprenticeship program and recruiting retail opportunities in areas like the Coquina Key shopping center, 62nd Ave South, and South US 19 expand upon the idea-oriented campaign we have been conducting," wrote Baker.

In the section of public safety, Baker writes that he will work on his first day with Chief (Tony) Holloway to bring back the auto theft unit shuttered by Mayor Rick Kriseman.   …

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Kriseman proclaims Buy Local week in St. Pete to quicken storm recovery

Mayor Rick Kriseman wants St. Pete residents to help small businesses recover from Hurricane Irma

Eve Edelheit

Mayor Rick Kriseman wants St. Pete residents to help small businesses recover from Hurricane Irma

Mayor Rick Kriseman has proclaimed next week to be "'Burg Buy Local Week" in an appeal to residents to help small businesses struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin presented the appeal to City Council at its Thursday meeting, saying the mayor has declared Sept. 24 though Oct. 1 as a week for residents to patronize local businesses.

Irma shut down businesses for several days, interrupting cash flow and placing may small businesses in peril, Tomalin said.

"Our ability to maintain the momentum of our economic development amid this disruption is a test that we cannot afford to fail," said Tomalin, who read the proclamation for Kriseman, who was observing Rosh Hashanah.

Several small business owners told council members that public awareness of their plight is needed as September, traditionally a slow month, has been particularly tough this year.

 

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How should St. Pete make up for dumping all that sewage? How about a street sweeper?

City Council chairwoman Darden Rice said it was important to chose carefully which environmental projects St. Petersburg should spend its $810,000 state fine on because residents will be paying attention.

[Times files]

City Council chairwoman Darden Rice said it was important to chose carefully which environmental projects St. Petersburg should spend its $810,000 state fine on because residents will be paying attention.

ST. PETERSBURG — Every crisis has a silver lining.

In the case of the city’s sewage crisis, which spawned state and federal investigations and led to a state consent decree ordering St. Petersburg to fix its sewer system, the upside is city leaders must satisfy the $810,000 civil penalty levied by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: St. Pete sewage crisis ends with no charges, $326 million bill

Why is that good news? Because the city doesn’t have to pay the state anything. Instead it can spend the money on itself, so as long as the $810,000 pays for projects that will reduce pollution or the consumption of energy or water.

That may be why the City Council committee meeting on Thursday felt a bit like a bunch of kids drawing up their Christmas gift lifts for Santa.

Should the Sunshine City buy a new street sweeper for $200,000 to keep the streets cleaner?

What about buying some waterborne aerators — from $20,000 to $40,000 a pop — to aerate city ponds or even Lake Maggiore? Aerating can help aquatic life thrive, improve water quality and reduce algae blooms. …

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Tampa poll rates streets, flooding, police-community relations and transportation as top public priorities

Survey results

City of Tampa

Survey results

A city of Tampa online survey of the public's priorities for the next 18 months rated improving streets and easing flooding as the top priority of nearly 89 percent of respondents.

Nearly tied for second were police-community relations and transportation options, including light rail. Both were rated as important by nearly 75 percent of those surveyed.

The lowest priorities: additional workforce housing (32.3 percent) and keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the area (39.4 percent).

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he launched the survey last month to make sure he focuses "on as many of (residents') concerns as possible” during the 555 days (as of Thursday) he has left before leaving office due to term limits on April 1, 2019.

Buckhorn said he was not surprised by the results of the survey, which 2,043 people filled out.

“I will circulate that survey to all of our senior staff here and remind them that this is what people are thinking,” he said.

Here’s a sample of the hundreds of comments from respondents: …

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