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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pasco picks RADDSPORTS for athletic complex

The gym's not even built, but it has its first winner. 

RADDSPORTS of Sarasota emerged in first place late Friday afternoon in a two-team competition to design, build and operate a proposed multipurpose sports center in Wesley Chapel. The firm and its partners, luxury hotel developer Mainsail Development Group of Tampa and financier Municipal Acquisitions of Washington D.C. were top-ranked by five of the six members of a county evaluation committee. The Pasco County Commission is scheduled to consider the committee's recommendation Oct. 11. 

After years of unsuccessful pursuit of a sports-tourism project, the county last year turned to Chicago-based consulting firm, Johnson Consulting, which recommended that Pasco pursue an indoor multipurpose center of at least 85,000 square feel capable holding youth sports including volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, cheerleading and other competitions.  …

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Environmental groups announce intent to sue St. Pete over sewage dumps

First there was the media glare. Then the protests. A state investigation began. A federal probe might yet follow.

Now, come the lawsuits. 

Or at least the threat of one.

Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children's Earth  Foundation and the Ecological Rights Foundation notified Mayor Rick Kriseman and Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley on Thursday that they intend to file suit in federal court against the city for violations of the Clean Water Act.

Suncoast Waterkeeper is a non-profit based in Sarasota. Our Children's Earth and Ecological Rights foundations are based in California.

"St. Petersburg’s recent extraordinarily large sewage discharges to Tampa Bay have caused serious human health risks and environmental damage. The needed infrastructure improvements are urgent, the ecological impacts will take a long time to heal, as will the damage to the public’s confidence, shaken by the city’s failure to notify and warn the public of these spills. The systemic improvements required to address these shortcomings are significant and will benefit from citizen participation and oversight," read a news release from the organizations. …

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Crist to leave PTC board in November

Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist, center, announces a proposed settlement with Uber, which agreed to tougher background checks while operating in Hillsborough County during a press conference Thursday.

James Borchuck

Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist, center, announces a proposed settlement with Uber, which agreed to tougher background checks while operating in Hillsborough County during a press conference Thursday.

TAMPA - After four years as chairman of the Public Transportation Commission governing board, Victor Crist said Thursday he will leave the agency in November.

Crist, who is a Hillsborough County commissioner, made the announcement at a press event where he unveiled a new set of rideshare regulations he has negotiated with Uber and Lyft officials, his latest attempt to resolve the agency’s long running dispute with the two firms.

He said the Oct. 13 meeting where the full PTC board will consider his proposal will be his last as chairman and that he will ask to be reassigned to the Metropolitan Planning Organization during the county commission reorganizational meeting in November.

During the past three years, the PTC has been at the center of a conflict between rideshare firms and taxicab and limousine rental firm owners trying to protect their share of the market.

The agency, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough County, has issued $700 tickets to rideshare drivers for operating without permits and insurance coverage it requires of taxicab drivers.  That has made it a target of some state lawmakers who say it is stifling entrepreneurship and innovation. …

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Pinellas County Republican Party says leader of Stonewall Democrats should tell all the facts about voter drives

When the leader of the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County cried foul this week about locations of voter drives, the Pinellas County Republican Party says Susan McGrath should tell all the facts.

On Tuesday, McGrath criticized Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark for holding voter registrations at nine Chick-fil-A locations.

Pinellas County Republican Party Chairman Nick DiCeglie said McGrath forgot to mention that Republican leaders didn't complain when Clark held a voter drive at the St. Pete Pride event this summer.

"Once again, a Democratic leader paints a picture with a political brush when politics is not a factor," DiCeglie said. "That being said, I find it funny that Susan is complaining about Deborah Clark when she didn't run any Democrat candidate against her. This is nothing more than an attempt to distract the voters from (St. Petersburg Mayor) Rick Kriseman's half-truths on the sewage crisis."

DiCeglie said Clark's office has held voter drives at events that cater to all residents of Pinellas County, including senior centers to high schools and from LGBT Pride Festivals to Chick-fil-a. The goal is to register voters. …

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National gun control tour stops in St. Pete

St. Petersburg City Council chairwoman Amy Foster said gun laws need to be tightened during a midday rally at City Hall for Vocal Majority.

Charlie Frago

St. Petersburg City Council chairwoman Amy Foster said gun laws need to be tightened during a midday rally at City Hall for Vocal Majority.

The heroic Arizona congresswoman who made it back to speak at the Democratic Convention after being shot in 2011 wasn't there. Neither was her astronaut husband.

But Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly's national get-out-the-vote tour in support of toughening gun laws made a midday stop at St. Petersburg's City Hall Thursday. 

Mayor Rick Kriseman noted the wax stains of candles burned on the steps of City Hall during a vigil for the victims of Orland's Pulse nightclub shooting in June.  He compared them to what he said were the blood-stained hands of National Rifle Association lobbyists and the politicians who go along with the powerful group's agenda.

Kriseman said nine people had been killed by guns in St. Petersburg so far this year. And 276 guns have been stolen. 

If you don't lock up your guns, homes and cars, the mayor said, you arre feeing the violence.

"You are not a responsible gun owner," Kriseman said. "You are part of the problem."

Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman recited a list of gun-violence victims, ending with her 21-year-old son, Cabretti Wheeler, who was killed in 2008.

She called for tougher background checks. …

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District 66 candidates show little interaction, differing opinions at Tiger Bay

Candidates for Florida House District 66 were at odds over pretty much everything at a Suncoast Tiger Bay luncheon Wednesday.

Audience members asked questions to Republican incumbent Larry Ahern and his Democrat opponent Lorena Grizzle about topics ranging from medical marijuana to guns to Medicaid expansion. District 66 includes parts of Seminole, Clearwater and Largo as well as beach communities from Indian Shores to Belleair Beach.

Chris Latvala, the District 67 incumbent running for re-election, and Kathleen Peters, a Republican running to reclaim her District 69 seat, were also in attendance. Their opponents, David Vogel and Jennifer Webb, respectively, were absent.

Grizzle is a special education teacher and the daughter of Mary Grizzle, the first Republican woman elected to the Florida Legislature. She ran unsuccessfully against Ahern in 2014.

She relied on personal examples to address several of her points, mentioning her sister’s death in her support for Medicaid expansion. She died of renal failure after urinary tract infection got out of hand because she was unemployed and didn’t have access to insurance. …

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More than 20 apply for Pinellas circuit judge vacancy

More than 20 lawyers applied to replace Pinellas judge Bruce Boyer, who is scheduled to retire Nov. 29 from the civil circuit bench.

Among the applicants are several Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors, including Gregory Groger, Christopher LaBruzzo, and Stacey Sumner. Statewide prosecutor Kelly McKnight also applied, as well as Pinellas-Pasco assistant public defender Eulogio Vizcarra.

Another applicant is Curtis Korsko, a former traffic court magistrate in Pinellas who recently ran for a county judge seat won by assistant state attorney Dora Komninos.

Also on the list is Lauralee Westine, a former prosecutor whose law firm focuses on statewide land use cases. She is married to Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Here’s the entire list of applicants:

Anderson, Dustin T.

Beasley, Timothy M.

Colon, Amanda

Cox, Geoffrey R.

Frayman, Evan G.

Gay-Hairston, Shahtia

Goiran, Barbara Casey

Groger, Gregory Gene

Hawkes, Jeremiah Mahlon

Kidder, Nathaniel B.

Korsko, Curtis T.

LaBruzzo, Christopher

Marone, Christopher

McKnight, Kelly Ann

McLane, Sara E.

Meyer, Nancy S.

O'Connor, Kerry A.

Olivero, Shiobhan

Reeves, Frederick T.

Sumner, Stacey L.

Tremblay, Scott

Vizcarra, Eulogio Dillon

Westine, Lauralee G.


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PTC chairman and Uber close to deal but approval from PTC board still doubtful

Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist

Times file photo

Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist

TAMPA - Public Transportation Commission Chairman Victor Crist says he and Uber are close to reaching  a temporary operating agreement to keep the rideshare firm in Hillsborough County. But it still remains doubtful if that deal will pass muster from the full PTC governing board.

PTC and Uber lawyers have been in negotiations since the PTC' board earlier this month voted to move ahead with strict new rules to govern ridesharing, including mandatory fingerprinting of drivers. Uber officials have frequently warned that will lead them to stop operating in Hillsborough.

The proposed temporary operating agreement still does not include fingerprinting but does include an “enhanced” Level I background check, Crist said.

In previous meetings, however, a majority of the PTC board have refused to budge on that requirement. The agency regulates for-hire vehicles like taxicabs in Hillsborough County.

Speaking before talks resumed with Uber Wednesday morning, Crist stressed that a temporary agreement would be a stopgap measure to keep Uber and its rival Lyft in the county until state lawmakers approve a statewide regulatory framework for ridesharing. …

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Brandes will not run for St. Petersburg mayor in 2017

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said he's not going to challenge Mayor Rick Kriseman in next year's election

Scott Keeler

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said he's not going to challenge Mayor Rick Kriseman in next year's election

State Sen. Jeff Brandes wants to make one thing clear: He's not interested in St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's job.

Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, has been rumored to be one of several Republicans, including former mayor Rick Baker, mulling a race against Kriseman, whose administration has been buffeted recently by a sewage crisis after nearly 200 million gallons have been dumped or spilled into local waterways in the past 13 months.

Last week, Brandes said he had asked Kriseman if he needed state help after last August's initial spills, but the mayor had been focused on a ferry project linking St. Petersburg with Tampa. 

Kriseman said the city had already secured funding sources for expanding the Southwest plant, where those spills had occurred. He said he looked foward to working with Brandes on sewage issues in the future.

Brandes told the Tampa Bay Times that he wasn't interested in running for mayor. He can serve in the state senate until 2022 and has plenty of goals left to accomplish, he said.

The St. Petersburg mayoral election will be in November 2017.

"I'm not running for mayor in 2017," Brandes said.


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Ahead of online town hall meeting tonight, Tampa chamber backs elevated lanes over Gandy

This artist's rendering shows the elevated lanes planned to connect the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge in Tampa.

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority

This artist's rendering shows the elevated lanes planned to connect the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge in Tampa.

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce has come out in favor of a $192 million project to extend the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge via elevated lanes.

"As a community, we must begin to view ourselves as a region and shift our focus to regional transportation solutions," chamber president Bob Rohrlack said in a statement about the chamber board of directors decision.  "This project is an initial step towards a robust regional transportation system.”

The South Tampa and Brandon chambers already have voted to support the project, expected to start construction in December 2017. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plans to extend the Selmon Expressway 1.6 miles from S Dale Mabry Highway to the Gandy Bridge. The elevated toll lanes will be at least 30 feet above street level and will be built atop pilings anchored in Gandy's median.

At 6 p.m. tonight, the expressway authority will hold the second in a series of virtual town hall meetings about the project. Residents, business owners, commuters and others can participate in the hourlong Q&A session online at  at or by calling 1-888-670-3525 and using PIN number 7999624648. …

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Warren proposed alternatives to charging juveniles as adults

Andrew Warren is challenging Mark Ober in the election for Hillsborough state attorney

Andrew Warren

Andrew Warren is challenging Mark Ober in the election for Hillsborough state attorney

Andrew Warren wants Hillsborough County to charge fewer juveniles as adults.

On Tuesday, the Democratic candidate for state attorney issued a news release proposing the increased use of specialized juvenile courts, school discipline initiatives, and other programs that operate outside the criminal justice system as a way of managing juvenile crime.

The release cited studies that have found that charging juveniles as adults - a practice referred to as "juvenile direct filing" - does not reduce crime. It also points specifically to a 2014 study by Human Rights Watch, which found Hillsborough County has one of the highest rates of direct filing in Florida, and leads the state in the number of juveniles sent to adult prisons. The same study detailed racial disparities among juveniles who are charged as adults. …

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Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County object to voter drives at Chick-fil-A

Customers lined up in October for unlimited nuggets and fries at the Chick Fil-A St. Pete Beach location. The site is one of nine spots where the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections will hold voter drives on Tuesday.

Monica Herndon I TIMES

Customers lined up in October for unlimited nuggets and fries at the Chick Fil-A St. Pete Beach location. The site is one of nine spots where the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections will hold voter drives on Tuesday.

A controversy is clucking in Pinellas County over chicken sandwiches, sweet tea and voter-registration cards.

The Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County is crying foul over Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark's decision to hold voter-registration drives Tuesday at nine Chick-fil-A locations in the county. Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain known for putting faith ahead of profits, supports conservative causes. 

The push to reach new voters will take place between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on National Voter registration day.

Susan McGrath, leader of the Stonewall Democrats and head of the Pinellas Democratic Party, said the decision to use Chick-fil-A would be similar to a Democratic supervisor of elections holding the event at Planned Parenthood.

The release announcing the voter drive encourages voters to "eat more chicken and register to vote" on Tuesday. 

McGrath said the group supports the effort to register more voters, But She called the move "partisan" to hold the event at Chick-fil-A and said it might be more transparent to hold the voter drives at the Republican Party headquarters. …

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Black pastors want new early voting site in St. Pete; Pinellas says no, and says existing plan is good for 'all voters'

The pastors of two predominantly black churches in St. Petersburg called for an additional early voting site in South St. Pete Friday, and were joined by Mayor Rick Kriseman in what one pastor called an issue of "civil rights."

Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark heard their concerns but she held firm on her existing plan for five early voting sites, calling it "solid" and in the best interests of all county voters.

The Rev. Louis Murphy and the Rev. Manuel Sykes held a news conference at the Lake Vista Recreation Center, which they suggested would be an ideal early voting site.

"Why not have a voting site right in our community which would make it easier for people to vote?" Murphy said. "Too long, we have been struggling for this right to vote." He said the lack of an early voting site in the heart of the black community was part of an effort to "suppress" voter turnout. …

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Brandes says he tried to help on sewers, Kriseman wanted money for ferry

Mayor Rick Kriseman and Council member Steve Kornell, both Democrats, in recent days have chalked up interest among Republican lawmakers in the city's massive sewage dumps to politics.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott's state investigation? Politics, said Kriseman. Congressman David Jolly and Sen. Marco Rubio's calls for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency probe? Grandstanding, said Kornell.

State Sen, Jeff Brandes, State Sen. Jack Latvala and State Rep. Kathleen Peters have also been vocal on the issue and were also accused of a pile-on by Kornell, who said none of them ever offered help after last August's initial spills and dumps.

Not true, Brandes said. He offered to help secure state aid at a meeting with Kriseman's team, but they had other priorities, including a the cross-bay ferry, set to debut in November.

"We asked, 'What do you need on sewers? What we got back was crickets," Brandes said of his budge discussions with Kriseman's office last fall.  "They had other priorities. They made it seem like they had everything under control."

A list of the city's priorities for state funding provide to the Tampa Bay Times in March doesn't list any sewer proposals.  …

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Clearwater Chamber's political committee endorses incumbent Republicans in state races

CLEARPAC, the political arm of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, has announced its endorsements for the November election. 

The political committee is backing all Republican incumbents for Florida House and Senate races covering north Pinellas County: Jack Latvala in the District 20 state senate race (who, by the way, is being “challenged” by a silent write-in candidate Katherine Perkins, who has not made a single public campaign appearance, returned repeated phone calls or notes left at her home by a reporter); Chris Sprowls for state house District 65; Larry Ahern for state house District 66; Chris Latvala for state house District 67; and Kathleen Peters for state house District 69.

CLEARPAC also endorsed Matthew Stewart for school board District 1 and Carol Cook for school board District 5, which are non partisan races.

The board told the public to research the two candidates for Pinellas County Commission District 3, saying both incumbent Charlie Justice, a Democrat, and challenger Mike Mikurak, a Republican, were well qualified. …

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