Make us your home page
Instagram

Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jim Kennedy endorses City Council candidate Robert Blackmon

Robert Blackmon is running against seven other candidates in the District 6 primary

Scott Keeler

Robert Blackmon is running against seven other candidates in the District 6 primary

Robert Blackmon, one of eight candidates vying for the District 6 seat, has been endorsed by City Council member Jim Kennedy. 

Kennedy, who is term limited, has also endorsed former Mayor Rick Baker, who is running against incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.  

Blackmon, 28, a real estate investor, is considered one of three front runners for District 6, which includes downtown and parts of Midtown and Old Northeast. 

The news release announcing Kennedy's endorsement follows.

Councilman Jim Kennedy today announced his endorsement of Robert Blackmon in the race for City Council District 6.  

“I’m supporting Robert Blackmon because his longtime ties to the community and knowledge of our city make him the best choice to represent our diverse neighborhoods,” Kennedy said. “Robert is the candidate best equipped to tackle the issues that are facing St. Pete, and we can count on him to work tirelessly for the betterment of our city.” 

Blackmon praised Kennedy’s leadership on council. “Jim Kennedy is a community leader in the truest sense of the word,” he said. “He has an unrivaled passion for our city and I am humbled to have the support of someone who has done so much for our community.” …

Full Story

Three Tampa Bay area mayors sign Anti Defamation League compact against hate

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, along with Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski (not pictured) are among three dozen mayors from Florida and 250 nationwide who have signed an Anti-Defamation League compact against hate, bigotry and extremism.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times (2014)

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, along with Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski (not pictured) are among three dozen mayors from Florida and 250 nationwide who have signed an Anti-Defamation League compact against hate, bigotry and extremism.

Mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg and Julie Ward Bujalski of Dunedin have joined nearly 250 mayors nationwide in signing onto a “Mayor’s Compact Against Hate, Extremism, and Bigotry” launched by the Anti-Defamation League this week in response to the violence in Charlottesville.

The Anti-Defamation League said the compact aims "to make cities safer for all who live there and to promote the fundamental principles of justice and equality that define our nation."

“It’s cities and mayors who are on the frontlines,” Buckhorn said in a statement released by his office. “If and when some of our national leaders refuse to stand up in the face of hate, America's mayors will. … We cannot allow this divisive rhetoric to continue, not in our city and certainly not from the highest and most powerful office in the world.”

Around Florida, nearly three dozen mayors had signed the compact as of mid-day Friday, including the mayors of Orlando, Miami Beach, Tallahassee, Boca Raton, Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Naples and West Palm Beach.

Full Story

Appointment of Confederate activist sparks diversity council chair to resign

David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.

Times File Photo

David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.

The head of a Hillsborough County committee that promotes diversity resigned from the panel Wednesday after county commissioners named to the committee an advocate of Confederate heritage.

In a letter to the county administration, council chairman Nestor Ortiz said he was "shocked by the decision" to appoint David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp, to the Diversity Advisory Council.

"Only four days after the Charlottesville tragedy and the continued and escalating national outrage and division on all sides regarding white nationalism did they decide to put a public southern confederacy advocate on this “DIVERSITY” Advisory Council," Ortiz wrote. "This body is meant to engage the incredibly diverse communities found throughout Hillsborough County that have historically been marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed by individuals with values similar to Mr. Mcallister (sic) and his group." …

Full Story

Ex-Bucs WR Vincent Jackson highlights Kriseman's pick for Manhattan Casino restaurant

Kriseman makes his choice on a new tenant for the iconic Manhattan Casino: Floribbean cuisine

James Borchuk

Kriseman makes his choice on a new tenant for the iconic Manhattan Casino: Floribbean cuisine

Mayor Rick Kriseman picked a Floribbean-themed restaurant to highlight turning a new page in the historic Manhattan Casino, which has been shuttered for more than a year after the city evicted its previous tenant, Sylvia's.

Kriseman announced he had selected the Callaloo Group, which is comprised of free agent Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Ramon Hernandez, the owner of Pipo's chain of Cuban restaurants. 

The group plans to debut a fusion restaurant mixing Southern and Caribbean food. They will also use the space's large comissary kitchen to supply Pipo's locations around Pinellas County. 

Kriseman's choice comes less than two weeks before the Aug. 29 mayoral primary. His main opponent, former mayor Rick Baker, has criticized the choice of a Floribbean restaurant as being inappropriate for a historic landmark of the African-American community.

FROM 2015: Bucs' Vincent Jackson: Wide receiver, businessman

Kriseman will speak at noon at the Manhattan Casino.  Stay tuned for Times coverage later today.

Below is the full news release from the mayor's office:  …

Full Story

Updates to Clearwater's development rules brings skeptical response to sea level rise from vice mayor

During a discussion this week about updates to Clearwater's development rules dealing with sea level rise, Vice Mayor Hoyt Hamilton took a skeptical stance.

The City Council passed the development updates unanimously. But Hamilton said he only voted to approve them because it was the right thing to do for the city - not because he buys-in to sea level rise predictions.

Hamilton said when his father bought the family's Palm Pavilion on Clearwater Beach in 1964, the water was a few hundred feet away. 

"It's a two-beverage walk to the water now," Hamilton said. "So if sea level rise is truly rising, and rising at the rate some people are claiming, it defies what my eyes are telling me."

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found the warming of the Earth's climate system is unequivocally taking place and that such warming affects sea levels, which rise from expansion of ocean water as it warms and melting of ice reservoirs in the Arctic. …

Full Story

Tampa investor gives $50,000 to move Confederate monument, Buckhorn donates $1,000

A check from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for $1,000 to remove the Confederate monument from downtown Tampa.

Photo courtesy of Twitter.

A check from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for $1,000 to remove the Confederate monument from downtown Tampa.

TAMPA — Donations to remove a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa have skyrocketed since Hillsborough County commissioners tied the statue’s fate to the success of the campaign, including a $5,000 donation from former Tampa Bay Bucaneers coach Tony Dungy and one $50,000 donation from a local businessman.

Dungy tweeted that he and his wife Lauren were giving $5,000 to the fundraising efforts and he was challenging "Bucs Rays Lightning to help!" 

He posted a picture of the Tampa Bay Times front page about yesterday's decision by the county.

In an email to the Times, former Tampa Bay Storm owner Bob Gries said he told Buckhorn he would donate $50,000 to remove the statue. 

"I hope it will inspire others to contribute whatever they can so that we can insure that the tragic events which occurred in Charlottesville never happen in Tampa," said Gries, the founder and managing partner of Gries Investment Funds in Tampa.

Count Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn among the latest donors, too.

On Thursday morning Buckhorn posted to social media a picture of a signed check from him for $1,000 to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. …

Full Story

Kriseman and Crist rally troops for final push in St. Pete mayor's race

Rick Kriseman and Charlie Crist pose for a group photo Wednesday evening with progressive activists at Allendale United Methodist Church

Charlie Frago

Rick Kriseman and Charlie Crist pose for a group photo Wednesday evening with progressive activists at Allendale United Methodist Church

Elections have consequences. Donald Trump. Charlottesville.

That was the message delivered by Congressman Charlie Crist and Mayor Rick Kriseman as they rallied progressives Wednesday in a get-out-the-vote effort with less than two weeks to go before the Aug. 29 primary.

Trump’s actions prove that what happens in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee matter to St. Petersburg, the Democratic mayor said.

“Yeah, it matters. It impacts us here every day” Kriseman told a crowd of about 75 people at Allendale United Methodist Church during a meeting of Fired Up Pinellas, a progressive organization.

Kriseman’s opponent, Rick Baker, a Republican, has criticized the mayor for being more interested in taking stands on national issues or tweeting at Trump instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts of governing.

But Baker has also refused to say if he voted for Trump and has tried to minimize what has become an intensely partisan race for what is officially a non-partisan office. …

Full Story

After monument vote, Confederate activist named to Hillsborough County diversity council

David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.

Times File Photo

David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.

TAMPA — Moments after Hillsborough County commissioners made uncertain a previous decision to move Tampa's Confederate monument, they voted to put the area's most vocal advocate of Confederate causes on a citizen committee to promote diversity. 

Four of six commissioners present nominated David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp, to be the representative of Northern & Southern Europe on the county's Diversity Advisory Council. 

The diversity council includes representatives from various ethnic groups as well as the LGBTQ community. Its job is to “facilitate communication between county government and its diverse populations, addressing matters related to diversity that are important to everyone.”

McCallister has helped organize opposition against removing a Confederate monument from outside the old county courthouse in downtown Tampa. He appears at nearly every county commission meeting wearing a stars and bars tie to advocate for recognition of Southern Heritage and Confederate veterans of the Civil War, which he calls "The War Between the States."

Commissioners passed over McCallister for a spot on the diversity council last year. …

Full Story

Limit on number of taxicabs on the road may survive end of PTC

Taxi cab drivers wait at an offsite area for fares at Tampa International Airport

Times

Taxi cab drivers wait at an offsite area for fares at Tampa International Airport

TAMPA State lawmakers abolished the Public Transportation Commission in part because they believed its regulations protected the taxicab industry from competition.

But Hillsborough County’s replacement plan may also include a provision that makes it tougher for new taxicab firms to get a foothold in the market.

County commissioners on Wednesday gave initial approval to continuing the PTC’s cap on the number of taxi permits. That could mean fledgling firms would have to try and buy permits from existing taxicab firms. The regulation could also make a dent in an estimated savings of $1.5 million that county officials say will result from abolishing the agency.

To legally justify a cap, the county would have to commission a study that could cost about $100,000, county attorneys told commissioners.

The push for a cap was a surprise to officials working on the plan to replace the PTC, said Kevin Jackson, the agency’s interim executive director.

“The more the process makes its way through the system, I’m afraid it’s going to look more like the PTC than originally intended,” he said. …

Full Story

Stormwater rate hike coming to Hillsborough residents, businesses

Knee-deep water lasted in the Lutz neighborhood of Faircloth Estates days after a 2015 storm long after other neighborhoods dried up.

Times File Photo

Knee-deep water lasted in the Lutz neighborhood of Faircloth Estates days after a 2015 storm long after other neighborhoods dried up.

TAMPA -- Stormwater fees in Hillsborough County are going up for the second time in three years after remaining flat for more than two decades.

Single-family households will pay $36 this year, an increase of $6. Apartment complexes will now pay $18 per unit and non-residential parcels will pay $0.03 for every 1.5 square feet.

The new rates, approved 5-1, also give commissioners the option of raising the rate for residents to $42 next year.

Commissioners hope the hike can help the county address a significant backlog in the kind of culvert and watershed improvements that can alleviate flooding that habitually occurs after even modest rains.

“I’m exhausted in my office dealing with situations of storm water problems. My staff is exhausted,” Commissioner Sandy Murman said. “We are trying to answer the needs. This is a quality of life issue that’s really important to our residents.”

It’s necessary for Hillsborough to address stormwater infrastructure because of its “special problems” as a coastal county that sees heavy rainfall in summer months and is susceptible to sea level rise and tropical storms, Commissioner Pat Kemp said. …

Full Story

Les Miller on Charlottesville: 'This is not what we should be about'

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.

Times File Photo

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.

TAMPA -- In the aftermath of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., and ahead of today's continued conversation on Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller on Wednesday looked to inspire unity in an invocation that a colleague called "inspirational."

In it, Miller said after the weekend's events, which he called an "ugly scene," it seems "we’re going backwards instead of forward."

"This is not what we should be about," Miller said. "We should be moving forward, regardless of our race, creed, color, national origin or our beliefs."

Miller, the county's lone black commissioner, was the catalyst who called for Hillsborough to move a Confederate monument from outside the old county courthouse. Commissioners voted last month to relocate the monument to a private family cemetery in Brandon. …

Full Story

Kriseman removes Confederate marker from St. Pete's waterfront

A historical marker commemorating a highway named for Confederate general Stonewall Jackson occupies a modest space on St. Petersburg's waterfront

Charlie Frago

A historical marker commemorating a highway named for Confederate general Stonewall Jackson occupies a modest space on St. Petersburg's waterfront

ST. PETERSBURG — Once it was a small, obscure reminder of the Confederacy sitting on the downtown waterfront. Now it’s gone.

A local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy put down the stone marker noting the southern terminus of the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Highway at the intersection of Central Avenue and Bayshore Drive on Jan. 22, 1939. It has gone mostly unnoticed since then.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: For Tampa's Confederate monument, racist history clouds claims of heritage

The Tampa Bay Times asked the city about the marker on Monday. A mayor’s spokesman said they were trying to figure out whether it was on public or private land.

But on Tuesday, Mayor Rick Kriseman decided to act: He ordered city workers to remove the marker around noon.

The mayor made his decision at his weekly cabinet meeting and consulted with Police Chief Tony Holloway, who suggested removing it quietly without alerting the public or the media in the interests of public safety, said mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby. …

Full Story

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority picks builder for $230 million Selmon extension to Gandy Bridge

This new rendering shows the planned $230 million extension from the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority awarded a contract to design and build the project to a team consisting of Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and AECOM.

Rendering courtesy Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority

This new rendering shows the planned $230 million extension from the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority awarded a contract to design and build the project to a team consisting of Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and AECOM.

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority has awarded a $230 million contract to design and build an extension from the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge to a team of Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and AECOM.

The extension will be a 2-mile-long toll lane in the median of Gandy Boulevard that will let drivers go to or from the expressway to the bridge without driving on Gandy Boulevard. The project will be paid for using toll revenues and money borrowed from the bond market.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2018, with an opening anticipated in late 2020.

The Kiewit-AECOM team was one of four that presented proposals to the expressway authority’s board. The board scored the teams on factors that included design, the number of days needed to complete the project, price and lane and road closures.

The result, said board chairman Vince Cassidy, will be “a signature bridge.” …

Full Story

Facing elimination from Tampa budget, public access TV pleads its case

Tampa Bay Community Network executive director Louise Thompson urged Mayor Bob Buckhorn not to cut city funds to public access television, which she said offers unique programs and job training.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2011)

Tampa Bay Community Network executive director Louise Thompson urged Mayor Bob Buckhorn not to cut city funds to public access television, which she said offers unique programs and job training.

When Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn last month unveiled a city budget that would raise property taxes to address two debts from the 1990s, he told City Council members that the city proposed to eliminate subsidies for a couple of nonprofit organizations, and that City Hall was sure to hear from them.

“We are asking our not-for-profit partners, some of whom have lived off the city dole, to take a haircut as well this year,” he said on July 20. “There are two or three that don't serve a critical need for us that we will in a longer be subsidizing. I am certain you will hear from some. But I would ask you that you ask them to recognize our reality and be sympathetic to that and not just continue to come to the government so that they can survive.”

Outside the meeting, Buckhorn said the budget would “zero out” city support for the Tampa Bay Community Network, often known as public access, which last year received $207,360, and the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network, which received $108,629.

“We have our own TV station,” he said. “We really don’t need to be subsidizing that.” …

Full Story

Former Tampa police chief Jane Castor forms political committee, raises $16,250

Former Tampa police chief Jane Castor has formed a political committee, Tampa Strong, in advance of what is expected to be a run for mayor in 2019.

Times files

Former Tampa police chief Jane Castor has formed a political committee, Tampa Strong, in advance of what is expected to be a run for mayor in 2019.

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, a likely but so far unannounced candidate for mayor in the 2019 election, has quietly formed a political committee.

The committee, Tampa Strong, was formed July 11. It collected $16,250 that month, according to its first finance report.

Of that, $15,000 came from Bear Defense Services, a defense aviation contracting firm headed by Darrell Egner, a former Tampa police officer who worked in aerial surveillance.

Castor couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But the husband of another donor, Tampa insurance executive Guy King III, a Castor backer, said the purpose of the committee was to support her, though he said he didn’t know if it was aimed specifically at a mayoral race.

“I hope she does run,” King said, “I’d certainly support her.”

King recently paid for a poll that showed Castor leading the pack among several potential candidates.

Paperwork to form the committee was filed by Ana Cruz, a political adviser to Castor. …

Full Story