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Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Steve Contorno

Steve Contorno is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times covering Hillsborough County. He previously worked for PolitiFact in the Times Washington, D.C. bureau. Prior to joining the Times, he covered Congress and Virginia politics for the Washington Examiner as well as state and local governments in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of the Chicago suburbs, Steve graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a minor in political science, and holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he covered the Illinois legislature for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Phone: (813) 226-3433


The Contorno file:

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. Who wants to trade? Hillsborough offers to swap land with Ybor-area property owners for potential Rays ballpark

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Trades are common when assembling a professional baseball team. Apparently, they're also useful when assembling land for a professional ballpark.

    Hillsborough County hopes to build a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in the Channel District-Ybor City area, and is offering property owners there a chance to exchange their parcels for government-controlled land near the downtown area.

    A draft option agreement between the county and private property owners says landlords can swap their coveted parcels for county-owned "real property of lesser or equal value to the purchase price" in the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area or the Ybor City Redevelopment Area....

    Aerial photo of Ybor City centered around Centro Ybor and 7th Avenue. Hoping to assemble the land for a ballpark near Ybor City and the Channel District, Hillsborough County officials could government property with landowners there. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times.
  2. Trouble obtaining land for Rays ballpark near downtown Tampa may push search to West Shore


    TAMPA — It is proving harder than expected to put together the land needed for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark near downtown Tampa, and now local officials are exploring another option in the West Shore area.

    But even if all the pieces come together, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said he is less confident than ever that the county and Rays ownership can come to an agreement on how to pay for a ballpark that would lure the team from St. Petersburg....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, middle, with Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg. Hagan said the search for a potential Rays ballpark in Tampa has been stalled because it is difficult to acquire the needed land near Ybor City. {Marc Topkin, Times]
  3. Stadium guru: Baseball can work for Tampa Bay in the right spot


    TAMPA — Before sunrise on Monday morning, Tim Leiweke walked around the Channel District-Ybor City area that could someday house a new ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Leiweke, who has had a hand in building 18 stadiums and arenas around the country, saw the appeal. The area, just north of the Ybor Channel and Selmon Expressway, is close to both downtown and the port.

    "You all have something that's really wonderful that we all wish we had in places like L.A.," Leiweke told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's called water."...

    Abe Madkour, left, executive editor of Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal, moderates a sports business panel at the University of South Florida Sun Dome on Monday. From left, next to Madkour, are Tim Leiweke, founder and CEO of the Oak View Group; Brendan Donohue, managing director of the NBA 2K League; and Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the New York Mets. [STEVE CONTORNO   |   Times]
  4. Debris clean-up still a slow slog across Tampa Bay


    TAMPA — Several Hillsborough County commissioners are complaining about the speed of debris pickup after Hurricane Irma and said residents aren't being told how long they will have to wait.

    At a board meeting Wednesday, Commissioner Ken Hagan said removal dates have been pushed back several times and asked why the county took down a digital map that told residents when their curbs might be cleared....

  5. Hurricane Irma cleanup not fast enough, some Hillsborough commissioners say


    TAMPA -- Some Hillsborough County commissioners on Wednesday criticized the speed of debris pick up after Hurricane Irma and said residents aren’t being told how long it will take.

    Commissioner Ken Hagan said he has heard the date for removal pushed back several times and noted the county took down a website map that told residents when their debris might be picked up.

    “I see piles and piles of debris everywhere,” Hagan said....

    Flood damaged belongings sit on River Drive in Hillsborough County after being removed from houses that flooded when rivers crested following Hurricane Irma. Some Hillsborough Commissioners aren't happy with the pace of the cleanup.
  6. The Florida Keys are back in business but far from back to normal


    FLORIDA KEYS — Shortly after 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Kim Ackerman closed the gates to the pastel-painted Shell World, a kitschy Key Largo gift shop near the gateway to the Keys.

    She'd seen three customers that day.

    But nearby, a sign of hope gleamed in LED letters over the highway: "U.S. 1 Keys is open to Key West."

    Hurricane Irma interrupted the party in paradise, but only for a time. On Sunday – three weeks after the storm thrashed the chain of islands, killing 14 and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage — the Keys will officially reopen to tourists....

    Jorge Norris plays a djembe without a crowd as he waits for sunset Wednesday in Key West’s Mallory Square, which would typically be packed with tourists.
  7. Update: Ethics investigator finds no probable cause in Go Hillsborough contract complaint


    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....

    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.
  8. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree


    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    In Hillsborough County, that depends on whom you ask.

    County Administrator Mike Merrill says he alone can call for an evacuation, and that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was out of line when he announced that some city residents needed to leave their homes two days before Hurricane Irma's approach. Buckhorn disagrees....

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  9. Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter thanks his former dance instructor from Tampa in touching tribute (w/ video)


    TAMPA -- Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter appeared at a meeting of the Hillsborough County commission on Wednesday.

    Tell me why.

    County commissioners presented a commendation Wednesday morning to Sandy Karl, a local dance instructor retiring after 45 years in business. Along with her late husband, Karl owned the Karl and DiMarco School of Dance in Tampa.

    And before he was a “Larger Than Life” popstar, Ruskin native Nick Carter was Karl’s student....

    During a Hillsborough County Commission meeting, Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys appeared via video to thanks local dance instructor Sandy Karl, who retired after 45 years in the business.
  10. Tampa Electric rules, Duke Energy drools, Hillsborough commissioners declare


    TAMPA — The pile on of Duke Energy continued Wednesday in Hillsborough County, where commissioners boasted how quickly most of their constituents had power after Hurricane Irma.

    During a debriefing of the storm’s aftermath, commissioners repeatedly praised the response from Tampa Electric, the electric utility for most Hillsborough residents. About 300,000 of Tampa Electric’s Hillsborough customers lost power at some point during the storm and nearly all had power restored in less than a week....

    Duke Energy workers cut tree limbs off a power line on Sept. 11 following Hurricane Irma.
  11. Hillsborough okays $1.25 million in Hurricane Irma-related spending with more to come


    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners approved $1.25 million in expenses related to Hurricane Irma on Wednesday with many more costs expected to come.

    The county will spend $750,000 on overtime for employees who worked throughout the storm and another $500,000 for disaster-related emergency equipment.

    The money was pulled from a $3 million fund set aside for emergencies. It doesn’t cover other expenses from the aftermath of the storm like debris pickup, flooding and damage....

    The overflowing Alafia River, swollen by rains from Hurricane Irma, caused massive flooding near Lithia Pinecrest Road. On Wednesday, Hillsborough County approved $1.25 million in Irma-related spending.
  12. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    Between Sept. 3 and Sept. 9, county hotels actually saw a 10 percent increase in revenue over the same period last year, according to Visit Tampa Bay, the tourism promotion agency for Hillsborough.

    And when the numbers are tallied, Visit Tampa Bay CEO Santiago Corrada doesn't believe Irma's pass through the bay area will have much of an impact on tourist development taxes collected on each night's stay at a hotel....

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  13. Members divided by Southern heritage advocate's inclusion on Hillsborough diversity council


    TAMPA — A council tasked with promoting diversity in Hillsborough County has been roiled by the recent appointment of the leader of a Southern heritage group.

    Since the selection of David McCallister, commander of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans, to the Diversity Advisory Council, the head of the committee stepped down and another member resigned. Two more symbolically quit in protest just as their terms ended....

  14. Second person resigns from Hillsborough diversity council after Confederate activist appointed


    TAMPA — A second person has resigned symbolically from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the appointment of a known activist of Confederate causes to the panel. 

    In a letter to the county, Gary Howell, the director of practicum training & associate professor at Florida School of Professional Psychology, said he was stepping down after three years on the council, most recently as vice chair. Howell called the appointment of David McCallister to the diversity council " inconsiderate, disrespectful, and inappropriate," especially after the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee....

    Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
  15. Rays unlikely to make ballpark decision until after St. Pete mayoral race


    Here’s a nugget in today’s story about Tampa’s efforts to lure the Tampa Bay Rays that shouldn’t be overlooked:

    People close to the negotiations don’t believe the Rays are going to announce whether they’re moving during the St. Petersburg mayoral race....

    The Tampa Bay Rays are unlikely to make a decision on whether the team will leave Tropicana Field until after the St. Petersburg mayoral election, people close to the negotiations believe.