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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

Email: scontorno@tampabay.com

The Contorno file: PolitiFact.com

Twitter: @scontorno

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  1. Hillsborough Democrats call Confederate monument vote a continuation of white supremacy

    Blog

    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....

    On Friday afternoon, Hillsborough County Democrats decried a vote by the county commission not to remove the Confederate monument in downtown Tampa.
  2. Hillsborough Commissioners vote to keep Confederate monument in downtown Tampa

    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....

    A statue titled "Memoria In Aeterna" is seen on the Hillsborough County Courthouse annex property in Tampa. The statue,  dedicated to the honor of confederate soldiers and sailors, was originally installed on the southwest corner of Franklin and Lafayette Streets in 1911 by the Tampa chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederate States of America and was moved to its current location in 1952 following completion of the courthouse. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
  3. Hillsborough Commissioners vote to keep Confederate monument in downtown Tampa

    Blog

    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....

    A Confederate monument will remain outside the old Hillsborough County courthouse in downtown Tampa, county commissioners voted Wednesday.
  4. Paint diversity mural behind Confederate monument, Commissioner Crist proposes

    Blog

    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."...

    Commissioner Victor Crist wants a mural commissioned behind the Confederate memorial outside the old county courthouse that will highlight America's diversity.
  5. For Tampa's Confederate monument, racist history clouds claims of heritage

    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....

    A statue titled "Memoria In Aeterna" is seen on the Hillsborough County Courthouse annex propertyTuesday, June 13, 2017 in Tampa. The statue,  dedicated to the honor of confederate soldiers and sailors, was originally installed on the southwest corner of Franklin and Lafayette Streets in 1911 by the Tampa chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederate States of America and was moved to its current location in 1952 following completion of the courthouse. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
  6. Hillsborough Fire Rescue investigates whether commanders falsified their time cards

    Local

    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. ...

    Shift commanders and their supervisor are under suspension at Hillsborough County Fire Rescue as an outside investigator looks into accusations of falsifying time cards. [Times file]
  7. Hillsborough commissioners to debate future of Confederate Memorial next week

    Blog

    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....

    Hillsborough County commissioners on Wednesday will discuss the Confederate memorial that stands outside the old Hillsborough County courthouse in downtown Tampa.
  8. Ken Hagan already has $200,000 war chest in Hillsborough commission race

    Blog

    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....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan has raised $200,000 in his bid for another term.
  9. Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Tampa doesn't pay taxes. So why do its customers?

    Tourism

    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....

    A receipt for a room at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino includes $31.08 in tax. The rooms are among Tampa’s priciest.
  10. Hillsborough County, Jeff Vinik plan to bail out Museum of Science and Industry

    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....

    Guests leave through the front doors at the Museum of Science and Industry on Nov. 6, 2015 in Tampa. Hillsborough County is preparing to bailout MOSI, which owes vendors and creditors $2 million. ZACK WITTMAN   |   Times

  11. Hillsborough commissioners approve cap on medical marijuana dispensaries but state lawmakers may void it

    Local

    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. ...

    Experience operating a medical marijuana store, like Surterra Wellness Center on E Fowler Avenue, is a plus under proposed restrictions on the number of the stores in Hillsborough County.
  12. Tampa businessman Aakash Patel files to run for Hillsborough County Commission

    Blog

    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 businessman Aakash Patel has filed to run for Hillsborough County Commission in District 1.
  13. Limits on marijuana dispensaries get new life in Hillsborough after lobbying from grower

    Business

    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....

    Commissioner Stacy White has spearheaded Hillsborough’s medical marijuana efforts.
  14. Palm River will be without Maydell Drive Bridge until 2019 or later

    Roads

    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....

    The underwater pilings of the Maydell Drive Bridge in Palm River can no longer support the weight of the span let alone a daily load of traffic, an engineering study concluded. About 2,700 vehicles used the bridge every day. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  15. Tampa Councilwoman Yolie Capin files for Hillsborough County commission seat

    Blog

    TAMPA — Tampa City Councilwoman Yolie Capin filed paperwork Wednesday to run for Hillsborough County Commission in 2020.

    But the District 1 county seat she’s seeking could open up much sooner than that. It’s current occupant, Sandy Murman, is running for a countywide seat in 2018. If she qualifies for the ballot, she must resign to run and that would require a special election to fill her seat....

    Tampa City Councilwoman Yolie Capin, seen here celebrating an election night win in 2011, filed Wednesday to run for Hillsborough County Commission.