Anne Lindberg, Author at Florida Politics

Anne Lindberg

Pinellas Realtors recommend Safety Harbor, St. Pete Beach candidates

The Pinellas Realtor Organization has issued recommendations in three upcoming elections.

In Safety Harbor, the group recommends Joe Ayoub for mayor and Damon Lister for Seat 1 on the City Commission.

In St. Pete Beach, Realtors recommend Alan Johnson for mayor.

The member-only candidate screening committee reviewed questionnaires and interviewed candidates before making recommendations. The group says that there are thoughtful, qualified candidates running, but each race had a candidate stand out for overall commitment to the community, understanding of economic issues, and advocacy for private property rights.

Ayoub, a former Safety Harbor mayor and commission member, is running against Janet Hooper, who holds Seat 1 on the commission.

Ayoub has said that, if elected, he will lead with a positive tone and inclusive style, focus on making our downtown more vibrant, add amenities to the city’s waterfront park, protect property rights and values, reduce the height and scale of the proposed seven-story condo building in Safety Harbor’s downtown. Ayoub has said he believes in responsible budgeting.

Hooper has resigned her seat to run for mayor. Lister is one of four candidates for the position. The others are Nancy J. BesoreCameron Boozarjomehri and Scott Long.

In the St. Pete Beach mayor’s race, Johnson is facing incumbent Deborah Schechner and John-Michael Fleig.

Both elections are March 14.

Kathleen Peters asks state for millions to help solve sewage problems in St. Pete, St. Pete Beach

State Rep. Kathleen Peters filed two bills Wednesday aimed at helping pay for sewer improvements in St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach.

Peters, a Republican from Treasure Island, asked for $5.5 million in state funding.

Of that, $3 million in state funding would be earmarked for St. Petersburg to smoke test sewer pipes for leaks, install and seal manholes, among other work. The remaining $2.5 million would go to St. Pete Beach for the engineering, construction and permitting of the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Sewer systems in South Pinellas were the focus of much news last year after St. Petersburg and other cities either dumped or had overflows of raw and partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, Clam Bayou and other waterways. The problems were blamed in part on aging infrastructure that allowed rain- and groundwater to seep into the systems and overburden them.

Heavy rains during two tropical storms overloaded the systems. And, in St. Pete Beach’s case, the system was already at capacity in good weather.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council pledged to spend millions to fix and upgrade the system. Work began this month in the Bahama Shores and Coquina Key neighborhoods.

The $3.2 million project is part of Kriseman‘s infrastructure plan, The work consists of lining the pipes, which is supposed to extend the life of sanitary sewer mains and prevent groundwater infiltration from entering the city’s sewage collection system. Depending on the weather, the project is expected to be completed by September.

In nine Pinellas cities, some are re-elected without opposition, others face the voters next year

Officials in 15 Pinellas cities are scheduled for a date with the ballot box in next March’s municipal elections.

But, with qualifying closed in nine of those, some elected can relax because they have no opposition and are considered re-elected. Others weren’t so lucky. They’ll be facing the voters March 14.

Here’s where the score card stands as of Friday.

GULFPORT

Two seats on the five-member council are up for grabs. In Ward 2, incumbent Christine Anne Brown is facing challenger Linda Bailey. In Ward 4, incumbent Michael Fridovich is facing challenges from Richard Fried and Bobby L. Reynolds.

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH

Two commission seats are open on the five-member commission. Incumbents Phil Hanna and Terry Hamilton-Wollin, the current vice mayor, are both running. Philip M. Wrobel and Hope Wyant are also in the race. The top two vote-getters will take office.

INDIAN SHORES

Indian Shores has a five-member council with two openings. Incumbents Michael Petruccelli, who ran for the Pinellas County School Board in August, and Patrick Soranno, the current vice mayor, are running. Michael Hackerson is also in the race. The top two will be elected.

NORTH REDINGTON BEACH

Mayor Bill Queen was re-elected Friday without opposition. Commissioner Gary Curtis, who holds Seat 2, was also re-elected with no opposition. There’s a horse race for Seat 1 with incumbent Richard Bennett facing Jeff Busch.

REDINGTON BEACH

No officials from this beach community will go before the voters on March 14. Mayor Nick Simons and Commissioner Fred Steiermann, the current vice mayor, were re-elected without opposition. Also elected was Tim Kornijschuk, who was also unopposed. Kornijschuk will take the seat currently held by Mark Deighton, who did not run for re-election.

REDINGTON SHORES

Residents here will have two new faces on the five-member commission. Neither John Branch nor Lee Holmes ran for re-election.

One of those new faces belongs to Patrick Drumm, who ran for Holmes’ District 4 seat. Drumm won without opposition.

The story is different for the District 2 seat that Branch held. Jeffery Neal will face Jason Schrimsher on March 14.

SOUTH PASADENA

Neither Bruce Howry nor Arthur Penny are running for reelection in South Pasadena. Four candidates have come out to try to replace them: Dan CalabriaGigi EspositoDavid Magenheimer and Cathy Wolff. Voters will have a choice of two.

ST. PETE BEACH

Commissioners Domonick “Rick” Falkenstein, District 2, and Melinda Pletcher, District 4, were re-elected without opposition.

But voters will have three candidates to choose from in the mayor’s race: incumbent Deborah Schechner and challengers John-Michael Fleig and Alan Johnson.

TARPON SPRINGS

Rea Seiber was re-elected without opposition to Seat 2 on the five-member commission. Three are running for Seat 1: Frank DiDonatoJacob Karr and Tim Keffalas. There is no incumbent in the race. Townsend Tarapani has termed out.

Five other Pinellas municipalities have March 14 elections: Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Shore, Kenneth City, Madeira Beach, Safety Harbor and Treasure Island. All have different dates and deadlines for qualifying.

However, some incumbents and candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring.

In Madeira Beach, Mayor Travis Palladeno says he’s running for re-election.

And things are heating up in Safety Harbor where former Mayor Joe Ayoub is running against current commission member Janet Hooper for mayor. In the race for Seat 4 on the commission, incumbent Carlos Diaz has opposition from Cameron Boozarjomehri.

Pinellas County launching educational campaign to renew Penny for Pinellas

Pinellas residents can expect to hear a lot next year about the number of roads, fire stations, parks, buildings and other projects the county and cities have constructed during the past 30 years.

Residents will also hear a lot about construction planned for Pinellas’ future.

It’s all part of an education campaign that the county and municipal governments will undertake as they try to persuade Pinellas voters to renew the Penny for Pinellas sales tax for the fourth time. If approved, the renewed Penny would be collected from 2020 through 2030. The current Penny will end in 2020.

“Job No. 1 in 2017 is to educate the public, so when they cast their ballots, they will make an informed decision,” Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard said Tuesday.

He was speaking during a Pinellas County Commission workshop that was devoted in part to the Penny for Pinellas.

Pinellas County commissioners agreed.

“The Penny is so precious,” Commissioner Ken Welch said. “We have to be very clear what these dollars are used for.”

Commissioner Dave Eggers said, “It’s critical in so many ways.”

The Penny for Pinellas was first passed by voters in 1990. Since then, three major bridges have been built, more than 1,000 miles of roads have been resurfaced, more than 20 fire stations and emergency facilities have been constructed, and water quality and drainage projects have been completed, county records show.

“They Penny for Pinellas has been a ‘good news’ story for the city of Clearwater,” said Bill Horne, the Clearwater city manager.

Among the projects Horne said could be traced to the Penny: Fire Station 45, Pier 60 and the Countryside Library.

It’s unclear how the future Penny money might be used. County commissioners will develop a wish list next year as will the 24 municipalities, each of which gets part of the Penny.

The Penny referendum is Nov. 7.

Pinellas Legislative Delegation to consider changes to construction licensing board

Responding to a request from Charlie Justice, the Pinellas Legislative Delegation will consider changing the way members of the Construction Licensing Board are chosen.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, the delegation chair, called on state Rep. Larry Ahern to come up with a plan by the delegation’s Jan. 31 meeting. State Sen. Jeff Brandes said he wanted Ahern to consider dissolving the board so it would come under control of the Pinellas County Commission.

The licensing board, created in 1973, regulates some construction and home improvement contractors practicing in Pinellas County. It also provides countywide certification and registration of contractors.

It has come under fire in recent weeks because of the way the board members are chosen. Certain organizations and others, named in the statute, suggest members and the chair — currently Justice — of the Pinellas County Commission is responsible for appointing them.

Justice explained the problems in a Nov. 16 letter to Latvala and the delegation:

“When the request to appoint various positions of the PCCLB came before me this fall, I noticed some discrepancies as to the number of appointees provided by the various appointing organizations … In addition, some of the appointing organizations no longer exist or have been adopted under the umbrella of another, similar organization.”

Justice concluded, “I would ask that the Pinellas Legislative Delegation review the laws that pertain to the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and consider amending them to reflect the makeup of the appointing organizations as well as the process by which the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners chair would go about appointing/reappointing board members to the PCCLB.”

Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes will help control the purse strings in Tallahassee next year

When the dust cleared in Tallahassee on Tuesday, one thing was clear: Pinellas was on top when it comes to the state’s funds.

Republican Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes, who represent parts of Pinellas, landed some plum appointments. Latvala will be the chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and alt. chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. Brandes will have a seat on the Appropriations Committee and be the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

The news was welcomed by local elected officials who expect to ask Tallahassee for money in 2017.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s office issued a statement, saying, “Their appointments are great news for the city of St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay Region.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, who will chair the commission in 2017, agreed, saying, “I’d like to think it would be very good for Pinellas County.”

Long said the county has just begun work on its legislative package for the coming year.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has also begun work on its legislative package. St. Petersburg council member Darden Rice, the PSTA chair, said two projects high on the agenda are rapid transit from the Tampa airport to Clearwater and Clearwater Beach and a bus lane on the Clearwater causeway.

Both Latvala and Brandes are aware of the need for the projects, she said. And Brandes, in particular, has already been supportive of innovative PSTA programs that involve partnerships with companies like Uber and Lyft.

The PSTA, Rice said, “is very fortunate to have two such strong senators. I think this will be very helpful.”

That help, she said, can extend to other issues. One such is the sewer and infrastructure problems facing Pinellas. Although St. Petersburg has taken the brunt of criticism after dumping thousands of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage in the bay during two storms this year, the problem with infrastructure is countywide. Latvala has called two delegation meetings for fact finding.

“I think they had a very clear picture of St. Petersburg’s struggles,” Rice said. “We need help from the state to fix our fragile infrastructure.”

Rice said she’s not talking only about St. Petersburg’s infrastructure. It’s the entire county, she said. That’s another place that the senator’s appreciation for regional solutions will be helpful.

Rice noted that Latvala is known for fighting for what he believes in. That’s good for the county.

“He’s a bruiser,” Rice said. “He’s not afraid to go in and fight for what’s right.”

For Ben Diamond, Wengay Newton, a time of learning and outreach

Tuesday is an important day for freshman members of the Florida Legislature.

They’ll be sworn in and have to start making good on those campaign promises. However, there’s a lot to do before they start filing bills.

Wengay Newton
Wengay Newton

“It’s going to be a learning session for me,” said Wengay Newton, who represents House District 70, which covers portions of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, and Manatee counties.

Ben Diamond, who won the race for House District 68, which covers a portion of Pinellas County, agreed.

“I’m still taking it all in,” Diamond said. But that doesn’t mean Diamond isn’t busy.

As a Democrat, he’s in the minority party, and that’s going to make it harder to get his proposals passed. The way to do that, he said, is to build relationships. And that’s what he’s started doing already.

“I’m spending today reaching out,” Diamond said. He’s meeting other legislators, talking with them and asking questions. It’s all part of the learning process.

Ben Diamond
Ben Diamond

“I think the more time I can spend getting to know the other members,” the better, he said.

He said he hopes that will help when it comes to getting good committee assignments.

Fellow Democrat Newton said he’s also hoping for good committee assignments.

He’s also concerned about Tuesday’s vote on the rules, especially a proposed rule that would impose a six-year ban on lobbying once House members leave the chamber.

“I thought that’s kind of extreme,” Newton said.

Protest marchers take to the streets in St. Petersburg

Hundreds gathered in St. PetersburgSunday night to send a message to elected officials.

Their message: A majority of the people do not support the policies and rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump. And, the people want their local and nationally elected officials to oppose those policies — with an eye to Congressional elections in two years and the next presidential election in four years.

“We’re watching,” St. Petersburg resident Elizabeth Pomeroy said. “We’re not going to lay down as he basically destroys the civil rights that so many people have worked so hard to obtain.”

Deborah Anderson, a self-described political activist from St. Pete, handed out safety pins to all who wanted them. The safety pin is a symbol, she said, of “solidarity to people who are being targeted.”

She was referring to immigrants, Muslims, and African-Americans, three groups that were on the whipping post for much campaign rhetoric from the Trump camp.

“We have got to stop Trump from putting his agenda forward,” Anderson said. “We’re not going to let the gains [President Barack] Obama did and his legacy of the last eight years be rolled back.”

She added the protests and unity among those opposing Trump’s policies “will send a message to other politicians that there is a strong group of people who are like, ‘Hell, no!’”

Pomeroy and Anderson were speaking before the first of the marches from Demens Landing to Williams Park and back again. An estimated 800 to 1,000 people joined the march. Among the crowd were people of all ages, including a few children, and multiple ethnicities. Some marchers were on crutches.

They were carrying signs with messages such as “Baby boomers against Trump/We’ve been here before,” apparently a reference to the civil rights marches of the 1960s and Vietnam era; “Got $ for war but can’t feed the poor;” and “Love trumps hate.”

As they marched, they chanted slogans: “Not our president. Not our president;” “The people united will never be divided;” “The people united will never be defeated;” and “Power to the people.” A drum occasionally thumped out a four-beat rhythm.

While some marchers reported a friendly reception by those who saw them pass, others said some observers made obscene hand gestures and screamed things such as “Black lives don’t matter.” At one point, before they left Demens Landing, a man rode by on a bicycle yelling, “You goddam retards! You’re going to blow it up!”

When they returned from the march, speakers exhorted them to stay united and keep up the fight.

The second march of the night began a little more than an hour after the first ended. Marchers — mostly from the LGBT community — gathered at Enigma bar and lounge in the Edge District on Central Avenue. This march was smaller than the first but just as vocal with marchers shouting slogans as they made their way east on Central: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!” and “Please reject the president-elect.”

Shortly before they left, a man got into a dispute with one of the marchers. A woman got in between them. And police, who were there to help with traffic control, sent the man away with no incident.

St. Pete Protest  St. Pete Protest  St. Pete Protest  St. Pete Protest  St. Pete Protest  St. Pete Protest  St. Pete Protest  St. Pete Protest

Charlie Justice wins second term on Pinellas County Commission

Democrat Charlie Justice faced down a challenge from first-time candidate Mike Mikurak to win a second term on the Pinellas County Commission.

Justice took the lead early in the evening with about 53. 5 percent of the vote and never looked back.

Voters were treated to two distinctly different styles in the race for the District 3 seat, which was voted on countywide.

Republican Mikurak, who was making his first run for public office, was on the attack early on calling Justice a “career politician” for having served in both the state House and Senate before running for the County Commission. Mikurak also criticized the county as lacking leadership. In turn, Mikurak, a retired businessman, argued the county needed to be run more like a business.

Justice, on the other hand, took a softer approach, talking about his love for the county and his desire to see Pinellas as a place where his daughters would want to live. He also ran on his record, saying the county had come a long way since he first took office in 2012 when there was infighting on the commission and between the county and cities, fire districts, fire chiefs, and other county commissions. Collaboration, Justice said, was the way to get things done for the future.

In other county races, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri won another term. Gualtieri, a Republican, clobbered both James McLynas, who ran without a party affiliation, and write-in candidate Greg Pound.

Republican Mike Twitty also became property appraiser when he took about 96.7 percent of the vote against write-in candidates.

Charlie Crist, Rick Kriseman, Alex Sink get out the vote

With less than a day to go before the polls open for the last time, former Gov. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spent some time Monday urging people to vote if they had not already done so.

Kriseman and Crist, who is running for the Congressional District 13 seat held by Republican David Jolly, started out in the Tyrone area. Later, they visited businesses on Central Avenue in St. Pete where Alex Sink joined them. Sink is a former Florida chief financial officer.

“This is in the hands of the people,” Crist said of Tuesday’s election. Still, he said, “we don’t stop. You’ve got to run through the finish line.”

Sink said she came out to walk with Crist because they’re friends. But, she said, she also believes in him.

“I’m always available to help my favorite candidates, and I’m a big Charlie Crist fan,” Sink said. To Crist, she said, “You were the peoples’ governor. You’re going to be the peoples’ congressman.”

Kriseman agreed that Crist was the best candidate: “We need people up there who will fight for us here.”

While the three Democrats want Crist elected, they said the overall election is incredibly important. Kriseman paraphrased Georgia Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis in saying that Tuesday’s election is important not just for the state and nation but also for the world.

“The whole world’s at stake with this election,” Kriseman said.

The polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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