Phil Ammann, Author at Florida Politics

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range included covering news, local government and nightclub reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for an online metaphysical website among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul.

Personnel note: HSN CEO Mindy Grossman named National Retail Federation chair

Home Shopping Network Inc. CEO Mindy Grossman will become the new chair of National Retail Federation board of directors.

Grossman, a St. Petersburg resident, was elected this week to serve a two-year term. She replaces Kip Tindell, the co-founder and chair of the Container Store. Neiman Marcus Group CEO Karen Katz was also named chair of the NRF Foundation.

Representing vendors from the U.S. and more than 45 countries, the National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Membership includes discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, small-businesspeople, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet sellers.

On her HSN website bio, Grossman is described as a 38-year veteran of the retail and apparel industries. She joined IAC, HSNi’s former parent company, in 2006 as CEO of IAC Retail. Grossman took the company public in 2008, becoming CEO of HSNi.

Grossman was also instrumental in developing innovative programs such as Shop by Remote, HSN Arcade and HSN Live, working with international brands like Disney, Ford and Universal. She also led the company’s digital transformation of its catalogue business.

Wal-Mart to close Midtown St. Pete Neighborhood Market March 3

After opening to much fanfare three years ago, Wal-Mart is shuttering its Neighborhood Market in the Midtown section of St. Petersburg.

First reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the retail giant announced it will close the store at 1794 22nd St. S March 3; its pharmacy will close Feb. 1.

The store was formerly a Sweetbay Supermarket.

“After a careful and thoughtful review process, we have made the difficult decision to close our Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on 22nd Street South in St. Petersburg,” a Wal-Mart representatives said in a statement. “We have been, and will continue to be, supportive of our local store leadership and associates, and this decision is in no way a reflection of their hard work and customer service over the last three years. This decision is based on a number of factors, including financial performance and strategic alignment with long-term plans.”

After Sweetbay decided to close all its Florida stores, former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster had pressured the company to keep the nearly 40,000-square-foot location open, which was owned by the city.

“We are incredibly disappointed by Wal-Mart’s decision to close this particular store. In light of the city’s pursuit of Tangerine Plaza and our ability to incentivize Wal-Mart’s remaining, we are hopeful that they will revisit this decision,” current Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement.

“However, anticipating their closure, we will work closely with them to ensure their employees are placed at other Wal-Mart locations,” Kriseman added.

“While I join in the frustration many of our residents will feel, this may be an opportunity to secure a tenant that can successfully self-perpetuate or create an amenity that better serves the wants and needs of the surrounding community.”

The Neighborhood Market was a key business in the Tangerine shopping plaza, which had been expected to bring economic vitality to a traditionally underserved community of the city.

Aegis Technologies celebrates 20 years of helping businesses with all things tech

Twenty years ago, Pam Butler and Brad Mitchell saw an opportunity in North Florida.

With no qualified tech consultant to serve the region’s growing business community, the pair founded the Tallahassee-based Aegis Business Technologies to fill the gap.

Since 1997, Aegis has transformed into a one-stop-shop for all things tech – obtaining, installing and supporting tablets, laptops, servers, firewalls, wireless, email, cloud storage, websites, cabling – just about anything technological a business might need.

“We are a Managed Services Provider (MSP),” explained CEO Blake Dowling, a regular tech columnist for “We manage all of your tech, including serving as a liaison to all third-party providers (software, printers, etc.)”

“We take care of it all,” Dowling said. “And act as your trusted adviser.”

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, Aegis received armfuls of awards, including a five-time Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Technology Company of the Year. Aegis has been ranked nationally as a high-performing MSP by organizations such as Ingram Micro, Channel2Channel Magazine and MSP Mentor. There’ve also been recognized for excellence by the Jim Moran Institute, Best of Tallahassee and Tally Awards.

“I often say I have more courage than brains, and my advisers over the years have said that I am the most persistent creature they’ve ever known,” said Butler, who now serves as Aegis’ chair. “That’s why I have surrounded myself with a brilliant partner, the most skilled CEO, learned advisors, trusted customers and a supportive community.”

Butler pointed out that the company, located at 1310 Thomasville Rd. in Tallahassee, is “as vibrant as ever.”

Looking forward to the next 20 years, Butler said Aegis and her team are committed to providing the latest solutions and support for businesses of any size.

“For this, I will be forever grateful,” she added vibrantly. “We changed our stars.”

New video from Richard Corcoran boasts ‘We are One House’

A new video produced by the Florida House seeks to remind citizens of the Sunshine State that lawmakers, who will soon convene for the 2017 Legislative Session in March, are united in service to all Floridians.

In the clip from Speaker Richard Corcoran’s First Principles Production, group of Florida House members show that — despite political differences — “We are One House.”

The 90-second video — which begins with the passing of the gavel between former Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Corcoran — features a stream of House members such as Republican Reps. Jose Diaz (HD 116), Alexandra Miller (HD 72), Michael Grant (HD 75), Dane Eagle (HD 77) and Democrats Sean Shaw (HD 61) and Matt Willhite (HD 86) among others.

Each lawmaker talks about how the are representing all Floridians, first responders, seniors, veterans and those in need.

“I am so thankful to our colleagues who participated in our ‘One House’ project,” Corcoran said in a statement.  “With this video, we aimed to show the public, the press, and each other, that we share many broad goals and in the end, we are no different, and no more important than any of the people we collectively represent.

“Because, as the video says, ‘all of them, are all of us,’” he added.

Corcoran encourages everyone to watch, share, and participate in the next video, as well as “always remain honored — even when we disagree — to serve together.”

 The video is available on YouTube.

Charlie Crist to hold first St. Petersburg fundraiser of 2017 Saturday

This weekend, Congressman Charlie Crist will be back on home turf for one of his first Florida fundraisers of 2017.

The afternoon reception, scheduled Saturday from 5:30 – 7 p.m., will be at the home of Crist’s sister, Dr. Elizabeth Crist Hyden, at Casa Las Brisas, 515 Brightwaters Blvd, NE in St. Petersburg.

Supporters of the freshman St. Petersburg Democrat include Palm Harbor Attorney Fran Haasch as honorary chair, with a tentative host committee including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Janette and Tom Carey, Gordon Chernecky, Susan and Bob Churuti, Aubrey Dicus, Watson Haynes, Paul Jallo, Katharine and Joe Saunders, Kent Whittemore and Emory Wood.

A spot on the guest list will cost $500; $2,700 to be a host. Co-hosting the event will set supporters back $1,000. RSVPs are through Evan Lawlor at or (202) 741-7215.

Crist – who represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District – has begun fundraising for a re-election bid in 2018, starting with a Washington D.C. fundraiser Jan. 3, the day he officially became part of the 115th Congress.

Philip Levine announces final term as Miami Beach mayor, to launch statewide listening tour

Philip Levine will not be seeking another term as mayor of Miami Beach.

In a video “state of the city” address released Thursday, Levine talked about how he “rolled up his sleeves and got to work” on such issues as sea level rise, traffic congestion, the Zika virus and lower property taxes.

With that, Levine adds that this will be his last term as mayor.

“Now I look forward to ways of how best to serve my community and my state,” he says in the nearly 3-minute video. “How to make Florida a 21st-century leader in the world economy.”

Levine, an entrepreneur in the cruise industry and media, was first elected to office in 2013. As a multimillionaire, many insiders speculate Levine — as a popular South Florida municipal leader — would possibly seek higher office.

Levine adviser Christian Ulvert says: “Over the coming months, Mayor Levine will travel across Florida to listen to Floridians on how best to serve the state he loves. He will be making a final decision on his plans for continued public service in the spring.”

The video is also available on YouTube:

Airbnb reaches out to help travelers affected by Ft. Lauderdale shooting

Airbnb is activating its local Disaster Response Tool to assist travelers impacted by the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

On Friday, a lone gunman –  identified as former Army veteran Esteban Santiago, 26 — pulled a gun from checked baggage after landing, loaded it in a restroom and began shooting, killing five people and injuring eight others.

As part of the response, Airbnb is asking hosts to offer housing to displaced neighbors and relief workers deployed to help during the tragedy. Authorities have not yet established Santiago’s motive, and told the press “it looks like he acted alone.”

During times of emergency, Airbnb emails local hosts with information on how to offer extra space to affected community members. Hosts are still covered by the Host Guarantee, and Airbnb’s fees are waived.

“Our hearts and thoughts go out to the community of Ft. Lauderdale and all those impacted by today’s horrific and senseless violence,” Airbnb spokesman Nick Shapiro said in a statement. “Through the tool, travelers whose journeys have been interrupted or otherwise delayed will be able to connect with local hosts who are opening up their homes at no charge between now and Jan. 9.

“We are hopeful that the Ft. Lauderdale Airbnb community will come together to open their homes for those in need.”

To reserve a listing, or list a space through the tool, visit

“In addition to our hosts,” Shapiro added, “we also want to thank all of the emergency responders and law enforcement personnel who are working around the clock to investigate this tragedy and restore a sense of normalcy at the airport and to the broader community.”

Quirk may shield U.S. coast during busy hurricane seasons

A climatic quirk seems to be slightly shielding the U.S. coast during busy hurricane seasons, often weakening major storms just as they approach America’s beaches, a new study finds.

That could help explain why it’s been more than 11 years since a major hurricane with winds of more than 110 mph has hit the United States mainland.

Last year’s Hurricane Matthew was a perfect example of this uniquely American “protective barrier” of stronger crosswinds and cooler coastal waters, according to the study’s author, climate scientist Jim Kossin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Matthew devastated Haiti as a monster storm hitting land with 145 mph winds, threatened Florida as a major hurricane and then fizzled as it finally came ashore in South Carolina, barely registering as a hurricane with 75 mph winds.

Kossin’s study published Wednesday in the journal Nature found that shifts in air and ocean conditions over decades work together to weaken major storms along the U.S. coast. This protective barrier begins around the U.S.-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas, and gets more noticeable around the Atlantic coast, Kossin said.

“It’s a lucky byproduct for the United States coast,” Kossin said. “It’s really unfortunate that we’re the only ones that seem to be benefiting from this situation.”

This image provided by NOAA. taken Oct. 7, 2016, shows Hurricane Matthew over the Southeastern part of the U.S. A new study finds wind and water shifts during busy hurricane seasons seem to provide a somewhat protective barrier for the U.S. coast. Last year’s Hurricane Matthew, which was a major storm and hit Haiti with 145 mph winds but fizzled as it neared the American mainland, is a good example.This Oct. 7, 2016, satellite image shows Matthew as it threatens Florida, but it later hit South Carolina as a minimal hurricane with 75 mph winds. (NOAA via AP)

The Atlantic Ocean seems to alternate between cycles of heavy and low hurricane activity. The current heavy cycle began in 1993, after a low period of more than two decades. During those quieter times, when a major hurricane forms in the Atlantic it is three to six times more likely to rapidly intensify near the U.S. coast than during the busier times, according to the study.

Kossin mapped sea surface temperatures and wind shear levels in the Atlantic to see small changes near the U.S. coast — but only during a busy cycle. His study found a localized increase in high altitude crosswinds — called wind shear — that tear at a storm’s structure. It also found slightly cooler sea surface temperatures, which reduce a hurricane’s fuel of hot water. The changes seem to be just a function of larger natural conditions, he said.

Take October’s Hurricane Matthew: “As it approached Florida, it started to encounter wind shear, which weakened it to a minimal hurricane,” Kossin said.

Previously, he also found that during busy cycles, bigger storms tend to form slightly more to the east — toward Africa — giving them more opportunity to curve harmlessly north in the Atlantic instead of hitting the U.S. coastline. All those factors seem to be helping reduce the U.S. threat compared to other places in the Atlantic, he said.

Even with that “protective barrier” as Kossin calls it in the paper, there is still a greater chance of major hurricanes nearing the U.S. during busy times than quiet times, Kossin said. That’s because there are more storms brewing overall.

Three outside scientists contacted by The Associated Press praised the study as interesting, though not complete, while two others cautioned against reading too much into it. Georgia Tech’s Judith Curry called it solid research while Penn State’s David Titley said he worried about small sample size and natural variations.

Kossin and other scientists also said the 11-year major hurricane landfall drought since 2005’s Wilma is a bit of a statistical quirk because of strict meteorological definitions and national borders. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 wasn’t considered a major hurricane because its winds weren’t strong enough.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Donald Trump meets with Pentagon on high-cost programs, F-35 project

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump met with several top military officers this week on several issues, including an effort to “bring costs down” on pricy Pentagon projects such as the F-35 fighter jet.

POLITICO reports that among those at the meeting Wednesday at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, head of the F-35 program, which Trump has regularly blasted for production delays and “out of control” costs. The F-35 has consistently come under fire as the world’s most expensive weapons system.

Pentagon staff also brought models of three versions of the F-35 currently under development for use by the Air Force, Navy and Marines.

The president-elect told reporters afterward that talks focused “primarily the F-35, trying to get the costs down — a program that is very, very expensive.” Trump also had separate meetings with Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg.

Lockheed produces the F-35, while Boeing is under contract to build a new Air Force One fleet, another project targeted by Trump for its high price tag.

POLITICO also noted that Trump met with several high-ranking Pentagon officials who oversee nuclear weapons and strategy – including Vice Adm. James Syring, of the Missile Defense Agency; Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, who serves as deputy Air Force chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear Integration; Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson; Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran; Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, who commands the Air Mobility Command; and Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, in charge of the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Military talks were held along with Trump’s national security adviser nominee, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

“These are amazing people, and I’m very impressed with them,” Trump said later. “And they are good negotiators.”

As for the meeting with Hewson: “We’re just beginning,” Trump said. “It’s a dance.”

“It’s a little bit of a dance,” he added. “But we’re going to get the [F-35] costs down … we’re going to get it done beautifully.”

“I think we’re looking to cut a tremendous amount of money off the program,” Trump said about the Air Force One program after meeting with Muilenburg.

Station House announces major renovation, rooftop terrace for St. Pete location

A popular St. Petersburg restaurant and meeting space is planning ambitious changes to its downtown location in the new year.

Station House announced Tuesday a series of extensive revitalizations to its mixed-use structure for 2017. Among the upgrades include the addition of a rooftop garden terrace, and what is being described as a “multi-experience restaurant concept.”

Station House, a five-story, mixed-use building of nearly 32,000 square feet, is located at 260 1st Ave. S in St. Petersburg,

Although exact details have not yet been made public, the design includes a new garden terrace with a shaded pergola trellis system, incorporating green space, foliage, and vines to invoke a New York City-style rooftop for intimate parties and dining.

Entry to the restaurant will move to the front of the building off 1st Ave. South, which will improve traffic flow and allow a greater street-level presence. Plans also include a mural, as well as other features to the entry, streetscape, and landscaping.

“It’s again time for Station House to recruit talented designers and partners from the best cities all over the world and introduce them to St Pete,” says Station House proprietor Steve Gianfilippo. “That’s my purpose, to continue to raise the bar in the way so many of us are doing in St. Pete at all levels, but as always with a few tricks up our sleeves.”

Gianfilippo promises the redesign will elevate Station House as both an entertainment and culinary venue, and is expected to attract new talent for improved diversity in downtown St. Petersburg.

As a meeting and business place, Station House will also offer mentoring and a series of workshops in 2017, as well as a Virtual Reality Gaming facility in the co-work space — a concept which Gianfilippo says is “much like those of Silicon Valley.”

Also, there will be a new men’s locker room installed with shower, and a complete makeover of the Green Richman Arcade, currently branded as the Station House Arcade.

Restaurant renovations are slated to start the first week in January, and Station House will continue to provide catering and event hosting during construction.

Completion of the project is planned for Spring or Summer 2017.

Updates on the remodel, workspace, memberships and office suites are at

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