Tampa Bay Archives - Florida Politics

On his last morning in office, Ed Narain gives thanks to the Obama presidency

Although Friday has been a tough and day for Democrats around the country, former Florida state representative Ed Narain says he chooses to be happy as he celebrates the end of Barack Obama’s eight year administration. That’s because he writes in a statement that after Jesse Jackson failed to win the White House during his two tries in the 1980’s, he believed that he would never see a black man attain the highest office in the land, but Obama proved him and so many others wrong.

“On this day eight years ago my friends and I stood freezing on the National Mall to witness the shattering of a ceiling we had literally been taught would never be broken and it inspired us to live up to the fullest of our potential because truly just like him, we could too,” Narain wrote in a statement he issued out on Friday. “For many, most of our children have been born during a time when the leader of the free world looked just like them. No one can tell than that they can’t or they won’t because of their skin color (though we still have ceilings to break with gender).”

Like Obama, Narain also no longer holds public office, after narrowly losing his bid for the state Senate District 19 seat to Darryl Rouson in the Democratic Primary last August. Although sidelined for the moment, most political observers predict the 40-year-old New York city native will return again to political office.

Here’s his statement in full:

While today is a sad day for some, I choose to be happy. I’m not happy because President Obama’s tenure is over. I’m happy because like a good relationship that comes to an expected end, I’m glad we had this time together.
In 1984, Jesse Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive” mantra was so inspiring to this then eight year old. Four years later, when he wasn’t chosen to be the Vice Presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, I was disappointed but not discouraged that America wasn’t ready to accept an African American as one of its standard bearers.
In 1993, a teacher told my classmates and I that we would never see a Black President in our lifetime. She said that a woman would be first and eventually our grandkids would see a Black president. I don’t think she said this because she was prejudiced, I think it was because in her life experience, the country just hadn’t changed enough to accept people who looked like me in political leadership. Maybe because I was no longer a child but on that day, I stopped believing it would happen in our lifetime.
This is why President Barack Obama’s election meant so much to so many. “Yes We Can” was the fulfillment of the “hope” Jesse asked us to keep alive. For Gen Xers like me, it meant our natural sense of skepticism could finally give way to the possibility that people could be fair and America would live up to its promise of opportunity for all, regardless of how stupid, superficial factors of race and gender often divide us.
On this day eight years ago my friends and I stood freezing on the National Mall to witness the shattering of a ceiling we had literally been taught would never be broken and it inspired us to live up to the fullest of our potential because truly just like him, we could too
For many, most of our children have been born during a time when the leader of the free world looked just like them. No one can tell than that they can’t or they won’t because of their skin color (though we still have ceilings to break with gender)
So while I’m sad to see him leave I’m happy because his legacy is greater than just political accomplishments or ground breaking legislation. I’m thankful for what his time in the White House represented.
For an older generation he was the fulfillment of a “dream” that millions were unfairly locked out of participating in.For my generation, he was the inspiration that gave permission to believe in achieving the impossible.
For our children’s generation, he is not a Black President; just “The President” and that is the legacy of hope and equality we must all work hard to keep aliv
Thank you Mr. President. You have meant and still mean so much.
Today I choose to be happy.
– Ed

 

 

At Inauguration watch party in North Tampa, great expectations for a Trump presidency

Approximately three dozen Donald Trump supporters cheered incessantly at a Beef O’Brady’s in North Tampa on Friday morning, before, during and after the longtime New York real estate mogul was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

“We did this,” exclaimed Terry Castro, a co-chair with the Trump campaign in north Hillsborough County, immediately after the swearing-in ceremony.

“These are all the people who worked in the north Hillsborough Trump office and helped us make this day come true,” added co-chair Rebecca DoBoer.

“It’s all about the people,” DoBoer continued, echoing a theme of the Republican’s inaugural address. “Whether they’re Democrats or Republicans. It’s a movement of people who want to turn back to the days when we had great jobs and everyone could succeed.”

Trump’s signature campaign theme of making America “great again,” was definitely what many in the bar believed will come true over the next four and possibly eight years.

“I’m excited for America to be wonderful again,” said Tampa resident Peggy Kienzle. When pressed about what that actually means, she harkened back to her youth.

“I think of the 50’s and 60’s when I was growing up. I remember every man going to work every day as proud Americans. Patriotism,” she recounted. “It was the 1960’s with JFK. There was so much pride in this country and what we stood for. I am still very proud to be an American and always will be, but I am really anxious to see where he can take our country.”

59-year-old Tampa citizen Charles Harris also invoked the past in discussing Trump’s appeal. “We need the leadership that we once had in the 1960’s when we had a backbone and we had a military readiness that we used to have and I think we need to be more prepared and I think we need to just get back to our goal as being the most powerful nation on the face of the earth,” he said, adding, “this country has lost respect in every other avenue on this earth. Other countries used to respect us, even the terrorists knew not to mess with us, but now that may change and we may get that respect back.”

Although some have questioned Trump’s bonafides when it comes to how spiritual he actually is, some in the audience at the family friendly sports bar said they celebrated his faith.

“I think he’s a real Christian,” said Rita Lynn. “I think that’s very important that we depend on God to tell us and guide us on what to do. ”

“The thing that I’m most impressed about actually is that he’s a Christian man and he loves America, and you can see it in everything that he does,” added Kienzle.

When pressed about what specifically they hope that Trump accomplishes in office, several people in the multiracial crowd said they wanted him to eliminate what they said were way too many regulations promulgated during the Obama administration that they claim are strangling U.S. businesses.

“This country has always been where one where people with ideas can risk and build a future for themselves and their family, and the abundance of this country has come out of people who were willing to question, challenge and create, and you have a man coming out of the private sector who knows just how devastating regulations are,” said Bill Luria, 70. A practicing physician, Luria is excited to see the Affordable Care Act wither away, saying whatever the replacement turns out will “be a massive improvement.”

Tampa resident Aaron Bergman says he personally doesn’t care about the Republican Party. He says the problem is that the U.S. government is of and for Washington and not of and for the people, and says he truly believes that the new president will “drain the swamp.”

Bergman celebrates Trump as a “once in a lifetime candidate because he’s not beholden” to anyone – special interests, the political parties, or the media.

“The media did everything in their power to destroy him, and it failed,” he says.

Many of the Trump supporters qualified their statements by acknowledging that as happy as they were on Friday, half the nation was equally unhappy, if not downright despondent about the fact that the Republican Party will control all levers of the federal government for the first time in a decade.

And while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and congressional Republicans dug in early to thwart Barack Obama in his administration,  St. Petersburg resident Tyler Prince says that Republican rank and file members did view the now former president with an open mind, and he’s asking for the same consideration for the new one.

“Just give the guy a chance,” he said. “Eight years ago I didn’t protest. It was a tough time for us. We gave Obama a chance, so we hope that everybody does the same for Trump.”

However with more than 60 congressional Democrats boycotting or simply sitting out the inauguration, and with protests planned in hundreds of cities across the country on Saturday, that idea remains uncertain at this time.

 

 

 

 

 

Dana Young to unveil anti-fracking legislation next week

Tampa Republican state Senator Dana Young will announce her legislation to ban fracking next week, her office said on Friday.

During her successful campaign to win the Senate District 18 seat last fall, Young promised that she would introduce such a ban, after she was accused of actually supporting the controversial practice of extracting natural gas and oil during the 2016 legislative session.

Democrat Bob Buesing, independent candidate Joe Redner and other environmental groups all said her support of a bill sponsored by Naples Republican Garett Richter was an endorsement of fracking, but Young denied that, saying that she supported the the bill because it the best way to halt the practice, though it did not include an outright ban.

Young will not be the first member of the Senate to offer such a bill. Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer introduced similar legislation in December.

Young intends to announce the details of her bill Tuesday morning in Tallahassee.

Hillsborough County Democratic Party says they are united in holding Donald Trump accountable

Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend says that while the local party takes pride in the smooth transition of power that will take place on Friday, she says they are united in holding Donald Trump accountable for the policies and programs in plans for the American public.

In a statement released just hours before Trump succeeds Barack Obama as the leader of the free world, she says that the party will be diligent that America’s 45th president “does NO HARM TO MIDDLE AND WORKING CLASS AMERICANS.”

“Trump’s Cabinet picks are worrisome, we have already seen an assault on the Affordable Care Act, and next we fear the dissolving of policies that protect our environment, public education, a woman’s right to choose and equality,” says Townsend. “Wherever possible we will join forces and create alliances with community leaders across Hillsborough, the state, and nation to fight unfair and detrimental Trump administration policies. Our voices will be heard. We will be there for voters that bought into Trump’s illusions that he alone can solve national and world problems.”

Townsend then lists the rights that she says the Democratic party believes in, and says that they will fight any Trump administration proposals “that could decimate what Democrats have strived for and will continue to work toward achieving.”

Those rights include:

1. Health care for all

2. Expanding the middle class

3. Raising the minimum wage to $15

4. Keeping jobs in America

5. Affordable college education

6. A woman’s right to choose and make her own health care decisions

7. Ending institutional racism in our country and any other form of discrimination

8. Immigration reform with a path to citizenship

In recent presidential election years, Hillsborough County enjoyed the reputation as being one of the leading bellwether counties in the country when it came to choosing the president. That changed last year, however, as Hillary Clinton won the county by more than eight percentage points, but lost the vote overall in Florida, and of course, lost in the Electoral College to Trump.

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.

Dominic Calabro: Keeping cigars in the Cigar City

Politicians talk repeatedly about doing things to help create jobs. But, sometimes, doing nothing is the best option. We hope that newly-elected lawmakers understand that less government intrusion is often the key to keeping the American Dream alive.

A great example is the 2009 “Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.” This innocuously named effort actually increased federal regulation in ways that even many of its supporters now regret.

The act gave the Food and Drug Administration the right to regulate all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. But bureaucracies tend to expand whenever they can and the agency soon extended its reach to premium cigars — a move that even the most liberal members of Congress said they never intended.

The result is a possible loss of jobs, the death of family-owned businesses and an unnecessary impediment to the American Dream.

A great example is the J.C. Newman’s Cigar Co. It is a classic “only in America” success story. Founded in 1895 in Ohio by an immigrant from Hungary, it is the nation’s oldest manufacturer of premium cigars.

In the 1950s, the business moved to Tampa, also known as Cigar City. What autos are to Detroit and movies are to Hollywood, cigars are the signature item in Tampa. The business flourished in this natural new home.

Cigars made by the 121-year-old family-run business are not marketed toward youth, nor are they used by younger consumers.

But the FDA, empowered to expand its reach without limit, has recently ruled that all cigar manufacturers must pay exorbitant “user fees,” undergo costly scientific tests that could run into the millions of dollars, fulfill new loads of paperwork and are now essentially prohibited from introducing new sizes, brands and blends. Samples provided for charity auctions or soldiers overseas are no longer allowed. And in a cruelly concurrent move, the federal government recently ruled that Cuban cigars will not only be allowed for sale in the United States, but they won’t have to meet the new requirements for American-made cigars.

The overall result is not an increase in consumer safety, but a potential death knell for companies like J.C. Newman’s.

The company has more than 125 employees in the Tampa Bay area, hardworking families with mortgages to pay and children to feed. Strangling their livelihood with no increase in consumer safety is ludicrous.

Thankfully, led by Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate and Bill Posey and Kathy Castor in the U.S. House, there has been bipartisan support from Florida’s legislative delegation to eliminate the job-killing provisions for premium cigar manufacturers. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has also presented President-elect Donald Trump with more than 200 regulations that could be immediately eliminated to help working Americans, including the job-killing provisions on premium cigars.

We hope the new administration and the FDA find the proper balance and remove this requirement that benefits nobody. And we hope that this classic example of unnecessary regulations strangling businesses becomes a warning against well-meaning mandates that too often spiral out of control.

___

Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

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.

Charlie Crist looking forward to attending Donald Trump inauguration

There are now 24 Democratic members of Congress who say they won’t attend the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as America’s 45th president on Friday.

Charlie Crist isn’t one or them.

“I will be attending the inauguration, and I look forward to it,” Crist told this reporter on Sunday, after hosting a press event where he called for Republicans not to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The growing number of Democrats who say they will boycott the inauguration began after Trump publicly rebuked civil rights icon John Lewis, on Saturday morning, following Lewis’ remarks to NBC’s Chuck Todd that he didn’t consider Trump “a legitimate president” and wouldn’t attend the inauguration.

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” the Georgia Democratic added.

Trump responded in characteristic fashion early Saturday morning, tweeting that Lewis was “all talk” and “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district.

That response angered Tampa Representative Kathy Castor, who wrote in her own tweet that Trump’s attack on Lewis “shows what a small, graceless person he is,” perhaps her most provocative statement regarding the President-elect.

Lewis was in Miami on Monday morning, serving as the keynote speaker for the city of Miami’s MLK Day breakfast.

Meanwhile, the inauguration is taking place at the end of this week. Crist says it’s “important to focus on the peaceful transition of power.”

“I didn’t support Mr. Trump, but I respect the fact that he’s been elected president of the U.S.,” the St. Petersburg Democrat adds.

Crist has made it clear that he was elected by his constituents to get things done in Washington, and has said that he will work with Trump to help get more Americans “back to work.”

Miami area Representative Fredericka Wilson says she won’t attend the inauguration, but not because of Trump. She tells the Miami Herald that she had a previous commitment.

Charlie Crist calls GOP Obamacare repeal without replacement ‘unacceptable’

With the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — already beginning to be phased out by Republicans in Washington this month, congressional Democrats took to the streets in Florida and around the country Sunday afternoon.

Congressional representatives held rallies and press events featuring regular citizens whose lives have benefited by Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

In South St. Petersburg, Charlie Crist held his own event, where he blasted congressional Republicans for having nearly seven years to provide an alternative to the ACA without doing so yet.

“In Washington D.C. I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening,” he said of the plans to repeal and replace.

And while that comment drew cheers from his supporters at the news conference held outside of Advantage Insurance Solutions on 22nd Street South, the fact is in the House at least, Republicans don’t necessarily need any Democrats to help them pass an alternative plan after they repeal the ACA.

“I think we need to keep it the way it is and try to improve it,” Crist said when asked if he would work with Republicans on a replacement.

“There are things that can be better about this act, no question about it,” he admitted, referring to ways to keep costs from escalating. But he said that repealing provisions of the law such as removing the ban on insurance companies being able to deny patients with pre-existing conditions was morally wrong.

“It would have to be something like Obamacare,” he said when asked by another reporter about what type of alternative he could stand behind. But the freshman Representative admitted that would be “challenging” considering that Republicans ran this fall on a platform of dismantling Obamacare.

“But anything worthwhile is not easy,” he said. “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for.”

Terry Donald is the owner of We Haul Florida, a hauling and cleanup service in Pinellas County.  He calls his family’s health history “a nightmare” with high blood pressure and heart disease present in several members of his clan. He related an anecdote about how he received a staph infection after cutting his leg while mowing his lawn. “Had I not sought treatment, I would have lost my life,” he said starkly, referring to how he was treated by his doctors with an aggressive course of IV antibiotics.

“People ask me why this coverage is so important and I tell them I had insurance,” he said. “I knew it would be covered. I knew I wouldn’t go bankrupt for receiving the care that I needed.”

Gloria Campbell writes insurance policies as the owner of Advantage Insurance Solutions. She says before the creation of the ACA, nine out of 10 health insurance policies that she drew up for her clients were rejected because of her client’s pre-existing health conditions, or their families’ poor medical history.

Campbell says many of those people now on the ACA had never previously seen a doctor because they didn’t know how insurance worked.

“Now they own their own health care,” she said. “They talk about what kind of outcomes they want. Now people don’t rely on getting sick, they rely on staying well.”

“We have the technology to restart a heart, to 3D print organs and tissue, to save people from Ebola, but we lack the moral fiber and legislative stones to ensure that the American taxpayer doesn’t face lifelong financial ruin for the crime of surviving,” charged Jhavavi Pathak, who currently attends MIT and is the founder of The War on Cancer Foundation.

She told the story of her father, Yogesh, who in 2004 was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer which ultimately spread to his spleen, pancreas, lungs, leg, brain and skull. He’s had 14 major surgeries, including four on his brain, and is somewhat miraculously still alive. In the fall of 2013, he signed up to get on the ACA. “Every one of us is a single mishap or accident away from lifelong financial ruin,” she declared.

“It used to be people didn’t survive a serious medical issue,” Pathak said. “We just didn’t have the medical treatments or the scientific know-how. But now in 21st Century America, people simply can’t afford to survive a serious medical attention.”

While she and the other public speakers blasted the GOP for not having a replacement plan ready to insert as they begin to repeal the law, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced Sunday that he does have a replacement ready to go.

“Replacement should be the same day,” Paul said on CNN’s State of The Union, reiterating his critique of fellow congressional Republicans’ “repeal and delay” idea. “Our goal is to insure the most amount of people, give access to the most amount of people at the least amount of cost.”

Paul praised the good intentions of the designers of the Affordable Care Act but said it includes too many mandates and has “broken the insurance model” in the individual market. Among other changes, his plan would remove some insurance coverage mandates that drive up premium costs to “legalize the sale of inexpensive insurance.”

 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons