Tampa Bay Archives - Page 3 of 53 - Florida Politics

Bill would qualify Ruth Eckerd Hall for tourism tax dollars

Legislation filed in the Florida Senate would allow Ruth Eckert Hall and similar auditoriums to benefit from taxes raised to promote tourism.

SB 68 by Sen. Denise Grimsley would clarify that tourist development tax dollars may flow to facilities, like Clearwater’s Eckerd Hall, that are publicly owned but managed by nonprofit organizations.

Existing law allows tourism tax money to be spent only on convention centers, sports stadiums or arenas, or coliseums that are publicly owned and operated.

“This measure offers clarity for communities on the appropriate uses of their local tourist dollars,” Grimsley, a Lake Placid Republican, said via email.

Pinellas County collected around $49 million through the tax last year, but Eckerd Hall has not qualified for any proceeds.

In 2013, declining corporate, state and federal support forced Eckerd Hall to lay off 13 employees, nearly one-third of its workforce. During the past two years, however, the Hall reportedly has posted record ticket sales.

The venue ranks No. 3 in the world for venues with fewer than 2,500 seats, chosen by leading industry trade magazines.

Kathy Castor proposal to maintain ACA’s consumer friendly protections shot down in House vote

On Wednesday, the second day of the 115th Congress, House Republicans began the work of repealing and ultimately replacing the Affordable Care Act, much to the consternation of Democrats like Tampa Representative Kathy Castor.

Castor advocated for an amendment to a bill that was being debated that would maintain the consumer friendly provisions of the ACA, such as the cost saving provisions for Medicare prescription drugs, as well as the provision that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

“The Affordable Care Act, which Republicans say they want to repeal without a replacement in sight, provided very important consumer protections for all Americas, not just 20 million Americans who gained health insurance through the marketplace of healthcare.gov, ” Castor said on the House floor.

She said that the repeal of the ACA would impact the approximately 43 million people on Medicare, and the 155 million people who currently receive health care through their employer.

“If Republicans aren’t careful in their zeal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they in essence will be asking  our parents and grandparents to pay more. A whole lot more,” she said.

Castor went on to say that the ACA had also been able to reduce the “donut hole” in Medicare coverage. That’s the coverage gap in one’s insurance plan that begins after after one has paid a certain amount for covered drugs.

“My amendment makes the point that Democrats are going to fight for our older neighbors to keep those savings intact, brought to you by the Affordable Care Act,” Castor said.

The Tampa Democrat was attempting to add the motion to a bill sponsored by California Republican Darrell Issa that would repeal in a single vote any rule finalized in the last 60 days of the Obama administration. But the House rejected a motion Castor to send the bill back to committee.

On Thursday, Florida Senator Bill Nelson filed his own amendment under a broader bill under debate that would prevent the Senate from considering any legislation that repeals ACA’s provisions aimed at closing the donut hole in Medicare coverage.

“Closing this gap in coverage, known as the donut hole, has helped seniors in Florida save nearly $1,000 a year,” Nelson said. “Why would you want to get rid of that? We should be looking for ways to lower – not increase – the cost of prescription drugs, especially for our seniors.”

Rick Kriseman formally announces he’s running for re-election

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman filed for re-election Thursday.

“I’m asking the citizens of St. Petersburg to continue the progress of the past three years,” the mayor said in a statement. “Working together, we’ve taken on the serious issues and made a positive impact in all corners of our city.”

The announcement comes nearly three years to the day that Kriseman was sworn into office. It had been mostly smooth sailing for the former city councilman and state representative until issues with the town’s sewage system occurred last summer.

That’s led to some of the toughest criticism of his time in office for how his office has handled the situation.

St. Pete was already on the rise when Kriseman defeated Bill Foster by 12 percentage points in November 2013 and has continued to see unprecedented growth over the following three years.

As the Tampa Bay Times wrote in an editorial over the weekend, “No question St. Petersburg is on a roll. Is that because of City Hall or in spite of it?”

The Times also noted the rising cost of the new Pier, the lack of creating jobs in Midtown’s poorer neighborhoods and the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field as issues that voters will need to consider this fall. In his statement issued out by campaign manager Tom Alte, the Kriseman administration is taking credit for moving forward on the issues of the Rays and the Pier.

“Under the leadership of Mayor Kriseman, St. Petersburg has resolved numerous high-profile issues, including resolving the stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays, moving forward with a community-based plan to build a new pier, hiring a new police chief, and finding the funding needed for construction of a new police station,” it reads.

Since his election, Kriseman has signed legislation allowing for paid parental leave for employees, a higher minimum wage, and second chances for minors.

He’s also elevated the city’s profile through the pursuit of a Cuban consulate, picking up the void left by his friend across the bay, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, after he declined to get involved in that campaign.

“We’ve become the beacon of progress I spoke about on the steps of City Hall more than three years ago — but there is still work to do,” Kriseman said. “We must continue our efforts to combat gun violence and intervene in the lives of our troubled youth. We must do our part to make the sun shine bright on every student in every single public school.

“And we must upgrade our wastewater and stormwater systems as soon as possible if we’re serious about being a true 21st-century City.

“Our residents, business owners, and community groups are interested in action and progress, not politics. They want a mayor who faces challenges head-on and gets things done. I’ve been that mayor,” Kriseman said. “I know that we can solve any issue as long as we work together. I remain optimistic and excited about where the Sunshine City is heading.”

Throughout most of his tenure, the mayor’s poll numbers have been good, with his handling of the sewage system being his only real Achilles’ heel.

While the issues surrounding the Pier and the Rays have yet to be completely solved, they haven’t dented his popularity, which is unlike the case with Foster.

As of today, seemingly the only man in the way of another four years is former Mayor Rick Baker, who led St. Petersburg from 2001-2009. A St. Pete Polls survey conducted last month of 1,100 votes showed Baker with a surprisingly solid lead over Kriseman, 44 percent to 35 percent.

No other person in the poll mentioned — Jeff Brandes, Amy Foster, Steve Kornell or Karl Nurse — came close to defeating Kriseman (None of those lawmakers, it should be noted, have expressed any interest in running for mayor).

Baker has also been circumspect about another run for office. Since leaving City Hall in 2009, Baker declined opportunities to run for Florida’s 13th Congressional District on two separate occasions. Since 2012, he has served as president of The Edwards Group, the umbrella company that oversees all the enterprises of entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

Included in Kriseman’s re-election statement were endorsements from Sen. Bill Nelson and CD 13 Rep. Charlie Crist.

“Our residents, business owners, and community groups are interested in action and progress, not politics,” Kriseman said. “They want a mayor who faces challenges head-on and gets things done. I’ve been that mayor.”

“I know that we can solve any issue as long as we work together,” he added. “I remain optimistic and excited about where the Sunshine City is heading.”

.”

Building a new ballpark in St. Petersburg: Throwing good money after bad

St. Petersburg is a lovely, vibrant city that is getting better by the day. I love its waterfront and its eclectic, revitalized downtown.

So I hope my friends there don’t this personally when I ask: Have your city leaders lost their minds?

I refer to the “Baseball Forever’ push to a build a stadium that will keep the Tampa Bay Rays within St. Pete city limits. This includes a recently released pitch by superfan Dick Vitale, who routinely drives from his home in Bradenton to watch his beloved Rays.

Awesome.

I hope, however, that sooner rather than later it becomes obvious that as awful as Tropicana Field may be, the stadium is not what has kept fans away by the millions. Unless St. Petersburg’s pitch includes a shape-shifting act that can move itself to the center of the sprawling expanse known as Tampa Bay, building a new ballpark would be throwing good money after bad.

It’s important to interject here that at least St. Petersburg is trying. The Rays have been free to talk with planners in Hillsborough County, but no specific plan has emerged.

Here is the essential truth, though: Location is everything.

A new stadium would have the same old problems if it is built where St. Pete leaders say it should be – on what basically now is the same spot as the Trop, which should have been ruled out long ago.

Have they forgotten the 2010 report from a blue-chip group called ABC (A Baseball Community)? It studied five locations throughout the Bay area, including downtown St. Petersburg, and concluded the following:

“Of the five major trade areas studied as possible locations for this new facility, three of them – one in mid-Pinellas/St. Petersburg, and two in the Tampa area (Westshore and downtown) – represent the best options in terms of demographic trends, potential fan attraction and corporate support. In addition, it is likely that as the Tampa Bay region grows over the coming decades, these areas will become more favorable when compared to the alternatives.”

Let’s pause for a brief history lesson, because you know what they say about people who don’t study past mistakes.

The push for baseball here started in St. Petersburg but quickly became a cooperative between both sides of the Bay. The original idea was a stadium located in the so-called Gateway area on the Pinellas side of the Howard Frankland Bridge.

There was the usual trouble finding a site big enough and affordable, but rather than solve the problem St. Petersburg city leaders ramrodded a plan to build what first was known as the Florida Suncoast Dome. We know it now as the catwalk-covered catastrophe called the Trop.

They did this despite explicit warnings from baseball leaders, including Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, that they were embarking on a fool’s errand.

I remember asking a member of the Pinellas Sports Authority why in the world they wanted to build in downtown St. Pete. His argument, oft repeated, was “It’s just a few more miles from the end of the bridge.”

Those “few more miles” made all the difference.

The Rays consistently rank at or near the bottom in Major League Baseball attendance.

From where I live in Hillsborough County, it is 37 miles to the Trop parking lot through horrendous traffic. Corporate season ticket sales for the Rays are scarce because companies found they couldn’t give them away to employees or clients. That won’t change if a new stadium is built in the same spot as the Trop.

There also is this: I would be greatly surprised if the Rays would even entertain the notion of signing another long-term lease for a stadium in the same spot as the one now – unless the fish in the Gulf of Mexico just to the west of the Trop suddenly start buying tickets.

When you’re trying to fill a stadium for 81 nights, you need to build it where the fans are. There aren’t enough of them in St. Petersburg to make this work.

Charlie Crist says “God would be pleased” if Donald Trump shows more heart towards Dreamers

Charlie Crist is one congressional Democrat who appears to be greeting the incoming Donald Trump administration with an open mind.

“Whatever it is that we come to help American workers get back to work and help the middle class and our country, we need to do it together and do it in a spirit of cooperation,” the St. Petersburg Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview broadcast on “State of the Union” on Sunday.

That spirit of cooperation includes embracing a Trump proposal to place a 35 percent tax of tariff on U.S. businesses wanting to take American jobs overseas.

“It’s all about jobs and making sure that we have American jobs protected, we protect the American worker, give them the opportunity to be able to provide for their families, get a college education,” Crist said.

Last month, Trump tweeted that he would impose such a tax on products sold inside the United States by any business that fired American workers and built a new factory or plant in another country.

Crist participated in a discussion with three other members of Congress speaking with Tapper about some of the proposals that Trump has made both during the campaign and in the transition period.

Trump officially takes office in 19 days.

Trump’s hardline stance on immigration helped galvanize his support with the GOP base, but he recently indicated a reappraisal of how to contend with so-called Dreamers, the children of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

In the interview naming him “Man of the Year” last month, Trump told Time Magazine that, “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” when it comes to dreamers, adding that “they got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

When asked by Tapper if that appeared to be a backing away from his earlier stance, Crist said yes, and he said he’s glad that’s the case.

“Being a nation of immigrants, I think it’s important we embrace that kind of hope,” Crist said. “I would say to the president-elect, I appreciate you showing your heart. And if it’s a little softer, what’s wrong with that? God would be pleased.”

The former Florida governor then made it personal by referring to his grandfather as an original dreamer.

“My grandfather Adam Christodoulos immigrated in 1914 when he was 12 and when he got here he very soon joined the army, and he fought World War I, he was honorably discharged, and as a result of that, he was able to gain his citizenship, that’s sort of a latter-day dreamer, if you will,” he said.

Crist said that “as a nation of immigrants” it was important for the country to continue to embrace that type of opportunity.

Crist defeated Republican incumbent David Jolly in November. He will be sworn into the 115th Congress on Tuesday.

Media lawyer Alison Steele leaving Rahdert, going solo

Longtime media attorney Alison Steele is leaving the St. Petersburg law firm she has helped build for the last quarter-century and starting her own solo practice.

Steele
Steele

Steele, a name partner in the firm of Rahdert, Steele, Reynolds & Driscoll, Friday said she was sending announcements out over the past weekend.

She will continue to focus on media and employment law and civil litigation.

According to her online bio, Steele “has concentrated in legal issues affecting journalists, including litigation and appeals in cases involving Florida’s public records and open meetings laws, public access to judicial records and proceedings, the federal Freedom of Information Act, subpoenas to journalists, libel, invasion of privacy, copyright and trademark matters, and labor and employment law.”

Steele has long represented the Tampa Bay Times, recently including a libel suit brought by Palm Beach billionaire developer Jeff Greene.

He claimed the Times and Miami Herald derailed his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign that year with coverage of alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht. The suit settled earlier this year on confidential terms.

Steele also has represented the Miami Herald, the New York Times, the First Amendment Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union, according to her bio.

Steele said she’s leaving the firm on good terms: “I started out with George (Rahdert) in 1987, then took a year and a half for a federal clerkship, then returned to practice with George in 1990.

“We have coming up on 30 years of friendship, more than 25 practicing law together,” she added. “We built a great firm together. We have a great legacy together. We’re going to continue to be great colleagues and friends.”

Florence Snyder, a First Amendment lawyer and FloridaPolitics.com columnist, called Steele “the best reporter’s lawyer I’ve ever seen—and a gifted corporate counsel as well.”

“It’s hard to operate with integrity in both those quadrants of the galaxy, but Alison sets the bar very, very high and jumps it with ease,” said Snyder, who served as a Poynter Institute trustee before becoming an administrative law judge in 2000. “She’s the lawyer I would most want by my side in a knife fight.”

Steele “is a 1984 graduate of Stetson University in DeLand, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Stetson Reporter, Florida’s oldest collegiate newspaper,” her bio says.

She received her law degree with honors in 1987 from Stetson University College of Law, where she’s an adjunct professor. Steele also is visiting faculty at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and the University of South Florida.

As 2016 closes, Hillsborough’s transportation problems still mostly unsolved

Another year of our lives is about to become history, and that means another year where little tangible was accomplished in terms of addressing the transportation needs of the citizenry in Hillsborough County.

But a whole lot of people did get angry with each other over the process, anyway.

At this time a year ago, the biggest concern was: What would come out of the Hillsborough County Sheriff Department’s investigation into Go Hillsborough, the two-years-in-the-making transportation plan that called for a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase?

“The Sherriff’s Office has completed most of the work in its investigation of the Go Hillsborough transportation plan but the results won’t be made public until mid-January,” the late and lamented Tampa Tribune wrote in December of 2015.

But it would not be released in January. Nor in February.

When it was ultimately released in March, the 1,974 page-report from the Sheriff’s office and State Attorney Mark Ober found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing in how county staff, commissioner and private consultant Beth Leytham acted in the months leading up to the selection of Leytham’s client, Parsons Brinckerhoff, to the project. But any momentum for what was always a rather large lift had been severely thwarted, thought it didn’t mean it was DOA, at all.  The referendum always required a simple majority of commissioners to vote to put the half-cent plan on the November 2016 ballot.

However, some Tampa liberals – considered to be the base of support for the tax – balked at what they said was a plan with too heavy an emphasis on roads and a lack of transit in the city.

On April 27, after hearing more than 60 people speak during a four-hour hearing, the BOCC rejected the plan on a 4-3 vote. The proposal died after Commission Victor Crist, always considered the swing vote on the seven-member board, said he was going with his “gut feeling” in opposing the measure.

But like Freddie Krueger, Go Hillsborough wasn’t quite dead yet.

Flash forward to six weeks later, when another 67 people came before the BOCC to give their views on a slightly revised measure. In this case, the tax would have gone for 20 years instead of the original 30 year-plan. But the vote tally on the BOCC was still the same. Go Hillsborough was dead. Again.

Several months later, the board ultimately voted to approved dedicating $600 million over the next decade to fix roads, bridges, sidewalks and intersections. But not much for transit, which upset newbie Commissioner Pat Kemp.

There is no talk about a referendum going up anytime soon.

While the county went nowhere on addressing transit, the Florida Department of Transportation’s ambitious plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 275, Interstate 4 and Interstate 75, as well as overhauls to the Howard Frankland Bridge moved forward. Sort of.

Opposition to the $6 billion plan Tampa Bay Express project has come most prominently from the areas that would be directly impacted, in Tampa’s Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and V.M. Ybor neighborhoods, and it’s been lasting and sustaining for more than a year-and-a-half.

The single biggest public hearing on the project took place on a summer night in June, when the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization held a public hearing on whether the TBX plan should be placed in its Transportation Improvement Plan for the next five years.

The 12-4 vote in favor of the plan came after eight hours of public hearing and 180 people signed up to speak, with the meeting concluding at 2:18 a.m.

Considered the biggest public works project in the history of the Tampa Bay area, the vote showed that while there are some lawmakers who strongly oppose the plan, the majority of the political and business establishment still remained solidly behind it.

In December, FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold said that he was hitting the “reset” button on the project, bringing in new staff to manage the project, “and work more intensively with the local communities.”

According to a Tampa Bay Times investigation, 80 percent of the registered voters living at properties that FDOT aims to raze for TBX are in black and Latino households.

Another ongoing story that began in 2014 and lasted through most of this year was the continuing drama playing out at the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

At one point during the acrimonious negotiations regarding the level of severity on background checks for ridesharing drivers, Uber pulled out their “Work with us or we’ll leave” card, which carried some real force after they literally did leave the Austin, Texas market over a similar disagreement with local regulators. And in this seemingly never ending saga, the public has, for better or worse, always been on the side of Uber/Lyft, and against the perceived stuffy bureaucrats not willing to adapt to a “disruptive” new mode of transportation.

At times, it got very ugly – and that was just between PTC Chair Victor Crist and his executive director, Kyle Cockream. Neither man ended up looking great at the end of it all, with Cockream first announcing his resignation, then postponing, then resigning again.

Crist, meanwhile, did a 180 from his previous stance in support of going hard on Uber and Lyft, and seemingly overnight became their ally, much to the consternation of fellow PTC board members David Pogorilich and Frank Reddick.

By the end of the year, the beleaguered PTC was barely standing, after a vote by the Hillsborough legislative delegation may ultimately give the agency just twelve more months to find a graceful way to exit the scene, with presumably the regulatory duties being handled by the BOCC, which is the case virtually everywhere else.

And oh, yes, Uber and Lyft drivers are now legally good to pick up and drop off passengers (not that their illegal stance did much to deter them previously).

And then there was the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project taking residents from Tampa to St. Petersburg and back, a plan spearheaded privately by former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik and publicly by St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who, hat in hand, was able to procure $350,000 each from the local governments of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Tampa and his own City Council in St. Pete, respectively.

And while there was a lot of fanfare when the rides began, with seemingly every local official being captured on Facebook Live taking a maiden journey, WFLA- Newschannel 8 reported in mid- December that one recent day, only two people had taken the ferry, and a week before, only one passenger was on a trip from Tampa to St. Petersburg.

Home sales surge again in Tampa Bay as prices still climb

Tampa Bay home sales showed huge year over year gains in November while prices in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties also jumped dramatically.

The November figures are a sign that Tampa Bay’s housing market remains strong even as rising interest rates threaten to put a chill on sales nationwide.

“This has been so busy, this has been our record year in business,” Sarah Howe, an agent with Coastal Properties Group International in Pinellas, said Dec. 21.

In November, Hillsborough recorded nearly 29 percent more closed sales of single-family homes than in the same month a year earlier. That was followed by Pinellas, up 26.4 percent, Hernando up 19 percent and Pasco up 5 percent.

Pasco had the most impressive price gain, however, with the median cost of a single family home soaring nearly 24 percent to $185,000. Pinellas prices rose almost 20 percent to $219,000, with Hernando showing a 17 percent gain to $140,500 and Hillsborough climbing 7 percent to $224,900.

Tampa Bay’s rising prices, though, may be scaring away one critical group of buyers — millennials. A new study found that buyers under 35 are eying cities in the American heartland like Minneapolis and St. Louis where prices are more affordable.

Florida and California had the least popular cities for that new generation of homeowners, according to Ellie Mae, a software company that processes almost a quarter of all U.S. mortgage applications. Just 30 percent of millennials preferred the Tampa Bay area compared to 44 percent who saw Minneapolis as a potential home

“As housing prices continue to rebound, millennials are increasingly representing a higher percentage of homeowners in the middle of the country, where they can get more home for their money,” said Joe Tyrrell, an executive vice president at Ellie Mae.

Like other buyers in the Tampa Bay area, millennials also face a limited selection of homes to choose from. In November, Pasco and Hillsborough both had less than a three-month inventory while Pinellas was right at the three-month mark.

Hillsborough recorded November’s top home sale, a new 6,600-square foot custom home in Tampa’s Sunset Park area that went for $3.88 million. The six-bedroom, six-bath house has a 75-foot lap pool and partial views of Tampa Bay.

In Pinellas, the priciest transaction was $2.8 million for a 6,300-square foot bayfront home on Snell Isle’s Brightwaters Boulevard. Built in 1995, it is one of several homes on Brightwaters that have recently sold as demand for luxury property near downtown St. Petersburg remains strong.

“St. Pete is becoming more and more on the radar for out-of-town buyers,” said Howe, the listing agent. “It’s just a neat place to live and prices are still pretty reasonable compared to other parts of the country where (homes) on the water are so much higher.”

Pasco’s top price in November was $810,000 for a nearly 6,000 square foot house on a golf course in the Champions Club area of Trinity. And in Hernando, a buyer paid $615,000 for a three-bedroom, three-bath house with open views of the Gulf of Mexico.

For Florida as a whole, single-family home sales rose almost 13 percent compared to November 2015 and prices jumped 10 percent to a median of $220,000.

“A continued lack of inventory – particularly in the mid-$200,000 and under range – is creating obstacles for many buyers who are trying to enter Florida’s housing market,” Matey Veissi, president of Florida Realtors said. “Rising median prices also may be an inhibiting factor for these would-be homeowners; however, the uptick in prices could persuade sellers that now is the time to list their properties for sale, which in turn may help ease the tight supply in many areas.”

Will Weatherford’s timing off, but only for the moment

Like comedy, politics is most often all about timing. No one knows this better than Will Weatherford, who at the age of 26 rocketed from obscure legislative aide to Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives because of unanticipated, but perfectly placed, events (more about which in a moment).

Now, arguably, this once-rising star of the Republican Party has fallen victim to his breathtaking start. In short, two years after he surrendered the gavel as America’s youngest state House speaker, Weatherford has nowhere to go.

The man said so himself Thursday afternoon:

“While I’m compelled at some point to re-engage in the political arena, I just think the timing right now is not right,” he told the Miami Herald.

At least, nowhere to go that strikes him as being worth the harrowing trade-offs. Thus, shall Weatherford, not so long ago included in everybody’s lists of top politicians under the age of 40, apparently skip the inviting 2018 races, ostensibly to concentrate on business opportunities with brothers Drew and Sam, leadership development within the Florida Republican Party, and — most important — join his wife, the redoubtable Courtney Bense Weatherford, parenting their four young children in their Southern-Living designed neighborhood in Wesley Chapel.

It’s not like Weatherford’s preferences for 2018 haven’t been an enticing target. As recently as Thursday morning, “The Fix,” a Washington Post politics blog, listed him prominently among probable candidates for Florida’s open gubernatorial seat.

Now, despite having jammed his chin into the mix last summer — “Don’t count me out,” he said on the podcast hosted by fellow SaintPetersblog contributor Joe Henderson and me — Weatherford has audibled out, perhaps sensing the defense was stacked against him.

He would, of course, be right. By training — he was a Jacksonville University linebacker — and instinct, Weatherford knows when a play won’t go.

Polk County’s Adam Putnam, the Agriculture Commissioner and presumed GOP frontrunner, opens with better name recognition, a wider base of contributors and the advantage of having twice won — handily — statewide races.

Moreover, if he has flaws, they are less obvious than those of Bill McCollum, the last Central Florida GOP frontrunner in a race for an open governor’s seat. And Weatherford lacks Rick Scott’s self-funding prowess.

Ah, yes. Rick Scott. And his enormous pile of campaign cash left over from 2014.

If he didn’t seek the Governor’s Mansion, conventional wisdom went, Weatherford surely would chase the Republican nomination to sideline Democrat Bill Nelson, Florida’s senior U.S. senator. Republicans had to like the prospects of a Weatherford-Nelson tussle, which would have contrasted the challenger’s youth and conservative bona fides against the septuagenarian representative of an increasingly hard-left partly

But there’s Scott, the two-time governor and early ally of President-elect Donald Trump — whom Weatherford prominently opposed — who’s widely rumored to be angling for a shot at Nelson. And did I mention his enormous pile of leftover campaign cash?

So here is Weatherford, still just 37, deciding to bide his time. Yes, his announcement Thursday cited specifically only the contest for governor, but there was a blanket nature to it as well:

“My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business. I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction.”

Show of hands. Who else detects the careful phrasing of someone who has spent the last two years learning about how to invest?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that the arc of Weatherford’s political career has, to now, suggested, if not impatience, then at least alacrity.

After all, things fell just so to get him launched: Then-Gov. Charlie Crist nominated state Rep. Ken Littlefield to the Public Service Commission after the ballots were printed in 2006, leaving the Pasco County Republican Party to identify Littlefield’s stand-in and successor.

Several prominent east Pasco volunteers were passed over in favor of Weatherford, who grew up the oldest of nine children in Land O’ Lakes but, with college and assorted jobs in the Legislature, hadn’t lived in the district in years.

On the other hand, he had the benefit of being Speaker Allan Bense’s top lieutenant and son-in-law. One thing led to another and — badda-bing — there was Weatherford, winning election under Littlefield’s name one day and rounding up the commitments from fellow House freshmen to become speaker-designate-designate-designate the next.

So fast. So very, very fast.

Still, the Sunshine State politician to whom Weatherford has most often been compared — Marco Rubio, Florida’s once-and-still junior U.S. senator — learned a tough lesson about being a young man in a hurry earlier this year. Sitting out 2018 might well mean Weatherford spent the autumn channeling Yogi Berra, who famously noted “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

So, 2018 isn’t Weatherford’s time. That doesn’t mean his time won’t come.

City of St. Petersburg chooses Capitol Alliance Group as new lobbyist

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has chosen the Capitol Alliance Group of Tallahassee to be the city’s lobbyist in the state capitol.

Although Kriseman has made the choice, details of the contract have not been ironed out, spokesman Ben Kirby said.

Capitol Alliance will replace the city’s current lobbyist, Peebles and Smith, also based in Tallahassee, in the upcoming Legislative Session. St. Petersburg’s contract will Peebles expired Sept. 30. The contract was worth $50,000 last year.

Capitol Alliance has a wide range of clients across the state, including the city of Key West and Leon County. Other clients include the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, the PGA Tour, and Tesla Motors. The Capitol Alliance Group’s team includes Dr. Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl.

Capitol Alliance was one of six firms that submitted proposals for the contract. The others were Peebles; Ballard Partners; Ron Boo, P.A.; Dean, Mead, Egerton, Bloodwork, Capouano & Bozarth of Tallahassee; and Southern Strategy Group of Tampa Bay.

It is unclear when the contract will be final. The 2017 Legislative Session convenes March 7.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons