Tampa Bay Archives - Page 4 of 70 - Florida Politics

Poll shows Rowdies soccer stadium referendum cruising to victory

During a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Rick Baker said there were no plans for direct mail or other campaign spending to win a May 2 referendum to negotiate a 25-year lease with the city to expand Al Lang Stadium.

That’s because Baker, the former St. Petersburg mayor and president of the Edwards Group who is quarterbacking the pitch for Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, is confident St. Pete residents will support the stadium expansion as part of an effort to entice Major League Soccer to award the community an expansion franchise.

Per usual, Baker is right. Very right.

According to a new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls, 70 percent of city voters say they will vote to approve the referendum, 19 percent indicate they will vote against it, while 11 percent say they are unsure.

While not exactly relevant to the May 2 referendum (but entirely relevant to the upcoming mayoral election, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s favorability/unfavorability rating stands at 48 to 35 percent, while Baker is at 60 to 23 percent).

The poll includes only responses from those registered voters who have participated in a city election within the last four years.

Vote-by-mail ballots were sent out late last month. Polls will be open May 2 in several locations throughout St. Pete (a list of polling locations is at votepinellas.com).

The proposed upgrades to historic Al Lang Stadium would cost up to $80 million and would increase capacity from approximately 7,500 to 18,000. The full cost of the renovations would be financed entirely by Edwards, and the upgrades would only happen if Tampa Bay is awarded an MLS expansion team.

The Rowdies, who are moving from NASL to USL this year, submitted their expansion application to MLS on Jan. 30. The club is one of 12 groups in 12 different cities that submitted a bid. The league will announce two new expansion clubs in 2017, with those teams set to begin MLS play by 2020. Two more teams will be added at a later date, taking the league to 28 total clubs.

Material from MLSSoccer.com was used in this report.

Woman charged in Sandy Hook parent threat arrested

The woman accused of sending death threats to a man whose 6-year-old son was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, has been arrested after failing to show up in court.

Jail records show 57-year-old Lucy Richards was arrested on Saturday in Hillsborough County in the Tampa Bay area.

A judge issued an arrest warrant March 29 after Richards failed to show up in federal court in Fort Lauderdale for a change-of-plea hearing and sentencing.

She was set to plead guilty to a charge of interstate transmission of a threat to injure for threatening Lenny Pozner, the father of Noah Pozner who died in the shooting at the Sandy Hook school. Prosecutors said she told them she believed the shooting was a hoax.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

At economic lunch, Bob Buckhorn blasts ‘Koch Brothers led ideology’ in Tallahassee

Bob Buckhorn announced last month that he won’t run for governor next year, saying it wasn’t worth separating himself from his family over the next couple of years. It’s certainly not for lack of how he would run his campaign, based on remarks he made on Monday in Tampa.

Appearing with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, the two mayors of the Tampa Bay area’s two largest cities took turns bashing the state Legislature at the Florida Economic Forum Luncheon.

Hundreds of local members of the business community gathered at the Brian Glazer Family Jewish Community Center in West Tampa for the lunch, and with the local business leaders in the audience, Buckhorn used the opportunity to advocate for the continuing existence of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, the two state organizations in the line of fire this legislative session due to the influence of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida and nearly two dozen tax incentive programs. The House passed an additional “corporate welfare” bill that would subject Visit Florida, the state’s taxpayer-funded tourism marketing corporation, to higher accountability standards that any other state government agency while cutting its annual funding from $76 million to $25 million.

“All of you need to get your phone and call your legislators and say, ‘stop this foolishness. Stop it now,'” said a disgusted Buckhorn.

When only a few people in the audience began clapping quietly, Buckhorn exhorted them to clap louder. “You eliminate those organizations, and you’re going to put all of us at the local jurisdiction at risk.”

But Buckhorn was just getting warmed up. A little later in the Q&A (hosted by Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper), the Tampa Mayor tore into the libertarian oriented Americans for Prosperity, though not by name.

“What you’re finding in the Florida House is an ideological attempt, driven by the Koch Brothers and paid for by one of their think tanks, to reduce government down to virtually nothing,” he proclaimed. While acknowledging that offering tax incentives to lure businesses “don’t always make the case,” he nevertheless insisted that it would be universal disarmament for cities in Florida not to have that tool available to work with.

“If there’s problems with Enterprise Florida, they’re fixable,” agreed Kriseman.

Buckhorn later unloaded to this business-friendly audience that Tallahassee Republicans were hypocrites for their zeal in trying to take away control from cities, mostly controlled by Democrats, he asserted.

“I have never seen the assault on local government on all fronts,” the Tampa mayor said, insisting that his comment wasn’t political in nature. Buckhorn accused states like Florida that have both a Republican governor and Legislature of “cutting and pasting” state legislation that preempts local governments ability to do anything on issues like gun violence, LGBT rights and immigration.

“It is a frontal assault on us, because we happen to be Democrats and because many of these legislators are rural and they don’t get votes in the city. So they are punishing us,” Buckhorn said, adding, “Leave us the hell alone.”

Kriseman said he feared that the Legislature will eliminate Community Redevelopment Agencies, governmental bodies created to promote affordable housing, economic development, health and safety in under-served neighborhoods. St. Petersburg is devoting major resources to a CRA in the city’s Southside.

Buckhorn later blasted the fact that the Legislature is no longer in the business of offering tax incentives to lure film productions to Florida, specifically lamenting the fact that the Ben Affleck/Denis Lehane adaptation of Live By Night was filmed in Georgiaeven though the novel was set in Ybor City, where Affleck and the producers wanted to film parts of the movie, but chose not to when there weren’t any incentives available.

On transportation, Buckhorn said that Hillsborough County may be ready to put up another half-cent sales tax referendum on transit in 2020, but not anytime sooner, a notion that Kriseman agreed with. As he has done in the past, Buckhorn blasted the critics of any such referendum, labeling them either as largely limited to living in the eastern provinces of Hillsborough County or as “disaffected former washed up politicians and PR firms who will try to throw any amount of sand in the gears to distract people from the fundamental question, which is, we need more mobility options.”

Kriseman again brought up the notion of the Legislature changing state law that would allow big cities like St. Petersburg and Tampa to hold their own transportation referendums, a familiar complaint that has gone nowhere for years in Tallahassee. In fact, he admitted that it wouldn’t happen in the near term, and said that meant St. Petersburg and Tampa need to get creative for themselves.

“Whether it’s grant funding for state and federal governments or it’s governments coming together and working together and saying, ‘we’ve got to try something.'”

That then provided Kriseman with one of his passion projects – the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project which runs boats daily for passenger travel between Tampa and St. Petersburg, and which has seen an uptick in business in the past few months. “We’re going to have to bite off pieces that we can do on our own until we get significant funding.”

Whenever you get the two mayors together, inevitably the conversation moves towards the Tampa Bay Rays and their continued search for a new location in the Bay area. Buckhorn gave major props to Kriseman for coming to terms with the franchise to allow them to sniff around for possible sites in Hillsborough County, adding that “I don’t have a couple of hundred millions dollars laying around to pledge for a baseball stadium.”

“I have confidence in Pinellas County and in particular, St. Petersburg,” said Kriseman, who continues to advocate that the best place for the Rays to play is back at the Tropicana Field site, though with a different stadium and more development at that site.

Longtime friends and disciples of the centrist leaning Democratic Leadership Council of the 1980’s, the two  spoke often about how they are not in competition with each other, but are working together to make the entire Tampa Bay area a better place for the business community.

“You will never hear us disparage each other, you will never hear us disparage our respective communities,” Buckhorn said. “We’re here to grow together.”

It was all Kumbaya on Kriseman’s part as well, saying that if a company he is recruiting ultimately opts not to do business in St. Petersburg, “I want them to go over to Tampa.”

INFLUENCE Magazine talks with Jack Latvala on life, political success and ‘what he’s learned’

Recounting an impressive list of achievements spanning four decades, veteran lawmaker Jack Latvala seems to have done it all: an effective Florida senator and political consultant, a self-described “environmentally-conscious” Republican and the proud father to state Rep. Chris Latvala.

The Clearwater senator, chair of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, recently sat down with FloridaPolitics.com’s Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster to reflect on his life, successes and years in Tallahassee.

“Most senators are sincere,” the 65-year-old Latvala said. “I learned who in this body can be counted on and who can keep their word. Of course, I’ve always been a good vote counter on issues or whatever, because I look people in the eye and then I can usually tell if they’re sincere or not.”

Born in Oxford, Mississippi in 1951, Latvala talked about his start in politics, working for the Republican Party of Florida in 1975, a role he continued for five years.

“The last couple of years, I was the ex­ecutive director of the legislative campaign committee,” he said. “After Jack Eckerd ran for gov­ernor, he agreed to stay active in the party, and he was the chair of that committee. He hired me and brought me to Pinellas County.”

It was there Latvala started Largo-based GCI Printing Services, his government affairs and direct mail business, which the senator said grew into one of the largest GOP direct mail companies in the nation outside of Washington, D.C.

“I did the direct mail fundraising for the state Repub­lican Party in 28 states at our zenith,” Latvala said, including all of George H.W. Bush’s direct mail in the South. After Bush’s election in 1988, Latvala said they split he became one of the three vendors nationwide for direct mail services.

That experience helped Latvala hone his talents for his own political ambition.

In 1993, after local state Rep. Sandra Mortham chose to run for Secretary of State, Latvala made the decision to run for the Florida House.

“I raised money and had a lot of money in the bank, and 10 days before qualifying in ’94,” he said, “the incumbent Republi­can state Senator in my district resigned to run statewide for Lieutenant Governor. So I shifted over to the Senate race.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

It was a lot different (then),” Latvala said “There were 40 leaders raised up by their communities, who came to Tallahassee and did what they thought was best for their communities. No one told a Florida Senator how to vote. You could get 21 votes; you could pass something.”

But with term limits and more House members winning Senate seats, Latvala believes there’s a lot more “follow the leader.”

“It was the worst when I came back in 2011,” Latvala said. “Then after I stood up to them and got a group of other people to stand up to them, it slowed down a little bit. But the House members that are coming over are very used to following their Speaker, to following their leader. I don’t think it’s all that good. That means one Speaker, one President makes all the decisions. And I just don’t think people want that.”

For Latvala, the most difficult years in the Senate were 2011—12, under President Mike Haridopolos. The last two years with Senate Pres­ident Andy Gardiner weren’t that great either, he said.

“The House ran over us on redistricting, ran over us on Medicaid expansion,” Latvala said. “Now it’s like nobody wants to extend the session because it makes you look bad. So, if you can get all the way to 60 days, you get your way.”

Latvala’s proudest accomplishments include the Florida Forever bill, which extended the state’s land-buying program, as well as measures creating the state’s chief financial officer office after constitutional amendments. He also played a key role in implementing the net ban law in 1994, taking another three years “to close all the loopholes,” as well as passing series of criminal justice bills that became a crucial part of Florida’s now 45-year low crime rate.

When Latvala returned to the Senate, he said he came back an “environmentally conscious Republican,” something a little bit harder to find than back in the 1990s.

“I’m kind of a conservative, but I’m a centrist,” he said “I take care of a lot of issues that independents and Democrats are concerned about, whether its environmental or whether it’s protecting our public employees, public safety employees, public schools.

“A lot of Democrats and independents care about that.”

Read Latvala’s entire interview, now available in the spring 2017 edition of INFLUENCE Magazine.

 

Joe Henderson: Keep an eye on Mike Moore, a man on the move in Pasco

If you don’t know Mike Moore yet, chances are you will soon enough. For now, he is content to be chairman of the Pasco County Commission, but former House Speaker Will Weatherford believes his friend and neighbor is destined for bigger things.

“When you’ve been around politics and people as long as I have, you learn to spot talent pretty quickly,” Weatherford said.

“Mike has that kind of upward mobility you look for. He has great depth, he takes time to understand issues, and he has a great ability to articulate those issues.”

By any standard, his is a rapid rise; Moore has only been on the Commission for two years and it is his first turn at elected office. Still, I asked Weatherford, does he see Moore running for the state Legislature at some point?

“I’d be disappointed if he didn’t,” Weatherford said.

State Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Dade City Republican, added, “Mike clearly understands how to work with people. He has been a real boon for Pasco County. If Mike were to choose to run (for the Legislature), he would have a good base of support for whatever position he ran for.”

To which Moore says, “Right now, I’m only focused on the county. In the future, I can look at other things.”

Translation: Keep an eye on him.

Moore is making a name for himself there by focusing on the issues that come with Pasco’s rapid growth as well as Tampa Bay area-wide issues like transportation.

He is working with other commissioners to bring what he calls “careers, not just jobs” to Pasco. He is fiercely proud of his adopted home, which has transformed in just a few years from a sleepy, rural suburb of Tampa into a connected, tech-savvy county with its own identity.

“When I first moved to Wesley Chapel, we had to travel to Hillsborough County for all our needs,” he said. “Now, people in New Tampa are traveling to Pasco for what they want. For years, Pasco was said to be a bedroom community to Tampa. I hate that. Here, we’re thinking about the future. Let’s not react. Let’s be proactive.”

In addition to being inquisitive and smart, ideas come spilling out Moore. He gets excited about issues like storm water drainage and highway connectors, mostly because they are problems that need to be solved. The fact that they can be tedious and exasperating only makes them more important.

“He is not scared to jump into the stickier issues,” Weatherford said. “A lot of politicians won’t do that, but Mike will roll up his sleeves and go to work. When I think of him, it’s like the old political saying – do you want to be something, or do you want to do something? He wants to do something.”

He has a compelling personal story, too. He was raised by his mother after his father left when Moore was about 10 years old. They moved into his grandparents’ small, 2-bedroom home in Winter Haven; Mike and his mother, Alice, had to share a room.

“She is a saint of a women,” Moore said.

His mother went on to earn a Master’s degree and worked in the Polk County school system until retiring. Moore went to Polk Community College and graduated from UCF.

He started a medical supplies business, which he later sold. He and his wife, Lauren, have three kids – Aubrey, 13; Aiden, 10; and Amberlee, 7.

“He is a great dad,” Weatherford said. “I have seen him out on the soccer fields in Wesley Chapel, coaching and supporting his kids. He was active in the community before he was interested in politics.”

They also have three dogs, which may explain his interest in animal issues. He pushed for the county to adopt an ordinance last year requiring anyone putting animals up for adoption to click on a computer to the Pasco Clerk’s office. It will tell the seller if the potential buyer has a record of animal abuse.

Add it all it up and it becomes the picture of a man on the move. Not too fast, though.

“I love what I do,” he said. “Things are hopping here. People are happy. I sleep well at night.”

Janet Cruz’s ‘tough haul,’ frustrations of the Democratic House caucus

In Tampa, Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel waxed optimistically last month about the Democrats’ chance of winning back the state Senate in 2020.

Notably, he didn’t say anything about the House, where Republicans outnumber Democrats, 79-41.

Tampa Rep. Janet Cruz, serving the first year of a two-year stint as Minority Leader and four weeks into the 2017 Session, admits it’s been a tough haul.

“I feel like we’re spending so much time on bills that in caucus meetings, we’ve grown to call them ‘dead bills walking,'” she says of how Session is going so far.

“These are bills that are simply shots across the bow,” she says, specifically referring to Speaker Richard Corcoran and his campaign to kill Enterprise Florida.

The Speaker’s effort comes much to the consternation of Gov. Rick Scott, who continues to travel the state to call out individual Republicans who have voted in support of the proposal to date.

“They’re one executive branch taking shots at the other executive branch,” Cruz says. “And in my opinion, it’s all posturing to run for higher office.”

While both Corcoran and the governor are considered to have ambitious to run for higher office next year, their battle regarding tax incentives to recruit businesses to Florida has become visceral. Meanwhile, the passage this past week of Longwood Republican Scott Plakon‘s bill that would require unions to disclose information on it’s membership or be forced to re-certify appeared to devastate Democrats.

What both bills have in common — neither has a Senate companion.

“We are hearing bills that don’t have a chance of going anywhere,” Cruz laments.

“These are just bills that they want to send a message with more union busting. Further intimidation,” she says, adding, “Thank God for the Senate.”

There has also been legislation preemption local governments, such as St. Cloud Republican Mike LaRosa‘s proposal to bar cities from regulating vacation rentals of private homes, angering many mayors.

Cruz mused that the plan seemed something scripted from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council known to offer model legislation to Republicans.

“They realize that most cities and led by Democrats and those from the urban core,” she notes. “This is just an overreach of local control, and it’s wrong.”

Vern Buchanan applauds outstanding local teachers

Vern Buchanan announced three teachers in Florida’s 16th Congressional District were chosen for the Congressional Teacher Awards.

The Sarasota Republican Congressman honored the recipients during a ceremony Friday evening at the Manatee County Board of County Commission Chambers in Bradenton.

Vern Buchanan (top) addresses the group

The Congressional Teacher Awards, established by Buchanan in 2014, are given out annually to special Suncoast teachers for their outstanding achievements on behalf of students.

This year’s award recipients include:

Danielle Murphy for her accomplishments as a teacher at Boyette Springs Elementary in Riverview.

Carol Pelletier for her accomplishments as a teacher at Sarasota Military Academy Prep in Sarasota.

Emilee Vermilion for her accomplishments as a teacher at Southeast High School in Bradenton.

“I was once told that children are 25 percent of the population, but they are 100 percent of the future,” Buchanan said. “And it’s true. The education of a child and young adult is an investment, not only in that student, but in the future of our country. That is why I established the Congressional Teacher Awards to honor educators for their ability to teach and inspire students.”

This year, 27 teachers were nominated by their principals. An independent panel of eight judges from Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties chose the recipients of the Congressional Teacher Awards.

“On behalf of all of my constituents in the 16th Congressional District, I congratulate each of these outstanding teachers and offer my sincere appreciation for their service and dedication,” concluded Buchanan.

Each of the school districts in Florida’s 16th Congressional District nominated teachers to receive the Congressional Teacher Award. All of the nominated teachers were recognized by Buchanan Friday evening and honored by the Congressman in the Congressional Record for their achievements.

Pat Arends: Missed opportunity – continuing care retirement community reform in Florida

We’re nearly halfway through the 2017 Florida Legislative Session and lawmakers are missing an opportunity to protect the 30,000 senior citizens who live in Florida’s 71 continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Vastly different from most long-term care retirement options. CCRCs provide a campus environment that offer independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing all in one setting.

Historically, Florida’s CCRC law has been considered one of the strongest in the country. However, market forces and situations change over time and regulations have to keep pace with current trends and developments. Two important bills, Senate Bill 1430 sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee and House Bill 1349 sponsored by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, were filed to improve the law governing CCRCs, but neither bill has received a committee hearing in either legislative chamber.

Due to the unique nature of this long-term care option, CCRCs are regulated as a specialty insurance product.

Seniors who move into a CCRC pay an entrance fee at move-in followed by a monthly fee that covers housing, health care and meals. Costs can vary widely depending on the type of contract, location of the community, and other deliverables. Entrance fees can be sizable and are equivalent to buying a home in the traditional sense, even though residents do not generally own their living unit in the CCRC.

Since 2013, there have been three CCRC bankruptcies in Florida. This is the most in over 20 years.

The most recent and most concerning bankruptcy of a CCRC occurred at University Village in Tampa. This particular case prompted Sen. Lee and Rep. Stevenson to file legislation this year to achieve meaningful reform.

During the last two years, the more than five hundred senior citizens who reside at University Village have lived under a cloud of anxiety every day, literally not knowing what was going to happen to their community. Further, the residents have seen collectively millions of dollars of hard earned retirement funds invested into their CCRC disappear.

The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA) supports elements of the proposed legislation that would improve the ability of the Office of Insurance Regulation to protect the rights and welfare of the 30,000 residents living in Florida CCRCs. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not yet heard either bill. FLiCRA urges the Senate to consider giving CCRC Reform a hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee while there is still time during the 2017 Legislative Session.

FLiCRA fully agrees with other stakeholders, including LeadingAge Florida, that the vast majority of CCRC operators and owners are experienced, dedicated and successful in delivering quality services to tens of thousands of seniors on a daily basis. This makes it even more important to improve the law, to ensure that CCRCs continue to be seen as a vibrant and desirable long-term care option for seniors.

___

Retiree Pat Arends is a resident of Freedom Village, a CCRC in Bradenton. She is president of the 14,000-member Florida Life Care Residents Association. During her career, Arends served as President of the Florida Association of City Clerks and has served as an officer with the Manatee League of Women Voters.

The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA) was established in 1989, and is the oldest and largest association of continuing care residents in the country. Its mission is to ensure quality of life for residents living in such communities.

For more information visit www.flicra.com.

 

Tampa Bay Times to purchase Peter Schorsch’s Extensive Enterprises Media

In a move sure to send shockwaves throughout Florida’s media and political circles, Times Publishing Co. and the non-profit Poynter Institute, owners of the Tampa Bay Times, have acquired St. Petersburg-based Extensive Enterprises Media.

Extensive Enterprises is one of the nation’s fastest growing media concerns, producing Florida’s most influential political websites, including FloridaPolitics.com, SaintPetersBlog.com, OrlandoRising.com, and INFLUENCE Magazine, as well as a suite of email newsletters.

Extensive Enterprises president Peter Schorsch announced the acquisition Saturday morning. Terms of the sale were not disclosed, although Schorsch will continue to publish his websites, while also serving on the Times editorial board and authoring a once-a-week column.

“After all these years of writing in my boxers and bathrobe, it looks like I’ll have to put on my big-boy pants and work in an office,” Schorsch said.

Paul Tash, chairman and CEO of Times Publishing, said the move is just the latest in a campaign to establish a single, wholly-owned and controlled source of all information and opinion in Florida and the Tampa Bay area.

In a statement, Tash described the purchase as creating: “one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars … It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet … That is the natural order of things today … That is the atomic … and subatomic … and galactic structure of things today!”

“YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature,” Tash added. “And YOU … WILL … ATONE!”

In a related matter, Schorsch announced the purchase of a controlling interest in The Walt Disney Co., where he will soon replace the retiring Bob Iger as chairman and CEO.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons