Tampa Bay Archives - Page 5 of 60 - Florida Politics

Vern Buchanan to co-chair Congressional Animal Protection Caucus

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan announced on Monday that he will co-chair the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, a group dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and humane treatment of animals. The co-chair will be Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer.

“Stopping animal cruelty and protecting endangered wildlife should be a bipartisan issue important to all of us,” Buchanan said. “I’m looking forward to working with Congressman Blumenauer and the caucus to help protect endangered species and animals at risk of being abused.”

The caucus also works to raise awareness of animal welfare issues in Congress by sponsoring nonpartisan forums and briefings and providing members of Congress and their staff with information on animal welfare issues. Among the priorities that Buchanan says he’d like to overturn in the country include having dogs and rabbits subjected to painful experiments in the development of cosmetics, long an issue with animal rights activists.

He also says he wants to stop the prevalence of small animals being stomped to death in the production of fetish videos, and horses being maimed by trainers to make them high-step for competition shows, a practice known as soring.

“How we treat animals is intrinsically linked to how we treat each other. We have a moral obligation to our fellow creatures,” Blumenauer said. “Fortunately, animal welfare is a unifying issue on Capitol Hill, and we’ve been able to make progress. I look forward to working with Congressman Buchanan to continue bipartisan support for animal protection in this new session of Congress.”

Buchanan is one of the leading animal welfare advocates in Congress, receiving the U.S. Humane Society’s Legislator of the Year award last year.

The Sarasota Republican has introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act in the House, a bipartisan bill that permanently bans the transport of horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico to be sold around the world. He also’s fought to stop U.S. slaughterhouses from killing horses for human consumption.

Kathy Castor calls Donald Trump order on refugees ‘illegal, immoral and un-American’

Democrats across Florida are blastinPresident Donald Trump‘s executive order, which suspends for 120 days the entry of all refugees from certain Muslim countries to the United States.

The order, signed Friday, bands Syrian refugees indefinitely, and for 90 days, it blocks entry into the U.S. for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Among those speaking out is Kathy Castor of Tampa.

“President Trump’s executive order targeting and banning legal permanent residents and refugees from war-torn areas is illegal, immoral and un-American.  It has made us less safe.  If the president wants to empower jihadists, this is the way to do it,” Castor said Sunday.

Castor said she is in contact with local refugee assistance agencies to monitor circumstances of families who may have been in transit when Trump signed his executive order late Friday afternoon. She vows to “do everything possible to ensure America continues to provide safe haven to victims of torture and persecution as our country has done since its founding.”

Castor called Trump’s temporary ban “outrageous,” adding that banning Muslims, Iraqis and others who have assisted the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan will empower the terrorists.

“Facts matter,” she said. “Trump is taking our country down a dangerous path based on disinformation and discrimination.”

Meanwhile, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has also taken exception to the timing of Trump’s executive order, coming on the same day the administration sent out a statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning Jews or antisemitism.

The South Florida Democrat called that omission “insensitive, disappointing and trampled on the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazi’s during the Holocaust.”

“As a representative of tens of thousands of immigrants, I will stand with my immigrant and non-immigrant constituents and fight this unconstitutional and immoral policy with every ounce of energy I have,” Wasserman Schultz said of the temporary ban. “As the granddaughter of immigrants who fled persecution in Eastern Europe, I will not allow history to repeat itself by barring people fleeing for their lives and watch them perish because America turned our backs.

“Never Again means something to me even when it clearly means nothing to President Trump and his administration.”

Boca Raton Representative Ted Deutch asked Saturday in a tweet if any Republican would object to the temporary ban.

On Sunday, a handful of Republicans, including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, criticized the proposal.

Charlie Crist says tariff for border wall will hurt American consumers

Congressman Charlie Crist is blasting a proposal by President Donald Trump to pay for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border with a 20 percent tax on goods imported from Mexico.

Many expect the tariff to be part of a comprehensive tax reform package hammered out between Congress and the White House. Despite much fanfare on the announcement, several questions remain about Trump’s plan. White House officials clarified Trump’s words by saying the import tax will be only one of several options that could be used to finance the wall.

Crist, representing Florida’s 13th Congressional District, said a 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods would only result in American consumers paying more for goods from south of the border.

“The merits of building a contiguous physical wall along our southern border are highly questionable – questioned by elected officials on both sides of the aisle. But what’s even more concerning is the idea that it could be paid for by taxing imports from Mexico by an additional 20 percent,” the St. Petersburg Democrat said in a statement. “That’s essentially asking the American people and American businesses to pay for the wall, through higher costs on the products we import from Mexico every day, from clothes to cars. I hope the administration abandons this misguided proposal.”

Charlie Crist serves up grab bag of issues: Seniors, Head Start and pipeline protest

It’s been a busy week for Charlie Crist.

The freshman Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg served up a medley of issues Friday, both local and national.

In a letter to Ann Linehan, Acting Director of Head Start for the Administration for Children and Families, Crist voiced his support for Lutheran Services Florida’s grant application to expand its “highly successful” Early Head Start Programs in Clearwater, Largo and South St. Petersburg.

All three cities are contained in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which Crist now represents.

“Lutheran Services Florida is the largest nonprofit Early Head Start Grantee in the Southeast United States, serving over 7,000 children and families as a part of its Head Start programs,” Crist writes. “I am proud to support the important work of Lutheran Services Florida in our community and this effort to expand its valuable programs.”

Crist was also named one of five vice chairs of the House Democratic Caucus Seniors Task Force, which serves to improve and protect the financial security, quality of life, health and well-being of Americans seniors.

In an announcement by Task Force Co-Chairs Doris Matsui, of California and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Crist will join as vice chair Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, Joyce Beatty of Ohio, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, and Debbie Dingell of Michigan.

“Fighting for our seniors – strengthening Social Security and Medicare – is one of my top priorities as a congressman,” Crist said. “I am honored by this opportunity to serve as a leader on the House Democrats’ Seniors Task Force, working to make sure our elders and loved ones are respected, well cared for, and the benefits they’ve earned are protected in the golden years of life.”

Finally, Crist released a statement voicing his opposition to the revived effort by President Donald Trump to accelerate the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. On Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order seeking to expedite both controversial multibillion-dollar underground pipelines that will cross several states.

Supporters say the pipelines will lessen dependence on foreign oil and create domestic jobs.

Opponents such as Crist, a former Florida Governor, believe such pipelines have excessive environmental costs, and come with the potential for destructive accidents, much like the BP oil spill disaster of April 2010.

 “I witnessed firsthand the devastation an oil spill can cause to the environment and economy when Deepwater Horizon exploded off Florida’s Gulf Coast during my tenure as Governor,” Crist said. “Pipelines such as these put the lands where the oil will be transported at serious risk, without creating significant long-term job or economic growth. The cons outweigh the pros here.

“That is why I was pleased the previous Administration halted construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and am extremely disappointed to see President Trump take action yesterday to advance them. This puts our environment unnecessarily at risk and fails to move us closer to a more sustainable energy future.”

Dennis Ross announces host of A-list congressional committee appointments

Dennis Ross gets a greater say in the nation’s financial policy, now that the Lakeland Republican is on several high-profile congressional subcommittees, including some that address issues in banking and consumer credit.

Ross, who serves Central Florida’s 15th Congressional District, announced Friday he has been tapped for subcommittees of both the House Committees of Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform – both known as “A” list committees.

In a statement, the Senior Deputy Whip said he will also serve as vice chair of the FSC Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, the Subcommittees on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit and Oversight and Investigations.

Ross also has been chosen for the OGR Subcommittees on the Interior, Energy and Environment and Government Operations.

Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit oversees financial regulators, such as the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It also manages a range of issues: consumer credit, the Consumer Credit Protection Act, access to financial services, and the safety and reliability of the country’s banking system.

“Serving on the Financial Institutions and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittees is an incredible honor that I plan to uphold with the highest integrity and responsibility,” Ross said in a statement. He added that he is looking forward to holding various agencies responsible to “eliminate fraud, waste, mismanagement and abuse by large government bureaucracies.”

During his time on Housing and Insurance, a subcommittee he served for the past four years, Ross spearheaded several measures to boost the housing and insurance market, such as the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act and the Private Investment in Housing Act.

Ross’ new role will also offer him jurisdiction over the Departments of the Interior, Energy, and Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the OGR Subcommittee on Interior, Energy and Environment. He said the new position will help him work on regulations that will “greatly affect Florida’s environment and public lands.”

“District 15 is blessed with a strong agricultural presence and issues related to our public lands, and the EPA greatly affects the cattlemen, citrus growers and other specialty crop producers I am proud to represent,” Ross said.

On the Government Operations subcommittee, Ross will have influence over the Department of Treasury, the Executive Office of the President, the Postal Service, the Department of Labor and the Office of Management and Budget.

Sean Shaw files legislation to get funds for Cuban Club and Florida Community Catalyst Project

Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw has submitted his first appropriations request for the 2017 Legislative Session.

The freshman lawmaker is requesting $1 million for rehabbing the historic Cuban Club in Ybor City. According to the budget request, the facility has damaged structural support columns, beams and floor slabs on all four floors that would be removed and replaced in order to achieve the structural stability of the building. Part of the deteriorated southern part of the building as well as its adjoining fire escape will be removed and replaced. There is also a local match of nearly the same amount ($960, 571).

Shaw is also requesting $3 million for the Florida Community Catalyst Projectwhich is part of the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa (CDC). The CDC works to foster sustainable homeownership, develop affordable housing and provide capital to build up communities. The requested funds will be spent to stabilize neighborhoods and communities physically and economically impacted by increased foreclosure rates and disinvestment over the past 10 years.

Members of the House have a limit of six bills they can submit each session. Appropriation requests do not count towards that total.

Shaw represents House District 59 in the Florida Legislature, after he defeated Dianne Hart and Walter Smith in the Democratic Primary last August.

Uber ‘pirates up’ for Gasparilla with new rules for no-hassle, safe experience

On Saturday, thousands of pirates (and pirate wannabes) will descend on the shores of Tampa Bay for the annual Gasparilla spectacle.

And as Uber knows, as does anyone who has ever attended the city’s premiere pirate-themed event, neighborhood roads will be just short of impassable.

To help make traveling to and from the event as smooth as possible, Uber is setting some simple ground rules to take some hassle out of the ridesharing experience.

“Due to the extensive road closures and pedestrian traffic in Bayshore and downtown Tampa,” says the Uber blog, “there may be some cases where your driver cannot drop you off at your destination.”

Uber has set a “green zone” of the area most impacted by Gasparilla. Between noon and 9 p.m. Saturday, riders within that area will need to walk a few blocks away from the parade route to request a ride. While in the green zone, they will not be able to ask for a ride.

For Downtown Tampa, riders should walk east toward North Florida Avenue, before requesting a ride. Those going to Harbor Island need to walk east of Harbor Island Boulevard and south of Knights Run Avenue. Only then can they tap “Request.”

In the Hyde Park North neighborhood, head north toward the University of Tampa. After reaching Cleveland Avenue, users can then get an Uber driver. And for Hyde Park Center, head north of Swann Avenue and east of South Boulevard; from there, they can ask for a ride.

And, of course, those celebrating in true pirate fashion – from the middle of the high seas of Hillsborough Bay – must head back to land before requesting a ride. The Uber app will not connect with a driver until the phone’s GPS shows the user is back on land.

Uber suggests that if a Gasparilla crew is more than 4 pirates, the best way to go is to request an uberXL, which use vehicles that accommodate up to 6 people, thereby minimizing the number of rides requested. Also handy is Uber’s fare split tool, so multiple riders can share the cost.

In the confusion of a massive party, it’s possible there will be several Uber drivers in the area. The company reminds riders to make sure they’re getting in the right car by confirming the license plate and car model matches what appears on the Uber app.

With Uber, and a few simple ground rules, everyone can enjoy a safe and happy Gasparilla.

Bob Buckhorn says Tampa is NOT a sanctuary city, but he doesn’t intend on calling ICE anytime soon

For more than a year, Latino activists have called on Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to allow Tampa to officially call itself a “sanctuary city” — a jurisdiction where local law enforcement doesn’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

In a radio interview conducted late last year, Buckhorn said “we’re looking at that,” when asked about the possibility of Tampa falling into that category, joining the mayors of America’s largest cities who have proudly adopted that label. He said at that time that he might not officially make such a declaration because “that has other impacts, but added that, ”I’m not interested in disrupting families and breaking up families, purely because they are of an undocumented status.”

Flash forward to this week, when President Donald Trump signed an executive order denying federal funds to sanctuary cities.

At a press conference with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson on Wednesday discussing their support for Trump’s call to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure in the U.S., Buckhorn backed away from any perception that Tampa is a sanctuary city.

“We are not a sanctuary city, and that’s more of a semantic term than anything. There’s no legal definition to that,” he told reporters, before adding that the city has never engaged in helping to deport the undocumented.

“We are not Customs; we are not I.C.E. We are not searching people who have chosen to live here and have not yet got citizenship,” the mayor replied. “That’s not something that we believe in, and not something that I support.”

There are 279 cities and counties which refused to cooperate on at least some deportations in 2016, accounting for 2,008 immigrants who were shielded, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Center for Immigration Studies.

While Tampa is not on that list, Hillsborough County is. The ACLU of Florida released a report last year identifying some 30 counties in Florida that currently have policies declining to respond to Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests, or to honor them only in limited circumstances, such as when they are accompanied by a judicial warrant. They includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota Counties.

However, there is some dispute about that ranking in relation to Hillsborough. That’s why the Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) of Hillsborough County will be accepting public comment on the proposal to make Hillsborough County a sanctuary county next Wednesday night at the County Center.

Charlie Crist slams the GOP for ‘extreme measures’ on women’s reproductive rights

Following moves by President Trump and the GOP-led Congress this week on abortion, St. Petersburg Democratic Representative Charlie Crist is blasting D.C. Republicans on the issue of women’s reproductive rights.

“This past weekend, I stood with thousands of my neighbors in St. Petersburg, Florida to demand the protection of women’s health and rights – a message that was echoed by a million others nationwide,” Crist said. “And how did Republicans in Washington respond to this call to action?  By pushing forward several extreme measures attacking women’s healthcare and reproductive rights.  This alone is outrageous.  Even worse, these actions will particularly hurt low-income families, young people, and women of color.”

Among the decisions that Crist was criticizing was a vote on H.R. 7, sponsored by New Jersey Republican Chris Smith. The bill permanently bans the use of federal funds for abortion and prohibits anyone who receives subsidies to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from purchasing a plan that covers abortion.

On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order banning foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive certain kinds of American aid from counseling health clients about abortion or advocating for abortion law liberalization. Ronald Reagan originally issued the so-called Mexico City policy in 1984. Bill Clinton reversed it when he took office. George W. Bush put it back into play in 2001, and Barack Obama reversed it in 2009.

However, according to Mark Leon Goldberg with UN DispatchTrump’s executive order goes beyond what previous Republican Presidents have done on this issue:

Rather than applying the Global Gag Rule exclusively to US assistance for family planning in the developing world, which amounts to about $575 million per year, the Trump memo applies it to “global health assistance furnished by all department or agencies.” In other words, NGOs that distribute bed nets for malaria, provide childhood vaccines, support early childhood nutrition and brain development, run HIV programs, fight Ebola or Zika, and much more, must now certify their compliance with the Global Gag Rule or risk losing US funds. According to analysis from PAI, a global health NGO, this impacts over $9 billion of U.S. funds, or about 15 times more than the previous iteration of the Global Gag Rule which only impacted reproductive health assistance.

Crist says “we will not stop fighting” when it comes to fighting for women’s reproductive rights.

“Women’s rights are human rights, and no matter where you live, what insurance you qualify for, or your income – all women should have equal access to quality, comprehensive healthcare,” he said.

In campaign kickoff speech, Rick Kriseman aims to take St. Petersburg to next level

Rick Kriseman says he ran for Mayor four years ago because he felt that the big issues in St. Petersburg weren’t being addressed.

Kicking off his re-election campaign Wednesday night, he said, “It’s so important to keep our foot on the gas pedal.”

“This is a time that’s really important for the city of St. Petersburg,” Kriseman told a crowd of around 100 supporters who filled in the courtyard of Three Birds Tavern on 4th Street. “We have a lot of big issues that we need to address, and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Kriseman has an impressive slate of accomplishments on which he’ll be able to run on this year, including establishing a curbside recycling program, hiring a new police chief, implementing the downtown waterfront master plan, the creation of the Southside CRA to attempt to eradicate poverty and a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays to energize their search for a site to host a new ballpark.

But that hasn’t been the dominant theme in the media over the past six months, thanks to several self-inflicted errors in coping with the city’s sewage crisis that emerged last September.

The problems transcend sewer. The mayor has gotten sideways with some members of the LGBT community for his announcement that he will pull city funding for the St. Pete Pride Parade, after organizers said they would move the route from its usual Grand Central District path to one closer to downtown.

Councilwoman Darden Rice, who gave Kriseman a rousing introduction at Wednesday’s event, says the city should stand behind parade organizers. “I don’t think it’s something that the mayor needs to step into,” she said. “Let’s let the stakeholders figure that out.”

Wal-Mart’s decision to leave Midtown is another blow, with city leaders scrambling to try to persuade the giant retailer to reconsider.

The city’s downtown renaissance, which originated toward the end of Rick Baker’s tenure and completely taking off in the Bill Foster era, has continued to prosper under Kriseman.

Two of the biggest issues that dragged down Foster — the Pier and the Rays — have yet to be resolved, however, though it’s rumored that the Rays will finally be making a decision about their future sometime this year. The mayor continues to insist that the best place for them to land up is on the same 85-acre space where Tropicana Field currently resides, a questionable move considering that the Rays seem determined to want to play anywhere but there.

There have been concerns about the escalating costs of a new pier, which was initially set at $46 million for several years but is now up to $80 million.

But with all those concerns, the fact remains that Kriseman is the heavy favorite to win re-election.

Although Pinellas County Republicans have criticized the mayor since he took office, the only serious candidates that they have floated are the two men who held office before Kriseman took over — Baker and Foster.

Polls have shown that Baker would present a serious challenge to Kriseman, yet nobody knows whether he will pull the trigger. His recent history indicates that he won’t.

And if he won’t, who will? Local Republicans insist that a wealthy businessman will emerge as a legitimate challenger, but that apparently remains to be seen.

Until then, the mayor has the field to himself, and the power of incumbency, to make people forget about the problems with the city’s sewage system and his staff’s ability to clearly communicate what is happening there. Though he can’t control the weather, he can control how the city copes with those storms.

Looking at the crowd on Wednesday, the mayor joked that there were some who have been in his corner for years, going back to his previous runs for the state House and City Council.

Also in the crowd was his wife Kerry and son Samuel.

“When you are in public service there’s a lot of hours that you’re not at home and a lot of things that you miss,” Kriseman said. “It’s a big sacrifice on the family, so I would be remiss not to thank them for everything they do to support me.”

“I think he has done a really good job of  bringing a lot of prosperity and economic development to the city of St Pete, which has impacted the entire region and Pinellas County as a whole, and that’s why I’m supporting him as a resident of Gulfport,” said Jennifer Webb, a local Democrat who ran against Kathleen Peters in the state House District 69 race last fall.

Regarding the lack of transparency issues that surfaced during the sewage crisis, Rice says that both the mayor and the council learned that they can communicate better concerning the various plans and money allocated in addressing the treatment of sewage moving forward.

“That will be one of the biggest challenges, and it’s a lesson on how good communication is a form of leadership,” she said.

Along with Rice, Councilman Charlie Gerdes also made a quick appearance, grandson in tow.

Rice and Amy Foster are the two incumbent members of the council who are up for re-election with Kriseman this year.

The mayor called both “dedicated servants for the city of St. Petersburg, and they need to be back for four more years at city council.”

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