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Barclay Harless to kickoff St. Pete City Council bid with Jan. 31 fundraiser

Barclay Harless is starting 2017 with a bang.

The 31-year-old St. Petersburg banking executive, after launching a bid for City Council District 2 Monday, announced his first fundraiser for next week.

The event is Tuesday, Jan. 31 and begins 5:30 p.m. at Ricky P’s, 11002 4th St. N in St. Petersburg. Harless is seeking the seat covering most of Northeast St. Petersburg now held by term-limited Jim Kennedy. He is the first candidate to announce in the race.

“I want to thank you for the overwhelming support we are receiving,” Harless said in the email invite. “It is important we have a strong showing in our first week and I am cordially inviting you to my campaign kickoff!”

Harless, a graduate of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, is currently an assistant bank officer at Bank of the Ozarks. Before that, he was a legislative aide to then-state Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Pete. Harless also worked on Alex Sink’s unsuccessful 2014 run for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

With a long list community activism, Harless served as state policy chair for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and held a seat on the Pinellas Charter Review, where he helped draft an amendment requiring citizen input for future county commission redistricting.

“We will not find solutions in finger-pointing or empty political rhetoric,” Harless said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “Rather, our problems require bold, decisive action to get things done.”

RSVPs and registration for the event are available online; more information on Harless and his candidacy is at voteharless.com.

Primaries for the City of St. Petersburg municipal races are Aug. 29; general election at-large voting is Nov. 7.

Pinellas Realtors recommend Safety Harbor, St. Pete Beach candidates

The Pinellas Realtor Organization has issued recommendations in three upcoming elections.

In Safety Harbor, the group recommends Joe Ayoub for mayor and Damon Lister for Seat 1 on the City Commission.

In St. Pete Beach, Realtors recommend Alan Johnson for mayor.

The member-only candidate screening committee reviewed questionnaires and interviewed candidates before making recommendations. The group says that there are thoughtful, qualified candidates running, but each race had a candidate stand out for overall commitment to the community, understanding of economic issues, and advocacy for private property rights.

Ayoub, a former Safety Harbor mayor and commission member, is running against Janet Hooper, who holds Seat 1 on the commission.

Ayoub has said that, if elected, he will lead with a positive tone and inclusive style, focus on making our downtown more vibrant, add amenities to the city’s waterfront park, protect property rights and values, reduce the height and scale of the proposed seven-story condo building in Safety Harbor’s downtown. Ayoub has said he believes in responsible budgeting.

Hooper has resigned her seat to run for mayor. Lister is one of four candidates for the position. The others are Nancy J. BesoreCameron Boozarjomehri and Scott Long.

In the St. Pete Beach mayor’s race, Johnson is facing incumbent Deborah Schechner and John-Michael Fleig.

Both elections are March 14.

After leaving Charlie Crist for David Jolly, Vito Sheeley says “I’m still a Democrat”

Despite a decision to now work for former Republican Congressman David Jolly, Vito Sheeley says he remains a Democrat.

In one of the more recent (and enigmatic) personnel developments in Tampa Bay area politics, Sheeley announced Monday he was leaving the office of Charlie Crist,  to work for Jolly as a senior adviser.

Crist defeated Jolly in Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District race last fall.

The move came just days after reports that Sheeley was going to work for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s office, along with (unreported) rumors Crist had jettisoned Sheeley early last week, and rehired him by week’s end.

In a just-released statement, Sheeley says: “Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me.”

He then says service to his community “outweighs any political party or title.”

A St. Pete native, Sheeley worked as an outreach coordinator for Tampa area Congresswoman Kathy Castor, whose district used to include parts of South St. Petersburg, before leaving in 2016 for Crist’s congressional campaign.

Sheeley says he will help Jolly continue policy work locally on education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.

To some, the hiring decision remains perplexing, considering Jolly is no longer a sitting congressman, announcing Monday he has not made a decision about running again in 2018.

However, in hiring Sheeley, he has indeed invited speculation that he intends to run next year.

Sheeley’s statement in full, entitled “I’m Still a Democrat,” is below:

Public service is a part of my DNA. My mother was a social worker, my grandmother was an educator, and my grandfather a pastor. I was raised to believe that serving my community and country is the most important calling one can have. I still believe that today. I have worked in public service as Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Outreach Director for Charlie Crist’s Congressional Campaign 2016 and, until recently, Congressman Charlie Crist’s District Director.

My passion is to see that others have the same opportunities that I have been given.

Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me. My service to my community outweighs any political party or title. You see, for me, I don’t see Democrat or Republican, I see people. I see children not receiving a quality education, I see poverty, I see families searching for job security and a better way to provide. I recognize the injustice within our Justice System, I’m appalled at witnessing our voting rights being stripped away to benefit those in power or those who would like to remain in power. These reasons and more are the reason why I fight for a solution. I will be working with David Jolly to continue policy work locally regarding education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.

I respect David Jolly. I respect his service to his community and country. We both share a common belief, we love this community.

David Jolly respects my Democratic views, and together I believe we can bring balance to our divided country. In these days and times, we as a nation have forgotten what is important. What is important is “Treating others as one would wish to be treated;” this is the Golden Rule. As I continue this journey, I will fight for what I believe is important. That is “You,” the people … of Pinellas County, Democrat or Republican, your voice matters.

We face serious issues together we can overcome.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me in this past week. Your overwhelming encouragement has meant a lot to my family and I.

Trulieve to open medical marijuana dispensary in Tampa

Trulieve is expanding into Tampa.

The medical marijuana dispensing organization announced Tuesday it will open its third dispensary Thursday in Tampa. The company currently has dispensaries in Tallahassee and Clearwater.

“This is an exciting start to the new year for Trulieve and the patients we serve,” said Kim Rivers, the company’s CEO in a statement. “As the first licensee to be authorized to dispense medical cannabis in Florida, we are pleased to serve an expanding Tampa market. We are also excited to be opening our newest dispensary.”

Trulieve is one of seven dispensing organizations currently authorized by the Department of Health to grow and distribute medical marijuana. According to the company, the new dispensary will have both low-THC and high-THC medical cannabis available in a several forms, including oral capsules and vaporizers.

Earlier this month, the Department of Health initiated the process of creating rules and regulations governing Amendment 2.

Under preliminary rules, medical marijuana treatment centers — which under new rules would be the same as a dispensing organization, must go through the same “approval and selection process” outlined in existing law. Those organizations are also “subject to the same limitations and operational requirements” currently outlined in state law.

That could mean the seven nurseries currently authorized to grow and sell medical marijuana would have a corner on the market.

Lawmakers have indicated they’re planning to weigh in on Amendment 2 implementation, and last week Sen. Rob Bradley filed a bill that would, among other things, allow for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.

A spokeswoman for the health department said in an email to FloridaPolitics.com last week the agency looks forward to “receiving input from all interested stakeholders through the open and transparent rulemaking process.”

In addition to dispensaries, Trulieve also offers a statewide delivery service. The company is scheduled to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday at the new dispensary.

Aerialist Rick Wallenda to skywalk over Sundial St. Pete Feb. 11

St. Petersburg will get a rare opportunity to experience the Flying Wallendas this week with a death-defying stunt over downtown’s Sundial luxury shopping center.

World renowned aerialist Rick Wallenda will cross over Sundial by tightrope Saturday, Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. The event, which is open to the public, will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County.

As part of the Wallenda family tradition, the third-generation performer will cross the courtyard on a cable no thicker than an index finger, without either a harness or safety net.

Before Wallenda’s skywalk, a variety of circus-themed performers will entertain attendees starting at 4 p.m. to mark the event, Sundial retailers will donate proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.

Wallenda will also be available for photos in the courtyard with the public.

“We are thrilled to welcome one of the world’s greatest tightrope walkers to Sundial,” said owner Bill Edwards. “Sundial is a gathering place for the community, so it’s only fitting the event take place there.”

Edwards also said he was pleased the event will be helping Habitat for Humanity, noting that the well-regarded charity will be celebrating the completion of its 400th home in the area.

The Wallenda family holds multiple World Records for their stunts including, the highest blindfolded tightrope (between two Chicago skyscrapers) and traversing Niagara Falls.

 “We are grateful to Bill Edwards and the Edwards Group for their partnership to bring Rick Wallenda to the people of Pinellas County,” said Ronice Barlow, chief operating officer of Franklin Templeton and a board member of Habitat Pinellas.

“What a perfect way to countdown to the highly-anticipated Habitat for Humanity Blueprint Vieux Cirque Gala at the Vinoy Saturday, April 8, 2017!” Barlow added. “Local corporate sponsors like the Edwards Group help our community give a ‘hand up, not a handout’ to our local families in need.”

Sundial St. Pete is located at 153 Second Ave. N. in St. Petersburg.

David Jolly hires Charlie Crist staffer Vito Sheeley as “senior advisor”

David Jolly says that he has not made a decision whether to run for his former congressional seat next year, but that’s the impression he has given by announcing on Monday that he has hired Vito Sheeley to serve as his “senior advisor for the 2018 political cycle.”

Sheeley has been working as district director for Charlie Crist, the man who defeated Jolly last November in the Congressional District 13 race. Sheeley also worked on Crist’s congressional campaign as his campaign outreach director.

“While I have made no decision whether to pursue elective office in 2018, I am committed to continuing our important policy work of the last three years,” Jolly said in a statement.  “As Laura and I consider what is best for our family and our community in 2018, I am thrilled to have Vito Sheeley join our political team. Through my years working with Vito in Pinellas, I know him to be an honorable man, dedicated to our community, and a trusted advisor on how best to represent and serve Pinellas County and the State of Florida.”

“I’m extremely excited to begin my new role with Congressman Jolly,” Sheeley said. “Helping the citizens of Pinellas County has been and will remain the most important priority of my life.  As Senior Advisor to Mr. Jolly, I look forward to continuing to listen to the needs and concerns of Pinellas County.  I thank Congressman Jolly for recognizing my value to him and his team.”

Max Goodman, a spokesman for Jolly, says that Sheeley will be working with Jolly  “to continue policy work locally regarding education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.” He says he’ll be paid through non candidate committee funds.

The announcement caps a bizarre week in the news for Sheeley, who previously worked for Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor.

There were unconfirmed reports that Crist had fired Sheeley last week, and then rehired him back. FloridaPolitics called Sheeley on Friday to ask him about that report, which he flatly denied, saying that he was still working for Crist at the time.

He also said it was unclear whether he would go on to work for Mayor Rick Kriseman’s re-election campaign, as had been reported by the Tampa Bay Times last week.

“I only wish the best for Vito,” Crist told FloridaPolitics this afternoon. “He did a wonderful job on our campaign, for which I will ever be grateful. I hope for a very bright future for he and his family.”

Mel Sembler, other Tampa Bay Republicans hosting major fundraiser for Jack Latvala committee

No one expects GOP state Senator to go quietly into the night once his time in the Legislature comes to an end in 2018. And a fundraiser planned for February 2 and hosted by several prominent Tampa Bay Republicans will help make sure he has the resources to do whatever he wants to do next.

Ambassador Mel Sembler, former Speaker Will Weatherford, Bill Edwards, Jim MacDougald and former RNC host committee chairman Ken Jones are among the names raising money for Latvala’s political committee, the Florida Leadership Committee, at an event slated for the Sembler Center in St. Petersburg.

Latvala is entering his final two years as a member of the Florida Senate, where he serves as the all-important chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It’s increasingly speculated that Latvala will seek higher office, perhaps Governor or Chief Financial Officer.

Because he’s raising money for his committee, Latvala can accept checks of any amount. Co-chairs for this event have been tasked with raising $5,000, while members of the host committee, such as prominent Donald Trump supporter Rhonda Shear Fagan and Southern Strategy Group lobbyist Seth McKeel, are expected to raise $2,500.

At those rates, Latvala should easily add another $50,000 to a warchest that already stands north of $2 million.

The February 2 event begins at 5:30 p.m. To RSVP, please contact @Nola.Beckham@Sembler.com.

 

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.

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