Tampa Bay Archives - Page 7 of 60 - Florida Politics

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

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

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

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

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

Those rights include:

1. Health care for all

2. Expanding the middle class

3. Raising the minimum wage to $15

4. Keeping jobs in America

5. Affordable college education

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

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

8. Immigration reform with a path to citizenship

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

Kathleen Peters asks state for millions to help solve sewage problems in St. Pete, St. Pete Beach

State Rep. Kathleen Peters filed two bills Wednesday aimed at helping pay for sewer improvements in St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach.

Peters, a Republican from Treasure Island, asked for $5.5 million in state funding.

Of that, $3 million in state funding would be earmarked for St. Petersburg to smoke test sewer pipes for leaks, install and seal manholes, among other work. The remaining $2.5 million would go to St. Pete Beach for the engineering, construction and permitting of the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Sewer systems in South Pinellas were the focus of much news last year after St. Petersburg and other cities either dumped or had overflows of raw and partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, Clam Bayou and other waterways. The problems were blamed in part on aging infrastructure that allowed rain- and groundwater to seep into the systems and overburden them.

Heavy rains during two tropical storms overloaded the systems. And, in St. Pete Beach’s case, the system was already at capacity in good weather.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council pledged to spend millions to fix and upgrade the system. Work began this month in the Bahama Shores and Coquina Key neighborhoods.

The $3.2 million project is part of Kriseman‘s infrastructure plan, The work consists of lining the pipes, which is supposed to extend the life of sanitary sewer mains and prevent groundwater infiltration from entering the city’s sewage collection system. Depending on the weather, the project is expected to be completed by September.

Dominic Calabro: Keeping cigars in the Cigar City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___

Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Personnel note: HSN CEO Mindy Grossman named National Retail Federation chair

Home Shopping Network Inc. CEO Mindy Grossman will become the new chair of National Retail Federation board of directors.

Grossman, a St. Petersburg resident, was elected this week to serve a two-year term. She replaces Kip Tindell, the co-founder and chair of the Container Store. Neiman Marcus Group CEO Karen Katz was also named chair of the NRF Foundation.

Representing vendors from the U.S. and more than 45 countries, the National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Membership includes discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, small-businesspeople, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet sellers.

On her HSN website bio, Grossman is described as a 38-year veteran of the retail and apparel industries. She joined IAC, HSNi’s former parent company, in 2006 as CEO of IAC Retail. Grossman took the company public in 2008, becoming CEO of HSNi.

Grossman was also instrumental in developing innovative programs such as Shop by Remote, HSN Arcade and HSN Live, working with international brands like Disney, Ford and Universal. She also led the company’s digital transformation of its catalogue business.

Wal-Mart to close Midtown St. Pete Neighborhood Market March 3

After opening to much fanfare three years ago, Wal-Mart is shuttering its Neighborhood Market in the Midtown section of St. Petersburg.

First reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the retail giant announced it will close the store at 1794 22nd St. S March 3; its pharmacy will close Feb. 1.

The store was formerly a Sweetbay Supermarket.

“After a careful and thoughtful review process, we have made the difficult decision to close our Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on 22nd Street South in St. Petersburg,” a Wal-Mart representatives said in a statement. “We have been, and will continue to be, supportive of our local store leadership and associates, and this decision is in no way a reflection of their hard work and customer service over the last three years. This decision is based on a number of factors, including financial performance and strategic alignment with long-term plans.”

After Sweetbay decided to close all its Florida stores, former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster had pressured the company to keep the nearly 40,000-square-foot location open, which was owned by the city.

“We are incredibly disappointed by Wal-Mart’s decision to close this particular store. In light of the city’s pursuit of Tangerine Plaza and our ability to incentivize Wal-Mart’s remaining, we are hopeful that they will revisit this decision,” current Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement.

“However, anticipating their closure, we will work closely with them to ensure their employees are placed at other Wal-Mart locations,” Kriseman added.

“While I join in the frustration many of our residents will feel, this may be an opportunity to secure a tenant that can successfully self-perpetuate or create an amenity that better serves the wants and needs of the surrounding community.”

The Neighborhood Market was a key business in the Tangerine shopping plaza, which had been expected to bring economic vitality to a traditionally underserved community of the city.

Charlie Crist looking forward to attending Donald Trump inauguration

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

Charlie Crist isn’t one or them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlie Crist calls GOP Obamacare repeal without replacement ‘unacceptable’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Charlie Crist pleads case of Michael Morgan, unjustly jailed for 23 years, to Barack Obama

Michael Morgan

Charlie Crist is calling on President Barack Obama to intervene on behalf of one of his constituents, a St. Petersburg man imprisoned for 23 years for a crime a growing number of people believe he did not commit.

On Friday, the freshman St. Petersburg Democrat sent a letter to the White House telling the story of Michael Morgan, who has been unjustly serving three life sentences for crimes that many — including reporters, a former Pinellas County Commissioner and even a juror who voted to convict — now say he is innocent.

More than two decades ago, Morgan, 18 years old at the time, was in St. Petersburg riding his bicycle home from school. After encountering a man with a large dog, who began yelling and chasing him, Morgan went to a neighbor’s house and called his mother, Vel Thompson, to help.

When Thompson arrived a few minutes later, police had Morgan in handcuffs.

That day, officers were looking for a black male suspected of the assault and attempted rape of Felicia Fuller 12 days earlier. Fuller’s father, Earnest Fuller, was an officer for the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Felicia Fuller had been shot in the buttocks during what was described as a “drug deal gone wrong.” Cocaine was found at the scene. Fuller claimed that two African-American men assaulted her: one with a gold tooth and another who was clean-shaven.

Morgan had an alibi for Fuller’s attack — he was at a school dance with friends, something corroborated by multiple witnesses. He also did not fit the description of either man, having a full mustache and no gold tooth. Nevertheless, Morgan was arrested.

After going to trial three times, Morgan was ultimately convicted and sentenced to three life sentences and has been in prison for the past 23 years. Three years ago, supporters created a Change.org petition to request the Florida Clemency Board to consider his clemency request. The petition, which now has 337 signers, asks the Governor to waive the rule preventing the board from hearing Morgan’s request because of his life sentences.

In January 2015, WTSP’s Mike Deeson highlighted Morgan’s case in a nine-minute video summarizing the problems with both the case and his conviction, which came about without DNA or other physical evidence. The video, which is available on YouTube, also shows Morgan meeting with former Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche in the effort to gain clemency.

In Crist’s letter, he invoked Obama’s campaign for criminal justice reform, where the president granted clemency to more than 1,300 people over his two terms in office.

“I applaud your valiant efforts to reform our nation’s criminal justice system; ending juvenile solitary confinement, banning the box for federal employees, and reducing the use of federal private prisons,” Crist writes. “In that same vein, your support for people serving unjust or excessive sentences has brought justice and hope to thousands of nonviolent offenders and their families.”

Crist then related his time as Florida Governor, during which he worked to streamline the state’s clemency process.

However, Obama cannot just grant Morgan a pardon, since presidential commutation powers are restricted only to federal crimes. Any change in Morgan’s sentencing lies in the hands of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who would need the agreement from two cabinet members who are also statewide elected officials.

“I only wish Michael Morgan’s case fell within federal jurisdiction,” Crist writes. “Our Chief Executive in Florida has the power to grant clemency, but to date has not chosen to take action on this case.”

Now, Crist is asking for Obama to help — in his few days left as president — to right this injustice.

“Mr. President, your kind attention and willingness to lend your voice to this grave injustice would be incredibly helpful,” Crist writes. “Thank you again for all that you have done to improve our criminal justice system and restore the lives of the unjustly accused. It is my hope that your efforts lead to freedom for Americans, like Michael Morgan, who sit in prison today for crimes they clearly did not commit.”

Professional services firm announces HQ relocation to Tampa from North Carolina

BlueLine Associates, a professional services firm, is relocating its global headquarters from Cary, North Carolina to Tampa.

For the move., BlueLine expects to invest more than $2 million in the local economy, and create 150 new jobs, paying an average wage of $71,909. While the firm currently has offices in Tampa, the relocation of its headquarters will expand the company’s footprint to include its financial, legal and human resources groups.

Gov. Rick Scott hailed the move as “great news.”

“We were competing with North Carolina and Louisiana, but ultimately BlueLine Associates chose Florida for their new headquarters,” Scott said in a statement. “I look forward to BlueLine Associates continued success in our state.”

BlueLine provides consulting, managed services and staffing solutions to small, mid and large companies in a variety of industries. In 2015 and 2016, BlueLine was recognized on the “Best Places to Work” lists of both Consulting Magazine and the Triangle Business Journal.

“This move gives us access to Florida’s strong talent pool and allows us to continue the strategic expansion of our business,” said BlueLine President Rocky Silvestri. “Our company culture is at the core of our business success, our client’s satisfaction, and the happiness of our people.  We are excited to bring those guiding principles to Tampa.”

According to Scott’s office, the project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Several state and local leaders added their voices to applaud BlueLine’s decision.

Chris Hart IV, Enterprise Florida president and CEO, said: “Blueline Associates has chosen Florida because it is the best place to do business. The talent and the strong, business-friendly climate in Florida continue to attract growing businesses. Hard-working Floridians are getting jobs that could have gone to other states, but they ended up right here in Florida.”

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor added: “BlueLine Associates’ relocation to the Tampa area is yet another example of a business recognizing the unique opportunities for growth in Florida. Our state boasts a strong and talented workforce, a business-friendly, low tax environment and fewer regulations that enable companies to grow and succeed.”

“Hillsborough County offers BlueLine Associates a deep bench of information technology consulting, staffing and management consulting talent, as well as the amenities that will make it easy for them to recruit exceptional candidates to the area,” said Hillsborough County Commission Chair Stacy White.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pointed out that the move is further proof that Tampa’s star “continues to rise.”

“As millennial talent flocks here and our downtown undergoes a historic and exciting transformation,” Buckhorn said, “Tampa is gaining a national reputation as the place to be for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 corporations. We wish BlueLine Associates a prosperous future here.”

Candidates interested in a position with BlueLine Associates can visit blueline-associates.com, for more information on available positions.

‘Fake news: What is it; How to spot it’ event in Lakeland Sunday

Barry Friedman, editor and publisher of the online news site, lkldnow.com,  will discuss the evolution of fake news as a major issue in current events and how readers can become more discerning of online postings.

Entitled “Fake News: Democracy in an Age of Media Bubbles and Infotainment News,” the event will be held 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., Sunday at the Just Dance Studio, 124 S. Kentucky Ave., Lakeland. An “admission fee” of $5 is requested for light refreshments during the two-hour seminar discussing the growing problem of fake news or deliberate propaganda.

Friedman notes that the 2016 election revealed a need for media consumers to know how to judge the credibility of what they read.

 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons