Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 2 of 31 - Florida Politics

‘Not that he’s running for anything’: Andrew Gillum visits Jacksonville

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum drove east on I-10 for a hastily arranged a Jacksonville roundtable event on Wednesday.

But, as an organizer said, it’s “not that he’s running for anything.”

Of course not.

And Gillum echoed that point.

“I ain’t here to make news today,” Gillum said, about “what comes next.”

Of course not.

Why would anything come next?

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In all seriousness though, Gillum is traveling like a candidate. Walking like a candidate. And talking like a candidate.

But he’s not a candidate.

And when we asked the 38-year-old Democrat, one who was first elected to office soon after her graduated from FAMU (Go Rattlers!), if he had a timetable for deciding whether or not to throw his hat into a ring that could include Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and former Tallahassee Rep. Gwen Graham, he said he had “no clue” about when or if he would decide to run.

Gillum has been linked to other bigger-stage candidacies before: there was talk of him getting into the 2016 primary race against Corrine Brown in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, but nothing came of it.

If Gillum is to get into the race for Florida Governor, though, he hinted during his remarks Wednesday to a few dozen Jacksonville Young Democrats what his timetable might be.

Gillum discussed an “18 month view of engagement,” one that would be central to his strategy of going beyond supervoters to reach those voters who may have participated in one out of the last eight election.

We’ve seen this before on the national level.

Former President Barack Obama brought Hope and Change to a set of those voters in 2008.

Current President Donald Trump ran up margins with “silent majority” blue-collar white voters with his own change persona, expanding the voter universe even as Trump’s Democratic, Green, and Libertarian opponents were unable to make their own cases as change agents.

On the state level, however, it’s tougher.

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For one thing, midterm elections see an enthusiasm gap for Democrats.

Gillum noted that “black and brown” voters – key to any viable Democratic campaign – are especially prone to turnout attrition.

For another thing, Democrats have lately fielded underwhelming statewide candidates.

If you asked most people in Northeast Florida about Alex Sink, for example, they’d wonder why someone named a plumbing fixture.

Charlie Crist, when he ran for governor in 2014, had no campaign at all in Northeast Florida … except for some fans given out at churches that showed his picture next to that of President Obama.

Gillum, should he become a candidate, has a model to change that – but whether he has the time or the resources to do so is a completely open question.

Visiting young Democrats at this point in the cycle is essentially de facto recruitment of energized volunteers.

As the youngest candidate in the field, Gillum would – if he wants to run and win – have to engage the kinds of grassroots canvassers that helped him get elected to city commission in his 20s, then mayor.

He was able to pull that off in Tallahassee: he won his first race for city commission with little more than a budget for t-shirts.

However, on the state level, the effort would have to look more like Obama for America – disciplined, well-budgeted, and unrelenting.

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Can Gillum do that?

It remains to be seen.

The Tallahassee mayor’s remarks in Jacksonville pivoted between taking Rick Scott to task for his positions, and making an appeal to young voters – a tough demographic to turn out en masse.

Gillum described Democratic values being “under attack” in Florida for a long time, framing the 2018 election as a “real pivotal moment not only in the country but in the state.”

“My hope,” Gillum said, “is that after 20 years of turning the state over to the Republican Party,” that Democrats have a “fighting chance.”

Gillum also took the lobbyist culture to task, saying they were “buzzing all over the place” in Tallahassee, with legislators doing their bidding.

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The parallels between Gillum and a young Barack Obama are hard to miss.

In fact, they seem consciously cultivated, with Gillum telling those assembled in Jacksonville not to “fall for the okey doke” – a line that President Obama used to project authenticity to crowds over the years.

Does Gillum have what Obama had, though?

Key to Obama’s rise: his willingness to go to out-of-the-way places and make his pitch to rural populations, which helped keep John McCain’s margins down in those areas.

Can Gillum do that? That remains to be seen.

The appeal to “our generation of folks,” on issues ranging from LGBT rights to the Syrian refugee order, may not play as well in Jasper as it did to Democratic activists in Jacksonville.

While Gillum noted that appealing to “working class” voters does not mean “exclusion” of the white working class, he also seems willing to not bother attempting to appeal to a certain swath of the electorate.

“It may be too much to wrestle away the Fox News person who believes Obama is from Pakistan,” Gillum said, noting that a better use of activists’ time would be to cultivate voters who, were they “activated,” would vote Democrat.

Gillum, during a conversation after his remarks, noted his belief that the race for governor won’t come down to who has the biggest regional base of voters, but “what the candidate is saying” and “energy.”

That may be the case.

But, as is the case with many of the would-be candidates in the field, a delayed rollout may mean a lost political opportunity – if not for the party, then at least for the candidate.

Online poll shows Floridians support sanctuary cities

An online poll of 600 Florida residents conducted by Florida Atlantic University shows that by a 52-36 percent margin, Floridians do not want the Trump administration to cut off funding to sanctuary cities. And a plurality – 46-38 percent – don’t want the U.S. Justice Dept. to take any legal action against sanctuary cities.

However, the same poll also shows that only a slight majority (fifty-five percent) have ever heard of the term ‘sanctuary city,’ before being polled to opine on it. Sanctuary cities are generally defined as localities that help shield undocumented residents from deportation by refusing to fully cooperate with detention requests from federal immigration authorities.

After President Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced that his county would abandon the practice of being a sanctuary city. That decision by itself could affect the fate of more than one million undocumented immigrants. By a 62 to 39 percent majority, those surveyed said that Miami-Dade County shouldn’t end the practice of being a sanctuary county.

Interestingly, the poll also asked if Tampa should become a sanctuary city (the question posed said that it is considering becoming one). By a margin of a 61%-39%, those surveyed said Tampa should designate itself as such.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said that officially Tampa is not a sanctuary city and would not become one, but that he won’t be directing Tampa Police Officers to act as immigration agents anytime soon. Those responsibilities are actually handled by Hillsborough County. Last week, the Hillsborough County Diversity Council voted 8-1 to recommend that county commissioners look into becoming a sanctuary county, However, County Commission Chair Stacy White says that won’t be happening.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has essentially said the same thing, though he confused some people over the weekend by issuing a statement saying that, “I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws.”

Republicans were the only group who supported cutting federal funds with 70 percent in support and 24 percent opposed.

A full two-thirds  of those surveyed also said they do not want to pay for a border wall on the Mexican border (66 percent to 33 percent).

The poll also shows that 66 percent of those surveyed disapprove of President Trump’s job performance, with only 34 percent approving.

But the attitude of those surveyed was equally critical towards incumbent Democrats. Only 28 percent said he deserves re-election in 2018, while 72 percent said it was time to give someone else a chance.

The online survey was taken between February 1 and February 4, , with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percent

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson appears vulnerable in his 2018 re-election attempt in this poll, with 28 percent saying he deserves re-election while 72 percent said it was time to give someone else a chance.

Of the 600 people surveyed, 148 were Democrats, 147 were Republicans, 144 were independents, and 161 were not registered to vote.

With sanctuary city comment, Rick Kriseman defiant, but misguided

Whether you agree with the rules or you don’t, it’s never wise for a person in authority to say they are not going to follow the law. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman essentially did that when he stated the following in a blog post:

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” he wrote.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States. Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

Kriseman was forced to retreat Sunday after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his officers would enforce the law. That’s when Kriseman said in an interview that St. Pete isn’t really a so-called Sanctuary City — it just agrees with the concept.

That’s called trying to have it both ways. It usually doesn’t work.

That said, I agree completely with Kriseman that President Trump’s demonization of undocumented immigrants goes against everything America is supposed to stand for. So much about the president’s immigration policy is morally and ethically repugnant, designed to stoke irrational fear among the citizenry.

I just wish Kriseman had taken the approach of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He visited the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque Friday to support those jittery about the travel ban Trump wants to impose on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

“This city has your back,” Buckhorn told them. “I don’t care what this President did — that is not who America is. That is not what we represent. That is not what we are all about!”

See the difference in the approaches of the two mayors?

Buckhorn stepped up to the line and maybe jumped up and down on it a bit, but Kriseman stepped over it.

Buckhorn was supportive. Kriseman was defiant.

Both are Democrats, by the way.

Buckhorn told reporters covering the Friday event that Tampa is not a Sanctuary City, but he left enforcement up to his police department. When Kriseman said St. Petersburg police wouldn’t stop someone suspected of being here illegally, that took it a bit too far.

Hence, his retreat Sunday.

That could have repercussions for Kriseman in a re-election bid. While Pinellas County has only 245 more registered Republicans than Democrats (out of 641,484 voters), Trump won there in November by about 5,500 votes over Hillary Clinton.

A recent poll showed Kriseman trailing former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker in a theoretical rematch (Baker has not declared he is running).

That’s a discussion for another day, though.

For now, I’ll give Kriseman high marks for having his heart in the right place. On the rest of it, though, he gets an incomplete.

Rick Kriseman declares St. Petersburg a ‘sanctuary from harmful immigration laws’

Although St. Petersburg isn’t officially classified as a sanctuary city, Mayor Rick Kriseman all but declared that’s exactly what his town is on Saturday. And if the Trump administration wants to deny the city federal funds because of that stance, the mayor’s response is essentially, ‘We’ll see you in court.’

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” Kriseman wrote on Medium on Saturday.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States,” the mayor added. “Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

In general, sanctuary cities are defined as localities that help shield undocumented residents from deportation by refusing to fully cooperate with detention requests from federal immigration authorities. The right-leaning Center for Immigration Studies listed Pinellas (as well as Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando) as sanctuary counties in a 2015 reportbut that classification has been strongly disputed by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

“When they ask us to do things within the law, we operate with them and their programs to help them take those that are illegal who have committed crimes . . . and get them out of here,”” Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times’ Laura Morel last week.

Although sanctuary cities and counties have existed in some form since the 1980’s, they became a much more potent political flash point in the summer of 2015, after 32-year-old Kate Steinle was fatally shot while walking on San Francisco’s Embarcadero by a Mexican national with a criminal record who had been deported several times.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump vowed to dismantle sanctuary cities, citing those areas for harboring dangerous immigrants who commit crimes against Americans. He followed up on that promise shortly after being inaugurated last month, signing an executive order threatening to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities.

While nearly every mayor of a sanctuary city has brazenly defied Trump’s executive order with rhetoric indicating that they will dig in and resist the threat (and in the case of San Francisco, gone ahead and filed a lawsuit blocking that executive order), Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been one of the few local officials to heed Trump, ordering his jails to comply with requests from the federal government on detaining illegal immigrants.

There have been efforts by immigration activists in Tampa for months to persuade Mayor Bob Buckhorn to convert his municipality into a sanctuary city, and Kriseman acknowledges in his post that he too has received similar requests. Both have deferred on the issue, saying that the responsibility for holding undocumented immigrants is left to their respective county governments and law enforcement officials.

While the issue of sanctuary cities isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s been superseded by the fallout from Trump’s executive order signed last week banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

On Friday, Buckhorn attended Friday prayers at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque, where he called Trump’s actions “an attack on Islam as a religion.”

In his post on the online platform, Kriseman wrote that “the larger debate is no longer about sanctuary cities but about President Trump’s demonization of Muslims and the recent suspension of our refugee program.”

On Saturday morning, the State Department announced that previously banned travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S after a federal judge in Washington state on Friday night temporarily blocked enforcement of the president’s immigration ban.

“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas under” Trump’s executive order, a State Department spokesman said Saturday. “Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”

Bob Buckhorn, other mayors trying to get Donald Trump travel ban reversed

Showing support for the Muslim community, Bob Buckhorn attended prayer services Friday at an east Tampa mosque.

Afterward, Tampa’s mayor ripped into President Donald Trump‘s executive order banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

“This city has your back,” Buckhorn told congregants packed into the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque.

“I don’t care what this President did – that is not who America is. That is not what we represent. That is not what we are all about!” he shouted toward the end of his seven-minute address.

Trump’s controversial executive action that he announced last Friday afternoon – which also indefinitely suspends the Syrian refugee resettlement program – led to large protests in airports across the nation last weekend, and has been denounced by most congressional Democrats.

However, like opinions of Trump himself, Americans are divided on the move.

A majority of Americans — 51 percent — disapprove of the ban, while 45 percent approve, according to a CBS News poll released Friday.

The Trump administration criticized the media’s reporting on the executive order, denying it’s a travel ban at all.

But Buckhorn wasn’t buying that.

“For anyone, including the President of the United States, to demonize any religion, and make no mistake, they can call it what it is, but it’s a ban, it’s an attack on Islam as a religion,” Buckhorn said, voice rising in intensity. “It is not vetting. It is singling out a single religion. And specific countries.”

“We don’t have a litmus test based on religion in America,” the mayor added. “We never have, and we never will.”

A coalition of progressive groups, working under the title #WeAreAllAmerica, called for a national day of action with community rights leaders, activists and leaders to protest Trump’s actions Friday.

Buckhorn said he was contacted earlier this week by officials from the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay, and he leaped at the invitation.

Speaking to reporters after he shook hands and took selfies with dozens of men who observed Friday prayers, the mayor said he had participated in a conference call earlier this week with a handful of other mayors like Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti, New Orleans’ Mitch Landrieu, Austin’s Steve Adler and four other mayors representing the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“We’re looking at legal action,” he said about the group’s response to the executive order. “We’re looking at internal action, in terms of lobbying. We’re looking at every avenue we possibly can.”

Massachusetts, New York, Virginia and Washington state all filed lawsuits in the past week, contending the order violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom.

The city of San Francisco is challenging another Trump directive – the tone that would deny federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities,” a term defined as cities having adopted sanctuary policies toward undocumented immigrants, which local officials argue help local police by making those immigrants more willing to report crimes.

Buckhorn said Friday again that Tampa is not such a city, but added he wouldn’t be directing his police to act as officials with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the White House confirmed an earlier story first reported in FloridaPolitics.com Friday that Trump will be making a stop at MacDill Air Force Base Monday morning.

When asked if he would be accompanying the president, Buckhorn quipped: “He hasn’t invited me.”

“He probably won’t after today,” he joked.

Buckhorn then took a serious note, saying that if Trump did ask him for a visit, he certainly would honor his request.

“He’s the President of the U.S.,” he noted. “We want him to succeed, because if he succeeds, the country succeeds. This is the wrong way to go about doing that.”

Bill Nelson and Bob Buckhorn call on Donald Trump to back up plans on infrastructure spending

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is calling on President Donald Trump to stand by his campaign pledge to spend up to a trillion dollars to improve the nation’s infrastructure needs.

“If there ever was an opportunity for us to potentially find common ground with the new president, it would be over infrastructure,” Buckhorn said at a press conference held in Senator Bill Nelson’s Tampa district office on Wednesday. “Because for us, infrastructure is the lifeblood of what we do. We can’t grow this country’s economy, I can’t grow this city’s economy without adequate roads, bridges water and sewage systems.”

You don’t need a weatherman to know if you’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area over the past two summers that both Tampa and St. Petersburg need hundreds of millions of dollars to improve their stormwater systems, after they were overwhelmed by major floods in 2015 and 2016.

“I am basically dealing with 100-year-old pipes, trying to push 2017 growth patters through 100-year-old pipes. It doesn’t work,” complained Buckhorn. “We haven’t had an infusion of capital in our infrastructure system for decades. And so for us, the ability to fix what we have, and then to grow and add additional capacity, for what we need…is absolutely critical. This should not be a partisan issue.”

It may not be.

On Tuesday, Nelson joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats in calling for a $1 trillion proposal that would potentially create 15 million jobs over 10 years. It includes $210 billion for road and bridge repair, $110 billion for water and sewer programs, $180 billion for rail and bus systems, $200 billion for new projects deemed as vital, $75 billion to rebuild schools, $70 billion for ports and $100 billion for energy grid upgrades. Democrats say they want to use taxpayers money to pay for the package, but Republicans have floated a plan to give tax credits out to private industry to help in the building.

“The question is: how is this going to be funded?” Nelson asked on Wednesday.  He said that’s where his GOP colleagues “are just in a war” about how they will figure that question out in the coming months.

Nelson said that there are over 200 bridges that the Florida Dept. of Transportation has ruled to be “structurally deficient,” including the 22nd Street Bridge in Ybor City near Ikea that crosses over the CSX rail line that takes over 25,000 cars a day; the 9th Street Bridge over Brooker Creek in Pinellas County, and the bridge at State Road 684 into Bradenton Beach.

Nelson dismissed the notion of public-private partnerships to pay for all of the nation’s infrastructure needs (as the Trump team has floated), saying that won’t help add broadband to underserved areas of the country.

Regarding possible funding for transit, Nelson bemoaned Rick Scott’s veto of the billions of dollars he single-handedly rejected for high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando back in 2011.

Buckhorn said federal funds could help Tampa with a much desired transit system.

Meanwhile, Nelson says the consequences of President Trump’s announcement earlier this week that he will impose a federal freeze on all government jobs is potentially “terrifying.”

Trump announced on Monday that he was imposing a freeze on all sectors of the federal government, with the exception for the military and other positions affected national security and public safety.

But Nelson says there’s already a shortage of air traffic controllers,  and says a lack of sufficiently trained new staffers in that department “could really harm our nation’s safety.”

Speaking in Tampa, Nelson also says that while the Pentagon is exempt under the new policy, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs is not, which he says makes little sense, alluding to the much reported on problems with that federal agency in recent years. “Not only do they need people working in the hospitals, but they desperately need people to do the administragive things to get the veterans the appointments that they need. That’s where we’ve had so much fo the problems over time that you’ve read about it,” he said.

Tale of 2 parties: Florida GOP high, Dems low ahead of 2018

The state Republican and Democratic parties met two miles from each other Saturday, their first meetings since Donald Trump carried Florida in November’s election, but the atmosphere and enthusiasm were worlds apart.

As both parties chose their leaders, it was easy to see which has more confidence heading into an election cycle when the governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats will be open. Republicans were aglow in victory after Trump stunned many political observers by winning the state Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. At the same time, Democrats held a contentious election to choose a new chairman with little talk about this past election.

“How good does this feel? We defied the mainstream media, we defied conventional wisdom, defied the pollsters,” Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told GOP county chairs. “Right across town, Democrats are having their election and they’re not feeling near as good.”

As both parties prepare for 2018, Republicans are focused on how to build off the momentum Trump built with voters who traditionally haven’t been part of the political process while Democrats elected wealthy real estate developer and major party donor Stephen Bittel as chairman in hopes of ending two decades of futility at the polls.

“Donald Trump got a lot of people off of the couch and got them involved. It is our job at the Republican Party of Florida to harness all of that passion, all of that energy, and keep them in the game,” said state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who was easily re-elected. “And when we do, and mark my words we will do it, we will cripple the Democrat Party for a generation.”

After the Democrats elected Bittel, a group of protesters stood outside the meeting room holding signs that read, “SHAME,” ”This is not the party of the people” and “People over $$.”

Still, Bittel tried to paint the best picture of the party’s future.

“We have had an under-resourced operation in Florida for a long time. That changes, starting today, and we will build a different kind of party, I’m a different kind leader and we will change things,” Bittel said. “I grew up in Florida in an era when we won everything. I’m looking forward to that era again.”

But Bittel, 60, grew up more than four decades ago, and there’s a new generation of Democrats who have rarely seen victory.

Florida hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1994. They’ve lost 14 of the past 15 Cabinet races. And despite Democrats’ success in passing a ballot initiative that requires political districts to be drawn in a way that doesn’t favor parties or incumbents, Republicans maintain huge majorities in the Legislature and hold 16 of Florida’s 27 U.S. House seats.

Republicans appear better situated heading into a critical state election. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the three GOP Cabinet members, including Putnam, are leaving office because of term limits. Also in 2018, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is seeking a fourth term, and it’s widely thought Scott will challenge him in what could be Nelson’s toughest re-election yet.

But despite under-performing again in 2016, Democrats think 2018 can be different. Democratic strategist and former state party political director Christian Ulvert pointed at several pluses. First, Nelson, the one consistently successful Florida Democrat since 2000, will be on the ballot.

“This year, we have a potential for Bill Nelson setting the tone, to really set the stage from the top down,” Ulvert said.

He also said the party has a rich field of popular city mayors who could be on the ballot for statewide races, including Fort Lauderdale’s Jack Seiler, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach’s Philip Levine, Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum.

Putnam, who is likely to run for governor, warned Republicans that despite their successes, the party cannot become complacent.

“We can’t get arrogant and cocky and lose our way,” Putnam said. “We can’t take anything for granted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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.

Andrew Gillum, possible 2018 governor candidate, launches ‘Campaign to Defend Local Solutions’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is fighting for local rights, announcing this week he’s launched a statewide campaign to “defend local solutions.”

A rising star in the Democratic Party, Gillum has been mentioned as possible 2018 gubernatorial contender. He announced today he’s launched the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, a nonpartisan, grassroots effort aimed at bringing together “individuals, organizations, and elected officials concerned about the erosion of local rights.”

And this new organization could help boost his profile across the state, especially when it comes to red meat issues for Democrats.

“This effort …  will send a message to state lawmakers, and give citizens around the country the tools to push back against special interest groups and large corporations, and maintain their right to put forward local solutions to the issues facing their community,” wrote Gillum in a post on Medium announcing the creation of the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions.

Among other things, Gillum said the group will “hold events to rise against looming threats on issues like minimum wage and health benefits, the environment, local hiring practices, and water quality.”

“We will help bring awareness and support to similar fights being undertaken by local officials across the country that are fighting to defend local solutions,” he continued. “And we will elevate the voices and narratives of these efforts, so that no attempt to bully or intimidate local communities around the country will ever be tolerated.”

If Gillum were to get in the race, he’d likely face a crowded Democratic field. Former Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, and Orlando attorney John Morgan are considering a run. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer have all been floated as possible contenders.

Gillum’s announcement comes just days before the 1st District Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in a case involving Gillum and the city of Tallahassee after the City Commission decided not to repeal city codes regulating firearms.

“I’m being personally sued by the gun lobby. In 2014, as a Tallahassee City Commissioner, my colleagues and I refused to repeal ordinances that prevent shooting guns in a public park,” he wrote. “Because of our actions that day, and our commitment to the safety of our citizens, my fellow locally elected officials and I are facing fines of $5,000 per vote, damages up to $100,000, and the potential to be removed from our elected jobs by the Governor of Florida. We have also been forced to find our own lawyers to defend us in Court.”

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida Carry and the Second Amendment Foundation sued the city, Gillum, city commissioners Gil Ziffer and Nancy Miller, and then-Mayor John Marks in 2014. The groups claimed the commission violated state statutes when it refused to repeal city codes regulated firearms provisions, according to the paper.

Among other things, the city code said it was illegal to discharge a firearm in a city-owned park or facility. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, plaintiffs in the case said it violates state law, which says only the state can regulate firearms.

In November 2015, Circuit Judge George S. Reynolds ruled the city didn’t violate state statute. Florida Carry and the Second Amendment Foundation appealed the ruling, sending it to the 1st District Court of Appeals. Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 10.

Gillum said the suit isn’t about guns, but about “huge special interests, in this case the National Rifle Association (NRA), spending big money to take away local voices and local control, using tactics called preemption and super-preemption.”

“It’s also about how these special interests and corporations, after getting their way with state government, are trying to intimidate and bully local communities by filing damaging lawsuits against officials like me. Like your local commissioners. Like your local councilmembers. Like your Mayor. And like you,” he wrote. “It’s wrong, it’s cowardly, and unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse; especially in places with far-right conservative state governments.”

“I am calling on you to help defend your vote, defend your rights, and to help us #DefendLocal at DefendLocal.com,” he continued. “This is how we fight and win against bullies like the NRA.”

Mitch Perry Report for 1.4.17 — Waitin’ on the man

Over the weekend, the Times’ Rick Danielson and Sue Carlton shared a byline online where they essentially discussed the Bob Buckhorn Experience in Tampa, close to six years after he was elected mayor.

Although the initial thrust of the story was how the Mayor wasn’t above looking a little silly on occasions to sell a particular program or event, it ultimately evolved into an overall review of his time in office to date.

“ … it’s clear that Tampa has been reshaped — and in some spots, resurrected — during Buckhorn’s years in office,” the authors write, and the mayor clearly approves, including a link to the story in his weekly email newsletter he sends out to constituents.

As is commonly known, Buckhorn is still kicking around the idea of running for a statewide office next year. And while his timeline has shifted from immediately after the election to early in 2017, there seems to a shift in plans.

Once considered a shoo-in to run for governor, that’s hardly the case now. Some advisers have suggested that he consider running for the Chief Financial Officer position, because unlike the role of governor, he’d still be able to return home most weekends in Tampa to be with his family (You don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pam Bondi over the years has held a number of Tampa public events on Thursdays or Fridays, do you?). Also, the fact of the matter is there aren’t any heavyweights in Florida politics that have been publicly associated with running for CFO yet, as opposed to the governor’s race (where Richard Corcoran, Adam Putnam, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine are all strongly thinking of entering the contest).

There is also the likelihood that Buckhorn shucks those ambitions, and hunkers down to finish the work that he was re-elected to original do in 2011. Unlike in some other cities, Tampa’s charter limits the mayor to two terms (hence the fact that Rahm Emanuel‘s predecessor as Chicago mayor, Richard M. Daley, ruled the roost there for more than two decades), or there’s a decent chance Buckhorn might prefer to stay on after 2019, if the electorate were to continue to have him.

However, that’s not the case today, meaning the mayor’s options are limited politically if he doesn’t take a run for statewide office next year.

In other news …

Florida Republican members of Congress had various views of their secret vote on Monday night gutting the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

Tampa Bay area state Sen. Tom Lee has filed legislation killing the recently created state agency responsible for parceling out potentially millions for the construction or improving of sports facilities.

Sarasota Rep. Vern Buchanan began the new Congress yesterday by introducing seven new bills.

As Andrew Warren was being sworn into office as the new Hillsborough County State Attorney on Tuesday, a dozen activists came out to the county courthouse to cheer — and not jeer — his ascension.

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