Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 7 of 32 - Florida Politics

Bob Buckhorn: Florida Republicans, ‘put your country first’ and vote for Hillary Clinton

Bob Buckhorn has a simple question for the four members of the Florida Cabinet regarding Donald Trump.

“Where ya hidin’?” the Tampa mayor asked Wednesday at a news conference held outside City Hall. He was referring to how some of Florida’s leading Republicans have cut a very low profile when it comes to discussing Trump in the aftermath of the lewd sexual comments the Manhattan real estate magnate made in a 2005 video leaked to The Washington Post last Friday.

“You’ve got to make a fundamental choice: Pam Bondi, Adam Putnam, Jeff Atwater, Gov. Scott — do you stand with Donald Trump or not?” the mayor asked provocatively. “If you don’t, then you need to stand up and say so. But if Donald Trump’s politics represent what you think is what the Republican Party stands for, then I’m sorry, that is not the Republican Party that this country has known. That is not the candidate deserves to be president of the United States.”

Buckhorn of course, is hardly an objective observer. Hizzoner is all in with Hillary Clinton in this campaign, to the extent that some have speculated he may be offered a job in her administration if she’s elected next month. Historically he hasn’t been a huge partisan in his time in office, which contributed to his winning more than 95 percent of his re-election vote in 2015. In fact, more than a few Democrats were unhappy the mayor pledged his neutrality when Scott was running for re-election against Charlie Crist in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

That was then, however.

The mayor is the father of two young daughters, and he said that it was a “painful moment” in his life to have to discuss the contents of Trump’s comments that went national last week. It should be noted Republicans made similar comments back in 1998, when the report by special prosecutor Ken Starr on Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky was laid bare for the world to observe.

“Last week was the most embarrassing, shameful episode that I have ever seen in 25 years of doing politics,” Buckhorn said of the Trump tape. “It showed me in no uncertain terms that Donald Trump is absolutely temperamentally unfit to be the president of the United States, and I have no problem standing up here and saying that.”

He also called on “all of our Republicans friends” to realize it’s time to hop off the Trump train: “It is time to abandon ship. It’s time to put your country first, and put your party second, and come over and do the right thing for America in voting for Hillary Clinton.”

Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee Chair Deborah Tamargo was not impressed by Buckhorn’s comments.

“I didn’t think that the mayor was elected to be God and a moral judge. I thought he was elected to carry out the law,” she said, adding, “I don’t remember him running on a moral platform, and I don’t believe he’s a pastor, priest or rabbi. And I don’t think he’s in a position to make moral judgements. I think that’s a personal thing.”

Like many Republicans, Tamargo says she believes Clinton broke the law when she was found to have used a private email server when she served as secretary of state and sent out classified material. In July, FBI Director James Comey announced that despite evidence Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified emails on a private server, the bureau would not recommend to the Department of Justice that criminal charges be brought her.

“I’m really perplexed that he would be trying to extort people into not exercising their free will in voting and endorsing and supporting, and I’m rather shocked he would be supporting someone who has broken the law,” Tamargo said of Buckhorn’s comments.

The press conference, called by the Florida Democratic Party, was held to mark the decision earlier Wednesday by federal judge Mark E. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to extend voting registration in the state until Oct. 18 because of the impact of Hurricane Matthew.

“There is no more fundamental right than the right to vote,” said House District 61 Democrat Ed Narain, who joined Buckhorn at the press conference. “While people are trying to make this out into being a political issue, it’s far from political. It’s a fundamental constitutionally protected right that all citizens have the right to vote.”

The decision is considered a victory for the Florida Democratic Party. Last week, Gov. Scott told reporters he didn’t “intend to make changes,” saying “people have had time to register.”

Mitch Perry Report for 10.12.16 — Is there still no crying in baseball?

It’s painful today for me, folks.

I stayed up past midnight this morning to see the Chicago Cubs come from behind with four runs in the top of the ninth inning to defeat the San Francisco Giants, 6-5, and advance to the National League Championship Series this weekend, where they’ll play either Washington D.C. or Los Angeles.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, baseball was my favorite sport, just like it was America’s. But over the course of the past four decades, the game has been superseded by football, and for my tastes, also by basketball.

Spring training is a great diversion because it’s in wonderful weather, where people can kick back with a beer and a dog and chat with friends. But nobody cares who wins the darn game. The MLB regular season is interminably long and, frankly, pretty tedious.

But the post-season? There’s nothing quite like it.

You know the story about the Joe Maddon-led Cubs, who haven’t won a World Series since 1908, and haven’t been in one since 1945. They have been by far the sport’s greatest team through all of 2016, and the big story going into October was — how can they NOT win it all?

Well, there was some serious gnashing of teeth late last night, as it appeared the Giants were going to take the best-of-five series back to Wrigley Field on Thursday night for a climactic fifth game. Fans everywhere (but especially in Cubs World) were beginning to fret: will “The Curse” continue?

Maybe it would have, if the Giants had at least a competent, high-school level quality of relief pitching. But they don’t. And after (former Tampa Bay Ray) Mike Moore’s brilliant performance after eight innings and 120 pitches, it was time to bring in the relief staff. Yet no one on that staff could get anybody out, and the Cubs had their miracle win, topped off by bringing in badass reliever Aroldis Chapman to strike out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

So, congrats to Maddon, Ben Zobrist, and the city of Chicago. I predicted a month ago the L.A. Dodgers would upset the Cubs in the playoffs, and that scenario could still happen, though it likely won’t.

After the Barry Bonds-led Giants blew a 3-2 lead against the California Angels and lost the 2002 World Series, I thought I’d never live long enough to see them win one in my lifetime. They then peeled off three championships in the past six years, which means I’ll still die a happy man when it comes to my baseball interests. Will Cub fans of a certain age get to same the same thing later this month?

In other news…

Bill Clinton came to Safety Harbor last night. Our report.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn loves Hillary Clinton and is doing all he can to get her elected, but he says she’s dead wrong in opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

Hillsborough County GOP Chair Deb Tamargo spoke to RealClear Politics Tom Bevan yesterday as well, and said that the folks calling her office are pro-Donald Trump, and against Paul Ryan.

Less than four weeks before Election Day, top Republicans in the state are being awfully shy in expressing their opinions on Amendment Two, the medical marijuana initiative.

The Republican Party of Florida is very intent on keeping the House District 60 seat in Hillsborough County in GOP hands, as they’re spending major money on Jackie Toledo’s campaign.

Bob Buckhorn says Hillary Clinton is wrong in opposing the TPP

Bob Buckhorn is very keen on getting Hillary Clinton elected. He traveled to New Hampshire this past winter to campaign for her, and has been front-and-center at the three campaign events she’s held in Tampa during this election cycle. Yet when it comes to the Trans Pacific Partnership, Buckhorn says both Clinton and Donald Trump are dead wrong in opposing the controversial free trade pact.

“I think they’re both wrong,” the Tampa Mayor told RealClearPolitics’ Tom Bevan in a lunchtime discussion held at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel Tuesday. The event was the second of four different “Powering the Debate” events held by RealClearPolitics, the political news and polling data aggregating website.

“It is sad to see the demonization of trade,” Buckhorn continued. The TPP is a trade pact that aims to deepen economic ties between 12 nations (the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Peru) by slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth. Some of the strongest criticism against the pact is that it was conceived in secret, where governments were said to be seeking to bring in sweeping changes without voters’ knowledge. There is also residual anger at previous trade deals, like the 1993 NAFTA deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada which Trump has called “a disaster.”

The deal is opposed by both forces on the political left and right, but Buckhorn is a strong advocate, saying it would eliminate 18,000 different tariffs and barriers, largely in the Far East where the U.S. has not previously engaged. “If we are not there setting the framework for labor agreements and for protection of intellectual properties, then China will step in and do it, and I can promise you that what they will deal with is not going to be nearly as good for the 11 countries in the TPP.”

Clinton used to support the TPP, but changed her position during the Democratic primaries as it became a potent issue for Bernie Sanders. Trump has been against the pact since he hit the campaign trail over a year ago. The anti-trade sentiment isn’t necessarily new, as Pat Buchanan ran on a similar platform for president in 1992 and 1996 with limited success. Buckhorn spoke disparagingly of the U.S. now being “sucked into the morass” of thinking that trade is somehow wrong.

“We’re in a global economy,” he said. “I’m not just trading with Alabama, I’m trading with the world, and we need those barriers reduced and those tariffs reduced so that American goods can be more effective. So I think they’re both wrong.”

The TPP may be voted on during the lame duck session of Congress in December.

Earlier in the discussion, Buckhorn described the mood of present day America as being uncertain and fearful, and he said that he understood the frustration of the American people, particularly when it comes to the lack of cooperation in Washington. “I think it’s the perfect storm of anger, which I think lends itself to some of the venom we see in this country,” he quipped.

RCP’s Bevan then challenged him about the angst and anxiety that working class people feel about the economy, and the anti-trade sentiment that has grown in the Republican Party. “What would you say to those people who are feeling that economic anxiety?” he asked. “To look at trade and say, ‘you know what? I don’t like the fact that we ship a bunch of jobs to Mexico or overseas. Trade hasn’t been good for me.”

Buckhorn conceded that “those were legitimate concerns,” but said it hasn’t been trade agreements that have led to major job losses in the country, but technology.

“Technology has forced industries to compete,” he said. “It is eliminating some jobs…but it’s not the trade agreement that’s causing that, it’s the ever increasing, ever encroaching disruptive types of technology that is changing the way we do business.”

The two men also spoke about terrorism, police interactions with the black community and the efficacy of the Affordable Care Act.

Inevitably, Bevan also asked Buckhorn if he still harbored thoughts about running for governor in 2018. The mayor has previously said that he would assess that possibility after the 2016 election.

“I’m looking at,” he said. “I think the Tampa story, the renaissance of this great American city, is a pretty good story to tell. I also think that Floridians are ready for another style of leadership,” he continued.

“I think that there is a path there, because I think Floridians are tired of blatant partisanship and are looking for folks who are willing to work and … get this job done.”

Buckhorn concluded it would be a “massive disruption” to his family, “but I do think 2018 does represent a pivotal election to this state, and if I can lend my voice to that progress, then I’ll take a look at it.”

What to make of House candidate Jackie Toledo?

jackie toledo 1Jackie Toledo, the oft-controversial Republican running for Florida House District 60, has a major fundraiser planned for Tuesday.

And while the invitation for the event is studded with dozens of local Republican heavyweights, I’m still not sure what to make of Toledo.

Is she, as I want to believe, the latest in a line of Hillsborough Republican female pols who were initially underestimated by their critics and the media (think Sandy Murman during her stint in the Florida House)?

Or is Toledo, as La Gaceta’s Patrick Manteiga will tell you, a Tampa Bay version of Michele Bachmann (I guess that would make Toledo the second coming of Ronda Storms)?

Toledo had a rocky entry into electoral politics, making a series of errors (forced and unforced) during her 2015 bid for the Tampa City Council.

During that campaign, the Tampa Bay Times reported her campaign was using an image photography experts said consisted of her photo superimposed on Mayor Bob Buckhorn‘s official portrait and that she used video shot without permission on a Florida Department of Transportation construction site in a campaign commercial.

Those miscues barely rose to the level of a misdemeanor, but when a political action committee that attacked her opponents appeared to have connections to her campaign consultant, Anthony Pedicini, the first-time candidate would not be given a second chance to make a first impression.

“The ugliness wasn’t just in the mail,” wrote Manteiga in March 2015. “The campaign was rotten in every aspect … You name it; it happened in this race.”

When Toledo announced she was running for House District 60, most of the state and local Republican establishment lined up behind her primary opponent, Rebecca Smith.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced support for Smith in August, three days after she met with the two at a speech Putnam gave in South Tampa.

But, by almost all accounts of what happened in the HD 60 primary, Toledo feverishly outworked her opponent. Like the other pols mentioned above — Murman, Storms, etc. — Toledo put together a campaign team of dedicated volunteers, pounded on doors, and just out-hustled her opponent.

Toledo also has done her best to avoid talking to the local media, which her camp believes is predisposed against her. She skipped a Tiger Bay appearance. She does not respond to inquiries from this website’s reporters.

“Jackie is too busy being a mother, wife, volunteer, small-business owner, and community advocate to play … childish games,” Toledo spokesperson Ryan Wiggins told FloridaPolitics.com in September. “Her focus is on serving the people of District 60 and winning an election, not winning headlines in a political blog.”

Like I said, it’s unclear what to make of Toledo.

My impression is that she’s smart and sharp, but insular and slightly paranoid of outside political forces.

The best thing she probably has going for her campaign is that winning the HD 60 seat is a priority of Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran.

Corcoran, along with state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala, and Reps. Danny Burgess, James Grant, Chris Latvala, and Chris Sprowls, among others, are hosting a high-profile fundraiser supporting Toledo this Tuesday at the Columbia Café in Tampa.

The Democrats have recruited an excellent candidate in David Singer, although Singer can sometimes sound a tad aloof, as if he has better things to do than raise money for his campaign.

Singer has raised just over $115,000 through Sept. 16, spending more than $40,000, while Toledo has banked over $155,000 during the same period, not including a $25,000 loan, and spent nearly $167,000.

With Corcoran and the Florida GOP machine behind her — and Pedicini, who is on a hot streak, probably helping from afar (perhaps through an outside vehicle) — it’s likely Toledo will hold HD 60 for the Republicans.

I just don’t know what kind of lawmaker Toledo will make.

In the SD 18 race, Dana Young faces the challenge of her political career

After it was revealed last month that Mosaic had withheld information for weeks about the massive sinkhole at their New Wales facility in Polk County which spilled 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Florida aquifer, the Conservation Florida Voters attacked Dana Young for receiving campaign contributions from the phosphate corporation — and the fact that it’s vice president of public affairs co-hosted a fundraiser for her last year.

“Rep. Dana Young’s environmental record is as dirty as her campaign contributions,” said Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters. “Her cozy relationship with big polluters like Mosaic shows how out of touch she is with the everyday needs of Tampa’s working families.”

Young’s campaign team fired back immediately, and she’s now criticizing the phosphate company — and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — for their tardiness in coming clean with the public about the spill.

“I think it’s disgraceful that you can have an environmental disaster like this that truly can harm people’s health, to pour pollutants into the aquifer that could affect people’s well water,” she told FloridaPolitics last week. “I just don’t think there’s ANY excuse for not having a requirement that surrounding neighbors be immediately notified.”

A Mosaic employee discovered the water loss caused by the sinkhole Aug. 27 and the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was notified the next day, as required by Florida law. However, homeowners near the facility weren’t notified by Mosaic or the DEP until Sept. 19, after news broke about the sinkhole. The DEP said Mosaic wasn’t legally obligated to because there was no evidence of threat to groundwater or off-site movement. But Gov. Rick Scott said the law was “outdated.”

Young says she’s extremely disappointed by the DEP’s response.

“They have an obligation to protect the public here in Florida. That is their role, and they knew for a long time what was going on there and they did not see fit to tell anybody, and I think that is absolutely unacceptable, and that we need to pass legislation in this session to clarify the duty to report by not only the permittees like Mosaic, but the state departments and local governments as well.”

Florida Conservation Voters also has criticized Young for voting for HB 191, the controversial fracking bill that passed in the House of Representatives last spring but died in the Senate. Critics seized on the provision that would strip local governments of the power to prevent the practice, in which large amounts of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped into the ground using high pressure to extract oil and gas deposits from rock formations. It also would require a comprehensive study to determine the effects of fracking in the state and establish a regulatory framework.

Environmental groups have depicted it as an “anti-fracking” bill and have accused those who voted for it of being pro-fracking, but some Republican House members running for re-election have stressed that they supported the vote because it put a moratorium on the practice, and say that they don’t actually support the procedure.

“I’m completely against it anywhere in Florida, ” Young says about fracking, and says it’s “hurtful” that people think otherwise. “I am an environmentalist, ” she vows. “I always have been and obviously fracking is not consistent with my philosophy, nor is it consistent with the geology and makeup with our state.”

The Nature Conservancy in Florida thinks so — the group announced Monday they were awarding Young with their 2016 Legislative Achievement Award.

The criticism from the environmental groups are an indication of the forces that would like to see her out of the Legislature next year, as Young faces the race of her political career.

After winning a contested battle against the late Stacy Frank for the House District 60 seat in 2010, the Democrats failed to nominate a candidate to oppose her in her re-election bids in 2012 and 2014, before recruiting attorney Bob Buesing to oppose her in the Senate District 18 race this year.

The race is expected to be close. A poll taken in early August showed Young and Buesing in a tie at 36 percent, though it didn’t include the two independents in the race, Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

When she’s not working in the Legislature, Young says her full time gig is being a mom to her two daughters (one of whom is a freshman in college this year). An attorney, she says doesn’t practice much these days, but does use her legal expertise to help draft bills. Young turns 52 the day after the November election.

Although she has moved up to become House Majority Leader in the past two years in the Legislature, Buesing has said an internal poll his campaign conducted this summer shows Young’s name recognition isn’t much stronger than his own, perhaps because her previous re-election bids have been under the radar. However, one thing is certain — she will not be outspent in the race. Young has raised $727,443 in her main campaign account, and her political committee, “Friends of Dana Young,” has raised another million dollars. Buesing has raised $244,737.

When asked to recount the legislation she’s most proud of, Young chooses to talk about two issues that have widespread support – though neither have actually gone as far as she hopes they will.

One is her work to reduce the number of non-driving violations that prompt Floridians to have their drivers licenses suspended. A recent state study said the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles had suspended 1.3 million driver’s licenses in fiscal year 2012-13, and 167,000 were for non-driving reasons, mainly failure to pay fines or court fees or child support. A bill she co-sponsored with Democrat Darryl Rouson in the House last session would have reduced the number of offenses for which license suspension is prescribed and prohibit suspensions for those who show in an court an inability to pay fines and fees.

Another bill that has frustrated her over the years but which she is determined to get passed is enact a ban on greyhound racing in the state. And she’s recently cut an ad that did make her a favorite among the craft beer crowd for her support against “Big Beer” distributors in the whole 64-ounce growler battle.

Young has been a consistent “Nay” vote when Medicaid expansion has come up in the Legislature, and Buesing has been vocal in criticizing her about it. She responds with the generic Florida House GOP line on the subject — it’s a broken system that doesn’t work.

“I try to be for commonsense government — that’s my motto — and there is no common sense in expanding a program that isn’t working,” she says.

In 2015, the Florida Senate approved a proposal by Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean that would have established a state-run private insurance exchange to state residents earning less than $16,000, or about $33,000 for a family of four. It included a work requirement and a monthly copay. Because it was questionable whether the federal government would approve the plan, Young says it was a no-go in the House. She says if the federal government is “bound and determined to give us money” she would like them to provide block grants to let the state decide how to aid some of the uninsured in Florida. “I think that would be a win-win for Florida,” she says.

Young supports the controversial Tampa Bay Express toll lanes project, though she emphasizes that she was not aware of the portion of the FDOT plan to toll an existing lane of the Howard Frankland Bridge, which she says is just not acceptable (On Monday, the FDOT said that they would no longer take away a free lane from the Bridge when it’s rebuilt in 2019).

Although Mayor Bob Buckhorn unsuccessfully lobbied Tampa Bay area lawmakers a few years ago to consider allowing large municipalities the power to hold their own referendums to pay for transportation projects, the idea has resurfaced this year among some local Democrats, frustrated that the Go Hillsborough plan died before ever coming before the voters.

Young is one of those local legislators who has no interest in giving Tampa that power.

“This is one of the sore subjects between me and my friend Bob Buckhorn,” she says. Recalling how the 2010 Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax failed miserably in Hillsborough County but received a majority inside of Tampa, Young says that measure was half-baked, and if the city would have passed it “we would now be saddled with has been universally termed a terrible plan.”

“And so for me, I think that the county provides appropriate safeguards on taxpayer dollars to make sure that whatever plan is appropriate,” she says, adding it’s one of the few area that she disagrees with the mayor.

Young was a major supporter of Jeb Bush’s failed presidential run, but says now that it’s a “binary choice,” she’s with Donald Trump.

“It’s just a clear picture of how fed up people are with the way things are being done in Washington D.C.,” she says about the rise of the Manhattan real estate mogul in the presidential race. “People feel that they’ve been left behind, people feel forgotten, people feel lied to,” adding that “It’s a phenomenon of the voter that doesn’t feel that what they think matters.”

The Senate District race takes place on Nov. 8.

Anticipation is high for tonight’s David Jolly – Charlie Crist CD 13 debate

While the nation eagerly looks forward to next Monday night’s first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Tampa Bay area has its own Great Debate taking place Monday night at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. That’s where David Jolly and Charlie Crist will hold their first debate in the Florida 13th Congressional District race.

The event is sold out, but will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. on WTSP-10 News, moderated by the Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam C. Smith, and WTSP news anchor/reporter Mark Rivera.

“We want people that are watching to really know what the difference is between these two candidates,” Rivera told SPB Monday morning. “We are looking forward to substantive answers from the candidates on the issues that matter to the district, Tampa Bay, the state, and the nation.”

The Times has produced many local political debates over the years, and tonight’s is the most anticipated since Smith and Bay News 9’s Al Reuschel hosted a Tampa Mayoral forum back in February 2011 at Blake High School. That’s the event where then-presumptive front-runner Dick Greco made his biggest gaffe of the campaign, calling a Tampa race riot in 1967 to a “panty raid-type thing.” It was a costly mistake that took 48 hours for him to apologize for, and he ultimately lost by just 348 votes to eventual winner Bob Buckhorn in getting into the runoff election.

The rancor between the two camps has been strong since the general election campaign began to take shape, beginning on the night of the primary election late last month. “This Republican primary season has been pretty frightening,” Crist said in a statement issued shortly after Jolly had officially won the GOP nomination for CD 13.

“It saddens me to think that anyone who supports Donald Trump’s agenda could ever represent Pinellas County,” it said. “And I look forward to sharing our vision for seniors, veterans, women, students, and our environment in the weeks ahead.”

Team Jolly immediately denounced the statement, saying the GOP incumbent hadn’t endorsed Trump. Team Crist responded back by saying that they didn’t say he had endorsed Trump, but had simply indicated that he supports “Trump’s agenda.”

The level of discourse has pretty much stayed at that level ever since. After Crist tweeted out a photo of a list of campaign contributors last week, the Jolly camp responded with a fundraising request labeled “disgusting,” comparing Crist posting campaign donors on an office wall in a negative light, saying that when Jolly enters his office, he sees photos of portraits of Pinellas military veterans.

And while the campaign might remain at that level over the next 50 days, there are a number of serious issues the candidates need to talk about, especially under the glare of the klieg lights, where presumably talking points won’t be sufficient in explaining their views.

“We want tonight to help voters navigate the District 13 congressional race and inform their ultimate decision,” Rivera says.

HD 60 Democrat David Singer says his campaign is about right vs. wrong, not left vs right

David Singer says that when he began his run for the Hillsborough County based House District 60 race in April, his goal was not to get into an ideological discussion about left vs. right, but “right vs. wrong.” And now that the primary election season is over, he says he intends to use the next eight weeks to make the clear distinction on the issues between himself and Republican Jackie Toledo.

Toledo narrowly defeated Rebecca Smith in the GOP primary last month, in part by pushing strongly conservative positions, such as saying that she would work to repeal the GOP-led Legislature’s recent laws on allowing instate tuition rates for undocumented immigrants. Singer pointed out other stances by Toledo which he says are out of the mainstream of the district.

“Our opponent is against gay marriage. In 2016. The law of the land is settled, that is not reflective of the people,” he said at an event kicking off his general election campaign Tuesday night at the Beck Group Building in Tampa. He also criticized her for opposing a proposal to allow big cities like Tampa to have the ability to put their own referendums on the ballot, an issue that Mayor Bob Buckhorn says would allow Tampa residents to pay for transit that the Hillsborough County Commission has shown itself reluctant to commit to.

“Our opponent is against allowing the residents of the city to determine its own destiny on transit. That is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it’s simply the right thing to do to let us as city residents, to have a choice. “

Although Singer never mentioned Smith’s name, he said that he’s been contacted by Republicans who backed her who now are supporting him in the general election.

“A lot of the moderate Republican supporters of the candidate who did not win, and have said ‘we’re excited to be with you, we are excited to support you, we are excited that someone is going to represent our community who understands business, who understands that the private sector needs to be able to succeed in order for municipalities to have the revenue they ned to serve all of its citizens, what I’m telling you is I believe we have a very big tent.”

Singer is a Chicago native who has been involved in local politics since moving to Tampa, including the Moving Hillsborough Forward transit initiative that went down to defeat in 2010. This is his first campaign for office, a challenge he said unto itself.

His campaign kickoff was a smash hit, with a large crowd filling the third floor of the Beck building, including virtually every other Democrat running for office this fall, such as Andrew Warren, Bob Buesing, Pat Kemp, Rene Frazier, Gene Siudut, Cathy James, Bob Henriquez, as well as other Democrats like Mike Suarez and Harry CohenBen Diamond, running in Pinellas County’s House District 68, also made an appearance.

While Singer pledged a campaign that wouldn’t be based on partisanship but more on shared principals, Ed Narain was there to bring some red meat to the crowd of progressives.

The House District 61 Representative, who lost by just 75 votes to Darryl Rouson last month in the Senate District 19 race, warned the audience to not underestimate the depths the GOP is willing to go in the race, referring to how he said the GOP spent more than $100,000 to aide Rouson in his contest.

And he called on the assemblage to cough up what they could financially to aid Singer.

“This is not going to be a cheap election,” he warned. They are going to rally around Jackie Toledo to try to make sure that they hold on to that seat.”

The candidates for District 60 are scheduled to participate in a Tampa Tiger Bay forum this Friday, though a spokesperson for Toledo told this reporter earlier this week that she had a conflict and would not be attending. Tiger Bay’s Vic DiMaio said on Tuesday that he’s still hoping to woo Toledo into attending the affair.

HD 60 includes all of South Tampa, much of south Hillsborough County, and Town N Country.

Dana Young urges Hillsborough PTC to reject new rules for Uber, Lyft

Writing that “Hillsborough County is better than this,” Dana Young is the latest Tampa Bay area lawmaker calling for the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission to reject proposed new rules that ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft say would force them out of the local market.

In a letter Tuesday to PTC Chair Victor Crist, Young says the current proposal set for a vote by the PTC “is plainly designed to be an anti-competitive attempt to push ride-sharing companies out of Hillsborough County.”

“If this occurs,” she added, “our constituents will pay the price by losing a safe and reliable transportation option.”

Young’s letter was co-signed by 12 members of the local Tampa Bay area legislative delegation.

Last week, a PTC subcommittee approved new regulations representatives from Uber and Lyft have said are unacceptable. They include a seven-minute wait time for a passenger to get a for a vehicle for hire in the county, a $7 minimum fare, and Level II backgrounds checks that require fingerprinting their drivers. That last demand actually compelled Uber to leave the Austin, Texas market this past spring, so both companies appear serious about not bending on that issue.

On Monday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn headlined a news conference featuring members of Hillsborough County’s entrepreneur, tourism, and business sectors. They also called on the PTC to reject the proposed rules.

Although the state Legislature failed to come up with statewide regulations of ride-sharing companies, Young’s letter vows the issue will finally be addressed in the next regular Legislative Session, which begins March. Young says the PTC board should hold off on any action regarding ridesharing in Hillsborough until the 2017 legislative session ends next spring.

Joining her in co-signing the letter are two local Republicans well-known for their enthusiasm for ridesharing and loathing of the PTC — Jeff Brandes and Jamie Grant. Republican legislators Larry Ahern, Danny Burgess, Richard Corcoran, Bill Galvano, Jake Raburn, Shawn Harrison, Wilton Simpson, Ross Spano, Dan Raulson, and Democrat Darryl Rouson also signed onto the letter.

Some Hillsborough Democrats have been much less vocal in criticizing the PTC and speaking up for the ridesharing companies than their Republican brethren since Uber and Lyft began operating in Hillsborough in the spring of 2014.

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Mitch Perry Report for 9.13.16 — Florida’s Supreme Court is about to get a little more conservative

During the 2014 gubernatorial race, selecting Supreme Court justices was a campaign issue between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.

Though Florida’s executive and legislative branches have been fiercely conservative for going on nearly two decades now, the judiciary has not, though that slowly could be changing.

On Monday, Justice James E.C. Perry, the fourth black ever named to Florida’s high court, announced he will be retire from the bench at the end of this year as required by law, giving Scott his first opportunity to appoint a justice.

The liberal bent of the court won’t be felt immediately, as the liberals’ current 5-2 majority will shift to a 4-3 split.

However, three other justices — Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince, all must retire due to the state law requiring justices to retire by the age of 70 (or at the end of their six-year term if they’re halfway through the term).

Perry was named to the bench in 2009 by Charlie Crist, which goes to show you what type of governor Crist was, and why he infuriated Republicans.

Crist had the opportunity to name four judges to the court: Ricky Polston, Charles Canady, Jorge Labarga, and Perry. The first two were white men, the latter were Cuban and black, respectively. Perry and Labarga have also been considered more moderate-to-liberal — showing that he wanted all parts of the state represented.

That’s different than what we expect from most in his position — and the selection of moderate-to-liberal justices enraged conservatives.

Meanwhile, it’s still not known for certain whether Scott will have the legal ability to replace Pariente, Lewis, and Quince when they step down on inauguration day of 2019. But that’s a discussion for another day.

In other news …

With a big vote on controversial new regulations promulgated by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission scheduled for tomorrow, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and others in the business community told them on Monday to Just Say No.

Andrew Warren is making another charge that Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober has made insensitive remarks about teenage victims of rape.

Do you know who Jeff Zampitella is? He’s a Democrat running against GOP incumbent Sandy Murman in the Hillsborough County Commission District 1 race, but he’s vying for attention of any sort, eight weeks before Election Day.

Following his boss, Joe Biden is also now backing Charlie Crist publicly in his congressional bid against Republican David Jolly this November.

And Patrick Murphy and Marco Rubio have agreed to participate in at least two debates and one candidate forum in advance of the Nov. 8 U.S. Senate election.

 

Bob Buckhorn, others call Hillsborough PTC to reject rules that Uber, Lyft say could drive them out

Two days before the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission looks to approve new regulations that representatives from ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft say could compel them to leave town, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and others in Hillsborough County’s business community had a simple message for them on Monday: Don’t do it.

Specifically, they warned the agency not to approve new regulations approved by a subcommittee of the PTC last week that include a $7 minimum fare and a seven-minute wait time for passengers — and absolutely do not approve Level II background checks which include having Uber and Lyft drivers fingerprinted.

“We are not going to a city that’s going to be held down hostage by any cabal of any industry,” Buckhorn said, a nod to the fact that the taxicab industry in Hillsborough — as has been the case all over the world — objects to the Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) operating under different rules of the road.

Since they began operating in Tampa in April 2014, the PTC has been unable to bring the two companies into compliance with their regulations, many of which the companies believe are onerous and out of date. It’s not unique to this community — the ridesharing companies also remain at odds with regulators in Orlando and Jacksonville, for example, while the companies have come into compliance in the past year with local governments in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

But Uber and Lyft did pull completely out of Austin, Texas, earlier this year over a similar impasse regarding those Level II background checks.

Buckhorn also used the opportunity at the press conference to once again call for the outright abolition of the PTC, the controversial agency created by the Legislature in the 1970s to craft regulations for vehicles-for-hire in Hillsborough County. It’s the only such agency in the state.

The PTC’s heavy-handed tactics in previous years have led to the belief by some that it is a handmaiden of the taxicab industry. It’s a perception that only gained more currency when former PTC Chair Kevin White was convicted of charges of conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI after he was found guilty of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and a luxury SUV exchange for helping three prospective wrecker company operators win certificates from the PTC.

“I continue to believe it is a dinosaur,” Buckhorn said about the PTC, a belief shared by Tampa Bay area legislators like Jeff Brandes, Dana Young, and Jamie Grant. “Dinosaurs are extinct. The PTC should be extinct.”

“We are not trying to keep anybody out of the marketplace,” insists Kyle Cockream, the executive director of the PTC. “Instead, the focus is on consensus on regulations that ensure rider safety,” he said in a statement. “We want a solid framework that welcomes TNC’s while making the safety of our riding public a priority.”

Buckhorn was surrounded by more than a dozen people at the news conference, held at the Attic, a downtown coffee shop/bar. Many were representatives of the business community and entrepreneurs who don’t want Uber and Lyft to leave, saying such a loss will hurt with the recruitment of businesses and the retaining and/or luring millennials to stay in the Tampa Bay.

“The whole country took note when Austin passed its draconian legislation,” said Christopher Emmanuel, director of infrastructure and governance policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “We ask that the PTC suspend consideration of this extreme rule, and work with the new business and responsible partners that are hoping to bring transportation solutions for Tampa and Florida’s future.”

Tony DiBenedetto is the chair and CEO of a tech company called Tribridge. He said he doesn’t even own a car these days, and instead takes Uber to wherever he has to go.

“I think it’s sending the wrong message to everybody,” he said about the proposed regulations, which could prompt the companies to leave the region. “I think this is a devastating decision on their part. I think it would hurt us from a recruiting perspective; it’s already hard to recruit to Tampa.”

Although the Level II background checks have garnered the most attention, Uber and Lyft have serious issues with other proposed rules going before the PTC board on Wednesday, such as a seven-minute wait time for anyone to hail a vehicle-for-hire car in Hillsborough County.

“You request a ride, said Blayn Shamble, a Tampa Bay area Lyft driver.”It takes two minutes to get there, and now I have to lock my doors and roll my window down and say, ‘I’m sorry, you cannot legally get into my car until five minutes passes.’

“In my opinion, that is just picking your winners and losers in a free market,” Shamble added.

The PTC has said the new rules were promulgated by members of the cab industry and would-be TNC DriveSociety, who are pushing the PTC hard to pass the new rules.

“Are you a believer in public safety?,” shouted out DriveSociety proprietor Marcus Carter after Buckhorn explained how he believed competition was good for business. “You’re not a member of the media,” barked Buckhorn, who later said that he “welcomed” DriveSociety to the industry.

The Tampa mayor also said the cab industry needed to “up their game” to stay competitive with the new technology.

Louis Menardi, the chair of the Florida Taxicab Association and president of Yellow Cab of Tampa, issued a statement shortly before the press conference took place.

“Uber and Lyft’s approach to this issue is not unique to Hillsborough County or Florida,” he said. “All across the U.S., many local communities, including Portland, San Francisco, San Antonio, Austin, and Orlando are raising significant concerns about fundamental public safety issues and background checks, whether TNC drivers have any or adequate insurance, and whether the local communities should require better service from them for passengers in wheelchairs.

“In response, TNCs flout the law, ignore local regulations and resort to threatening local cities and counties with leaving and/or state and federal forced deregulation when they are questioned about their business practices as they relate to public safety and well-being.”

The PTC board meeting on the new rules will take place Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy, Tampa, 2nd floor.

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