Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 7 of 30 - Florida Politics

Lauren Book challenges Florida Democratic delegation to remember why they came to Philadelphia

One of Florida’s newest state senators, Lauren Book, addressed the Florida Delegation Breakfast Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“Why are each and every one of you here today?” she challenged delegates shortly after her introduction. The Broward County Democrat was following such notables as Howard Dean and Terry McAuliffe.

“Why have you traveled a thousand or more miles to participate over the last few days? What is your motivation to be among this group of super Democrats? It’s taken a lot to get here.”

She answered her own question by saying it might be because of a passion for protecting a woman’s right to choose, to help Democrats to win back the Congress, or perhaps stop the epidemic of gun violence.

Or simply to help Hillary Clinton become the first woman to hold the highest office in the land.

Book won her first bid for public office last month in state Senate District 32 when no other candidate filed by the qualifying deadline.

Although she’ll be a freshman when the Legislature convenes in 2017, she’s already a well-known quantity both in Tallahassee and throughout the state, after making a name for herself as a vocal advocate on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse.

In 2007, Book founded Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit which aims to teach children and adults about sexual abuse prevention through education, awareness campaigns, and speaking engagements around the world.

She’s also the daughter of the extremely wired-in Ron Book, considered one of Florida’s most influential lobbyists.

While some delegates chatted among themselves quietly as Book began to speak, halfway through her address, the entire room hushed as she told her own tale of sexual and emotional abuse, which began at the age of 11 at the hands of a nanny.

“I was scared. Embarrassed. And ashamed. I felt trapped. And very, very alone.”

Book noted it took six years for her to tell others about the abuse. “I grew stronger!” she exclaimed to loud cheers from delegation members.

Ninety-five percent of sexual abuse is preventable, Book said, through education and awareness. Her annual treks across Florida — now totaling more than 9,000 miles walked — helped bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse. Book then mentioned those who had walked with her: Oscar Braynon, Arthenia Joyner, Bill Nelson, Bob Buckhorn and others.

As was the overall theme of the convention, Book gave some love to Hillary Clinton. She cited specifically the newly nominated presidential candidate’s work with the Children’s Defense Fund, which lobbied Congress to pass the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975. The act requires all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education, as well as one free meal a day for children with physical and mental disabilities.

Book added that, while in office, she intends to continue advocating for policies protecting women’s health, expanded access to mental health services and strengthening Florida’s criminal justice system.

“As we stand at the convention tonight,” she concluded, “and watch Hillary Rodham Clinton become our nominee … I am going to ask each and every one of you to ‘remember your why.'”

“Remembering your why” — or finding the meaning of your life through impactful events — was the topic of a Ted Talk Book gave earlier this year in Oxford, England.

 

Joe Henderson: DNC Day 3 — organization is everything

Florida Democrats have long since undertaken the groundwork to deliver the Sunshine State to Hillary Clinton in November. In fact, you could say that began in 2008 and continued four years later when Barack Obama carried Florida in both of his presidential campaigns.

The local operatives, so critical in big elections, who turned out the vote for Obama have stayed busy trying to do the same for Clinton.

“They never left,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “Some of the players might be different now, but the model is still the same.”

That organization stands in stark contrast now to Republican nominee Donald Trump, who appears to have little visible infrastructure in place here.

Clinton has a major head start on him and that could the difference in what shapes up as a closely contested contest.

The work of turning out the vote will take on a new urgency after the balloons drop at the end of Clinton’s acceptance speech Thursday night. Buckhorn, who has solidly been in the Clinton camp, figures to be an important part of all that.

“Organization is everything,” Buckhorn said. “In Florida presidential races it’s all about the turnout and not so much about TV or radio (ads). Building connections matter. Field organization matters. Gathering data is important. It becomes a combination of analytics and data mining. Marry the two of those and you’ve got something.”

Clinton is popular among Florida Democrats.

In 2008, she received 49 percent of the primary vote to 32 percent for Obama, who by that point was well on his way to winning the nomination. In the March primary this year, Clinton nearly doubled up Bernie Sanders 64 percent to 33 percent.

But Trump received 1.079 million votes in the GOP state primary, nearly as many as Clinton’s 1.1 million.

Even given Trump’s renowned penchant for outrageous and, as Democrats charged after his suggestion that Russia hack more of Hillary’s emails, treasonous behavior, polls show a tight contest between the two for Florida’s 29 electoral votes.

“You never underestimate anybody,” Buckhorn said. “The proof is in the bodies. Organizing means putting those bodies on the road, making those phone calls, knocking the doors. I haven’t seen any evidence of the Trump people doing that (in Florida).”

WEDNESDAY TAKEAWAYS: That was a show of force Wednesday night by the star-packed Democratic lineup.

President Barack Obama, as expected, set Clinton up perfectly to be the right person to accept the baton of leadership from him. I thought former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, took Trump apart on The Donald’s own playing field in the world of business.

But for the star of the night, give me Vice President Joe Biden. Who else but Biden could call Trump’s claims “a bunch of malarkey” and turn it into a rallying cry. The hashtag “malarkey” quickly started trending on Twitter and prompting many clever memes – the best of which was a signature red Trump ball cap with the word “Malarkey” emblazed instead of his “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Sitting through vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s speech was like sitting through a warmup band you don’t really want to hear before the main show begins. I’ll give a tepid thumbs-up to his mocking “Believe Me” impersonation of Trump, but he should have stopped it after one or two times.

I mean, it wasn’t THAT funny.

So it’s all there for Hillary now to see if she can convince the undecided Americans that she is best for the job. Stick to the end for the balloon drop. Balloon drops are cool.

Gwen Graham says Rick Scott, Donald Trump from ‘con man’ wing of GOP

Tallahassee-based Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham spent a few minutes unfavorably comparing Florida Gov. Rick Scott to Donald Trump while addressing state Democrats in Philadelphia Thursday morning.

“Make no mistake, Rick Scott and Donald Trump are cut from the same wing of the Republican Party,” she said. “Not the conservative wing, but the con man wing, and if you want to know what can happen to America, just look at what’s happened to our beautiful state.”

Graham said even though Florida has become the third-most-populous state during Scott’s six-year reign in Tallahassee, the state ranks 38th in wages, something she says he boasts about while on out-of-state recruiting trips.

“I can tell you that Florida workers are as hard working as anywhere in the country, and they deserve a raise!”

The first-term representative has already declared she is considering a run for governor in 2018. In fact, she used a teleprompter (as did some other speakers on Thursday) in giving her 10-minute-plus address in the fourth-floor conference room at the Marriott, home of the Florida Delegation breakfasts all week long at the Democratic National Convention.

Graham continued to refer to questionable Trump comments or actions and turned that back to Scott, such as on public education. But she reserved her most biting criticism for the governor’s environmental policy, calling his DEP the “Department of Environmental Pollution,” and saying just this week he had voted to allow more cancer-causing chemicals in the state’s water supply.

She was referring to the state’s Environmental Regulation Commission vote to approve a proposal by state regulators that would impose new standards on 39 chemicals not currently regulated by the state, and change the regulations on 43 other chemicals.

Although Scott won’t be on the ballot in ’18, Graham sounded like she was definitely going to be, giving praise to FPD Chair Allison Tant and name-checking various state caucuses.

She then brought it back to why Hillary Clinton was the obvious choice for the country this year.

“Do you want a president who will build up our economy, or do you want to tear it down?” she asked, before shouting out, “Build it up!” She went through a call-and-response a few more times, with limited enthusiasm from the weary crowd. Several people did get up to give her a standing ovation as she departed the stage.

With Graham, Bob Buckhorn and Philip Levine addressing the delegates this week, it looks like the low-level campaign for Florida Democrats’ hearts, minds — and money  — has begun.

Mitch Perry Report for 7.28.16 — Hillary’s turn

President Barack Obama certainly set the bar high for Hillary Clinton‘s acceptance speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention, but most fair-minded people will know that going in. Even his harshest critics acknowledge that Barack Obama is one of the finest orators our nation has ever had in the White House, and the grading curve should be different than everyone else.

But by this point, it should be obvious about what we’re going to hear tonight — a healthy dose of optimism about this country, and criticism of Donald Trump‘s much darker and, OK, dystopian vision.

I wrote about those themes emerging in Clinton’s speech in Tampa last Friday afternoon.

She also criticized his Cleveland RNC speech where he said that he alone could fix so many of the ills that the nation is undergoing.

“I never heard of an American leader, or at least someone who wants to be an American leader, claiming that’s all we need,” Clinton remarked. “That’s not a democracy my friends, as I call recall, we had a revolution to make sure we didn’t have someone who said I can fix it alone!”

I saw on Twitter last night how some conservatives and Republicans feel like their message is being hijacked by the Democrats. There’s a reason for that. Out of power, the opposition party has to point out that there are problems in this country, that only they could solve.

Bernie Sanders said the same thing in his own way.

Mrs. Clinton is the establishment, no doubt. By wanting to maintain another four years of Democratic rule after the past eight years, yes, she is portraying an America “that is already great,” another line we’ve repeatedly heard this week.

There were so many other interesting things that happened in the past 24 hours. The chants of “no more war!” being yelled at Leon Panetta was interesting.

Of all the speeches from last night, I thought Michael Bloomberg’s was the most interesting.

Robbie Mook wants a few good Floridians to house Hillary Clinton staffers for the campaign.

Although it was purely symbolic, a bid to offer an alternative to Tim Kaine in the vice-presidential roll call last night died by indifference of the Democratic National Committee.

This DNC has been all about humanizing Hillary Clinton. A former staffer of hers, USFSP political science professor Judithanne McLauchlan, says the image portrayed by conservative talk show hosts isn’t the woman she knows.

Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Martin O’Malley and Bill deBlasio all got their turns on the big stage at the DNC on Wednesday night.

Some of the state’s most prominent Democratic mayors took their turns before their fellow Democrats yesterday.

Bob Buckhorn fired up the crowd in Philadelphia.

Philip Levine touted the plan to bring a streetcar to Miami Beach in his speech in Philly.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum spoke before the entire DNC yesterday, but spent some time a the Marriott Hotel in the morning.

Philip Levine touting streetcar project to statewide Democrats

Whenever folks in Florida begin discussing potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates in 2018, the name Gwen Graham always appears in the first paragraph.

But with more than two years before the electorate will decide who their nominee might be, a number of other elected officials are now on the clock to begin making their case, and there’s no better showcase than in front of the state’s delegation of Dems in Philadelphia this week at the Democratic National Convention.

Although talk of Bob Buckhorn pursuing such a plan had quieted of late, the Tampa mayor put on a strong performance Wednesday in front of Florida’s delegates. When it came to firing up the crowd, Buckhorn took top honors. Another mayor who spoke Wednesday before state Democrats is Philip Levine, the ambitious Miami Beach mayor who has been networking hard over the past few months, and has a resume to boast about to statewide progressives.

In his short address, Levine humble bragged that he’s known Bill Clinton since the 1990s, and said he was motivated by the former president to ultimately leave the private sector and enter the political arena, which he did was he was first elected in 2013.

Levine’s work on infrastructure to deal with the deleterious effects of climate change on his city has been well noted in the national media. “We’ve taken the action to get things done,” he said. “And I think today across the country people are looking for a leader that has a background of actually getting things done.”

The mayor also said he’s having a meeting at the end of this week with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx regarding a light-rail streetcar project that would move passengers along the MacArthur Causeway across Biscayne Bay. The city began moving ahead with an environmental study on the project last December.

Working with consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates, the city estimates the South Beach streetcar will cost about $387 million to build and $16 million per year to operate. The system would be expected to carry a minimum daily ridership of about 20,000, reports the Miami Herald.

And Levine made sure to mention his proposal to raise the minimum living wage in Miami gradually up to $15 an hour, fulfilling the goals of the SEIU’s “Fight for $15” campaign. He says he’s ready to be sued by Gov. Rick Scott for making the move, which violates a 2004 law implemented when Floridians approved raising the minimum wage at that time. The Scott administration has remained silent on the issue until now.

Bob Buckhorn brings Florida Democratic delegation to their feet in morning address

There hasn’t been much talk about Bob Buckhorn and running for governor in 2018 for awhile.

That conversation might change after the Tampa mayor brought much of the crowd who gathered at the Florida Democratic Delegation breakfast to its feet at the Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia Wednesday morning.

“I might start preaching here,” the mayor said before he dramatically wound up to tout how significant it was that Hillary Clinton was the party’s nominee and how the state needed to change its direction in 2018.

“Nobody ever told Hillary Clinton that this was going to be easy,” he said. “But I know this Florida Democrats: We didn’t bring her this far to leave her now!” which got the crowd racing.

“So Florida Democrats — America needs Hillary Clinton. America’s cities need Hillary Clinton. America’s mayors need Hillary Clinton! And to paraphrase Alicia Keys, ‘that girl is on fire.'”

The Keys phrase was a nice touch, considering the performer closed out the convention Tuesday night. However, it should be noted it’s a line he often uses all the time, rewording the song’s title to “this city is on fire.”

Though the mayor is widely admired in Tampa for not being very partisan, in front of a group of Democrats like today (or last Friday, when he introduced Clinton before she spoke at the Florida State Fairgrounds), Buckhorn can do it as well as anyone in state Democratic politics.

Blasting Donald Trump, Buckhorn said Floridians know what it’s like elect a tea party millionaire (though it’s hard to classify Trump’s politics, one might question whether the tea party label is entirely appropriate):

“We know what it’s like to give back $3 billion in rail money that could have provided thousands of jobs and a rail system from Orlando to Tampa!

“We know what it’s like to have a government that doesn’t know the difference between toxic green algae and guacamole!

“We know what it’s like to turn back hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid money that would serve thousands of us!

“We know what it’s like to have a government that pays more attention to Marion Hammer, and less attention to Mother Teresa!”

He wasn’t over just yet.

“This journey starts now. We’re going to win in 2016, we’re going to break that barrier, and then we’re coming back in 2018. And we are taking that state back. Let’s go get it done!”

That last line about 2018 prompted some on press row and a few Tampa-based delegates to joke that it sounded like Buckhorn had telegraphed his intentions about running for governor in two years. He’s used 2018 in other stump speeches (such as after his 2015 inaugural address), but this was an audience where such a speech prompts speculation.

“Bob Buckhorn rocked the house today!” exclaimed Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant as the mayor exited the stage.

One fun fact that unfolded today — Tant told the audience she once dated Buckhorn when she lived in Tampa. Buckhorn joked that he glad his wife wasn’t in Philly to hear that news.

Wednesday was the day for Florida mayors to address the delegation. In addition to Buckhorn, Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum and Miami Beach’s Philip Levine also spoke.

Hillary Clinton ridicules Donald Trump’s “dark and divisive division” in Tampa speech

(UPDATE: Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine to be her VP nominee. That occurred shortly after this post was originally written).

Hillary Clinton did not name her running mate at a rally in Tampa on Friday afternoon. Although that nonevent was probably the most newsworthy part of her campaign appearance late Friday afternoon at the Florida State Fairgrounds, it was also her first time in front of a partisan audience for her to weigh in on the past week of comments from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where she was bashed nonstop for four days, with several of the speakers participating in chants to “lock her up.”

“Did anyone of you watch that convention in Cleveland,” she asked after getting on taking the stage at 5:45 p.m. While the crowd of more than 3,000 lustily booed, she admitted that the bashing “was kind of perversely flattering.”

Referring to how Texas Senator Ted Cruz was jeered at the RNC for failing to endorse Donald Trump, Clinton said that “something has gone terribly wrong when one speaker says ‘vote your conscience and gets booed.'”

“I mean, I never thought I would say these words. Ted Cruz was right,” as the crowd erupted.

In what sounded like a preview of her acceptance speech next Thursday night in Philly, Clinton said the RNC was all about Trump’s “dark and divisive division,” with fear, anger and resentment being dosed out liberally, but with very few solutions offered.

She also blasted the GOP’s nominee for claiming that he can repair the country’s problems by himself. “I never heard of an American leader, or at least someone who wants to be an American leader, claiming that’s all we need. That’s not a democracy my friends, as I call recall, we had a revolution to make sure we didn’t have someone who said I can fix it alone!”

Clinton also mocked Trump’s comment in his 75-minute acceptance speech that “I am your voice.”

She claimed he didn’t speak for small businesses, for P.O.W’s, or people with disabilities, or immigrants or women or working families.

In some ways, Clinton sounded like Ronald Reagan in the 80’s bashing on Democrats who “blamed America first.” It is Clinton who is the sunny optimist, and Trump who “talks trash about America,” or describes the nation as “dystopian,” as Congresswoman Kathy Castor labeled it in her speech an hour before Clinton hit the stage.

Castor, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Senator Bill Nelson, incoming Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn were the elected officials who warmed the crowd up before Clinton arrived from her earlier stop in Orlando, where she met privately with the families and friends of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting more than a month after a gunman killed 49 people there.

Wasserman Schultz previewed what will be the theme of the 2016 DNC next week, “Stronger together.”

Clinton said the Democrats vision in Philadelphia will be about “building bridges, not walls between people.” Her biggest cheer came when she said that the county needed to stand for common sense gun control measures.

She also said that she could understand the thoughts of why some voters are supporting Trump, saying that “there’s a lot of angst about all the changes that are happening all over the world,” as she ticked off technology and globalization as two such factors. She said she respected those with such concerns.

The suspense remains regarding her potential VP choice.

Lakeland resident Bill Deveau said he’d love to see Elizabeth Warren on the ticket, but realizes that two older females, both hailing from the Northeast, probably won’t work.

Sean Hayes from Ybor City said he’s good with Tim Kaine, acknowledging that his experience and Spanish language speaking skills will work perfectly.

Clinton will appear at a rally Saturday morning at Florida International University at high noon. We should know by then who will compete against the Trump-Pence ticket in November.

Mitch Perry Report for 7.22.16 — Donald Trump, your humble servant

One of the great ironies of the 2016 Republican presidential race is how the cult of personality surrounding their nominee is probably the deciding factor in why Donald Trump is their candidate for president.

In 2008 and ever since, conservatives decried a similar cult that was built around Barack Obama. Remember the John McCain campaign calling him (in a way meant to be derisive) that he was a “celebrity”? Well, The Donald is that squared, considering how often he’s been on televisions and tabloids for decades.

Last night at the Hillsborough County Republican Party convention watch party, a former New Yorker who now lives in Valrico told me he (regretfully) voted for Obama twice, but is rock solid behind Trump this year. He’s a registered independent, sick of politicians, and absolutely loves Trump’s “Tell it Like it is” ethos.

You know who doesn’t? The Republican establishment. We still don’t really know everything Trump believes in, because he doesn’t set out too many policy positions, seeming to improvise a lot of his answers.

But he seems pretty cool with LGBT rights, as he mentioned in his speech last night. And giving Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel the 9:30 p.m speaking slot — where he announced he was a proud gay man, proud Republican and proud American — won lots of plaudits.

That’s a very different mindset than what a lot of Republicans believe in — particularly the ones on the platform committee responsible for what most observers who follow these things say is the most extreme GOP platform on LGBT rights ever.

The NBA just moved the 2017 All-Star game out of North Carolina because their lawmakers have not changed HB2, a bill that would allow transgender North Carolinians to use the bathroom. That outraged their Republican Gov. Pat McGrory, who said in a statement, that “American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”

I don’t want to say I know where the American people are with all of this, but I’m going to take Adam Silver‘s side versus McGrory. And apparently, so will Trump. And Republicans, independents, and yes, some Democrats, are getting on the Trump Train.

Trump never used the word “conservative” at all last night. That’s a fact. And when he heard the chant of “lock her up,” the mantra of the week about what the GOP base feels should be done to Hillary Clinton, Trump stared the audience down and said, “Let’s defeat her in November.”

His comments about NATO on Wednesday definitely shook up the GOP establishment. There are still lots of divisions between the establishment and Trump — but the base is turned on by the 70-year-old NYC real estate mogul. If he were to win in November — well, it would really be interesting to see how the Republican Party adjusts.

Now, on to Philadelphia.

In other news …

A sober-minded Bob Buckhorn presented his fiscal year 2017 budget to the Tampa City Council yesterday, and he really wants them to approve a $250 million package of stormwater improvements.

Tampa state House Representative Ed Narain was at the University Village retirement home in North Tampa, and he wants to change the laws regarding such CCRC’s.

And seldom a day goes by in the House District 68 race in Pinellas County without a candidate getting an endorsement. Yesterday it was Eric Lynn’s turn.

Darryl Rouson and Ed Narain battle it out on policy in SD 19 NAACP-sponsored debate

The issue of school choice and vouchers is a touchy one for Democrats. In the Democratic Party platform completed last weekend in Orlando, it declares support for “high-quality public charter schools” and opposition to “for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources.”

The national NAACP, however, is against public support for school choice AND vouchers, saying it takes away resources for public schools. At an NAACP-sponsored campaign forum Tuesday night with the four Democrats running for the Senate District 19 seat in South St. Petersburg, the first question posed to the candidates by moderator Patrick Manteiga was where the candidates stood on charters, which have received major funding from Florida’s GOP-led Legislature in recent years.

“I do believe families should have choices,” said former District 61 state representative Betty Reed, who said her daughter runs a charter school. Reed did say she doesn’t believe “a lot of money” should go into charters if they aren’t governed by the same standards as regular public schools.

Darryl Rouson, who is term limited out of his House District 70 seat that, like SD 19, also crosses Tampa Bay, seemed to want to have it both ways. “I believe that parents should have a choice, but I am invested in public schools, and I want a strong, high-quality, free, accessible public education for our children. But I do not believe one size fits all.”

The other two candidates came out strongly in support of public schools.

“Vouchers are not going to save all of our kids,” said Ed Narain, who currently represents House District 61 in Tampa and has been endorsed by the Florida Education Association. “We can’t pick and choose. We’ve seen these public charters rip millions away from the state of Florida’s education budget, and we’ve gotten no return.”

“I agree with the NAACP,” said attorney Augie Ribeiro, the newest entrant into the race. “In the nation, we need to build and have a strong public and robust educational system,” he said, adding that there could be exceptions.

The forum was the second South St. Pete-based event between the candidates in SD 19 in the past four days. The minority district  includes West Tampa, all of East Tampa, Riverview, Gibsonton, Apollo Beach and then crosses the bay into downtown and South St. Petersburg. For decades it’s been held by a black representative (currently Arthenia Joyner).

On many, if not most, policy issues, the candidates were all on the same page. The difference was in the substance of their answers. As they both are currently serving in the Legislature, Narain and Rouson can talk about legislation they’ve passed or attempted to pass to give substance to their responses.

Ribeiro is the wild card in the race. The New York City native (as is Narain) entered the race on the second-to-last day before the qualifying ended, but he brings tremendous financial resources to the task. He’s also the only non-black candidate in the race, and he needs to introduce himself to as many voters as possible in the seven weeks before Election Day. However, he seemed to err on Tuesday night by frequently invoking the same response to different questions.

“There has been a repeated, continuous systematic perpetuation of racial injustice, social injustice, and it’s put the black community at a great disadvantage,” he replied when asked if he would support the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons.

Later on, the candidates were asked in light of the shootings of black men in Baton Rouge and in suburban St. Paul, what legislation would they draft to protect African-Americans, Ribeiro responded with generalities, saying, “I’ve been repeated myself all day. It starts with an education. It starts with an understanding how we got to this point. We need an education, we need a police department, we need the public to understand, I’ll repeat it again, racial injustice, social injustice, has perpetuated this type of thought process.” There was no legislative proposal, however.

Rouson boasted about getting $250,000 from the Legislature targeted toward youth and gun violence this past session that was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Scott. He also talked about banning assault weapons, which would seem unlikely in the GOP-led Legislature. “They have no place in any part of this country in the hands of civilians and citizens that can use them to kill police officers or wreak havoc in our communities.” He then acknowledged that difficulty, saying since 1987 no gun restriction bill has passed in the Florida House and Senate, other than his proposal that would stop practice shooting in some neighborhoods that Gov. Rick Scott signed earlier this year.

Narain said he’d like to propose legislation modeled on a bill introduced by the Palm Beach County Congressional delegation — named for shooting victim Corey Jones — that would withhold federal grant money from police departments that allow plainclothes officers in unmarked cars to make routine traffic stops.

“How many of us would want to be in that situation where some car just pulls up and someone who’s not in uniform stops you and asks you for ID?” Narain asked. “We can work with the police to get this done.”

Reed talked about funding mental health, but wasn’t very specific. “I think that will start us having a conversation that will deal with mental health. There are people who are sick, they know they are sick, but they have limited mental health care,” she said, without alluding to what she would propose.

Florida ranks 49th out of the 50 states in per capita funding for mental health services.

When asked about what the candidates could do in terms of transportation, Rouson said there is a crying need to revamp the process by which the state suspends drivers licenses, saying there are more than 102,000 people just in Pinellas County who have had their licenses suspended in the past year. “There are four offenses: truancy, graffiti, worthless check, and minor possession of marijuana, and we need to change that. It should only be suspended for driving-related offenses.”

Narain agreed, but also referred to allowing large municipalities the ability to offer their own referendums for transportation, an issue frequently mentioned by people frustrated by voters in the outlying areas of Pinellas and Hillsborough that have helped doom recent transportation referendums (such as Bob Buckhorn).

“The reality of it is, people in the outskirts of our counties don’t feel the need to expand mass transit. They’re not dealing with the issues that the people we represent up here deal with.”

For the second straight debate, Narain indirectly needled Ribeiro in his closing remarks, referring to the $300,000 cash infusion the civil justice attorney added to his campaign on Monday.

“I’m telling you folks, the last time Florida elected an outsider it didn’t work out too well for us,” he said, referring to the $70 million Rick Scott spent to win the governor’s race in 2010. “So while I respect candidates who choose to run for office, you have to question the motives when you see the type of money thrown into these races like we’re seeing. It’s about our community, and you’ve got to KNOW it, in order to represent it.”

Hillsborough County PTC is raising fines on ridesharing drivers, and Jeff Brandes doesn’t like it

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is poised to begin increasing fines on Uber and Lyft drivers soon, and that’s not going down well with one of the agency’s biggest critics, state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

The St. Petersburg Republican has frequently criticized the PTC over the years for their confrontational stance towards the two ridesharing companies, and he said on Monday he intends to file legislation to prohibit the actions of special district agencies like the PTC, who he says “stand in the way of innovation in our state.”

“The Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission continues to bury their collective heads in the sand, ignoring the outcry of support from their constituents who support rideshare services like Uber and Lyft,” Brandes said in a Facebook posting “The PTC is standing in the way of services which have been proven to reduce DUIs and make our roads safer. The Public Transportation Commission is the very definition of crony capitalism, and we cannot allow this blatant corruption to continue.”

Last week, the PTC rules committee unanimously approved a proposal to increase the fines charged to ridesharing drivers who get cited by PTC agents from $700 to $900, while the fine for allowing the operation of a vehicle without a permit would also rise from $200 to $400. The proposal was introduced by Temple Terrace City Council member David Pogolirich. The two companies have never been fully in compliance with PTC rules regarding insurance and background checks since they began operating in Hillsborough County since 2014, despite several attempts to come to an agreement. PTC Chair Victor Crist thought he had a deal set in May, but that failed to come to fruition.

The state Legislature has also failed to come up with statewide regulations regarding the companies, setting the stage for each individual county in the state to attempt to find a way to get them into compliance with their rules.

Crist has had to deal with issues of his own in recent months, surviving a vote that called for him to resign from the board for recent comments he made about dissolving the agency, as well as a legal challenge by a coalition of taxi cab companies that also wanted him removed. Among the reasons cited in both cases was Crist’s comment that the agency should be dissolved, a stunning admission after he has attempted to clean up the agency’s tarnished image in recent years.

In an interview, Brandes decried the fact that the agency has no oversight other than the state Legislature, which created it as a special act during the 1970s. “Is that good public policy?” he asked about the increased fines which, if voted on next week, would go into effect beginning in August. “There’s no rational reason why they’re charging one fine versus another.”

Brandes has represented part of Hillsborough County as part of his Senate District 22 seat the past four years, but that will change in November, when he’s expected to easily win office to Senate District 24. However, that district remains in Pinellas County, meaning he won’t be able to file a local bill regarding the PTC later this year. He says, however, that there are “many options” when it comes to proposing legislation regarding special districts in the Legislature next year.

The Hillsborough PTC includes members from the county commission, as well as representatives from the three incorporated cities: Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City. Brandes said it would be beneficial if Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, for example, could join the board. Like Brandes, Buckhorn is on record as being in favor of dissolving the agency.

“When you have the head of the PTC saying ‘disband us.’ You’ve got the mayor of the largest city, saying that it’s no longer needed, it’s time for the legislative leaders to listen,” Brandes said.

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