Now that the Hillsborough County Commission has voted to move forward with a local wage theft ordinance, it's worth recalling what Sen. Jack Latvala told Bay Buzz a couple of months ago: As more local governments pass measures to combat wage theft, the pressure grows on the Legislature to take some kind of action.
Latvala, R-Clearwater, tried earlier this year to pass a bill that would make it a crime not to pay workers but it died in committee. Pro-business like the Florida Retail Federation and the Chamber of Commerce groups don't like the idea of a criminal penalty.
But they also oppose the proliferation of local ordinances as some of the state's biggest counties, frustrated with the lack of action in Tallahassee, take matters into their own hands. The patchwork of local measures, groups say, are an onerous burden on businesses. (Read more about the rise of local ordinances here.)
Now Hillsborough, which will hold a public hearing on its ordinance on Oct. 21, is about to join Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, among others. Pinellas is not far behind, with a public hearing on its ordinance slated for Nov. 10 along. …Full Story
District 7 candidate Will Newton isn't talking about why he owed $32,139 in back taxes to the federal government, which he paid back in 2012 after two liens were issued by the Internal Revenue Service.
But his campaign manager Steve Lapinski has been giving shifting responses in the hours since the Tampa Bay Times broke the story about Newton's tax troubles.
On Thursday, Lapinski first told the Times that the back taxes had nothing to do with Newton's former mortgage broker and insurance agent licenses. He then clarified his remarks, claiming he hadn't said "licence."
But the Times updated the Bay Buzz post to reflect Lapinski's newly-clarified language in a statement that the tax dispute didn't involve a business.
On Friday, Lapinski had a new story. The taxes, he told a local blog, were from Newton's work with the firefighter's association.
When asked for precisely those details on Thursday, Lapinski told the Times that he didn't know. On Friday, he suggested to a blogger that he had told the Times about the union work being the source of income in the tax dispute.
Lapinski didn't respond to a request for comment on Friday. Neither did Newton. …Full Story
A coyote hangs out on the lawn of the Masonic Home of Florida, 3201 1st St. NE, St. Petersburg, on Thursday
More and more people are spotting coyotes.
Suzanne Verhulst, wife of our Perspective editor, Jim, was walking their two collies at 11 a.m. on Thursday on a path by the lawn of the Masonic Home of Florida at 3201 1st St. NE in St. Petersburg, when she spotted the coyote in the above photo.
To be clear, she says, the coyote was not harming anyone. It just wanted to get out of the way of the dogs.
But it's just one of many in an uptick of sightings (or, more often, hearings) that are alarming some residents, especially those on Snell Isle.
Check out the story here.
JAMES BORCHUCK | Times
Construction worker Shawn Jackson grinds a piece of metal on the east side of the main terminal at Tampa International Airport near one of the two new outdoor terraces in mid-September. Big projects helped drive the value of all building permits issued during the city of Tampa's last fiscal year to a record $2.4 billion.
Tampa has just wrapped up another record-breaking year for building permits, but not in every category.
For the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the city issued a total of 23,161 building permits, 16,855 for residential construction and 6,306 for commercial projects. That's nearly a third fewer than the total for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
But the total value of all those projects grew by 20 percent: more than $2.4 billion last year compared to just over $2 billion the year before. And each of the last two years beat the city's previous record of $1.8 billion worth of permits issued in 2007 before the real estate crash and Great Recession.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who spent the early part of his first term retooling the city's development regulations and permitting offices, welcomed the number as a a sign the local economy is strong and growing.
"I’ll say it again," he said in a statement released with the statistics. "This city has its swagger back."
Mayor Rick Kriseman returned today from a three-day conference in Albuquerque after mingling with dozens of mayors from around the country to discuss how cities can foster entrepreneurship.
Next year, Kriseman won't have to get on a plane to New Mexico. St. Petersburg will host the conference in 2016 in conjunction with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Kriseman said the conference, which might be attended by up to 100 mayors, would be a showcase for the Sunshine City.
"They will see up close that St. Petersburg is a city of opportunity for entrepreneurs, a place where dreamers can become doers," he said in a statement.
The fourth annual conference will be held December 1-2, 2016. Previous host cities include Kansas City, Mo., Louisville, KY.
The Kauffman Foundation will cover most of the costs, said Kriseman's spokesman Ben Kirby. But, he added, "we intend to be great hosts."
No specific cost estimates for St. Petersburg taxpayers were available Friday, Kirby said.
The conference is held in a different city each year in collaboration with that city's mayor.Full Story
District 7 City Council candidate Will Newton owed $32,139.93 in federal back taxes from 2010 until he paid them off in full in 2012, according to Internal Revenue Service documents.
The IRS filed two separate notices of federal tax liens against Newton in 2010. In September, a lien was filed for $13, 515.30 in unpaid taxes from 2004 to 2006. In December, the federal tax agency filed another lien for $18,624.63 for the tax years 2007 through 2009.
Both liens were for "small business/self-employed." Newton was a St. Petersbug firefigher for 23 years, which wouldn't appear to fit. Neither would his activities in the firefighers union during that period.
Newton didn't respond to questions about the nature of the business or businesses in question. His campaign manager Steve Lapinski said the liens had nothing to do with Newton's licenses as a mortgage broker or insurance agent.
But what business did they pertain to?
"You're asking me a question I don't have an answer to," Lapinski said.
Lapinski later clarified his remarks with a statement: "The liens had nothing to do with a business." …Full Story
Desperate to get something, anything off the ground to expand public transit in Pinellas, a contingent of Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority officials are in Washington this week to land some funds from Uncle Sam.
PSTA chief executive Brad Miller and two of his board members, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long and St. Pete City Councilmember Darden Rice, were scheduled to meet with Reps. David Jolly and Kathy Castor, Sen. Bill Nelson and a representative of Sen. Marco Rubio.
One of the goals is to secure funding from the Federal Transit Adminstration for a bus rapid transit line running from downtown St. Petersburg to the beaches. The so-called Central Avenue BRT (which would actually run on 1st Avenues N and S), would offer limited-stop service seven days a week.
To get the project up and running, PSTA wants $8 million from the FTA's New Starts Program, the federal government’s primary pot of money to support capital investments in local transit proejcts. PSTA also wants $4 million from the FDOT and would contribute $4 million of its own capital reserve fund for the project. …Full Story
City Council chairman Charlie Gerdes has made up his mind on the contentious, pivotal District 7 race between Will Newton and Lisa Wheeler-Brown: He's staying out of it.
The two challengers for the open seat, being vacated by term-limited Wengay Newton, the older brother of Will, have ferociously sought the endorsements of their potential future work mates.
Newton has lined up incoming council member Ed Montanari and current officeholders Steve Kornell, Amy Foster, Bill Dudley (who's term-limited) and his older brother.
Wheeler-Brown has the support of Karl Nurse and Darden Rice.
Jim Kennedy doesn't endorse city council candidates. He says it could make for awkward post-election relationships.
Gerdes had been courted by both campaigns. But the influential council chairman decided to take a pass.
"I'm focused on my own campaign," said Gerdes, who is running against Monica Abbott in District 1. "And they both would make good city council members."
Mail ballots went out last week. Election Day is Nov. 3. Full Story
SCOTT KEELER | Times
Charlie Gerdes, right, said Thursday morning that he will withdraw a resolution asking the Pinellas County Commission to hold off making any decision on future plans for about $6 million in tourist tax dollars until the city resolves its long dispute with the Tampa Bay Rays.
City Council chairman Charlie Gerdes said Thursday morning that he will withdraw a resolution asking the Pinellas County Commission to hold off making any decision on future plans for about $6 million in tourist tax dollars until the city resolves its long dispute with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The resolution had been scheduled to be voted on at the City Council's 3 p.m. meeting, but in a break during committee meetings at City Hall Thursday, Gerdes said county commissioner's comments on Thursday made it clear that the county wasn't going to act quickly on a proposal by the Atlanta Braves, local developer Darry LeClair and ex-baseball player Gary Sheffield to bring a spring training and amateur sports complex to the former Toytown landfill.
"I don't want to send a message informing them of something they already clearly get," Gerdes said.
Gerdes also offered new details on a his plan to strike a deal with the Rays. He plans to charge the team a $1.4 million yearly fee from the time they start looking for a new stadium site outside St. Petersburg until they vacate Tropicana Field. …Full Story
The U.S. DOT is easing regulations for federal roads with speeds of less than 50 mph that would allow for more design options, such as introducing bike lanes.
“This proposed policy change will give states and communities the opportunity to be more innovative in designing their local projects,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “It will help us to build more quality projects that will not only provide more travel options for people, but also support and unite communities across America.”
The first step: a reduction in the number of design criteria from 13 required elements to two. On roads with speeds of 50 mph or more that carry larger traffic volumes and trucks, the number of criteria could be reduced from 13 to 10. The 13 criteria were introduced in 1985 by the Federal Highway Administration to address safety and operations concerns. …Full Story
The St. Petersburg City Council doesn't normally make news at its "mini-meeting," held each second Thursday of the month and normally dedicated to awards and presentations.
But today at 3 p.m., the City Council will again consider a resolution by Chairman Charlie Gerdes to ask the Pinellas County Commission to hold off on any decisions on the $6.5 million in tourist tax that, until the end of last month, went to pay off bonds used to pay for the construction of Tropicana Field.
Instead, Gerdes argues the county should allow the council time to resolve the stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays on the team's desire to search for sites for a new stadium outside of St. Petersburg.
The council tabled the resolution last week so city attorneys could tweak the language.
Meanwhile, county commissioners Tuesday decided not to make any decisions on a major project proposed by local developer Darryl LeClair, former major leaguer Gary Sheffield and the Atlanta Braves to build a sports complex on the former Toytown landfill. The complex would also host the Braves' spring training. …Full Story
A state investigation found that St. Petersburg made no attempt to warn the public of a 1.1 million gallon sewage dump from the Albert Whitted wastewater plant in early August.
The inquiry, released Wednesday to the Times, also turned up contradictions between the city's version of the spill and the subsequent state investigation.
When the Tampa Bay Times first reported the dump on Aug. 10, city officials initially said the sewage had been treated and posed no threat to people.
But when Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigator, Darryl Garman, contacted the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, waterfront director Shawn Macking told him that on Aug. 10 a "city of St. Petersburg employee" had called him to ask if any students had been in the water.
Macking told the caller that about 50 children in the Yacht Club's summer sailing program had been in the water that morning, a short distance north on the waterfront from the sewage plant.
The unnamed official told Macking to have the children "take an extra hot shower for decontamination from the discharge." …Full Story
Mayor Rick Kriseman is attending a conference in New Mexico on how cities can foster entrepreneurship.
The trip, paid for by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which organized the conference, will continue until Thursday.
The conference will address the role of private charities in encouraging start-ups, how "community assets" can spur entrepreneurial growth and how to track entrepreneurial activity, among other topics.
In a statement, Kriseman said he was pleased to join mayors from around the country and sharing ideas.
"Nourishing entrepreneurship and small businesses has been the focus of my administration," Kriseman said in a statement Tuesday.
Octavio Jones, Tampa Bay Times
Accident investigators gather at the scene of an accident that killed a Chamberlain High student on her way to school Tuesday morning on Busch Boulevard in Tampa.
It's been deadly out there on Hillsborough County roads the last couple of days.
A 17-year-old Chamberlain High Student died Tuesday when she was hit crossing Busch Boulevard. A 43-year-old Brandon man was killed on U.S. 301 when his pickup truck crashed into a light pole. On Monday, a 67-year-old Riverview man was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Orient Road.
Busch Boulevard. U.S. 301. Orient Road.
All three are known as treacherous drags with unsafe conditions for both drivers and pedestrians.
According to new research by Sam Harper, Thomas J. Charters and Erin Strumpf, deaths in motor vehicle accidents have declined overall between 1995 and 2010. But death rates varied depending on socio-economic status.
"We found larger mortality decreases among the more highly educated and some evidence of mortality increases among the least educated," the authors concluded in Trends in Socioeconomic Inequalities in Motor Vehicle Accident Deaths in the United States, 1995-2010. …Full Story
In the midst of a contentious labor negotiation between the city's union members and Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration, a new group of white-collar workers has decided to join their ranks.
About 240 white-collar workers, in city departments like information technology and engineering, voted 73-70 Tuesday to organize with the Florida Public Services Union, which already represents many of the city's workers.
In March, Kriseman gave an unbudgeted 2.5 percent raise to non-union employees in the midst of the union drive. That move drew the ire of the union, but administration officials said it was just overdue compensation, not an attempt to undermine the campaign.
Tuesday's vote will become official in 15 days. Rick Smith, the union's chief of staff, said he planned to meet with city officials soon after to negotiate a "non-traditional, innovative" contract for his newest bargaining group.
Kriseman's spokesman Ben Kirby said the administration would reserve comment until the election was verified by a state labor relations board. Full Story