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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa City Council members say thanks — and no thanks — to honoring MaryEllen Elia

The Hillsborough County School Board is not the only local elected body with mixed feelings about outgoing school superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

While Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is a big fan of Elia, the City Council split Thursday on giving Elia a commendation thanking her for 10 years of service as superintendent. The vote for the commendation, suggested by council member Harry Cohen, was 5 to 2, with Mary Mulhern and Frank Reddick voting no.

Reddick said after the meeting that he voted against the commendation because city officials "keep dipping" into School Board affairs that do not concern them, and "we should stay out of that."

"She might be deserving of the commendation, and they just had a reception for her where she recevied a lot of accolades," Reddick said. "That should suffice, and they should just move on. The city of Tampa has no business trying to politicize Ms. Elia and the vote that took place at the school district."

Mulhern said it was “unbelieveable” that the council would consider a commendation. …

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Ex-Pasco Commissioner Mulieri pans charter panel picks

Former Pasco Commissioner Pat Mulieri is criticizing the make-up of the just-released county advisory committee on charter government.

Within hours of the appointments being made public Tuesday evening, Mulieri fired off e-mail to commissioners and journalists saying the picks lack gender and economic diversity. Of the 15 appointments, School Board member Alison Crumbley - named by Commissioner Kathryn Starkey – is the only female.

Below are the panel members and Mulieri’s e-mail.

State legislators selected: Randy Maggard, a Dade  City business owner who is chairman of the Pasco Republican Party; former County Commissioner Michael Cox, who helped the city of Port Richey write and adopt a charter in the 1990s; homebuilder Mike Ryan, who lost a race for Pasco School Board in 2010 and later unsuccessfully lobbied for reduced school impact fees; electrician John Kinsman, a director of the Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce; and Robert Eckard of Land O’ Lakes whose law practice is based in Palm Harbor. …

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17 points down, they acted like they won

Tampa City Council candidate Guido Maniscalco (left), supporter  Joseph Procopio and Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez listen to council candidate Tommy Castellano endorse Maniscalco in council District 6. Maniscalco, who finished second in Tuesday's primary, faces first-place finisher Jackie Toledo in a March 24 runoff.

ZACK PETERSON | Times

Tampa City Council candidate Guido Maniscalco (left), supporter Joseph Procopio and Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez listen to council candidate Tommy Castellano endorse Maniscalco in council District 6. Maniscalco, who finished second in Tuesday's primary, faces first-place finisher Jackie Toledo in a March 24 runoff.

If you believe the excitable West Tampa crowd crammed into a side room at Montauro’s Ristorante Tuesday night, then second place was a win.

Because finishing second kept Guido Maniscalco alive to face Jackie Toledo in a runoff on March 24. The crowd was vocal in its relief that Maniscalco, who raised less than $43,000, managed to hang on against Toledo, who had raised about $138,000.

“I’m proud of Guido,” Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez said. “He’s been a family friend for a long time."

Guido captured about 29 percent of the vote, placing second behind Toledo, who claimed nearly half the vote at 46 percent.

Things only got louder when third-place finisher Tommy Castellano showed up a little before 9 p.m. Maniscalco welcomed him: "We come from the same background. Italians." 

“I only came here for spaghetti and meatballs,” Castellano said to laughter. Pulling a wad of papers from his back pocket, he said, “I have a prepared speech,” then tossed it on a nearby table. …

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Could this be Tampa's primary election with the lowest turnout in 40-plus years?

A total of 2,791 Tampa voters showed up at the polls in the first five hours of voting Tuesday.

SKIP O'ROURKE | Times

A total of 2,791 Tampa voters showed up at the polls in the first five hours of voting Tuesday.

By 4 p.m. Tuesday, 5,125 Tampa voters had showed up at the polls.

If that pace doesn't pick up a lot in the final hours, total turnout might not hit 12 percent, making this Tampa's primary election with the lowest turnout since at least 1971.

For someone who has seen Tampa elections when they were a bigger deal, it can be disheartening.

“When I first ran for mayor,” former Mayor Dick Greco said, “60,000 people voted. ... Today they’re expecting, like, 15 percent.”

Going into today's citywide municipal elections, turnout from absentee ballots and early voting stood at 18,345, or about 8.7 percent of the city's 211,158 registered voters.

And before early voting started, Hillsborough elections officials wondered whether more than half the ballots in the race would be cast before election day. (That's what happened in Hillsborough in 2012 and 2014.)

The number for Tampa voters to beat is 15 percent, the turnout for then-Mayor Pam Iorio's easy re-election in 2007 over two much-less-well-known candidates.

Here is the turnout from previous Tampa primary elections:

2011 — 22 percent

2007 — 15 percent

2003 — 33 percent

1999 — 25 percent

1995 — 33.4 percent

1991 — 29 percent

1987 — 39 percent …

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St. Pete decides to test stock market to keep water costs down

St. Petersburg's $90 million water cost stabilization fund is designed to help offset the increase in water bills for city residents. But the city's cautious investment strategy yielded limited returns. So council member Jim Kennedy led an effort to rewrite the city's investment protocols to allow $20 million of the fund to be put into the stock market.

The city invested the money in five index funds last month. The low-fee, relatively safe financial instruments rise and fall according to the broader market, and also pay didvidends. The plan is any gains to be split 50-50 with half being transferred back to the cost stabilization fund and the other half used to grow the $20 million prinicipal to bring higher returns in the future.

Although risk is inherent in equities, Kennedy says the city isn't going to try to time the market.

"This is a long term strategy," he said.

Water costs will probably rise for customers, just not as fast as they otherwise would, said Anne Fritz, the city's finance director. …

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On election day, a matter of perspective

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Dr. Cathy Lynch Buckhorn and their daughters, Grace (left) and Colleen, leave the polling place at the Marjorie Park Marina on Davis Islands after voting Tuesday morning.

Richard Danielson

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Dr. Cathy Lynch Buckhorn and their daughters, Grace (left) and Colleen, leave the polling place at the Marjorie Park Marina on Davis Islands after voting Tuesday morning.

By his count, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he's been involved in seven citywide campaigns since coming to Tampa in the 1980s, so he sounded a touch wistful — "my last vote in my last mayoral campaign" — as he left the polls Tuesday.

But the mayor's wife, Dr. Cathy Lynch Buckhorn, saw the bright side.

"It's much less stressful," she said, than it was in 2011, when Buckhorn fought his way out of a five-candidate primary, then headed into the runoff with almost nothing left in the bank. "I wasn't out holding as many signs as the last time."

Of his daughters, Grace and Colleen, who accompanied their parents to the polls, Buckhorn said, "the girls got to vote. They're Irish. They voted a few times."

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Tampa Election Day by the numbers

7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — Polls open. If you arrive at the polling place after 7 p.m., you will not be allowed to vote. 

211,158 — Registered voters eligible to vote in Tampa’s election

15,753 — Absentee ballots mailed in before Election Day

2,592 — Votes cast during early voting

8.7 percent — Turnout so far from absentee and early voting

93 — Precincts in the city of Tampa

80 — Polling places on Election Day

650 — Election Day poll workers

March 24 — Runoffs, if necessary

$472,985 — Budget for holding today’s elections (actual costs could be lower)

$455,367 — Budget for runoffs, if necessary

Know Your Candidates

Go to tampabay.com/kyc for Know Your Candidates overviews of each race, plus background information on each candidate’s education, career, community involvement, financial disclosure and endorsements received. There are also in-depth Q&A’s with each candidate on issues that include his or her priorities on council, mass transit, code enforcement, neighborhood services, the waterfront and Jeff Vinik’s planned redevelopment of downtown Tampa.

To find your precinct, go to votehillsborough.org

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What nonpartisan election? Florida Democratic Party takes another swipe at Jackie Toledo

Jackie Toledo isn't the only candidate in Tampa City Council District 6 who has a third-party political committee working on her behalf — or taking shots at her.

On Monday, the day before the election, the Florida Democratic Party dropped its second mailer attacking Toledo in District 6. (The first came last month.)

Toledo faces Tommy Castellano and Guido Maniscalco in Tuesday's city election. District 6 covers West Tampa and parts of South Tampa. Maniscalco is the Democrat in the race, which is officially nonpartisan. Toledo is Republican. Castellano is registered independent.

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Tampa elections and Cuban sandwiches make for a campaign issue to chew on

The Cuban sandwich pictured on City Council member Mike Suarez's campaign mailer includes lettuce and tomatoes,  but Suarez said he's not trying to take a side.

[Mike Suarez for Tampa City Council]

The Cuban sandwich pictured on City Council member Mike Suarez's campaign mailer includes lettuce and tomatoes, but Suarez said he's not trying to take a side.

Lettuce and tomato on a Cuban sandwich?

Tampa politics doesn’t have much that could qualify as a purity test, but this might be it.

So when voter Danny Thro got a campaign mailer from City Council member Mike Suarez that had a picture of a Cuban with lettuce and tomato, he paused.

“I'm a vegetarian and imagine a Cuban sandwich to be my weak spot if I ever go back to eating meat,” Thro said Monday in an email to Bay Buzz. “Maybe that's why I looked so closely.”

Such is the place of the Cuban in Tampa. So Thro initiated this email exchange with Suarez:

Thro: what kind of sandwich is this in yr ad?

Suarez: A Cuban Sandwich, of course.

Thro: I think I see lettuce and tomato...where's the pickle?  (I don't think Steve Otto would approve). I might add that i received 5 ads in today's mail and you are the only candidate to include contact info. that's a good thing. thanks. and good luck,

Suarez:I appreciate the good luck but I hope I've earned your vote.

On Monday, Suarez said the sandwich portrayed on his mail piece was, well, more non-traditional than traditional. He said he was not taking a side. …

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Maniscalco supporter: What Toledo campaign consultant said doesn't match what I saw

Asked Wednesday night whether he knew Auston Molina, whose name had surfaced in connection with a new political action committee Moving Tampa Forward, Jackie Toledo campaign consultant Anthony Pedicini said, “No, I don’t think I do.”

But a neighbor of Pedicini’s who supports Toledo’s opponent, Guido Maniscalco, says he saw Pedicini and Molina moving Toledo campaign signs between an SUV and the garage of Pedicini’s condominium on Thursday morning.

“I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ “ said Chris Arnoldi, who lives across a paved courtyard from Pedicini’s home in a Palma Ceia Pines condominium complex. “That was the guy that he said he didn’t know.”

Arnoldi, 31, said he was out walking his West Highland terriers, Roscoe and Willie, when Pedicini and Molina arrived at the complex late Thursday morning. He said he recognized Molina because he had been following news coverage of the race in Tampa City Council District 6, had earlier read a Tampa Bay Times article about Moving Tampa Forward, Pedicini and Molina, and had that day looked at photos of Molina and Pedicini on Facebook. …

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On fourth day of early voting, Tampa turnout nears 7.4 percent

Turnout on the fourth day of early voting picked up a bit as 346 voters went to the polls Thursday. That pushed overall turnout so far to nearly 7.4 percent with three days left of early voting and election day next Tuesday. At this point, absentee ballots account for more than 91 percent of all ballots cast.

Here are the precincts whose residents so far have voted the most (and the least):

 

10 highest

123 (Tampa Garden Club) — 17.93 percent

133 (Palma Ceia Baptist Church) — 15.43 percent

139 (Christ the King Catholic Church) — 14.2 percent

137 (St. Mary's Episcopal Church) — 12.89 percent

218 (American Legion Post 248, 2105 N Jamaica St ) — 12.88 percent

111 (Elks Lodge 708 on Gandy Blvd.) — 12.72 percent

112 (Bayshore Presbyterian Church ) — 12.39 percent

219 (St. John Presbyterian Church on N MacDill Ave.) — 12.23 percent

117 (Bel Mar Presbyterian Church) — 12.07 percent

135 (Good Shepherd Lutheran Church) — 11.55 percent

 

10 lowest

353 (USF Marshall Center) — 0.41 percent

356 (New Tampa Family YMCA) — 2.93 percent

213 (St. James House of Prayer Episcopal) — 3.46 percent

338 (New Life Pentecostal Church of God) — 3.71 percent

355 (New Tampa Family YMCA) — 3.82 percent …

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Tommy Castellano statement on Jackie Toledo

Tampa City Council District 6 Tommy Castellano on Thursday issued this statement (click here) on the campaign of Jackie Toledo, one of his opponents in Tuesday's primary election.

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Turnout for Tampa city election reaches 6.7 percent (so far)

You might not think that the pace of early voting in Tampa could get any more slack, but that's what happened Wednesday.

Just 299 Tampa voters cast ballots during the third day of early voting, down from 341 and 352 the first two days. That brought the total number of ballots cast to 14,343, or about 6.7 percent of all Tampa voters. (About 93 percent of ballots cast so far were mailed in as absentee votes.)

Precincts in South Tampa continue to have the highest turnout for the March 3 election. Here's a look at the highest and lowest rates of turnout so far:

 

10 highest

123 (Tampa Garden Club) — 16.68 percent

133 (Palma Ceia Baptist Church) — 14.16 percent

139 (Christ the King Catholic Church) — 12.86 percent

218 (American Legion Post 248, 2105 N Jamaica St ) — 12.13 percent

137 (St. Mary's Episcopal Church) — 11.89 percent

111 (Elks Lodge 708 on Gandy Blvd.) — 11.87 percent

219 (St. John Presbyterian Church on N MacDill Ave.) — 11.46 percent

135 (Good Shepherd Lutheran Church) — 10.71 percent

117 (Bel Mar Presbyterian Church) — 10.56 percent

109 (Joe Abrahams Fitness & Wellness Center on Interbay Blvd.) — 10.5 percent

 

10 lowest

353 (USF Marshall Center) — 0.41 percent …

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Early voting remains slow in Tampa

The second day of early voting for Tampa's March 3 primary pushed the city's overall turnout above 6 percent, but just barely.

So far, Tampanians have cast a total of 12,829 ballots — 12,136 absentees, 693 through early voting and two provisional. On Tuesday, 352 voters cast ballots through early voting, 11 more than on Monday.

So far, here are the precincts with the highest and lowest rates of turnout:

 

10 highest

123 (Tampa Garden Club) — 14.46 percent

133 (Palma Ceia Baptist Church) — 12.89 percent

139 (Christ the King Catholic Church) — 11.09 percent

111 (Elks Lodge 708 on Gandy Blvd.) — 10.49 percent

218 (American Legion Post 248, 2105 N Jamaica St ) — 10.73 percent

219 (St. John Presbyterian Church on N MacDill Ave.) — 10.31 percent

137 (St. Mary's Episcopal Church) — 10.3 percent

227 (Wellswood Baptist Church) — 9.59 percent

112 (Bayshore Presbyterian Church) — 9.55 percent

109 (Joe Abrahams Fitness & Wellness Center on Interbay Blvd.) — 9.55 percent

 

10 lowest

353 (USF Marshall Center) — 0.31 percent

356 (New Tampa Family YMCA) — 2.26 percent

250 (Iglesia De Cristo Misionera on N Armeina Ave.) — 2.3 percent

248 (Oak Grove United Methodist Church ) — 2.86 percent …

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Pinellas Commission to state Legislature: Expand health care, by any means

CLEARWATER -- Take the money for our constituents.

The Pinellas County Commission sent that message Tuesday by unanimously approving a resolution that "urges the Florida Legislature to pass legislation to expand health care in Florida."

The resolution, brought for consideration by Commissioner Janet Long, doesn't use the words "Medicaid expansion," but states that the county "supports any expansion of health care that draws down Florida's rightful share of federal funds and increases access to health coverage for our citizens."

The resolution notes that nearly 50,000 Pinellas County residents who live at or near the poverty level and would be eligible for health care expansion, including access to coverage for mental health care, and that the county spends more than $21 million a year to provide health care to roughly 7,000 residents who fall into the coverage gap. 

Commissioners said the recent news that Florida is not expected to receive $1.3 billion in federal funds -- the Low Income Pool prorgram -- used to to help hospitals treat poor and uninsured patients has ramped up the sense of urgency. …

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