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Charlie Frago, Times Staff Writer

Charlie Frago

Charlie Frago covers St. Petersburg for the Tampa Bay Times. Previously, Frago covered Clearwater for the newspaper. He has also worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, the Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina and the City News Bureau of Chicago. In 2011-12, Frago was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He joined the Times in May 2013.

Phone: (727) 893-8459

E-mail: cfrago@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CharlieFrago

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  1. St. Petersburg City Council wants to hire some help navigating a sea of paperwork

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG —Since the beginning of the year, City Council members have had to digest 4,522 pages of documents, attend hundreds of hours of meetings and deal with resident complaints late into the night.

    The average work week for a part-time City Council member? About 40 to 50 hours. They're paid $44,452 a year.

    St. Petersburg City Council chairwoman Darden Rice thinks it's time she and her colleagues had more help: She wants to hire four full-time legislative aides who would help the eight council members prepare for meetings, conduct policy research and perform constituent services....

    St. Petersburg City Council member  Darden Rice, seen here at a 2016 meeting at City Hall, has proposed hiring four aides to help council members research issues and prepare for meetings. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  2. Once hailed as a safety device, sanitation workers are now wary of cameras in their garbage trucks

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — When video cameras were installed in the city's sanitation fleet last year, they were hailed as a way to reduce accidents and improve driver safety.

    But in a tense union bargaining session last week, sanitation drivers criticized the cameras. The drivers said they constantly feel under surveillance and fear the data the city was collecting could be used against them — and could even cost them their jobs....

    St. Petersburg garbage trucks were used to create a barricade for the 2016  St. Pete Pride Parade. The city installed cameras in the cabs of those trucks in April 2016 in a bid to increase driver safety. But now city sanitation drivers say they fear the city could use the cameras against them and want them removed from the trucks. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times]
  3. People's Budget Review revs up for budget season

    Blog

    Formed in 2012, the People's Budget Review has been a force to be reckoned with in the city's budget cycle.

    The coalition of activists, supported by the Florida Public Services Union, sent out surveys asking tens of thousands of residents their opinions on spending priorities. They scheduled budget summits, attended by City Council members and mayors. 

    And they successfully pushed for a property tax hike in 2012 to stave off cuts in the city budget. Three years later, the group's organizing nudged Mayor Rick Kriseman to come around on a 4 percent raise. ...

  4. Stu Sternberg: Top choices for Rays new stadium are unavailable

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg revealed some complications in his team's search for a new stadium on Thursday, yet said he's still confident they will find a new home in the Tampa Bay area.

    What were the Rays' top five choices for a new stadium — three in Tampa and two in St. Petersburg — are unavailable. That may push the team's time line for finding a new site from August to the end of 2017....

    Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg talks with reporters before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, March 23, 2017.
  5. St. Pete ponders pot shops

    Blog

    The St. Petersburg City Council took a baby step toward regulating medical marijuana Thursday, with one eye on pending state legislation and another on preventing a cluster of pot-dealing clinics operating too close together.

    A council committee unanimously approved requesting the city attorney’s office to draft an ordinance that would prohibit dispensaries from setting up shop within 1,0000 feet of each other or a church or school....

    St. Petersburg is considering zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries
  6. Tangerine Plaza sold at auction, setting stage for St. Petersburg to take control of shopping center

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city is one step closer to taking over ownership of Tangerine Plaza, the Midtown commercial development that has seen two grocery stores fail in the last three years.

    Summit Bridge, a creditor of developer Larry Newsome, on Wednesday bought his leaseholding rights to the plaza for what is believed to be about $2 million at a foreclosure auction, according to mayor's spokesman Ben Kirby. The plaza sits on city-owned land at 22nd Street S and 18th Avenue S....

    The Walmart Neighborhood Market in Midtown's Tangerine Plaza closed Monday in April. On Wednesday, a creditor of the developer bought the leaseholding rights to the plaza for what is believed to be about $2 million. It's the first step of a complicated deal that should see St. Petersburg eventually take control of the troubled plaza. [LAVENDRICK SMITH  |  Times]
  7. Kriseman nets council endorsements

    Blog

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has raised $260,000 for his reelection and doesn't yet have a major challenger.

    On Wednesday, the good news continued with four City Council members endorsing the mayor.

    Charlie Gerdes, Amy Foster, Darden Rice and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, all Democrats, threw their support behind their Democratic mayor for the upcoming non-partisan race.

    Foster and Rice are up for reelection this year. Rice, the council chairwoman, has already announced her intention to run again. Foster hasn't made it official, but is widely expected to run again....

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has no major challenger yet in his reelection campaign
  8. Inspired by women's march, presidential election, political novice enters St. Pete City Council race

    Blog

    John Johnson is a relative newcomer to St. Petersburg, arriving about four years ago from Brooklyn.

    But, inspired by recent national political events, the 46-year-old Old Northeast resident decided to enter a crowded field for the District 6 City Council seat being vacated by term-limited Karl Nurse.

    January's women's march, which drew more than 20,000 people to downtown's waterfront and millions worldwide, and November's presidential election persuaded Johnson to get involved politically....

    John Johnson has filed paperwork to run for District 6
  9. Amid sewage crisis, St. Petersburg department must also deal with racial tension

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city agency at the center of last year's sewage crisis is the Water Resources Department. While the city spewed hundreds of millions of gallons of waste into neighborhoods and waterways, the director was fired and the department was beset with questions about accountability, transparency and even competence.

    But in the midst of that emergency, the department faced another crisis: racial tension....

    Dwight Wilson was the highest-ranking black official in St. Petersburg’s Water Resources Department.
  10. Lucky 13th Grand Prix race makes a smooth return to St. Petersburg

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Now in its 13th year, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg has settled into a comfortable groove.

    The spinouts of earlier years have quieted. Downtown residents' don't seem to have the same angst over the roar of engines and the noise of spectators pouring into the waterfront. Neighboring businesses are no longer flummoxed by the three-day race's schedule. And the tiff between a City Council member and the race managers is ancient history....

     Wilma Vos, 87, of Clearwater Beach rides behind retired racing legend Mario Andretti in the IndyCar two-seater ride at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg track during Thursday’s Indy Racing Experience.
  11. St. Petersburg City Council approves Pride support

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city has formalized a multiyear agreement with St. Pete Pride regarding city financial support for the state's largest Pride event.

    In January, Mayor Rick Kriseman threatened to withhold city money for the June parade, which drew about 220,000 people last year, after Pride organizers announced plans to move the parade to a location along downtown's waterfront.

    A compromise was reached where the parade will relocate downtown, but other festivities during the June 23-25 weekend will stay in the Grand Central neighborhood. ...

    The Pride riders roll down Central ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg in 2016.
  12. TV crew taping this week for feature on Wheeler-Bowman

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Lisa Wheeler-Bowman scoured some of the toughest spots in St. Petersburg to find her son's killer.

    It eventually paid off when the killer was brought to justice. Now, recently departed Today show host Tamron Hall will tell America about Wheeler-Bowman's quest to solve her son Cabretti's 2008 murder.

    Wheeler-Bowman, 48, who was elected to the City Council in 2015, flew to Manhattan recently with her son, Chris, for the interviews for Hall's show Deadline: Crime With Tamron Hall on Investigation Discovery. ...

    [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  13. St. Petersburg's middle-class housing dilemma may have an answer: skinny homes

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — For years, downtown boosters, the chamber of commerce and City Hall have complained about the shortage of middle-class family housing in the city.

    They said there just aren't enough affordable three-bedroom, two-bath options.

    So maybe it's time, city planners believe, to slim down.

    Enter "skinny homes." It's a new name for an old concept found in many other cities like Chicago, Charleston, New Orleans and Nashville. Think of a two-story gussied-up shotgun house....

    Affordable three-bedroom, two-bath homes are two-story home  that are only 15- to 21-feet wide. This design adds front porches, which enhance the neighborly feel of the community.
  14. St. Pete council member's story goes national

    Blog

    Lisa Wheeler-Bowman scoured some of the toughest spots in St. Petersburg to find her son's killer.

    It eventually paid off when the killer was brought to justice. Now, recently-departed Today show host, Tamron Hall will tell America about Wheeler-Bowman's quest to solve her son Cabretti's 2008 murder....

    St. Petersburg Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman
  15. St. Petersburg spending $16 million to fortify the Northwest sewage plant before rainy season starts

    Water

    ST. PETERSBURG — As the city grapples with the aftermath of two consecutive summers of massive sewage overflows, much of the attention has been focused on whether it should reopen the shuttered Albert Whitted waste-water treatment facility.

    City staff, council members and activists have also spent hours vetting the massive expansion under way at the Southwest sewage plant.

    But what about the Northwest plant?...

    Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage from the city's overwhelmed sewer system in September 2016. The city is planning to spend $16 million to upgrade the Northwest sewage plant, which released 58 million gallons of dirty water during the crisis. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]