Sunday, September 15, 2019

Governor to tighten rules around environmental crimes and disasters


Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD 

It is going to get a lot more expensive for those firms and jurisdictions that create environmental disasters in Florida if Governor DeSantis has his way.
In his announcement Governor, DeSantis said, “What you end up seeing happening with some of these municipalities, it’s cheaper for them to pay a fine and spew all this sewage into the waterways because it’s the cost of doing business."
DeSantis also made reference to the sewage spills in St. Petersburg over the last few years.
For some background, here are a couple of my Posts from 2016.
Mayor Kriseman’s office has been generally silent on the DeSantis comments.
The other thing the Governor touched lightly on was the process of pumping millions of gallons of wastewater into the aquifer.
There needs to be serious funding for a downstream study of this process and what the effects on the Florida’s under ground water are likely to be.
Never was the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” so relevant.
While the aquifer is a natural filter for underground water, there is little science or reason to believe that it is capable of sustained filtration of large volumes of chemically treated water.
This one is likely a ticking time bomb as the growing bloom of underground wastewater migrates south and gradually rises to the surface through the aquifer.
The unanswered question is where it will end up; in the Bay, in the rivers, in the Everglades, in lake Okeechobee or in the Gulf.
No one knows for sure, but we better start investigating now before an unmanageable water disaster occurs.
E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.
See Doc's Photo Gallery at 
Bay Post Photos.  
Disclosures:

Please comment below


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Friday, September 13, 2019

Early look at the upcoming St. Petersburg Municipal Election



Tampa Bay, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD


From the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Website here is the current schedule for the upcoming St. Petersburg Municipal Elections.
Most important here is the VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE which is October 7, 2019.
Mailing dates for mail in ballots have yet to be determined.


Municipal General Elections 

November 5, 2019

Voter Registration Deadline: October 7, 2019
Early Voting: The municipalities have chosen not to conduct early voting
for these elections as provided in Florida Statute 101.657(1)(e).

Ballot Mailing Schedule:
Military and Overseas Voters (TBD)
Domestic Voters (TBD)
MailBallot@VotePinellas.com/(727) 464-VOTE(8683)
Deadline to request a ballot to be mailed:   
5:00 p.m. October 26, 2019


 Polls Open 7:00 am - 7:00 pm on Election Day


Below is a list of candidates for the available St. Pete City Council Seats. If you click on the Ballotpedia link following each candidate’s name, there is more information.
District 1
Robert Blackmon
Ballotpedia
John Hornbeck
Ballotpedia
District 3
Ed Montanari 
Ballotpedia
Orlando Acosta
Ballotpedia
District 5
Debora Figgs-Sanders Ballotpedia
Trina Cox  Ballopedia

District 7
Lisa Wheeler-Brown 
Ballopedia  
Eritha Brandis Cainion
Ballotpedia

Here is what the ballot will look like along with the Charter Amendment and Referendum  issues for the City of St. Petersburg.

Council Member - District 1
(Vote for One)
Robert G. Blackmon
John M. Hornbeck

Council Member - District 3
(Vote for One)

Orlando A. Acosta
Ed Montanari

Council Member - District 5
(Vote for One)
Trenia L. Cox
Deborah Figgs-Sanders

Council Member - District 7
(Vote for One)
Eritha "Akile" Cainion
Lisa Wheeler-Bowman

City of St. Petersburg
No. 1 Charter Amendment
Creating Exception to Referendum Requirement for Accepting Conservation or Preservation Grants and Clarifying Related Language  
The City Charter currently provides three exceptions to the referendum requirement for dispositions of park property, concerning utility easements and grants for recreational and airport uses. Shall the Charter be amended to clarify these exceptions and create a fourth exception that allows City Council to accept grant funds from a government agency for environmental conservation or preservation of park property when those grants restrict park uses to reinforce the Charter’s conservation or preservation goals?
Yes
No
 City of St. Petersburg
No. 2 Charter Amendment 
Aligning Terms of City Council Members and Mayor with City Council Meeting Schedule
The City Charter currently calls for each City Council Member and Mayor to take office on the second day of January following the election. Shall the Charter be amended as shown in ordinance 379-H so that Council and Mayoral terms start on the first or second Thursday of January, to align with the regular meeting schedule of City Council, and to make related changes to the Charter concerning vacancies and City Council officers?
Yes
No
City of St. Petersburg
Referendum Question
 
Authorizing Agreement for Operation of St. Petersburg Sailing Center Through December 31, 2040
May City Council approve a new or amended agreement for operation of the St. Petersburg Sailing Center by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club subject to conditions in ordinance 383-H? These conditions include: approval by at least six members of City Council; term ending on or before December 31, 2040; and Yacht Club must fund minimum of $800,000 in construction, reconstruction, or improvements to Sailing Center that become City property upon completion.
Yes
No
Be sure to check candidate's web sites and look for debates and town hall meetings with the candidates so you can make informed decisions about this election.
E-mail Doc at mail to: dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (E. Eugene Webb) Friend request. Like or share on Facebook and follow me on TWITTER  @DOC ON THE BAY.
See Doc's Photo Gallery at 
Bay Post Photos.  
Disclosures:

Please comment below. 

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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Paying the Baseball Lawyer: A Spending Black Hole Benefiting Private Interests?


How much money has been paid to the expensive New York baseball lawyer for Hillsborough county's pursuit of a new Rays baseball stadium?

Tampa, Fl
From: Eye On Tampa Bay
Posted by: Sharon Calvert
Irwin Raij
Baseball lawyer contracted to pursue new Rays stadium
There has never been a transparent discussion publicly disclosing the cost of the baseball lawyer or the total costs associated with Hillsborough County pursuing a new stadium. What exactly have taxpayers been paying for?


We received the invoices paid to the baseball law firm from a public records request. Almost $760K has been paid to the New York baseball lawyer Irwin Raij from October 2014 through July 2019.

Raij was paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to negotiate in secrecy and in backroom meetings while keeping the taxpayers paying his fees totally in the dark.

The county commissioners never requested regular updates to publicly discuss the progress being made or the cost to taxpayers to pursue a new Rays stadium.

Perhaps because the commissioners used the Consent Agenda to hire Raij in October 2014. The Consent Agenda is used to approve numerous items with a single vote with NO discussion.

Consent Agenda items are supposed to be routine, procedural or noncontroversial. Topics not discussed previously by the board should not be put on the Consent Agenda.

Hiring an expensive New York lawyer to pursue a new baseball stadium is not routine, it is not procedural, it is not without controversy and it should have been discussed.

Below is the Consent Agenda item from the October 15, 2014 BOCC meeting that was used to approve hiring the baseball law firm.

This Consent Agenda item misled the public because the public was not properly notified this item was to hire a New York law firm to pursue a new Rays stadium. The public was not provided an opportunity to weigh in.

With no discussion by the commissioners about the cost, spending limits, duration or time limits, paying Raij went on auto-pilot.

The Times admitted the "hush-hush" way the lawyer was hired when they finally reported about it three months later on January 15, 2015 in their article Hillsborough officials quietly hired law firm with ties to baseball:
One of the most notable steps Hillsborough County has taken toward its desire to woo the Tampa Bay Rays to the county was also one of the quietest: County commissioners in October agreed to hire Foley & Lardner, a law firm with extensive ties to Major League Baseball and a partner who is a former MLB president.
The County was not truthful with the taxpaying public by withholding the fact the county was hiring a high priced New York baseball to negotiate with the Rays.

The County hired Irwin Raij in 2014 when he was with Foley & Lardner in New York. Raij left Foley & Lardner and went to O'Melveny & Myers LLP in 2017.

While the public was not told why Raij was hired in 2014, Raij obviously knows why he was hired.

Raij's bio states he is "Representing Hillsborough County in its ongoing efforts to build a new ball park for the Tampa Bay Rays." He's more honest with the public than the county who hired him.

Since the original contract with Mr. Raij in 2014, there have been some amendments and renewals. They all went thru the Consent Agenda with no discussion and no questions asked.

The Consent Agenda items associated with the baseball lawyer contract provided no dollar amount or estimated cost - just a statement the item could be accommodated within the current budget.

The latest contract with O'Melveny & Myers/Mr. Raij was approved in a Consent Agenda
 item at the August 2, 2017 BOCC meeting. It is 2 year contract with one renewal term for 2 more years.

That August 2017 Consent Agenda item not only approved the baseball lawyer contract, it hired nine outside legal counsel firms, including four hired specifically for EMINENT DOMAIN issues.

The baseball lawyer's contract only stipulates a fee schedule - how much the county will pay for his legal services - and a contract term. There is no spending cap, no spending limit and no maximum dollar amount associated with it. The baseball lawyer contract is a spending black hole.

Baseball lawyer contract is a spending
black hole
From October 2014 thru December 2018, Hillsborough County paid the baseball lawyer almost $673K. But the cost to the taxpayer also includes the time and work effort expended by the county's highest paid staff pursuing the stadium.

When we requested an accounting from the county for the total costs, including the time and effort expended by county resources, associated with pursuing the new Rays stadium, we only received the invoices paid to the baseball lawyer. 

As the Rays agreement with St. Petersburg to Hillsborough County was about to expire at the end of last year, suddenly the Tampa Sports Authority stepped in to take over paying the county's baseball lawyer contract.

At the Tampa Sports Authority meeting of November 27, 2018,  the Board approved piggy backing on the county's contract with O'Melveny & Myers/Mr. Raij. Mr. Raij is now working for the Tampa Sports Authority and they are now paying the baseball lawyer's bills.

The Tampa Sports Authority is subsidized by County and city of Tampa tax dollars.

Apparently, County Administrator Mike Merrill and County Staff decided to hand off paying the baseball lawyer, still under the county's contract, to the Tampa Sports Authority. Merrill informed the commissioners of his action via an internal memo.

From January thru July this year, the Tampa Sports Authority has paid Raij, the baseball lawyer, over $86K.

The minutes from the Tampa Sports Authority November 27, 2018 meeting reflect that Board member Andrew Scaglione recused himself and left the room when votes were taken regarding the baseball lawyer and another agenda item selecting the baseball stadium builder. Scaglione stated he was recusing himself because he owns property where the stadium is proposed to be built.

The baseball stadium working group included Hagan, Mayor Buckhorn, the Tampa Sports Authority and some unnamed private interests. The baseball working group worked for years behind closed doors with the unnamed private interests, the Rays, the taxpayer funded baseball lawyer and the highest paid county staff pursuing a new Rays stadium outside of Sunshine.

Noah Pransky at WTSP Channel 10 reported last December the sudden shift to the Tampa Sports Authority to pay the New York baseball lawyer under the county's contract raises questions about the "private interests" the working group was negotiating with.

At the BOCC meeting held on October 1, 2014, the meeting just prior to hiring the baseball lawyer through the Consent Agenda, the county commission approved Hagan's request to create the baseball working group. But the commissioners approved creating the baseball working group on the premise and with the promise from Hagan that he would provide periodic updates to the commissioners.

In October 2014, Hagan promised to ensure the commissioners would have an opportunity to weigh in on proposed sites, especially since county funding was also being pursued.

None of that ever occurred. According to this November 10, 2017 Times article, Hagan publicly announced the proposed Ybor site without informing the commissioners:
Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan made a surprise announcement Tuesday: The county has a preferred location for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark on the southern edge of Ybor City. 
The potential ballpark site consists of 11 parcels owned by five different companies, including Tampa Electric, a roofing supplies distributor based in New York City and several limited liability companies formed by Darryl Shaw, the CEO of the BluePearl veterinary clinics, as well as Joe Capitano Sr., Jacob "Booky" Buchman, Salvatore Guagliardo and Andy Scaglione.
Hagan's commission colleague Victor Crist was livid Wednesday that he learned about the plan through the media. Crist said it was a violation of protocol for Hagan to unveil a location and present it to the Rays without first getting the approval of the entire commission.

"This has had no vetting by the county commission. This has had no vetting of public input," Crist said. "This whole thing has been done in a vacuum behind the scenes, out of the sunshine and that is not how the Board of County Commissioners operates."
Pransky and another reporter from 10Investigates also reported (read the entire article, the links embedded and watch the video) last November right before the Tampa Sports Authority agreed to start paying the baseball lawyer's bills about text messages between Hagan and Raij. Those messages reveal the negotiations going on behind the scenes with the private interests - the land owners and those who bought up land in Ybor City at or near the proposed site for the stadium.

Hagan and Scaglione both sit on the Tampa Sports Authority Board and are prohibited from coordinating on issues related to the sports authority - like a new baseball stadium.

The latest chaos caused by the Rays is with them looking at splitting their season between Tampa Bay and Montreal.

Amidst all the chaos and the expiration of the talks with Hillsborough County, the Rays cannot talk to outside parties about playing games elsewhere without the permission of St. Petersburg. The Rays are contractually tied to playing in St. Petersburg through 2027.

According to this Times article, Kriseman and the Rays have been meeting but "If the Rays want to speak to Montreal, Kriseman said last month, it will not happen for free."

Hagan continues to pursue an Ybor City baseball stadium nowhere near the District 2 he represents. He is pursuing an entire baseball stadium "entertainment district" in Ybor City financed and subsidized with tourist taxes the county commission just raised, Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) property tax revenues/tax-increment financing (TIF's), federal opportunity zone incentives and a tax on food, drink and sports tickets.

The James Madison Institute reported that probes of CRA's, intended to redevelop urban slums or blighted areas, have revealed mismanagement and cronyism. The Heritage Foundation stated that federal opportunity zones often "benefit politically connected developers and investors who have rigged the system in their favor
".

While Hillsborough County has the highest sales tax in the State and the county commissioners look to raise the gas tax, raise other taxes and raise stormwater fees again, the county is pursuing creative financing schemes for a new stadium that appears to benefit a select few.

Other cities have shown interest in getting a baseball team including Portland, Las Vegas, Montreal, Charlotte, Nashville,Vancouver.

To make things even stranger, Raij is also representing the group trying to bring baseball to Portland. Raij does not think there is any conflict of interest at this point.

And the Tampa Sports Authority keeps sending money down a spending black hole paying Raij's bills.

—————————————————————————————
Background information:

Baseball lawyer contract/invoices
Invoices include calls/meetings/communications with Rays, County officials, Merrill, Landowners, Land Use attorneys, Financial Advisors, Investors, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, CitiGroup, Brightline, Ron Christaldi, Mayor Buckhorn and more

Tampa Sports Authority Board:
Commissioner Hagan, Tampa city council rep Orlando Gudes, Real Estate investors, Developers, Financiers and land use/developer attorney Vin Marchetti, previously a land use attorney for Hillsborough County and perhaps the most frequent lobbyist at County Center according to the county's lobbyist registry
Scaglione, appointed by the BOCC, is still on the Tampa Sports Authority Board but his term expired 06/30/2019

Ken Hagan, Sr., Commissioner Hagan's Father, is an active Commercial Real Estate broker according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and his Facebook page.

 This post is contributed by EYE ON TAMPA BAY. The views expressed in this post are the blog publisher's and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher of Bay Post Internet.

Cross Posted with permission from: Eye On Tampa Bay



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Thursday, August 29, 2019

St. Pete Mayor Kriseman Said to Be Eyeing Governorship


Tampa, Fl
Tampa Bay Beat
By: Jim Bleyer

August 25, 2019 - 7:31 am


By Jim Bleyer
 St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman is a man with ambitions that could reach as far as the Florida Governor Mansion or the U.S. Capitol building.
The whispers by insiders on both sides of Tampa Bay are screaming “Governor.”  Kriseman and his team, however, can assess the political landscape at the end of his second term in 2021, a year before both Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio will be up for re-election.
The only other name floated on the Democratic side as a potential challenger for the governor is Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor who came up 35,000 votes short against DeSantis in 2018.
Kriseman, donning a finely-tailored suit and sporting perfectly-groomed facial hair, on Thursday addressed the Tampa Bay Mobility Alliance as keynote speaker.  The audience of about 125 included most key transit advocates in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties who for 20 years have relentlessly promoted the spending of billions of tax dollars for regional mass transit.
He didn’t waste any time playing to the crowd and reviewing his accomplishments in the transit realm.
Kriseman kneecapped Florida Sen. Rick Scott, excoriating him for not accepting billions in federal funds for high speed rail that would connect Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Miami.
“It’s surreal that a politician would have turned down funding that would have solved the state’s transportation woes,” Kriseman asserted without mentioning Scott by name.  The spend-at-any-cost pro-transit crowd lapped it up.

High-speed rail has boosted connectivity in other countries, especially China, he noted, adding that such service would mean a 45-minute commute between St. Petersburg and Disney World.
Lauding the Cross-Bay Ferry, Kriseman said that the service should become a permanent fixture.  He made sure to mention that St. Petersburg has done due diligence on e-scooters in order to avoid the safety, liability, and clutter issues that are plaguing other cities.  The mayor spotlighted his city’s bus rapid transit system as a good example of what can be accomplished on the local level.
After the 90-minute session concluded, Tampa Bay Beat asked Kriseman about his future political plans.  The mayor adhered to the template universally employed by every politician thirsting for higher office.
”I’ve got two more years as mayor of St. Petersburg and we’ve got important issues facing the city,” Kriseman smiled. “I’m not thinking beyond that.”
He didn’t call the chorus of whispers “ridiculous,” or dismiss them out of hand.
When 2022 rolls around, Kriseman will have had 8 years overseeing the fifth most populous city in Florida. He also served three terms in the Florida House from 2006-2012 and was a member of the St. Petersburg City Council from 2000 to 2006.
There are two factors that will weigh heavily on the mayor’s decision—and any other Democrat infected with the bug to run statewide: how Florida votes in the 2020 election and their party’s much ballyhooed effort to register one million new voters by 2020.   

Cross Posted with permission from: Tampa Bay Beat

This post is contributed by Tampa Bay Beat. The views and opinions expressed in this post are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Bay Post Internet or the publisher.

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