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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

September debates scheduled for Rick v. Rick and City Council candidates

Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker will face off on Sept. 26 in a League of Women Voters-moderated forum

Dirk Shadd

Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker will face off on Sept. 26 in a League of Women Voters-moderated forum

Rick v. Rick 2.0 has its first match scheduled.

And a day earlier, City Council candidates in three races will take part in a candidate forum.

The League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area will moderate a city-sponsored mayoral forum at City Hall on Tuesday Sept. 26.at 6:30 p.m.. Doors open at 6 p.m. The debate moderators will ask the Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker questions submitted in writing from audience members.

On Sept. 25, the League will host a candidate forum for City Council candidates at City Hall at 6 p.m for District 6 candidates (still to be determined between Justin Bean, Gina Driscoll and Robert Blackmon), District 4 candidates council chairwoman Darden Rice and Jerick Johnston and District 2 candidates Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless.The format will be the same.

 

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Largo commissioners, state lawmakers meet to talk local issues

Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes, right, Rep. Larry Ahern, left, and Rep. Chris Latvala, not pictured, met with Largo commissioners Tuesday to foster a better relationship between the local and state policy makers.

[Screenshot}

Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes, right, Rep. Larry Ahern, left, and Rep. Chris Latvala, not pictured, met with Largo commissioners Tuesday to foster a better relationship between the local and state policy makers.

LARGO — City commissioners and state legislators discussed issues from homestead exemptions to community redevelopment Tuesday during a meeting meant to foster a better relationship after a legislative session widely seen as devastating to local governments.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and representatives Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, attended the meeting at City Hall.

Mayor Woody Brown kicked off the conversation voicing his concerns over the erosion of home rule through several bills that came out of the session, pointing to examples including a House proposal to phase out community redevelopment agencies over the next 20 years.

Brown expanded on that topic later, pointing to the city’s downtown community redevelopment district as a successful venture to improve the area at a low cost to the city.

“It’s disappointing to this body that there’s legislation targeting the program, not the people that are breaking the laws,” Brown said, referencing CRAs in other parts of the state that are under investigation. …

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St. Pete Mayor's Race: The day after

Last night's primary was a dead heat. What happens next?

Dirk Shadd

Last night's primary was a dead heat. What happens next?

Mayor Rick Kriseman’s narrow victory in Tuesday’s primary has definitely given the mayor a boost.

Meanwhile, former mayor Rick Baker, leading in polls and fundraising all summer, is faced with a perception of underperforming in a race many expected him to close out in the primary.

The mayor before a joyous crowd at the State Theatre said Tuesday’s virtual tie with Baker was a promising omen for Nov. 7.

“We’re going to tell him something come November. We’re going to tell him that St. Petersburg has passed him by. The future belongs to us,” Kriseman said.

Baker told his supporters at the StayBridge Suites that he was prepared to battle Kriseman for the next several weeks, saying Tuesday’s dead heat was merely the first step.

Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, said last night’s results contained good and bad news for both candidates.

For Kriseman, momentum and exceeding expectations are points in his favor, Paulson said. The bad news? He’s been mayor for going on four years. …

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St. Pete has small sewage spill on eve of mayoral election

A small sewage spill occurred Monday night at the Southwest plant. A city spokesman originally said Tuesday that city hadn't received any reports of spills on social media. He later said he wasn't aware of spill until contacted by the Tampa Bay Times.

Eve Edelheit

A small sewage spill occurred Monday night at the Southwest plant. A city spokesman originally said Tuesday that city hadn't received any reports of spills on social media. He later said he wasn't aware of spill until contacted by the Tampa Bay Times.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city experienced a minor sewage spill the night before Tuesday’s hotly-contested mayoral primary.

However, it took a while for city officials to release that information.

The Tampa Bay Times sent a tweet Tuesday morning to @StPetePW, the official Twitter handle for the Public Works department run by spokesman Bill Logan, asking if the city had spilled any sewage after Monday’s rains.

“None reported,” Logan tweeted about 8:15 a.m.

An hour later, the Times was told that there had been a spill at the Southwest plant on Monday evening, during heavy rains. A Times reporter called Logan and asked if that report was accurate.

About twenty minutes later, Logan confirmed that 1,000 gallons was spilled when plant operators started to implement a “bypass” to divert heavy flows into plant’s headworks (the place where sewage initially flows into the plant).

The minor spill occurred between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and was confined to the plant, Logan said.

There was no risk to public safety, he said via text message.

Shortly after 10 a.m., the city reported the spill to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. …

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Kornell weighs in--but doesn't endorse--in St. Pete Mayor's race

St. Petersburg City Council member Steve Kornell criticized the campaigns of mayoral frontrunners Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker in a Facebook post Sunday

Lara Cerri (2012)

St. Petersburg City Council member Steve Kornell criticized the campaigns of mayoral frontrunners Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker in a Facebook post Sunday

The St. Petersburg City Council battle lines for the mayor's race were mostly drawn by May . Council members Darden Rice, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Charlie Gerdes and Amy Foster back fellow Democrat, Mayor Rick Krisemna.  Republican Ed Montanari and Democrat Jim Kennedy support former mayor Rick Baker. 

Council member Karl Nurse waited until late July to endorse Kriseman, but has since been one of the mayor's most visible campaigners.

Only Steve Kornell, a Democrat, has chosen to stay out of the race.On Sunday, Kornell posted a blistering assessment of both Baker and Kriseman's campaigns, sparking heated exchanges in the comments to his post.

For context, Kornel was reelected for another four-year term in 2015 without Kriseman's endorsement.

Here is Kornell's Facebook post: …

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Blackmon gains two more endorsements in District 6 race

St. Petersburg City Council District 6 candidate Robert Blackmon.

[SCOTT KEELER | Times]

St. Petersburg City Council District 6 candidate Robert Blackmon.

ST. PETERSBURG — City Council District 6 candidate Robert Blackmon has been endorsed by former City Council member Larry Williams and Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority chairman James Holton.

Blackmon, 28, is among eight candidates running for District 6, which includes downtown and parts of Midtown and Old Northeast. He is a real estate investor.

Here's the news release announcing the endorsements:

St. Petersburg – Robert Blackmon today received the backing of former St. Petersbug City Councilman Larry Williams and TBARTA Chairman James Holton in his campaign for City Council District 6.

“I am supporting Robert Blackmon for City Council because, like me, he believes in building consensus,” said Holton, who serves both on the board of Citizens Insurance and as chairman of TBARTA.  “He will be able to achieve consensus on the City Council and in the region on the issues facing us.” Holton also served as director of Enterprise Florida from 2005 to 2009. …

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Nurse: State should weigh in on Baker's business ties to Edwards

Council member Karl Nurse wants Rick Baker's position on negotiating with current boss Bill Edwards vetted by state

Lara Cerri

Council member Karl Nurse wants Rick Baker's position on negotiating with current boss Bill Edwards vetted by state

ST. PETERSBURG — City Council member Karl Nurse said Friday that he will ask the Florida Commission on Ethics to weigh in on whether Rick Baker, if elected mayor, should negotiate city business with his current boss, Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards.

Baker has said he doesn’t see any reason to recuse himself from negotiating a long-term lease with the Rowdies to upgrade their home pitch at Al Lang Stadium if Major League Soccer grants the team an expansion franchise. MLS is expected to make a decision on four new teams by next year. Baker led the Rowdies' successful May referendum that granted the team the right to redevelop Al Lang.

Baker, who served as mayor between 2001 and 2010, also said he would negotiate any amendment to the Mahaffey Theater contract. Edwards’ company manages the city-owned theater.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

Nurse said he would ask the state commission for an opinion if Baker wins Tuesday's primary or the Nov. 7 general election. Nurse is term-limited and leaves the council in January. …

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Living Wage ordinance delayed in St. Pete

Supporters of a living wage ordinance for contract and subcontract labor will have to wait until Sept. 21 for a council vote

Charlie Frago

Supporters of a living wage ordinance for contract and subcontract labor will have to wait until Sept. 21 for a council vote

A rally on the City Hall steps Thursday called for  workers hired by contractors and subcontractors to be paid $15 an hour by 2020 --- the same as city workers.

A few hours later, after an appeal from the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce for more time to study the effects on local business, the City Council voted 7-1 to delay a public hearing on the measure for two weeks until Sept. 21.

Since 2015, Mayor Rick Kriseman has taken steps to raise the pay of city workers to $15 an hour  by 2020. The proposed ordinance will gradually increased contract and subcontract labor to be raised from $12 to $15 by 2020.

The union-supported coalition wants the city to extend the same wage to hundreds of non-unionized workers who work for contractors and subcontractors for city projects that cost more than $100,000.

“No contractor should be put at a disadvantage because they pay their contract employees a decent wage,” council member Karl Nurse said at the rally.

At the council meeting, City Administrator Gary Cornwell said the ordinance would cost the city about $400,000 a year in increased contract costs. …

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Rick Baker lowers expectations before St. Pete mayoral primary

Rick Baker addresses supporters on Beach Drive Tuesday

Charlie Frago

Rick Baker addresses supporters on Beach Drive Tuesday

ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker officially lowered expectations in the mayoral race on Tuesday, saying his “battle for the future of the city” against Mayor Rick Kriseman might last until November.

Baker has consistently led in local polls and fundraising totals this summer. But at a fundraiders held a week before the Aug. 29 primary, he struck a somber tone in front of about 75 supporters at 400 Beach, a Beach Drive restaurant owned by supporter Steve Westphal.

There are six mayoral candidates on the ballot, Baker explained, and that will make it difficult for any candidate to get more than 50 percent of the vote. A candidate who exceeds 50 percent of the vote on Aug. 29 would win office outright.

“It think it’s going to tighten up,” Baker said, adding that his campaign is lining up fundraisers and making preparations for September and October. The general election is Nov. 7.

Baker spent much of his time Tuesday evening criticizing Kriseman for running a partisan campaign for an officially nonpartisan office.

Baker, a Republican, said he wants to unify the city. Kriseman, he said, wants to divide up residents into separate categories and only govern for those constituencies who support him. …

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Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union

Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement

Scott Keeler

Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

But on Tuesday the mayor got another endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, Pinellas Lodge 43.

FOP local president Douglas Weaver, a St. Petersburg police officer, said his union represents about 100 city officers. Under Kriseman, he said, morale is up and police officers have received better equipment.

And the mayor's support for St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway has been appreciated, Weaver said.

"Kriseman backs Holloway to the fullest," Weaver said.

Weaver was named St. Petersburg's 2011 Officer of the Year for his actions during the Jan. 24, 2011 gun battle with a fugitive hiding in an attic that claimed the lives of two officers and left a deputy U.S. marshal wounded. Weaver entered the house three times under gunfire to rescue the wounded marshal and two fatally wounded St. Petersburg officers.

Kriseman's main opponent in the Aug. 29 primary, former mayor Rick Baker, has refused to say if he'll retain Holloway. Baker has said he won't commit to any staff decisions before the election.

The full FOP press release is below: …

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Second person resigns from Hillsborough diversity council after Confederate activist appointed

Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Times File Photo

Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

TAMPA — A second person has resigned symbolically from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the appointment of a known activist of Confederate causes to the panel. 

In a letter to the county, Gary Howell, the director of practicum training & associate professor at Florida School of Professional Psychology, said he was stepping down after three years on the council, most recently as vice chair. Howell called the appointment of David McCallister to the diversity council " inconsiderate, disrespectful, and inappropriate," especially after the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

The council's chairman, Nestor Ortiz, resigned last week. The terms of both Ortiz and Howell were set to expire at the end of the month.

McCallister is the commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp and a spokesman for Save Southern Heritage. McCallister will represent Northern and Southern Europe on the council. …

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Rays unlikely to make ballpark decision until after St. Pete mayoral race

The Tampa Bay Rays are unlikely to make a decision on whether the team will leave Tropicana Field until after the St. Petersburg mayoral election, people close to the negotiations believe.

Times File Photo

The Tampa Bay Rays are unlikely to make a decision on whether the team will leave Tropicana Field until after the St. Petersburg mayoral election, people close to the negotiations believe.

Here’s a nugget in today’s story about Tampa’s efforts to lure the Tampa Bay Rays that shouldn’t be overlooked:

People close to the negotiations don’t believe the Rays are going to announce whether they’re moving during the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan — Tampa’s liaison to the Rays’ front office — said he believes that the team leaders don’t want to be accused of influencing the outcome and are going to stay on the sideline until it’s over.

READ MORE: Tampa officials focusing on Channel District-Ybor for potential Rays ballpark

The election is Aug. 29, just eight days away. So what’s the big deal?

If incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, former mayor Rick Baker or the other candidates don't get 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 29 election, it will go to a runoff in November between the top two candidates. Polls show Baker with a solid lead, but it’s far from certain that he’ll reach the threshold needed to prevent a head-to-head matchup with Kriseman.

Meaning, it could be another two and a half months before the Rays say if they want to stay in St. Petersburg or relocate east of Tampa Bay. …

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Jim Kennedy endorses City Council candidate Robert Blackmon

Robert Blackmon is running against seven other candidates in the District 6 primary

Scott Keeler

Robert Blackmon is running against seven other candidates in the District 6 primary

Robert Blackmon, one of eight candidates vying for the District 6 seat, has been endorsed by City Council member Jim Kennedy. 

Kennedy, who is term limited, has also endorsed former Mayor Rick Baker, who is running against incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.  

Blackmon, 28, a real estate investor, is considered one of three front runners for District 6, which includes downtown and parts of Midtown and Old Northeast. 

The news release announcing Kennedy's endorsement follows.

Councilman Jim Kennedy today announced his endorsement of Robert Blackmon in the race for City Council District 6.  

“I’m supporting Robert Blackmon because his longtime ties to the community and knowledge of our city make him the best choice to represent our diverse neighborhoods,” Kennedy said. “Robert is the candidate best equipped to tackle the issues that are facing St. Pete, and we can count on him to work tirelessly for the betterment of our city.” 

Blackmon praised Kennedy’s leadership on council. “Jim Kennedy is a community leader in the truest sense of the word,” he said. “He has an unrivaled passion for our city and I am humbled to have the support of someone who has done so much for our community.” …

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Three Tampa Bay area mayors sign Anti Defamation League compact against hate

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, along with Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski (not pictured) are among three dozen mayors from Florida and 250 nationwide who have signed an Anti-Defamation League compact against hate, bigotry and extremism.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times (2014)

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, along with Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski (not pictured) are among three dozen mayors from Florida and 250 nationwide who have signed an Anti-Defamation League compact against hate, bigotry and extremism.

Mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg and Julie Ward Bujalski of Dunedin have joined nearly 250 mayors nationwide in signing onto a “Mayor’s Compact Against Hate, Extremism, and Bigotry” launched by the Anti-Defamation League this week in response to the violence in Charlottesville.

The Anti-Defamation League said the compact aims "to make cities safer for all who live there and to promote the fundamental principles of justice and equality that define our nation."

“It’s cities and mayors who are on the frontlines,” Buckhorn said in a statement released by his office. “If and when some of our national leaders refuse to stand up in the face of hate, America's mayors will. … We cannot allow this divisive rhetoric to continue, not in our city and certainly not from the highest and most powerful office in the world.”

Around Florida, nearly three dozen mayors had signed the compact as of mid-day Friday, including the mayors of Orlando, Miami Beach, Tallahassee, Boca Raton, Daytona Beach, Fort Myers, Naples and West Palm Beach.

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Appointment of Confederate activist sparks diversity council chair to resign

David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.

Times File Photo

David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.

The head of a Hillsborough County committee that promotes diversity resigned from the panel Wednesday after county commissioners named to the committee an advocate of Confederate heritage.

In a letter to the county administration, council chairman Nestor Ortiz said he was "shocked by the decision" to appoint David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp, to the Diversity Advisory Council.

"Only four days after the Charlottesville tragedy and the continued and escalating national outrage and division on all sides regarding white nationalism did they decide to put a public southern confederacy advocate on this “DIVERSITY” Advisory Council," Ortiz wrote. "This body is meant to engage the incredibly diverse communities found throughout Hillsborough County that have historically been marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed by individuals with values similar to Mr. Mcallister (sic) and his group." …

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