07/27/17 Local Government
TAMPA — A state-authorized program to help property owners finance energy-efficient or storm-resistant renovations faces another test at the Tampa City Council today.
Toward the end of their 9 a.m. meeting, council members are scheduled to get a report on the PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy, program and could decide whether to allow it to operate inside the city limits.
The Legislature authorized the PACE program in 2010 but it still has to be approved on the local level, county by county and city by city. Around the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have opened the door to two different versions of PACE, but it's not allowed in Tampa without City Hall's okay....
TAMPA — Sarasota County Fire Marshal John Reed has been hired as Tampa's new fire marshal, and Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he wants Reed to shake up Tampa Fire Rescue's building inspection bureau.
Reed, 53, has been Sarasota County's fire marshal for four years, and before that worked 21 years at the Venice Fire Department, rising to chief. He replaces Charles Owen III, who retired in February after more than 21 years with Tampa Fire Rescue....
07/20/17 Local Government
TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Thursday proposed a $974.2 million budget for next year that would raise the city's property tax rate for the first time since 1989 and use the additional revenue to improve parks, expand fire service and prepare for looming financial challenges.
"I will not be here in two years," the term-limited mayor told the City Council. "It's incumbent on me to leave this city in good shape and to have made the appropriate decisions to prepare for what is coming over the next couple of years....
07/19/17 Local Government
TAMPA — The last time Tampa raised its property tax rate, the president was George H.W. Bush (the dad) and gasoline cost 97 cents a gallon.
Since then, not raising the tax rate has been an article of faith at City Hall.
But that could change this year.
On Thursday, Mayor Bob Buckhorn will present a proposed 2018 budget to the City Council that could total $900 million or more. He also will ask the council to consider raising the city's property tax rate for the first time since 1989....
07/13/17 Local Government
TAMPA — With wireless companies saying time is of the essence, the City Council voted Thursday to enact a 120-day moratorium on accepting new applications to put 5G wireless antennas on city rights of way.
The moratorium affects distributed antenna systems and micro antennas that, while smaller than previous generations of technology, can still be about as big as a small refrigerator....
Two Tampa politicians are part of a new American Civil Liberties Union of Florida lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
Former Florida Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner and Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez, both Democrats, are among seven plaintiffs who filed the suit in federal court in Miami and are the only two from outside South Florida. The other plaintiffs include a Broward County activist, a South Florida longshoreman's union official, a Miami attorney who has chaired that city's community relations and police review boards, the nonprofit Florida Immigrant Coalition and the ACLU....
TAMPA — After several years with barely a dent in the number of people living on the street, the homeless count in Hillsborough County fell by 15 percent in a single year, reports the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.
The count, conducted in February, identified roughly 1,550 people living either on the street or in temporary shelters, down from 1,817 the previous year.
The biggest drop, some 26 percent, was in the number of unsheltered people, a group that includes those battling poor mental health and substance abuse who often refuse help. Homelessness was also down 5 percent among veterans....
07/10/17 Local Government
Fueled by new construction and rising home sales, the total value of taxable property around the Tampa Bay area is projected to grow 8 percent or more this year.
In Hillsborough County, that growth is expected to bring taxable values — that is, the total value of property minus homestead and other exemptions — back above 2008 levels for the first time since the precarious highs of the real estate bubble. Still, they remain under the precrash peak in 2007....
07/07/17 Local Government
TAMPA — City Hall received seven proposals in response to its invitation to put a restaurant next to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, and the company it picked — Irish pub Four Green Fields — offered the most money.
"I'm happy with the selection we got at Curtis Hixon," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who had indicated before this week's announcement that price would probably drive the city's choice. "They were creative. Some financially were better for the city than others. ... There were some legitimate, credible and serious folks who bid."...
07/06/17 Public Safety
TAMPA — Police Chief Eric Ward unexpectedly announced his retirement Thursday morning, a little more than two years after Mayor Bob Buckhorn named him chief and more than a year before his scheduled retirement.
Ward, 50, told his senior staff and TPD's rank and file he's leaving later this month for a job as director of security with Tampa-based Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, the third largest privately held and fifth largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the nation....
TAMPA — A St. Petersburg woman who couldn't get insurance while a sinus tumor and associated infections ruined her health for three years.
A Sarasota woman born without arms who could lose health care and prescription coverage for autoimmune disorders that developed after she was seriously hurt in a car crash.
A Sun City Center business owner whose breast cancer treatments were paid for by Obamacare....
06/30/17 Public Safety
APOLLO BEACH — It was the kind of job that workers at the Big Bend power plant do routinely, and one done countless times in the nearly 35 years that senior plant operator Michael McCort had worked at Tampa Electric.
But company executives said something went tragically wrong Thursday as McCort, 60, and at least five employees working for outside contractors tried to unplug a tank containing molten slag that can reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees....
06/30/17 Local Government
TAMPA — Changes are almost certainly coming to downtown Tampa's all-but-forgotten Herman Massey Park.
The question is when.
City officials say they expect to upgrade the park after they know more about what's coming to two neighboring properties and how those plans will affect the half-acre park. Officials are talking to prospective developers who would likely want a better and maybe bigger park to complement their plans....
To business groups, the bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed Friday will clear the way for superfast 5G wireless communications and give Florida an edge in attracting high-tech companies.
But city officials on both sides of Tampa Bay worry that House Bill 687 will lead to clutter along roads as charming as Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard. There, they fear, utility poles could be topped by new so-called “micro antennas” that, at 6 cubic feet, would be the size of small refrigerators....
The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
“If it is appropriate,” he wrote, “the Cuban government and the Cuban people would welcome an official delegation of the Tampa City Council to visit Cuba. This would be an opportunity for you and your colleagues to learn firsthand what Cuba is doing regarding drug interdiction, illegal immigration, collaborative marine biology and tourism, among other issues....