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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Baker gives himself a "B" in 1st debate against Rick Kriseman

Rick Baker chats with supporters at a fundraiser at St. Petersburg Yacht Club Wednesday evening

Charlie Frago

Rick Baker chats with supporters at a fundraiser at St. Petersburg Yacht Club Wednesday evening

Rick Baker gave himself a “B” in his first debate against Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Some supporters and advisors at Baker’s fundraiser at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club Wednesday evening might have graded him a tad lower, but the consensus was that the former mayor had his moments, good and meh, in his return to debating for public office.

But Baker was already looking forward to future debates, asking the 75 or so people who gathered in a banquet room with a view of Tampa Bay to pack the front rows in upcoming debates and candidate forums.  

He singled out a July 25 event hosted by Bay News 9, the Tampa Bay Times and St. Petersburg College.That debate will be televised by Bay News 9.

Other candidate forums and debates from neighborhood associations to large churches are filling up the July calendar. The League of Women Voters will hold a mayoral forum Monday July 17 at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, pending City Council approval. The group changed its date after the July 25 event was announced.

Mail ballots got out July 25 for the Aug. 29 primary. …

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Does St. Petersburg's police chief need to live in the 'Burg? Rick Baker thinks so

Chief Tony Holloway's residence in North County has become part of the mayor's race in St. Petersburg

Cheri Diez

Chief Tony Holloway's residence in North County has become part of the mayor's race in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Last night’s mayoral throwdown between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker got nasty enough that the moderator and some members of a packed, sweaty audience at Midtown’s Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church told the two leading candidates to cool it.

They did, most of the time. But aside from the drama, lots of substantive issues were discussed that didn’t make the first draft of that particular day in city history.

And, breathe easy, none of them involve sewage. But a lot of them involved the St. Petersburg Police Department, especially where Chief Tony Holloway lays his head at night.

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

Holloway was Kriseman’s go-to answer when questioned about crime, especially in Midtown.

The mayor said he has total faith in Holloway, who he hired in 2014 from Clearwater when he was the police chief there.

"We have a great police chief who had reconnected our community with our police department and brough community policing back to the city,” Kriseman said. …

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Where's the synergy between Hillsborough and Pinellas leaders?

Political leaders talk about regionalism, but the synergy between Pinellas and Hillsborough leaders isn't exactly gushing into Tampa Bay.

Consider the recent jockeying by Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long to get Hillsborough County commissioners to hold two joint meetings to discuss the region's biggest issues. Long wants t public officials to talk about sewers, transportation and other problems that cross county lines.

She thought she had a deal and even sent Hillsborough County Commission chair Stacy White a letter to thank him for agreeing to the meetings. Then it got complicated.

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill told Long that both commissions had more work to do before meeting. White's office then said he never agreed to hold two meetings.

Long told White that kind of thinking "has kept us from moving froward as a region." More here. 

 

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Pinellas legislators talk governor's race, policy at delegation breakfast

If anybody was expecting state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, to quit being coy and and announce his bid for the 2018 governor's race to the friendly crowd at Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative delegation breakfast Wednesday, they left disappointed.

Latvala dodged a question posed to each legislator asking who they predict will be their party's nominee.

“I just want to acknowledge my best friend in the senate, one of the finest members of the senate who's here with me today,” Latvala non-answered. “Sen. Denise Grimsley has just been an outstanding member of the senate.”

One of Latvala's Republican colleagues, his son, pointed to him. But others spoke more in code.

“I don't think that nominee has been announced candidate yet,” said his son, Rep. Chris Latvala. “I think if he were to do it, he certainly would win, and that's my father.”

Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, agreed the likely nominee has not yet entered the race, but after the breakfast, he declined to specify who that might be. Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, said "Ditto" to Sprowls' answer during the breakfast. …

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Uhurus cancel protest of Rick Baker at yacht club fundraiser

Jesse Nevel's Uhuru-affiliated campaign postpones protest

Lara Cerri

Jesse Nevel's Uhuru-affiliated campaign postpones protest

ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel's campaign had planned to stage an anti-Rick Baker protest outside the St. Petersburg Yacht Club this evening while the former mayor held a fundraiser inside.

Now, that's not happening.

"It's been postponed," said Jackson Hollingsworth, a Nevel campaign spokeswoman. "That's all I can say right now."

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

Nevel and the Uhurus have been a vocal presence on the campaign trail this summer, holding protests outside the Tampa Bay Times building for being excluded from a July 25 debate. Nevel supporters also criticized Pastor Louis Murphy Sr. for not inviting Nevel to participate in the Mt.Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church forum on Tuesday. One supporter wearing a Nevel shirt questioned Murphy's motives as "a man of God" before being cut off by moderator Tammie Fields.

It's been an eventful week for Nevel.  The Times reported that he has never voted in a city election. And a St. Pete Polls survey released Wednesday shows him polling at 2.1 percent behind Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter at 3 percent and tied with Anthony Cates III at 2 percent.  …

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Wells files for re-election to Pasco commission

First-term Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. has filed for re-election in 2018.

Wells, a Republican, joined the commission in 2014 after beating first-term incumbent Commissioner Henry Wilson in a winner-take-all GOP primary. Since joining the commission, Wells, a boat captain, has advocated for better recreational opportunities, particularly for the boating and fishing enthusiasts, along Pasco’s coast. Wells also pushed a local ordinance that banned newspaper solicitors from working on road medians. Earlier this year, he cast the lone vote against a planned increase in the county’s stormwater assessment that is intended to help address street flooding problems across the county.

Wells, who turns 47 in August, currently is the commission’s vice chair and likely will rise to chairman later this year. He also has represented the commission on the Pasco Economic Development Council, the Value Adjustment board, the Area Agency on Aging, and other local and regional boards.

In his campaign announcement, Wells stated: …

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New poll shows tight St. Petersburg mayor's race

Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.

ST. PETERSBURG — A new poll shows a tight race between former Mayor Rick Baker and incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman as they battle each other in the most expensive mayoral race in city history.

A few minutes after midnight Wednesday, St. Pete Polls released a survey showing Baker, a Republican, beating Kriseman, a Democrat, by  a 43.5 to 38.8 percentage point margin. The poll used automated calls to contact 754 St. Petersburg residents. It had a margin of error of plus/minus 3.6 percent.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the Aug. 29 primary, the race continues until Nov.7.

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

That appears likely at this point. Only 8.9  percent of voters remain undecided. Another 8.7 percent split their support among the other five candidates on the ballot: Ernisa Barnwell, Anthony Cates III, Paul Congemi, Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter and Jesse Nevel.

Baker leads Kriseman among white and black voters, although the former mayor, who served between 2001 and 2010, has a narrow advantage among the latter: 38 to 36 percent. …

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Tampa moves to pause permits for 5G wireless equipment to assess impact of new Florida law

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have worried that a new state law aimed at facilitating the installation of 5G wireless technology could clutter scenic corridors like Tampa's Riverwalk.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2015)

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have worried that a new state law aimed at facilitating the installation of 5G wireless technology could clutter scenic corridors like Tampa's Riverwalk.

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.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has called an early version of the bill a “power grab” that usurps the authority of his city to protect the look and character of amenities like the Riverwalk and the Ybor City historic district.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman urged Scott to veto the bill, saying it would allow the construction of 50-foot-tall telecommunications structures. St. Petersburg has already spent a lot of money burying utility lines underground along its waterfront, Kriseman said in a letter to Scott last month, and "allowing unregulated structures where they have been removed would drastically change the views and aesthetics in our city." …

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Do you need to vote in city elections to run for mayor of St. Petersburg? Jesse Nevel says no

Jesse Nevel is running for mayor, but has never voted in a city election

Lara Cerri

Jesse Nevel is running for mayor, but has never voted in a city election

ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel is running for mayor. But, voting records show, he has never cast a ballot in a St. Petersburg city election.

Nevel, 27, said that won’t matter with voters. He believes many city residents are like him: they’ve never had a candidate worth casting a ballot for.

“I’m like thousands of other people in this city who see nothing to vote for,” Nevel said. “Most people in this city don’t vote in local elections because there are no options on the ballot that speak to the interests of the people.”

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

Residents will respond to his radical message of reparations for the black community to boost economic development, he said.

Nevel is running with the endorsement of Uhuru leader Omali Yeshitela. Nevel is one of seven candidates for mayor on the ballot for the Aug. 29 primary.

In fact, Nevel hasn’t voted in any local, state or federal election since casting an early ballot in the 2008 general election. …

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St. Petersburg qualifying ends. Seven for mayor. Eight in primary for City Council District 6 seat

City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk  Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon

Charlie Frago

City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon

ST. PETERSBURG — The smiles of the faces of the workers in the City Clerk’s office said it all Friday. The qualifying period for city elections was almost over.

Officially, it ended at 5 p.m., but City Clerk Chan Srinivasa said a few minutes before that it was already done. To get through all the paperwork a last-minute procrastinator for one of four City Council races or the mayoral contest would have had to arrive at City Hall about 4 p.m., he said.

No one showed as the clock ticked down. The Tampa Bay Times was the only media organization present.

Not like the old days, mused Cathy Davis, a longtime employee in the clerk’s office.

The TV stations, newspapers and bloggers used to gather to see the final qualifying list. Now, it’s all online, although the Internet, so fond of drama, wouldn't show any last-minute dramatics of Srinivasa telling somebody they were too late to chase their dream of elected office.

Aside from a Times reporter, consultant Meagan Salisbury, running the campaigns of incumbent City Council chairwoman Darden Rice and newcomer Gina Driscoll in District 6 also waited — just in case. …

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Hillsborough Democrats call Confederate monument vote a continuation of white supremacy

On Friday afternoon, Hillsborough County Democrats decried a vote by the county commission not to remove the Confederate monument in downtown Tampa.

Chris Urso, Times

On Friday afternoon, Hillsborough County Democrats decried a vote by the county commission not to remove the Confederate monument in downtown Tampa.

TAMPA — Two days after Hillsborough County commissioners decided not to touch a Confederate monument in downtown Tampa, Hillsborough County Democrats have decided to weigh in.

The party’s executive committee released a statement Friday afternoon criticizing the commissioners who voted to keep the monument in front of the old county courthouse — Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman and Stacy White — and asking them to reconsider.

The statement also warned that the vote will be on their minds in next year’s election. All four of the prevailing commissioners are up for re-election.

“We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018,” it said.

In the statement, the committee called the vote “a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies. Symbols of the Confederacy are divisive, painful, racist, and are meant to intimidate a portion of our citizens who, because of white supremacy, have never realized complete freedom in the Land of the Free.”

Yesterday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn similarly decried the vote, calling it a poor reflection on Tampa, as did city council members during their weekly meeting. …

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St. Petersburg police investigating why civilian employees accidentally fired AR-15 semiautomatic rifle inside HQ

The St. Petersburg Police Department is investigating an incident in which two civilian employees accidentally fired an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle they brought inside police headquarters. Department rules prohibit civilian employees from bringing weapons into police facilities.

[Times files]

The St. Petersburg Police Department is investigating an incident in which two civilian employees accidentally fired an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle they brought inside police headquarters. Department rules prohibit civilian employees from bringing weapons into police facilities.

ST. PETERSBURG — An internal police investigation is looking into two civilian employees who accidentally fired a round from an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle inside St. Petersburg Police Department headquarters.

Police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez confirmed that the incident is being looked at by the department's Office of Professional Standards. Those investigators are trying to find out why the employees brought the rifle — which was a personal weapon, not department-issued — into the building. The department will not release any details about the incident, she said, including when it took place or the identities of the two employees until the investigation is completed.

No one was injured in the incident.

"We have no public records available," Fernandez said. "It is still very active. They are still interviewing witnesses."

However, the department does ban civilian employees from bringing firearms into police facilities, she said. That's the same for all city employees, she added, who are also banned from bringing their personal weapons into city buildings.

Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

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Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador

The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

RICHARD DANIELSON | Times

The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

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.

“We must remain hopeful,” he added, “that the day will soon come when barriers that exist between us will come down.”

This week, the council voted to reply, thank you, we like that idea, too.

No details are set. A couple of council members said they have no intention of paying for any visit with public funds, and Capin said any council delegation wouldn’t represent the city as a whole. …

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Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.

[JOHN PENDYGRAFT | TIMES]

Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.

ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

In a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times at 490 First Ave. S, Nevel argued he had been excluded from the debate by “big money” interests and because the Times sought to silence his message.

Kriseman and Baker will take part in the debate, sponsored by the Times and Bay News 9 along with the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College, at the Palladium Theater in downtown St. Petersburg.

“It represents an attack on the whole idea of democracy itself,” Nevel said. “It represents an attempt to control what issues will be talked about in this debate.”

The Times, Bay News 9 and St. Petersburg College have invited only Kriseman and Baker to the debate. Without complete local polling, the Times decided to rely on fundraising totals to determine which candidates will participate. …

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During the most expensive mayoral election ever, St. Petersburg City Council wants to limit PAC money

A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections

Charlie Frago

A large crowd gathered Thursday to support passage of a controversial measure to limit campaign spending in city elections

ST. PETERSBURG — In front of a large group of red-shirted campaign finance reform supporters, the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday started the ball rolling on an ordinance that would limit individual campaign contributions to $5,000 from political action committees.

The vote followed hours of impassioned debate and took place amidst what has already become the most expensive mayoral election in city history: incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and his challenger, former Mayor Rick Baker.

Together the two Ricks have smashed fundraising records by garnering a combined $1 million in donations — and the Aug. 29 primary is still two months away.

The measure, backed by a national campaign finance movement and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, was opposed by the city attorney’s office. They argued it was unconstitutional and would expose the city to millions in liabilities if defeated in the courts.

“They have shopped this ordinance around for at least a year to cities around this country,” Assistant City Attorney Joseph Patner said. “There is a reason they cannot get another city to pass this,

“Passing this is all risk in our opinion with no benefit.” …

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