Monday, September 15, 2014

Doug Guetzloe is getting more involved in the anti-Greenlight Pinellas campaign

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Orlando-based anti-tax crusader Doug Guetzloe, chairman of the "Ax the Tax" political committee that was involved in the movement to defeat the Hillsborough County transit tax in 2010, is about to be getting more involved in the effort to knock out the Greenlight Pinellas transit tax swap in Pinellas County.

Guetzloe says that he helped pay for one St. Pete Polls survey about Greenlight that came out about a month ago, and also financed the white paper recently published by Randal O'Toole, the Cato Institute public policy analyst who visited the Tampa Bay area last week to advocate against the Greenlight measure. But now he plans to get much more involved.

Ax The Tax will be sending a direct-mail piece to approximately 50,000 residents in Pinellas County urging them to oppose the measure in the next couple of weeks. 

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Anti-domestic violence advocates come together in Tampa

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Chloe Coney, Richard Woltmann, Executive Director of Bay Area Legal Servicers, Mindy Murphy, CEO of the Spring of Tampa Bay, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Jim Hengelbrok, Managing Attorney for Family Law at Bay Area Legal Services at today's press conference.
  • Chloe Coney, Richard Woltmann, Executive Director of Bay Area Legal Servicers, Mindy Murphy, CEO of the Spring of Tampa Bay, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Jim Hengelbrok, Managing Attorney for Family Law at Bay Area Legal Services at today's press conference.

A week after the release of a videotape showing now-suspended Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice savagely punching his wife in an Atlantic City hotel room elevator, the attention surrounding domestic violence has never been more magnified in America. So Congresswoman Kathy Castor today seized on the heightened focus to remind the public that such acts of violence occur every day in the Tampa Bay area, and to alert those victims that there are plenty of places to get help in such a situation.

"So let's not forget when the headlines recede and it's not about the NFL, it's still going on in families next door to you," Castor said at a news conference with advocates for domestic violence victims in front of the Spring Boutique in South Tampa this morning. "Down the street, people that you know. People that you don't know that are our neighbors, and they need to know where to turn."

Joining Castor at the event was Mindy Murphy, CEO of The Spring of Tampa Bay, one of the largest certified domestic violence centers in the state of Florida. She said that while people think of her organization as a shelter — which it certainly is with a 102-bed facility —  it offers so much more to domestic violence victims, such as access to attorneys who can help them.

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Kathy Castor is hesitant to arm Syrian rebels but says the alternative is worse

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

Kathy Castor says she's "concerned" about arming Syrian rebels to counter ISIS, but says it's the best option going to stop the Islamic terrorists, of which there are presumed to be about 31,500 roaming in the Middle East.

"I am concerned about the capacity of Syrian rebels the Free Syrian Army," the Tampa-based Democratic Congresswoman told CL and other reporters Monday morning. "But the alternative is worse. The alternative is that we allow a safe haven [for ISIS] to grow and fester in the Middle East, and that will become a larger threat, and so I think it's appropriate that we develop this counter-terrorism strategy."

Castor's comments come as Washington lawmakers are quickly moving to pass a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. President Obama has asked Congress to attach a measure expanding his Syria authority to the continuing resolution, but some lawmakers want a separate vote.

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Tampa event asks: Who are the real victims of the war on terror?

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Tracy Molm, with the Committee to Stop FBI Repression
  • Tracy Molm, with the Committee to Stop FBI Repression

On Saturday, members of Friends of Human Rights, The Committee to stop FBI Repression and other organizers held a public program at the First United Church of Tampa. They called the event "U.S. War on Terror", and the question posed was, who are the real victims? Mass incarcerations in the U.S. are no secret, but there are an estimated 80,000 prisoners currently being held in solitary confinement in America, a number of them accused of being suspected terrorists.

Among those in attendance was Nahla al-Arian, the wife of Sami al-Arian, the former USF professor and political activist who for the past two decades has been fighting for his freedom after being accused of terrorism charges. In February 2003 he was arrested on 17 counts of suspected terrorism, which ultimately resulted in a 57-month sentence after he pled guilty to one count of aiding a designated terrorist group (his jury trial failed to find him guilty of anything, as the jury deadlocked on a number of counts and threw out the rest). In 2006 he was subpoenaed to testify about Muslims affiliated with terrorist groups in Virginia. He refused to testify and was imprisoned again for a year for two counts of criminal contempt, and then placed on house arrest for a number of years.

Ms. Al-Arian says that this experience nearly destroyed her family, but that she and Sami still believe in America. They had to sell everything they owned; it has cost them over a million dollars to cover legal and living expenses. She says, “The community didn't know how to deal with a family of political prisoners; they just wanted us to disappear.”

Last June, after more than a decade of being in the legal system, all of the charges against Al-Arian were dropped. The family signed a government agreement to be deported to another country. They are still looking for a place to go. Ms. Al-Arian says, “We came to America when we were very young, we grew up here.” She believes we must all work together to fight social injustice and racism  - “look at what happened in Ferguson, we must be objective and unbiased.” She believes people of all religions and backgrounds should denounce terrorism.

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Mitch Perry Report 9.15.14: Obama about to step up on Ebola

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 9:06 AM


President Obama comes to Tampa tomorrow night, and on Wednesday morning he'll get a briefing at Cent Com at MacDill AFB regarding his strategy for "degrading and destroying" ISIS, or ISIL. (Would it be too much to decide on one specific name for this terrorist organization?)

Before he makes it to Tampa, however, he'll stop off in Atlanta to visit the the Centers for Disease Control. That's where he will announce plans to "dramatically boost the U.S. effort to mitigate the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including greater involvement of the U.S. military," according to today's Wall Street Journal.

If you've been reading the stories or watching the news coverage about what's happening in places like Liberia, it's sort of frightening.  "I could not possibly overstate the need for an urgent response," CDC Director Tom Frieden said after returning from a trip to West Africa last month. That reportedly lit a fire under the president, who realizes that he has to step up and use his bully pulpit to get our country and others to provide more doctors, supplies and portable hospitals to the region.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Congressional progressives Bernie Sanders & Barbara Lee get rare Sunday morning facetime

Posted By on Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 1:41 PM


Chuck Todd's recent ascension to host of NBC's Meet The Press has generated a lot of attention to what had been considered the crown jewel of Sunday morning public affairs television until the past few years. Not only does a new host bring new juice to the moribund franchise, but new energy in its programming choices would be welcome as well. 

So while putting on air a 73-year-old white U.S. Senator on the show hardly sounds revolutionary, it sort of is when that 73-year-old Senator happens to be Bernie Sanders, Congress's only self-described socialist, who was invited onto the MTP studios for the first time since being elected as a Representative from Vermont in 1990.

Sanders has been making some noises about running for president in 2016, where he clearly would run to Hillary Clinton's left in the Democratic primaries, if he were to run as a Democrat (he's currently an Independent). 

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Tampa immigration advocates hail one victory, but want more

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Raices en Tampa activists Oscar Hernandez & Marisol Marquez stood outside the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on Friday.
  • Raices en Tampa activists Oscar Hernandez & Marisol Marquez stood outside the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on Friday.

Advocates for immigration reform in Tampa and around the country haven't had a whole lot to cheer about of late, but they'll take any little victories they can, which is why the group Raíces en Tampa held a press conference in front of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Ybor City on a blisteringly hot morning on Friday.

That "victory" was the quietly announced decision by the HCSO that they will only detain immigrants if there is a judge's order. Spokesman Larry McKinnon said the Sheriff's Office began reviewing the policy after a federal judge in Oregon ruled in April that an immigrant woman's rights were violated when she was held in jail at ICE's request.

But it's not like every other county in Florida is following suit. To date, only sheriff offices in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando County have changed their policy in the wake of the Oregon decision.

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Buckhorn announces for re-election in Tampa

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 1:51 PM


To the surprise of absolutely no one, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced at a morning press conference today that he will be running for re-election in 2015. 

"I'm running. I'm running hard. And I'm running to finish my job," he declared before taking questions from a handful of reporters outside City Hall.

But finishing that job would require him to stay in office until March of 2019, several months after the 2018 midterm elections. The mayor has not discounted rumors that he might consider a run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, but would only say today that he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it.

"I know this: if I don’t do my job as mayor, there are no other options. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I don’t wake up thinking about what the future’s going to bring. All I do is get up every day to do the job that I was hired to do. And if I do that, I can tell you this, at the end of four and a half years, Tampa will be a heckuva story to tell. I intend to finish this job and will cross that bridge when we get to it."

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Mitch Perry Report 9.12.14: Arthur Hayhoe, RIP

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 9:01 AM

Arthur Hayhoe died on Monday at the age of 82.
  • Arthur Hayhoe died on Monday at the age of 82.
The Tampa Bay area is a major media market. In fact this week it jumped over Seattle to becoming the 13th largest Designated Market Area in the U.S.

But in some ways it doesn't seem like a big media market, at least from a news reporter's point of view. 

Case in point? The issue of gun control. When I began covering news in this region back in 2000, the issue of guns and gun control was big, driven by several bloody mass shootings in 1999, none bigger than in Columbine. That's what led to the Million Mom March in the spring of 2000. 

And then, not much happened on the gun control front in this country, until Newtown. 

But there was always one man in the Tampa Bay area fighting very hard for gun control. A man by the name of Arthur Hayhoe. The Tampa Bay Times reports this morning that Mr. Hayhoe, who served as the volunteer executive director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Floridians for Gun Safety, died Monday at the age of 82.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sunshine State survey shows high marks for local govt., but not so much for the feds

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 12:55 PM


Floridians are feeling a lot better about their local governments these days, and are more critical than ever about Washington D.C. Those are just some of the takeaways derived from the Sunshine State Survey administered by the USF School of Public Affairs and Neilsen, and released on Thursday morning. 

The survey of 1,800 Florida citizens shows that the federal government consistently receives the lowest marks for job performance; state government is in the middle, while county and city governments typically receive the highest grades.

Specifically, 46 percent of those surveyed rated county government as good and excellent, a jump from 28 percent in 2012, the last time the survey was conducted. Ratings for city governments grew from 31 percent in 2012 to 42 percent this year.

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