When it comes to ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, regulators in Tampa and around the country have been particularly concerned about one major issue: the quality of driver background checks.
There have been a few high-profile cases of Uber drivers kidnapping or otherwise endangering passengers, and last month the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles told Uber and Lyft (as well as Sidecar, another ride-sharing company) that they had misled customers by claiming that their background checks screen out anyone who has committed driving violations, including DUIs, as well as sexual assault and other criminal offenses. The D.A.'s said they didn't.
That prompted San Francisco-based Uber to hire former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's security company, Giuliani Partners, to review its background check policy.
Although the review is not yet complete, Giuliani went live yesterday with a progress report on what his company has investigated so far, and guess what? He thinks, all and all, Uber's background checks are pretty damn thorough.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was among those at Suarez's kick-off fundraising event on Tuesday night.
Mike Suarez says he's having the time of his life as citywide member of the Tampa City Council, and is hoping local residents feel the same and grant him a second term in office next March. The West Tampa native and insurance professional defeated Curtis Stokes in the District 1 race in 2011, and is a strong favorite to repeat. He's currently opposed by Seminole Heights activist Susan Long.
Supporters of Suarez sipped on Chardonnay and beers as they enjoyed the brilliant views atop the Beck Group's rooftop deck in Tampa Heights Tuesday night, as the 50-year-old councilman kicked off his 2015 campaign with friends and family, including Mayor Bob Buckhorn , Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner and former Commissioner and mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik.
Suarez says he intends to talk about the things that he's worked on as a council member the past 3 1/2 years, such as transportation, neighborhoods, redevelopment, and how does the city get more people to live in the downtown urban core.
We're entering the homestretch for next week's midterm elections, and while Clearwater Democrat Carl Zimmermann remains extremely vulnerable in his bid for re-election in his House District 65 seat against Chris Sprowls, another freshman Democrat, St. Petersburg's Dwight Dudley in House District 66, is still looking good in his bid to retain his seat against the well-funded Bill Young, son of the late legendary Pinellas Congressman.
An indication that Young probably realizes he's trailing in the race is his brazenly bogus television spot claiming that Dudley — who has talked seemingly non-stop about wanting to repeal the nuclear cost recovery fee and bring more accountability to investor-owned utilities and our Public Service Commission — somehow supports Duke Energy.
At the "Pitchfork Protest" in downtown St. Pete yesterday, during which protesters called on Duke Energy to start producing solar power, Dudley called the ad a "despicable, lowbrow, gutter technique, and how sad, especially through the campaign he talked about not tearing other people down — the high ethics he learned from his family — and now we see what he's really about, and even in the face of opposition and clear evidence that he's lying, he persists in promoting lies against me to tear me down. That is a sad thing."
Back in the day (and by that we mean the ’80s) the broadcast TV networks used to go all out in their coverage of the midterms, the November elections held at the two-year mark between presidential contests.
But that hasn’t happened since the advent of cable news. So if you’re mainly interested in who’s going to control the U.S. Senate after Tuesday, cable is your best bet: CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Al Jazeera America or the BBC. That’s where you’ll get the best coverage of the 36 Senate races in the country, as well as the 32 governors’ races — although the Florida contest between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist has attracted so much national attention (most of it embarrassing) that it’s likely to be a main event on all the networks, broadcast or cable.
Frustrated by Duke Energy's opposition to promoting alternative energy — specifically solar power — a group of around 80 people gathered for a festive "Pitchfork Protest" in St. Petersburg's Williams Park today, directly across the street from Duke's corporate headquarters.
Concerns about the intensity of the protest led the organizers of the event, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, to hire two off-duty St. Petersburg police officers, while Duke Energy hired an off-duty police officer of its own. But it was a mellow affair, with the only intensity coming from some of the rhetoric of the speakers.
Susan Glickman, Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy answered the question that she said everyone was asking her: why pitchforks?
"It represents anger. It represents frustration. And it represents the people who have no choice and are backed into a corner by their political leaders," she said, leading off a series of speakers who addressed the audience, many of whom were carrying red plastic pitchforks.
The latest major pollshows George Sheldon in rough waters in his battle to oust incumbent GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi, but the longtime Florida Democrat is hoping that some tough reporting about Bondi's cozy relationships with some lobbyists might turn the tide a bit more in his favor.
This morning Sheldon fired off a fundraising email to his supporters, seizing on a lengthy expose in today's New York Times that Bondi has received a lot of corporate money and guidance which has influenced her work as the state's top cop.
Sheldon takes notice in his fundraising request that there's a link with medical marijuana, which Bondi has vehemently argued against this year. The article exposes emails between Bondi and a lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands, which was trying to convince Bondi to try to ban online poker. The Sands is owned by Sheldon Adelson, one of the biggest contributors to Republicans and conservative causes in recent years. Adelson has been quite generous in his funding of the No on Amendment 2 campaign.
Sheldon notes, "That lobbyist and Bondi were making plans at an exclusive, $4500/night club, paid for by corporate sponsors, with a $125,000 entry fee to hobnob with the Attorney Generals of different states."
Homeless Initiative head Antoinette Hayes Tripplett (center) listened intently to Tampa Police Assistant Chief John Bennett at the University Club.
Antoinette Tripplett's immediate goal after taking the reins as CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative in August was to spend the first 90 days observing and speaking to the various players involved with the homeless community.
But she says she was "coerced" into doing something quicker than that, which means that on Veterans Day, Operation: REVEILLE , a program that will move 50 military veterans currently living on the streets or in emergency shelter into their own home, will be enacted.
"By the end of the day they'll have a place fully furnished," Tripplett told a crowd gathered at the University Club in downtown Tampa Tuesday morning, in a discussion about the homeless hosted by the Tampa Downtown Partnership. That new home will come furnished with cooking utensils, and they'll be set up to get a dental examination and mental checkup, and be connected with a social worker for peer support.
Mike Fasano (with Janet Cruz) Friday in front of the Hillsborough County courthouse.
Mike Fasano's outspoken support for his friend and political ally Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial contest is disturbing a few folks up in Pasco County.
The longtime Republican state legislator left Tallahassee a little over a year ago. That's when he was appointed by Rick Scott to succeed the late Mike Olson as Pasco County tax collector, getting him out of the hair of Scott and other GOP leaders, who were growing perturbed at the native New Yorker''s "mavricky" ways.
In a letter to the editor of this morning's Tampa Tribune, Pasco Republican state committeeman and longtime Fasano foe Bill Bunting writes that Fasano's endorsement of Crist, as well as Democrat Amanda Murphy in his state House 36 race, is simply too much to bear. "People have been coming into the Republican office all week, and our phones are ringing off the hook with people asking how we can get Fasano out of the Republican Party."
Florida is violating the U.S. Constitution by arbitrarily banning restaurants, taverns, and breweries from selling or filling the most popular portable growler for craft beers — the half-gallon (64-ounce) growler.
So says the libertarian-oriented Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed in federal court today on behalf of the owners of The Crafted Keg, a craft beer restaurant in Stuart, located on Florida's Treasure Coast.
"Florida imposes a double standard by allowing less popular growlers but banning the one people prefer,” said Mark Miller, managing attorney with PLF’s office in Palm Beach Gardens. “Florida’s restrictions stand in stark contrast to 47 other states, where half-gallon growlers are perfectly legal and have become the industry standard."
In what may be the most bald faced outrageous ad of the 2014 campaign season in Tampa Bay, Republican House District 68 challenger Bill Young is claiming in a new ad running in rotation right now that Democrat Dwight Dudley actually "sides with Duke Energy."
Specifically, the ad states that Dudley, the St. Petersburg based attorney who defeated Frank Farkas in 2012 in his first run for the legislature, "voted to allow Duke Energy to raise fees on Pinellas families for a plant that may never be built.”
That would be the somewhat infamous nuclear cost recovery bill that was passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature in 2006 - some six years before Dudley was elected to represent the people of HD68.