Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Report says 1 in 6 Tampa Bay residents seeks food assistance through food banks

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Feeding America Tampa Bay is located a block south of Seventh Avenue on 50th Street in Tampa. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • Feeding America Tampa Bay is located a block south of Seventh Avenue on 50th Street in Tampa.

Feeding America Tampa Bay is the local affiliate of the nation's largest food bank network, Feeding America. Today the national group released what they are calling the most comprehensive examination of hunger in the U.S. It includes sobering statistics about what is happening on the local front in terms of the issue of hunger.

Here are just some statistics reflecting what's happening in the Tampa Bay area:

1 in 6 Tampa Bay residents seeks food assistance through FATB. The food bank serves more than 841,000 people and 282,000 households annually.

24 percent of FATB clients, or 200,000, are children.

19 percent of FATB clients, or 160,000, are senior citizens.

75 percent of FATB clients, or 631,000, choose between paying for food and utilities.

59 percent of FATB clients, or 496,000, eat expired food.

94 percent of FATB clients live in non-temporary housing — 23 percent have their own mortgage or own their home outright, and 71 percent lease or rent their home.

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New study says legalizing same-sex marriage would be an economic boon for the Sunshine State

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 3:48 PM


While Pam Bondi wants to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to make the ultimate decision about whether the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida is unconstitutional, supporters are touting a new study released today from UCLA’s Williams Institute shows that Florida’s economy would get a massive economic boost from extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.

According to the report’s estimates, more than 24,000 same-sex couples would choose to marry over the next three years, bringing a potential $182.2 million to Florida’s economy, with nearly $117 million of that in the first year alone. And it predicts that up to 2,626 jobs would be created in the Sunshine State due to the increased spending for same-sex couples’ weddings and celebrations.

The authors of the study, E.G. Fitzgerald, Christy Mallory and M.V. Lee Badgett, say they are actually relying on conservative estimates to assess the economic impact of sex couples. "In other words, all assumptions are cautious and, given the range of possibilities, likely produce revenue impacts on the lower bound," they write in the summary of their study.

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Mark Nash goes negative on Pat Kemp a week before primary

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 1:33 PM


Up until now the Democratic primary for Hillsborough County Commission's District 7 countywide seat between Pat Kemp and Mark Nash has been a relatively genteel affair. 

Not anymore.

Over the weekend, residents in Hillsborough County received a direct mail piece put out by the Nash campaign that accuses Kemp of failed leadership when she was chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee during the 2010 election cycle — the period when Democrats were "shellacked," in Barack Obama's words.

"It's the harsh reality of what failed leadership looks like," Nash says.

The mailer lists a series of incidents that Nash says occurred during Kemp's reign as part chair, including closing down a local party office because of lackluster fundraising, and losing the respect of party officials. But it's the first bullet point on the flier that has her hopping mad — that she excluded blacks and Latinos from party leadership.

Kemp says the innuendo underlying that statement is that she's somehow racist. "I think that's very inflammatory, ugly to use, and dangerous stuff," she said on Tuesday. "For them to do that is really beyond the pale." She then read off a list to CL of prominent black and Latinos in the county who are backing her campaign.

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Mitch Perry Report 8.19.14: Here's to one foreign policy success

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 8:41 AM


It was almost exactly a year ago (August 21, 2013) that the government of Bashar al-Assad was reported to have used poison gas to kill more than 1,400 Syrians, prompting a major crisis for President Obama, who had earlier declared that if Assad dared to use such chemical weapons, he would simply "have to go."

Tough words. And rather dumb ones, too, when you think about it. Because once the U.S. and the U.N. said unequivocally that Assad had crossed that "red line," Obama was doomed to do something. Anything. But the reality was he didn't want to attack Syria militarily, and neither did the American public. Yes, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and others said he looked weak by making such a bold statement and not backing it up, but there was little support, domestically or internationally, to do so.

But was the U.S. just going to allow a rogue state to flaunt international conventions? This all got resolved, if you recall, when none other than Vladimir Putin intervened a few weeks later and negotiated with Assad to give up his weapons to the international community as long as the U.S. didn't commit air strikes. 

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Monday, August 18, 2014

David Jolly working on bill that would require local law enforcement to be trained to use military equipment

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 5:28 PM

The Rescue 2 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) used by the TPD.
  • The Rescue 2 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) used by the TPD.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon lifted a curfew in Ferguson today, hours after deploying the Missouri National Guard to try to tamp down the civic unrest that has lasted for over a week now in the aftermath of an unarmed black teenager being killed by a white police officer.

The tensions have persisted in Ferguson even after the governor turned to the State Highway Patrol last Thursday to oversee crowd control. That move came after the local police were heavily criticized for their heavy-handed tactics, including the use of tear gas, military-style vehicles, assault rifles and smoke bombs.

The use of such vehicles has led to a public discussion about police forces around the country having bulked up on military equipment provided by the federal government via the Department of Defense, particularly after 9/11. 

Today Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly told CL that he's working on legislation that would address some of the concerns recently expressed about the issue. He says the bill would make sure that local law enforcement agencies have the certifications required to operate it. Jolly says it's been in the works since long before the situation involving the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson occurred. "We're examining some type of program to make sure that local enforcement that receive surplus DOD equipment actually has personnel trained and licensed to operate it," he said.

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Tampa Bay Congressional delegation comes together to laud Tampa International Airport

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 4:34 PM

Gus Bilirakis, Dennis Ross, Kathy Castor, Joe Lopano and David Jolly at today's press conference at TIA.
  • Gus Bilirakis, Dennis Ross, Kathy Castor, Joe Lopano and David Jolly at today's press conference at TIA.

It's rare when the four members of the House of Representatives from the Tampa Bay area meet for a local news conference, but when it comes to lavishing praise on one of the region's most prized assets —Tampa International Airport — it's apparently a no-brainer for all of them to show up.

The news hook was the formal introduction of Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks at the airport. The self-service kiosks allow international travelers from 38 visa-waiver countries such as Australia, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom to submit their declaration and biographic electronically when they arrive at Customs at TIA. It's available only to U.S. and Canadian passport holders. Lawmakers welcomed the kiosks as a way to get passengers from overseas out of the airport and contributing to the local economy as quickly as possible.

"Every international traveler that comes to this area spends on average $4,500," said Tampa-area Congresswoman Kathy Castor. "Those are dollars that help create jobs, [and] help keep our travel and tourism area going."

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David Gregory leaves Meet The Press without getting to say goodbye

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 11:52 AM


Most Sundays on this blog, this reporter usually writes up the highlights of one of the Sunday morning political shows. Sort of a "we watch so you don't have to" summary.

Many of those reports have summed up what happened on NBC's Meet The Press with David Gregory, who has been hosting the weekly program since I took over this gig nearly five years ago.

But no more. As you undoubtedly know by now, Gregory was canned from MTP last week. It was a nice touch employed by the show's crew to allow guest host Andrea Mitchell to acknowledge that changing of the guard on yesterday's program, since Gregory himself wasn't aware the week before that it would be his last show.

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Mitch Perry Report 8.18.14: Political consultants think Eastern Hillsborough voters are pretty stupid

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 9:04 AM

The anti-Gottlieb mailer sent out by the RPOF in 2012.
  • The anti-Gottlieb mailer sent out by the RPOF in 2012.

Eastern Hillsborough is easily the most socially conservative part of the vast county, but there are a sizable number of Democrats out there who believe that credible moderate candidates have a chance. No doubt the Republican Party of Florida was worried about that during the last 10 days of the 2012 campaign, when they feared that Democrat Gail Gottlieb might pull off an upset in the House District 59 seat race against Republican Ross Spano. Gottlieb was endorsed by the Tribune and the Times, and looked like she might have the right stuff to pull off an upset in the district that encompasses Brandon, Valrico and Riverview.

So the RPOF sent out an incendiary mailer that labeled her work with the Sierra Club "radical," with a photo associating that group and others like the AFL-CIO with terrorism. 

It was "outrageous," in Gottlieb's words, and it certainly worked, as Spano won the seat in a close contest.

GOP consultants are now in a death match in the Hillsborough County District 4 GOP race for County Commission, where Janet Dougherty is facing former Tampa Police Officer Rick Cochran and school board member Stacy White. The Tampa Bay Times' Will Hobson reports today that political consultants are going after all three of the Republicans.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bee Against Monsanto celebrates National Honeybee Day

Posted By on Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 8:54 AM

Children of Bee Against Monsanto members loudly buzz to save the bees upon the official Bee Against Monsanto Stage
  • Children of Bee Against Monsanto members loudly buzz to save the bees upon the official Bee Against Monsanto Stage
In celebration of National Honeybee Day, the Tampa born activist group Bee Against Monsanto gathered for a protest at the Stained Marketplace in Ybor City on Saturday. Before they set out on a march through downtown Ybor, they hosted a family friendly education and awareness meet-up with merchandise, literature, signs, toys and fresh ice water. A local beekeeper was also on hand to explain his practice and answer questions about bees.

After the Tampa March Against Monsanto last October, the group held a fundraiser. They were able to raise a couple of  thousand dollars, which afforded them the ability to create and ship silk screened shirts, bumper stickers, and information to other activists all over the world. Logo creator Kriz Partridge joined up with Tami Monroe Canal, the founder of March Against Monsanto last year. Together they decided to do a Honeybee Day event in an effort to save the bees.

Partridge says that there were 86 events planned on Saturday across the globe to celebrate honeybee day, including in Australia, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Africa, and all over Europe and the U.S. When people ask him why they decided to call the movement Bee Against Monsanto, he tells them, “It’s a spinoff of the March Against Monsanto, but really come to find that Bayer and Monsanto seem to have an unwritten contract” in which their brands, advertising and shared use of pesticides and neonicotinoid seed treatments are so deeply interwoven.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pinellas House candidates take their case to libertarians in Clearwater

Posted By on Sat, Aug 16, 2014 at 10:31 PM

Pinellas House candidates Philip Garrett, Chris Shepard, Steve Sarnoff and Chris Latvala (standing at right).
  • Pinellas House candidates Philip Garrett, Chris Shepard, Steve Sarnoff and Chris Latvala (standing at right).

Early voting for what will undoubtedly be a low turnout primary election began Saturday in Pinellas County, but one of the few intriguing primary races could be in the Democratic contest in House District 67 (Clearwater & Largo), where Shawna Vercher is competing against Steve Sarnoff and Thomas Ryan. 

"We cannot run the third largest state in the country like it’s Mississippi," declared Sarnoff, a longtime city of Clearwater employee and president of the local branch of the Communications Workers of America union said on Saturday afternoon at a candidate forum in Clearwater. "We've got to learn that we have to accept change. We can't brag about how little taxes we pay, because that simply causes hardship, and eventually it's going to work against us."

Sarnoff didn't go as far as to cross the third rail of Florida politics - actually advocating for a state income tax - but he did say that's not what influences whether a business will relocate to the Sunshine State (undoubtedly Rick Scott and most state Republicans would disagree). Sarnoff says an improved education and transportation system is what's required to bring more high quality jobs to the state, and he'll fight for that if elected in November.

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