Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Bloomberg based gun control activist movement campaign kicks off in St. Petersburg

Posted by on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 4:02 PM

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman led off today's news conference on the steps of City Hall
  • St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman led off today's news conference on the steps of City Hall
Tomorrow marks a year since the U.S. Congress last attempted to pass a gun-control bill.

In what was described at the time as a "devastating blow" to President Obama's efforts to regulate guns in the post-Sandy Hook environment, a measure that would have expanded the use of background checks to cover all firearms sales at gun shows and over the Internet failed to reach the necessary 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, ending the momentum for such regulations in the wake of the December 2012 gun-violence tragedy that resulted in the loss of 26 lives, including 20 children.

Today in St. Petersburg and in other cities in 14 other states around the country, gun-control activists gathered together to say that they are committed to electing candidates who believe in sensible gun control — all part of a national effort led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to unveil his new organization, Everytown for Gun Safety; Everytown merges his other gun-control groups, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action. The goal is to sign up one million new supporters this year on top of the 1.5 million they already have.

"With the launch of Everytown, our efforts are only going to grow," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, kicking off a press conference on the steps of City Hall shortly before noon today. "This is an all-hands on deck effort," where he called on those present to enlist everyone in their community to work towards fighting for policies that will attempt to curb gun violence. "We are passionately invested in this fight. It is the time to turn the tide and together, I know we will."

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Manuel Sykes says he'll decide whether to run for CD13 seat in next few days

Posted by on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 1:26 PM

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The Rev. Manuel Sykes says he intends to speak with Alex Sink and other prominent Democrats within the next 24 hours before he decides whether or not to jump into the CD13 Democratic primary election. "I am interested, but I certainly want to make a wise decision," he told CL on Wednesday morning. He says he hopes to have consulted with those Democratic voices by tonight, and be ready to make a decision before the end of this week. Among those voices include Darryl Rouson, Ken Welch and Largo Mayor Pat Gerard."I don't believe in divisiveness. But if I do run, it'll be because in my heart it's because what I believe I need to do."

Sykes, the head of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP,  no longer lives in the district after it was redrawn by the Legislature last year. He currently resides on 61st Avenue South, and already appears sensitive to the charge that he might be running in a district that he isn''t currently living in, calling it a "travesty." He says that if he does decide to run, he already has nailed down two possible locations to move to that are inside the confines of the CD13 seat, which now resides from Dunedin south to Tierra Verde, with parts of downtown and south St. Pete.

"The issues that we're dealing with - that's one of them, " he says about the residency requirement, which is an issue that Sink had to deal with, having lived much further away in Hillsborough County before moving to Feather Sound during the campaign. "Ultimately, it's like a poll tax - you're telling me instead of having to pay to vote, now I've got to what?" 

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Kathy Castor doesn't see Republicans moving on comprehensive immigration reform for years

Posted by on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Kathy Castor at an event earlier this year (with the NAACP's Carolyn Collins on the left & the  ACLU's Mike Pheneger on her right)
  • Kathy Castor at an event earlier this year (with the NAACP's Carolyn Collins on the left & the ACLU's Mike Pheneger on her right)
Politico is reporting that House Democrats intend to target 30 House Republicans over the next couple of weeks who have expressed previous support for some sort of immigration reform. It's considered a last-ditch effort to force the GOP to act on the Senate's bipartisan comprehensive bill that passed last summer. Among those 30 Republicans, three are from Florida: Daniel Webster, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. 

But one House Democrat isn't very optimistic that it will go anywhere.

"Immigration reform has hit a brick wall in the House of Representatives," says Tampa-area Congresswoman Kathy Castor."There's no dialogue. There's lots of talk, but only in a 'let's do this in a piecemeal fashion, let's look at reform,' there's no action whatsoever. It's simply lip service."

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mitch Perry Report 4.16.14: Rick Scott team boasts about its direct voter campaign

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 6:49 PM

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The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo has posted an internal memo written by Tim Saler, deputy campaign manager for Rick Scott, in which Saler lays out what the Scott re-election team has done already to reach out to voters, a good half-year before Floridians go to the polls to vote for governor.

Saler writes that he expects Charlie Crist to follow the Barack Obama playbook and open up as many as 100 campaign-funded field offices around the state — but boasts that the probable Democratic nominee is already "behind the eight ball" compared to the president's track record in building campaign infrastructure. And he says Crist's is a far different strategy than that of the Scott re-election team, which Saler calls "the most sophisticated and successful direct voter engagement campaign in Florida history."

Saler says that volunteers for Scott have already knocked on 120,000 doors throughout Florida. If that's even remotely accurate, that's damned impressive at such an early stage. Because even with his $100 million budget, Rick Scott has to go all out if he's going to beat Crist this fall. And apparently his team is doing just that.

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Divestment petition gathers over 10,000 signatures at USF

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 1:36 PM

USF’s Students for Justice in Palestine.
  • USF’s Students for Justice in Palestine.

USF’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition that calls for the USF Foundation to withdraw its investments in certain management funds and re-invest in more “ethical” corporations.

The corporations that the SJP wants USF to disassociate itself from include Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, G4S PLC, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, all considered to be suppliers of weapons used by the government of Israel against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories..

"That's one-fourth of the student body," says Malak Fakhoury proudly. She's an SJP member and a sophomore majoring in psychology. Fakhoury says the group will present its petitions to the administration at the Board of Trustees meeting in early June at the Marshall Student Center Ballroom. "That's when we'll make our stand," she says.

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Alex Sink bows out of re-match with David Jolly. Now what?

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 11:54 AM

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Exactly five weeks after she lost in the intensely hard-fought CD13 race against David Jolly, Democrat Alex Sink announced this morning she will not be the Democratic nominee challenging Jolly this fall.

“I am so honored and humbled by the outpouring of support our campaign received, but after reflection with my family I have made a personal decision not to run for the 13th Congressional District seat in the 2014 election," Sink said in a statement. "I want to thank every voter, volunteer and donor for their support — we can all be proud of the strong campaign we ran. I look forward to finding new, rewarding avenues where I can continue to effectively serve the people of Florida. In the words of Bill, I look forward to continuing to do good. I remain totally convinced that a Democrat can and will win this congressional seat in the fall, and I look forward to helping the Democratic nominee."

Sink lost by 1.8 percentage points to Jolly, the former lobbyist and aide to longtime CD13 Representative Bill Young. Members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said from the day after the March 11 special election that they wanted Sink to run again — thoughts that were amplified by a report by John King on CNN nine days ago.

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Mitch Perry Report 4.15.14: Exposing govt. incompetence gets rewarded

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 9:18 AM

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After St. Petersburg passed laws against panhandling several years ago, reports began surfacing of a large increase in panhandling in Tampa and Hillsborough County. This was right in the middle of the Great Recession, and by 2010 was considered such a problem that the Tampa City Council spent months (if not years) discussing and then passing an ordinance cracking down on panhandlers. They went further with that in 2013.

During those discussions, nearly every member of the Council expressed frustrations that the city couldn't do more to help the homeless. But such services were under the jurisdiction of Hillsborough County, not the city, and when it came to doing something new for the homeless, county commissioners appeared to be unengaged, particularly after they succumbed to community outrage about a proposed "tent city" along Eastern Hillsborough Avenue.

But at least the county was already providing services to the homeless, right? Well, sort of, but nobody really knew what a terrible job officials were doing until Tampa Bay Times reporters Michael LaForgia and Will Hobson began detailing the level of incompetence and indifference inside the Homeless Recovery Program last fall.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Tampa Bay Times wins 2014 Pulitzer for Hoe Brown exposé

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 5:08 PM

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Reporters Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia of the Tampa Bay Times have taken home the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for their exposé of William "Hoe" Brown, the Tampa Port Authority chairman and Republican fundraiser whose lucrative sideline as a slumlord was essentially subsidized by the county's Homeless Recovery program, which sent clients to live in Brown's squalid properties (and paid him hundreds of thousands in rent) without inspecting property conditions.

"It's shocking. People shouldn't have to live like that," says a code enforcement official about a Brown property in the series' first installment, and he ain't kidding. The evidence amassed by Hobson and LaForgia was genuinely shocking, and led to Brown's resignation from the Port Authority and wholesale changes in Hillsborough's approach to the homeless. Kudos to the reporters, and also a shout-out to photographers Daniel Wallace, Carolina Hidalgo, Eve Edelheit, Chris Zuppa, and Edmund Fountain, whose eye for detail, like that of Hobson and LaForgia, amplified the power of the story. (Favorite juxtaposition, noted in both text and photos: A Hoe Brown for Republican State Committeeman campaign poster being used to cover a broken window in one of his properties, followed by a shot of Brown's own posh $485,000 South Tampa home.)

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Castor, Danish & PTA members call for public school equity on PECO funds

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Voucher supporters (Julisse Levy, Glen Gildean and Catherine Durkin Robinson in the middle) greet Congresswoman Kathy Castor before her press conference
  • Voucher supporters (Julisse Levy, Glen Gildean and Catherine Durkin Robinson in the middle) greet Congresswoman Kathy Castor before her press conference
“Were here today to report a theft," Tampa-area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor said at the beginning of her press conference this morning in front of  Wilson Middle School in South Tampa. "There has been a theft of tax dollars from our public schools."

Specifically Castor was alluding to the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) trust fund that is dedicated towards maintaining public school buildings in Florida. According to the Miami Herald, Last year, charter schools received $91 million from the PECO fund, while for the third year in a row, traditional public schools received nothing.

A proposal in the state House of Representatives would be a little better for public schools. It would provide $100 million in PECO funds for charter schools and $50 million for traditional public schools. The Senate plan is much more equitable - it will give charters $50 million and public schools $40 million.

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Pat Kemp to challenge Al Higginbotham in Hillsborough County Commission District 7 race

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Pat Kemp. - MITCH PERRY
  • Mitch Perry
  • Pat Kemp.

Hillsborough Democrats who thought they had a decent chance of taking the open District 7 countywide seat were crestfallen earlier this year when Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern dropped out of the contest due to health concerns. But they're feeling a bit more revived today after the announcement that former Hillsborough County Democratic Party chair Pat Kemp is now in the contest to challenge Republican Al Higginbotham.

Higginbotham has had a substantial head start in raising money, having collected over $164,000. Kemp is under no illusions that she'll be able to match him on that front, but says that neither of them has run countywide, and she brings up the strong unrest that's been percolating for nearly a year in Higginbotham's District 4,  where a big-box development along Bloomingdale Road has fired up residents.

"The people out there are very, very upset to the point where they collected $5,000 to sue their own County Commission, which is kind of an amazing thing for a neighborhood to do," she says, referring to the Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization, or CAN-DO, the eastern Hillsborough County group formed last year in the wake of its collective anger about that development.

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