Friday, August 29, 2014

Ask the Locals: Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough trailblazer

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 6:00 PM

  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner is in his sixth year in office. A financial planner and former police officer from Michigan City, Indiana, the 43-year-old Democrat famously ousted Republican incumbent (and former pro wrestler) Brian Blair in 2008.

The upset was historic for two reasons: Sitting county commissioners rarely get unseated by first-time candidates and Beckner, a relative unknown until his run for office, did it as an openly gay man.

Now in his second term, the commissioner has made good on his promise to champion fiscal responsibility, sustainable growth, government transparency and LGBT equality. In 2013, at Beckner’s urging, the seven-member Board of County Commissioners repealed an 8-year policy banning the promotion of gay pride events in Hillsborough County. (Former Commissioner Ronda Storms, a religious conservative, introduced the policy in 2005.)

Beckner moved to Tampa in 1998 after spending several years working as a financial planner outside of Chicago. He currently serves as chair of the Hillsborough County Community Violence Prevention Collaborative and the Juvenile Justice Task Force, which he created to help provide outreach to at-risk youth and families. He sits on the Environmental Protection Commission, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Public Safety Coordinating Council, among others.

He lives in Citrus Park with his husband, Hillsborough County Sgt. Gil Sainz. The couple has been together for 15 years and married for nine years.

Favorite Sunday excursion: Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Temple. “They have quality Thai food at a reasonable price and the outdoor atmosphere makes for a perfect place for a couple or family to get away. More and more people are finding out about the place, so it seems you have to get there earlier and earlier before they run out of food.”

Favorite Asian staple: Yummy House. “Their combination of chicken and broccoli is one of my favorites. The fresh rolls with peanut sauce and a big bowl of wonton soup absolutely hit the spot.”

Favorite guilt-free eating: Seasons 52. “All of their dishes are supposed to be under 500 calories and the menu constantly changes to reflect what’s in season. My favorite is the garlic chicken flatbread. If you’re a fish eater, the plank-roasted salmon is incredible.”

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Ask the Locals: Ken Welch, Pinellas politico

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 5:54 PM

  • Photo by Heidi Kurpiela

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch grew up in South St. Petersburg. His grandmother lived off 22nd Street South, a historic business district that was a mecca for famous jazz musicians and African American business owners and leaders back in Welch’s parents’ day.

Welch, 49, graduated from Lakewood Senior High School, where he says he was “a band brat” who swapped his disco albums for rock albums with a red-haired classmate named Rod. His father was David Welch, the second black man elected to the St. Pete City Council, who served three four-year terms during a time of marked racial tension and redevelopment in the city.

The father of two studied accounting at the University of South Florida and got his Master’s in business administration from Florida A&M University. He spent 14 years at Florida Power Corporation (now Duke Energy) and has been involved in Pinellas County politics for well over a decade.

In 2000, he was elected to the District 7 seat of the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners. He was re-elected in 2004, 2008 and 2012. He serves on several boards and committees, including the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Pinellas County Business Technology Services Board and Pinellas Metropolitan Planning Organization. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, Donna for 23 years.

Best place to fill your belly: Sylvia’s Restaurant. “It’s authentic soul food, real Southern stuff, like the kind of food your mama used to make.”

Most essential St. Pete eatery: The Chattaway. “They’ve got outstanding hamburgers, outdoor Florida ambience and jazz music. It’s a homey atmosphere.”

Best place to talk politics: Kahwa South. “It’s a real political hangout. Darden Rice is there every morning and a lot of business people. You’ve got the folks from the Times coming and going. It’s a hot spot.”

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Charlie Crist Opens New Campaign Office in St. Pete

Posted By on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 6:05 PM

If Charlie Crist is re-elected governor this year he promises to reconvene two environmental summits that were held during the first two years of his previous term as governor. Crist made those comments in front of around 100 or so fervent supporters were on hand last Saturday to help launch a new St. Petersburg campaign office.

The beginning of Crist's governorship, in 2007 and 2008 respectively, saw him convening what were touted as being annual summits on global climate change. However, during his last two years as governor these global summits were halted without any fanfare or scrutiny. This past Saturday Crist unequivocally stated that he will reinstitute climate summits on the Everglades and climate change.


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Monday, April 28, 2014

Former diplomat pessimistic about a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 10:14 AM

The former ambassador to Bosnia Herzegovina and foreign affairs expert, Douglas McElhaney, was the keynote speaker at last Saturday's 4th annual Human Rights Conference on the University of Tampa. The all day event was held at the Vaughn Center; the campus' student union. Despite a small turn out of roughly 50 people consisting of students, faculty, United Nations Association of Tampa members and a guest speaker from Canada, the presentations and discussions were as weighty as the topic would dictate.


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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bloomingdale Big Box theatre of the absurd gets panned

Posted By on Sat, Feb 8, 2014 at 6:41 AM


Hillsborough's Big Box scam continues. Remember in 2013 when local residents in east Hillsborough suddenly learned that that they were going to get a super Big Box/apartment complex/strip mall along the already overstuffed Bloomingdale Ave roadway?

The latest chapter in this saga involves the county's travelling theatre troupe, a/k/a public works, doing a one act play, portraying a county that really cares...a county that wants to make things right...a county that wants to use whatever resources it can to fix the problems created when they gave the Bloomingdale Big Box retail developers what they wanted without citizen input.

This latest performance took place in the auditorium at Bloomingdale HS on Tuesday, February 4, 2014. The playbill said they wanted to hear what citizens had to say about fixing the traffic problems in the Bloomingdale area.

As hard as they tried, the play got panned by local residents. Why? Because the Hillsborough theater troupe showed up with nothing more than a blank script.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Will $100 million buy the governor's race?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 12:09 PM

The projected cost of Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election bid: $100 million.

The value of grassroots mobilizing to put Charlie Crist back in the governor’s office: Priceless.

That is how Democratic organizers see Crist's challenge in trying to take back the governor's office in Florida. Whether big organizing can trump big money remains to be seen.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Morning Report: Kriseman's campaign manager tweets himself into trouble

Plus: Speed limit increases proposed, sexual harassment at Children’s Services, and more …

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Cesar Fernandez, shown here without his foot in his mouth.
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  • Cesar Fernandez, shown here without his foot in his mouth.
The 24-year-old campaign manager credited with engineering Rick Kriseman’s victory in the St. Pete mayor's race boastfully tweeted this week that the candidate did not need the African-American vote after all to win the election.

One thing is certain, Rick Kriseman will need the support of the city’s African-Americans to lead Florida’s fourth-largest city.

Cesar Fernandez’s bragging on social media made that job harder this week for the mayor-elect.

Monday, Kriseman worked to distance himself from Fernandez’s statement, which was a tweeted analysis of the election results.
Kriseman told the Tampa Bay Times that the statement was insensitive and certainly does not reflect his views.

“I was honored to have it,” Kriseman said of the support he received from African-American voters. The city's black communities were considered a swing vote in the final days of the hard-fought race.

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Morning Report: A decisive defeat, a big job ahead

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Rick Kriseman will not be sworn in as St. Petersburg mayor until January, but he already faces some immediate decisions — hiring a new police chief and dealing with the shuttered city Pier.

The morning after Kriseman decisively beat incumbent Bill Foster, the mayor-elect got down to business, organizing a City Hall press conference to talk about the pressing issues of the new administration.

Topping the list is hiring a new police chief to replace retiring Chief Chuck Harmon, who leaves on Jan. 6. Kriseman campaigned that he will hire a national consultant to lead the search.

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Voices from St. Pete Election Night 2013

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 8:11 AM

City Councilwoman-elect Darden Rice at her victory party at Red Mesa Cantina.
  • Arielle Stevenson
  • City Councilwoman-elect Darden Rice at her victory party at Red Mesa Cantina.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on newly elected City Councilmember Darden Rice:
“She understands the challenges in St. Pete economically, but also sees the potential. We’ve worked together on environmental restoration. She’s been a leader on transit. St. Pete has grown by leaps and bounds tonight. This is the place to be because of all the young energy Darden brings. St. Pete is on the move. The challenges are taking that economic growth beyond downtown, south into Midtown and northern St. Petersburg as well. This isn’t just one neighborhood. This is a great place for new businesses.”

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Rick Kriseman — and Democrats — declare St. Pete victory

The mayor-elect of St. Petersburg welcomes a "progressive-minded" slate of winners.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 7:01 AM

Mayor-elect Kriseman celebrates his victory at NOVA 535.
  • Mayor-elect Kriseman celebrates his victory at NOVA 535.

Challenger Rick Kriseman easily won the mayor's race Tuesday, leading a progressive slate of City Council candidates to a decisive victory in St. Petersburg elections.

Kriseman, a former Democratic state lawmaker, beat incumbent Mayor Bill Foster by 12 points, though polls had predicted a tight race.

“I’m surprised by the margin,” said Kriseman, who was swarmed by supporters at NOVA 535, where the returns were tracked on a large screen behind the bar. “This just shows how much the community is asking for change.”

Kriseman took 56 percent of the vote to Foster’s 44 percent, according to unofficial results by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

Incumbents Karl Nurse and Jim Kennedy easily held on to their seats, while newcomers Darden Rice and Amy Foster won their races.

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