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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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Greenlight, red light? The battle over Pinellas’ transit tax initiative continues to heat up

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 9:35 AM

PSTA’s Susan Latvala, Brad Miller and Ken Welch (L to R). - KEVIN TIGHE
  • Kevin Tighe
  • PSTA’s Susan Latvala, Brad Miller and Ken Welch (L to R).

Earlier this spring Dr. David McKalip, one of the leading critics of the Greenlight Pinellas transit tax that county voters will decide on this fall, said that he felt something was amiss after watching an ad that PSTA, the Pinellas transit agency, ran with a disclaimer at its conclusion mentioning Department of Homeland Security grant money. He instigated a public records request to learn who made the commercials, then followed up by researching online documents and reviewing PSTA minutes of earlier board meetings. That convinced him that the agency had misspent DHS funds as a back-door way to promote the transit plan.

So he confronted PSTA Executive Director Brad Miller, who denied his charges. Shortly thereafter, ace WTSP investigative television reporter Mike Deeson picked up on McKalip’s work and did his own report. He confronted Miller on camera to answer the charge that it appeared the agency had misused funds to promote the transit agency, which PSTA is explicitly not allowed to do. Again, Miller rejected the allegation.

A couple of days later, the PSTA board met for its monthly June meeting. There, Miller and Welch addressed the issue, with Welch mocking its accuracy. As some Board members talked about demanding a retraction from the local CBS affiliate, Welch simply conceded that critics were going to use such “misinformation” all the way up to the election.

Except it wasn’t misinformation, something that Miller and Welch had to cop to after Homeland Security called on PSTA to return the $354,000 in federal funds after it concluded its own investigation (prompted by an inquiry from Congressman David Jolly).

A minor aberration on the way to Pinellas successfully voting on what its advocates call one of the biggest things to happen to the county, ever? Perhaps. But with trust in government at all-time low levels, the error by an agency asking to raise residents’ taxes played straight into the Tea Party mantra about Big Government run amok.

“It’s unfortunate that political ideology will play a significant role,” says Eckerd College political science professor Tony Brunello, who supports the measure. “So that this sort of skepticism about government could very well blunt the momentum towards getting this done.”

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

David Jolly formally files bill to require local law enforcement to be trained to use military equipment

Posted By on Wed, Sep 10, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Law enforcement in Tampa during the 2012 RNC.
  • Law enforcement in Tampa during the 2012 RNC.

Local police agencies that use military equipment earmarked for counter-terrorism to handle public order disturbances instead could be forced to repay millions of dollars in grants, under a review revealed during the first congressional hearing of the events that transpired this summer in Ferguson, Missouri.

"We have a range of remedies should [the DOJ] find noncompliance, including recoupment of funds,” Brian Kamoie of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told Kentucky senator Rand Paul on Tuesday during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Paul said he was horrified by the “thoroughly un-American” policing tactics seen in Ferguson, and called for an immediate end to the 1033 program, which has provided 12,000 bayonets, 5,200 humvees and 617 mine-resistant armored vehicles (MRAPs) to civilian forces across the US.

Also in Washington, Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly has officially filed a bill that requires Federal, State, and local agencies to which surplus military equipment and personal property is sold or donated demonstrate that agency personnel are certified, trained, or licensed, as appropriate, in the proper operation of the equipment prior to the sale or donation.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Uber targets Victor Crist & Al Higginbotham in new mailers

Posted By on Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 10:53 AM


Negotiations between ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft and the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Company have moved along at a snail's pace this year since the two companies began operating their services in April without being certified by the PTC. After repeated warnings, PTC agents have gone after and started busting Lyft and Uber drivers, citing them for various violations.

But if those citations were meant to intimidate those drivers and the San Francisco-based companies representing them, it hasn't worked. Though PTC officials previously grumbled that representatives from Uber and Lyft were resistant to sitting down with them, officials from both companies have been talking with the Hillsborough regulatory body over the past month. 

But neither company is happy with the compromise offer that the PTC offered last month to those companies — a compromise that would still require Uber and Lyft to charge customers at least $30 and make them order the service at least a half-hour in advance.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Forum brings out candidates for Pinellas House districts

Posted By on Sat, Sep 6, 2014 at 12:02 PM

James Grant addresses the audience
  • James Grant addresses the audience

With election day less than 60 days away, the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club on Friday afternoon at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club hosted candidates running for House Districts 64, 66, 68 and 69, all serving the Pinellas County area. The event intended to provide a forum for the upcoming races, allowing members in attendance to ask the most press the the candidates participating on the issues that will likely decide the November's winner.

In attendance were seven of the eight candidates running for the districts: James Grant and Miriam Steinberg, competing for District 64; Larry Ahern and Lorena Grizzle, competing for District 66; Dwight Dudley, competing for District 68; and Kathleen Peters and Scott Orsini, competing for District 69. The only candidate missing was Bill Young, son of the late Pinellas Congressman, who is running against Dudley in District 68.

Despite running for only an hour, the forum managed to give each candidate an opportunity to address some of the campaign season's main points of debate, along with some of the legislature's more controversial decisions. Perhaps the most talked about point of contention was the first issue addressed: the decision to block a federal funding of medicaid expansion earlier this year. Ahern, who voted against the expansion, explained his decision as a defense of the original goals of Medicaid.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Hooper-Gerard Pinellas County race is just starting, and it's getting nasty quickly

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 2:17 PM

On Tuesday, Clearwater state Representative and Pinellas County Commission candidate Ed Hooper forcefully responded to charges made by his Democratic opponent, Largo Mayor Pat Gerard, that accused him of peddling his influence in the Legislature through his control of a Clearwater-based consulting firm. But shortly after the Gerard campaign issued its press release, Hooper accused Gerard of using taxpayer expenses to solicit campaign funds while representing Largo at the Florida League of Cities event in Tallahassee in April.

And on Wednesday, he hinted that there will be more attacks to come Gerard's way.

"I'm a firm believer that when they throw a stick of dynamite at you, light the fuse and throw it back," he told CL. "We'll be lighting the fuses and throwing back."

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Friday, August 29, 2014

St. Pete City Council unanimously agrees to support a Move to Amend resolution

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 4:44 AM

Members of Awake Pinellas and Move to Amend Pinellas fill St. Pete's City Council chambers
  • Members of Awake Pinellas and Move to Amend Pinellas fill St. Pete's City Council chambers

Thursday night the St. Pete City Council agreed to support a Move to Amend resolution in support of grass-roots action. The resolution was brought to the table by members of Awake Pinellas and its affiliate, Move to Amend Pinellas County. The motion to pass it was proposed by City Councilwoman Darden Rice.

More than 20 activists dressed in bright red Move to Amend T-shirts filled the chambers and sat patiently for three hours awaiting their turn to speak.  The goal of the Move to Amend movement is to oppose recent Federal Supreme Court rulings such as the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, where it was ruled that corporations are people; and this year’s McCutheon vs. FEC case, in which the capping of aggregate campaign contributions was invalidated.

They also propose to amend the Constitution in order to “establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”  The resolution also calls for the regulation of political action committees and a return to a participatory democracy in which voters have a sense of trust in their Government.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Greenlight Pinellas advocates want you to know they have GOP support

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Karen Seel
  • Karen Seel
Earlier this month the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee voted unanimously to oppose Greenlight Pinellas, the tax swap proposal that would include a one-cent sales tax increase for enhanced bus and light-rail service in the county.

“I think at that point it's really tough to say there's Republican support," committee member Daryle Hamel told the Tampa Tribune. "While you may have individual candidates or elected officials support it, I think there's a clear definition that as a party, this is a massive tax increase.”

Au contraire, says Kyle Parks with Yes on Greenlight, the political committee pushing for passage of the transit tax.

"If you really want to hit a nerve (about GOP support), ask Susan Latvala or Karen Seel or Frank Hibbard. I can go on and on and on," he says of notable Republicans in the county who are fully supportive of the measure. 

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

PSTA board stands firmly behind Brad Miller & Ken Welch

Posted By on Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Susan Latvala, Brad Miller & Ken Welch at today's PSTA meeting. - KEVIN TIGHE
  • Kevin Tighe
  • Susan Latvala, Brad Miller & Ken Welch at today's PSTA meeting.

Meeting for the first time since their CEO, Brad Miller, had to humbly return $354,000 to the Department of Homeland Security, the PSTA board heard intense criticism from some members of the public this morning, with some calling on Miller and PSTA chairman Ken Welch to resign, saying that that they have abused their positions.

Two months ago at the transit agency's June meeting, Welch blasted a report by WTSP's Mike Deeson that said that PSTA had misused funding from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for ads promoting Greenlight Pinellas, the transit tax initiative on the ballot this November. But in an about face, Miller earlier this month ended up refunding $354,000 to DHS after the federal agency said that the ads didn't meet the requirements for an "anti-terrorism" campaign. Further criticism reigned down on PSTA after the agency said they would post the names of those who request public information on the agency's website.

"This agency has lost the trust with the voters because of it’s continued scandals," said Dr. David McKalip, who initially wrote on his blog about the DHS funding. "This is not a one time thing, but a pattern of abuse with our tax dollars." He accused Miller and Welch of being "drunk with power."

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ed Hooper crushes Norm Roche in Pinellas GOP District 2 County Commission race

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Norm Roche in somewhat happier times.
  • Norm Roche in somewhat happier times.
It's been a controversial four years for Norm Roche on the Pinellas County Commission, and the Republican electorate in Pinellas is turning him out of office in humiliating fashion Tuesday night.

With 287 of 299 precincts reporting, outgoing Clearwater-based state Representative Ed Hooper is leading Roche by 28 percentage points, 64-36 percent. 

Although he ran away from being tarred as a Tea Party favorite, Roche was swept into office alongside the GOP tsunami in 2010 after previous unsuccessful runs as a Democrat. 

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