St. Petersburg

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Preston Rudie says working for David Jolly was an opportunity he couldn't pass up

Posted by on Sun, Apr 13, 2014 at 1:38 PM

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Leaving a successful career as a top television news reporter to work for a newly elected congressman who could be out of a job by the end of this year may sound like bit of a risk. But Preston Rudie says there's no guarantee of anything in this world, and the upside was too good for him to turn down.

Rudie announced officially on Thursday that he would be stepping down from his position at WTSP-10 News at the end of this week to go to work as newly elected Congressman David Jolly's director of communications, based in Jolly's district office in Seminole.

"I think with everything in life there’s a degree of risk. There’ s always a risk that my contract wouldn’t be renewed at 10 News," he told CL on Friday afternoon. Although he says such a prospect was unlikely, he has dismissed any concerns that he might have to look for a new job after this year's election, which could be one of the most fiercely contested congressional races in the country. It's a swing district that Jolly carried by less than two percentage points last month over Democrat Alex Sink (who remains undecided on whether she'll run for the seat again).

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Rick Baker is an undecided voter when it comes to Greenlight Pinellas

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 2:47 PM

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It was a fairly packed ballroom inside the St. Pete Yacht Club on Thursday when the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosted a debate on the Greenlight Pinellas initiative.

If it at times veered into the realms of incivility (see our story here), it also had plenty of facts and figures, though PSTA Chair Ken Welch and No Tax For Trax head Barbara Haselden often disagreed about what they were. And though it appeared from an outsider's perspective that many in the audience had already made up their minds on the intense issue, not everyone falls in that camp.

"I have taken a position yet, that's why I came here today," former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker told CL. "I wanted to find out more about it."

But with even some of the most relatively mundane facts seemingly in dispute between the two camps, did he learn anything after it was said and done?

"I learned a lot about it on both sides," he told CL. "But I'm going to continue to learn a little bit more about it."

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Judithanne McLauchlan says working the grassroots will pay off in SD22 race

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 10:24 AM

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Judithanne McLauchlan is a political scientist, so it makes sense that she would seriously study the chances of a Democrat winning the Senate District 22 race before advising that candidate to run.

In this case, the candidate is herself. And yes, she definitely thinks she could defeat Republican Jeff Brandes in the unique swing district, which encompasses most of St. Petersburg, some of the beach areas of Pinellas County, and all of South Tampa.

"This seat is a competitive seat," she told a group of a couple of dozen people attending the Hillsborough County GLBTA monthly meeting at J.J.'s in Ybor City. "This is a seat that President Obama won twice. It's a seat that Alex Sink won for governor in 2010 ... this seat actually leans Democrat, so why do we have somebody like Jeff Brandes who is conservative and so far outside this moderate district?" she asked.

Her answer is that the Democrats didn't even field a candidate against the St. Petersburg-based Republican, who first ran for the Senate seat after serving just one term in the state House of Representatives.

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Mitch Perry Report 4.11.14: Duke Energy kicks in $50,000 for Greenlight Pinellas effort

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 8:52 AM

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Last week over 100 environmental activists marched in front of Duke Energy's headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg, bringing petitions signed by thousands of Floridians to the energy giant's offices calling for the company to get off of coal and start using more solar and other forms of alternative energy in its portfolio. 

Many of those activists are strong supporters of Greenlight Pinellas, the transit tax on the fall ballot in Pinellas County that would create funding for more buses and the construction of a light-rail system. And when reporting amounts for "Friends of Greenlight" (the political action committee for the Yes on Greenlight campaign) were announced yesterday, who gave the biggest check for the cause? None other than Duke, which gave a generous $50,000. Up next was the Pinellas Realtor Organization, with $10,000. All told, the PAC brought in $66,000 in the first two months of operations. I'm not sure what this means, other than Duke believes in a more robust public transportation system in the county (which most of the business establishment does as well), and wants to do what's best for Duke. And until the PSC and or Florida lawmakers force Duke to start offering up more renewable energy sources, the company will keep on doing what it's doing. Nothing paradoxical about that.

Meanwhile the group fighting the initiative, No Tax for Tracks, reported less than half that amount, at $25,396.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Senate discussion that could allow Uber to operate in Hillsborough County ends in confusion

Posted by on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 2:44 PM

Jeff Brandes
  • Jeff Brandes
St. Petersburg state Senator Jeff Brandes' proposal that could see Uber finally operating in Tampa ended in confusion and disarray this morning, when the clock ran out in the Senate Transportation Committee before anyone could vote on it.

Brandes and fellow Tampa Bay area Republican Representative Jamie Grant have been leading the charge in Tallahassee to to get the smartphone-powered ride-sharing company into Hillsborough County, whose Public Transportation Commission's $50 minimum fare requirement has been the deal-breaker for the San Francisco-based company. Uber has also faced resistance to entering the Miami market, where there is a $70 minimum fare requirement and a one-hour minimum wait time rule that has deterred them. They're also trying to get into the Orlando area; the company currently operates in Jacksonville.

This morning discussion on Brandes' amendment ended without a vote due to confusion. The committee had agreed for a time certain vote on his proposal by 10:29 a.m., leaving just over ten minutes for discussion on the hotly contested bill. As the moment arrived, Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) called for a vote to extend the voting time. But the acting chair of the committee, Gwen Margolis (D-Miami) apparently misinterpreted that as a vote on the bill itself, and declared the meeting over. So now the bill is officially considered "T.P.'d," meaning temporarily deferred.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Activists in St. Petersburg demand Duke Energy begin using clean energy sources

Posted by on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 2:58 PM

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Chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, dirty coal has got to go,” a group of around 100 protesters marched in front of Duke Energy headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg on Wednesday, dropping off over 5,500 petitions calling on the electric utility company that it’s time to stop relying exclusively on coal for most of their energy in Florida, and start providing cleaner alternative solutions.

Before they did that, however, the activists, led by the Sierra Club but consisting of over two dozen groups in all calling themselves the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition, held a rally across the street in Williams Park.

“There’s a difference between energy and power,” said Kofi Hunt with Awake Pinellas. “The current that runs through the powerlines above us is energy. The light that shines in our houses with a flick of a switch is power. Us standing here in front of the largest energy provider in this country is energy. These 5,000 petitions are power!"
Hunt said the drive to get Duke to begin offering alternative forms of energy can't end with today's rally, though. “Let’s move Florida beyond coal," he exhorted the group.

When it was announced a few years ago that Duke would be merging with Progress Energy, some local environmentalists were excited about the possibilities for cleaner sources of energy being offered to Florida consumers, since the company was noted for pushing for alternative power in other states like North Carolina and Ohio.

But since taking over in Florida, they have not done much of that at all, and in their latest update to their 10-year plan just submitted to the Florida Public Service Commission, the energy giant isn’t promising much of that in the future.

“It doesn’t move the ball on energy efficiency on solar energy. No new ideas here,” announced Frank Jackalone, senior organizing manager of the Sierra Club. Jackalone said he’s seen different numbers floated, but doesn't believe that Duke’s commitment to solar is anything more than one percent of their entire production in the Sunshine State.

And Jackalone said he wasn’t in the mood to hear that the company can’t afford to spend more of their resources on alternative energy, considering that Duke “took $3 billion of our money on a nuclear power plant that’s never going to be built,” as the crowd booed. That’s in reference to what it might cost to repair the failed nuclear power plant in Crystal River that the company inherited from Progress Energy.

He said the estimate was that the company has already made $250 million in profits off of nuclear cost recovery, the controversial program that allows them to charge ratepayers for the cost of nuclear power plants in advance of their construction.

“We appreciate input from our customers and take their concerns very seriously,” said Duke spokesman Sterling Ivey. “We are committed to meeting our customers’ energy needs 24/7 in an increasingly clean, reliable and affordable manner. Doing this requires a mix of energy resources, including natural gas, cleaner-burning coal, renewables and energy efficiency.”

“By shutting down the dirtiest power plants, like Crystal River, using energy more efficiently, and by generating more power from clean, renewable sources like the sun, we could be delivering a one-two punch in the fight against climate change, and ensuring the health and safety of our communities for years to come,” said Jennifer Rubiello, field associate with Environment Florida, based in Tallahassee.

Jackalone admitted that pressuring Duke can’t be the final answer, but instead attention must be focused on the Florida Public Service Commission, who could if they want dictate to all energy companies to begin incorporating more forms of alternative energy to their entire portfolio, something that is being done in over a dozen states.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Judithanne McLauchlan takes a slap at Tallahassee in her first web ad

Posted by on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Saying "Tallahassee's got it all wrong, " and "Jeff Brandes is part of the problem,"  SD22 Democratic candidate Judithanne McLauchlan released a web video on Tuesday that got a bit biographical before getting in a slam at her GOP opponent. 

The race is certainly the most appealing from the perspective that it presents two solid candidates in a relatively swing-district, as SD 22 encompasses parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough County, and the seat was held by a Democrat (Charlie Justice) from 2006-2010, before Republicans have won the past two elections (In the case of 2012, Democrats didn't even field a candidate despite the relatively competitive landscape).

Currently Brandes is working on the people's business in Tallahassee, but he has promised to respond when "the time is right" as he told CL back in January. With his considerable financial resources, no doubt everybody will know it when he goes on air, or have you forgotten his ads about going to take "Tallahassee to the woodshed," which some thought ironic, as the state capitol has been controlled by Republicans for a decade and a half now.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

FARE tour highlights St. Petersburg's energy efficient growth

Posted by on Sat, Mar 22, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Michael Connors, Karl Nurse, and moderator Mike Antheil of FARE
  • Michael Connors, Karl Nurse, and moderator Mike Antheil of FARE
The Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy's 2014 tour landed in Pinellas County on Friday, the fourth of it's five stops as it heads from Miami to the state capitol. With this tour, FARE hopes to expose installations that make use of renewable energy throughout the state, while also hosting forums dedicated to the issue of energy policy.

The Pinellas stop began with a guided tour, taking participants from the Solar Source Headquarters in Largo to the St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus, JW Cate Recreation Center, Habitat for Humanity solar thermal homes, Suntrust Building and the Sierra Club Headquarters. Each of these locations had a standout feature that FARE hopes will become a future staple in energy efficient development.

The final stop was the Sunshine Center in St. Petersburg, which was the sight of a town hall style discussion featuring State Representative Mike Dudley, St. Petersburg Public Works Administrator Michael Connors and Karl Nurse of the St. Petersburg City Council.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mitch Perry Report 3.20.14: Rand Paul calls for investigation of intelligence abuses

Posted by on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 8:22 AM

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Rand Paul spoke at the University of California at Berkeley last night, which undoubtedly will be a story for days and weeks to come amongst cable news pundits whose single job seems to be to talk about who might be running for president in 2016.

That is a significant story — I've covered events at Berkeley that didn't turn out well for Republicans or those with conservative views. But let's set that aside and concentrate on some of his remarks.

Paul said he wants to convene a special committee on Capitol Hill to investigate domestic spying by government agencies, following Senator Diane Feinstein's complaint that the CIA had spied on her congressional staff.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg is poised to become as "cool" as Austin, Seattle & Portland

Posted by on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 5:41 PM

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Based on the reaction from the crowd at today’s Tiger Bay Club luncheon at the St. Pete Yacht Club, Rick Kriseman is still enjoying the political honeymoon that began when he defeated incumbent Mayor Bill Foster last fall. In perhaps his biggest speech since he was inaugurated on January 2, Kriseman gave a mini-State of the City address to the club, and he was never taken off guard by the questions thrown his way.

“This is a great job, made only greater by the opportunities that we have in front of us," he began in a five-minute address before fielding questions from the Tiger Bay members, traditionally representing the political elite of Pinellas County.

Kriseman said some of the most positive reactions he’s received since being elected came in response to his re-opening of the Pier head. He mentioned the national search for a new police chief (sidestepping any discussion about the recent controversy within the ranks); boasted about his new hires; and discussed his drive to address inequality on the Southside. He also talked about tightening the police chase policy and sending a message that the city is not a place for gun violence by signing on to the Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns (an organization that Bill Foster shunned).

Kriseman played down the reported $2.3 million deficit that the city may face in September, saying it’s not as large “because of some funds that haven’t been transferred,” adding, “It was a deficit that I unfortunately inherited.”

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