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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Recycling likely to be issue between the Two Ricks

Recycling, especially Rick Baker's record on opposing it while mayor, may surface in tonight's televised debate

Sophia Nahli Allison

Recycling, especially Rick Baker's record on opposing it while mayor, may surface in tonight's televised debate

When Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker go head-to-head in tonight’s televised debate, they’ll likely tangle over the city’s sewage crisis.

Baker will almost certainly mention the recent Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission draft report, which places much of the blame for the city's sewage woes on Kriseman's shoulders.

Kriseman will probably highlight Baker’s stance on climate change, which is that man plays a role in a changing climate, but no one knows how much, so remove carbon from atmosphere anyway.

But, one issue dear to many environmentalists’ heart hasn’t gotten much of a hearing in the over-heating mayoral race yet:  recycling.

Yet no issue appears to put as much daylight between the actions of Baker and Kriseman during their respective administrations.

Baker, mayor from 2001-2010, fought efforts to implement curbside recycling. Kriseman made it a priority and the city launched its recycling program for single-family homes in June 2015.

So what is Baker’s view on recycling now? …

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Two Ricks deliver video to AARP voter guide

The two Ricks have delivered their AARP videos

Times File Photo

The two Ricks have delivered their AARP videos

Last week, AARP Florida was a little ticked off that neither Mayor Rick Kriseman or former mayor Rick Baker had delivered video responses to a voter education campaign.

Now, both Baker and Kriseman have videos up giving their views on affordable housing and public safety. The "You asked, They answered" series features residents asking questions and the two Ricks responding in a planned five-part weekly series. 

As mail ballots go out Tuesday, the campaigns are in overdrive making their pitches. Also Tuesday, the live hour-long televised debate between Kriseman and Baker will air on Bay News 9 at 7 p.m.. The Tampa Bay Times  is a sponsor of the event at the Palladium, which has generated a fair share of controversy.

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Karl Nurse backs Rick Kriseman in St. Pete mayor's race

St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, left, is seen with Karl Nurse in the combination of two images.

Tampa Bay Times file photos

St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, left, is seen with Karl Nurse in the combination of two images.

ST. PETERSBURG — City Council member Karl Nurse has endorsed Mayor Rick Kriseman.

That’s welcome news for the incumbent Democratic mayor who is engaged in a tough reelection battle with former mayor Rick Baker.

Nurse is popular among progressives and is a respected voice in city politics. A long stint as a community activist segued into an appointment to City Council in 2008. He has been handily releected to District 6 twice. Nurse is term-limited and his endorsement has been eagerly sought by Kriseman.

Nurse endorded Kriseman on Friday. He emailed his comments to the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday.

“This Spring as the Mayor's race opened, I decided to concentrate on getting as many policies and projects implemented to help our city and watch the campaigns unfold," Nurse wrote.

"St. Petersburg, and particularly my council district is making progress on all fronts.  Crime is down.  Southside business districts along 4th St S, 22nd St S and 34th St S are all coming back.  The three most inner city schools, Melrose and Campbell Park elementaries, and John Hopkins Middle School all raised their grades. …

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AARP still waiting for the two Ricks to send voter education videos

It's been a frenetic St. Pete mayor's race so far. Maybe that's the reason AARP hasn't received voter education videos from the campaigns

Lara Cerri

It's been a frenetic St. Pete mayor's race so far. Maybe that's the reason AARP hasn't received voter education videos from the campaigns

AARP Florida wants to educate St. Petersburg residents on Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker’s views on how to make the Sunshine City more livable.

The concept? A resident appears in a video to ask question for the next mayor on topics like affordable housing, civic participation and jobs.

The first resident  in the  video series “We asked, They answered” was asked by smiling, pleasant woman named  “Arlene” who queried the candidates about affordable housing and public safety.

Arlene is still waiting for a response.

The July 19 deadline for the Baker and Kriseman campaigns to submit their video responses has come and gone. UPDATE: Baker's campaign has delivered its video.

Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida’s state director, said both campaigns have been saying all the right things about participating in the voter education effort. But, still, no videos have been delivered.

“It’s been disappointing,” Johnson said.  The group sent out an alert Thursday asking people to call Baker and Kriseman's campaigns to push them to participate. …

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St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix

[LARA CERRI  |  Times]

Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage released from the city's overwhelmed sewer system.

[LARA CERRI | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from 2015-16.

Then on Thursday evening the council unanimously approved a consent order with the state that requires the city to spend $326 million to fix its ailing sewer system.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection slapped the city with the penalty in response to the sewage failures of 2015-16. Council had been scheduled to approve the order at last week's meeting, but tabled it when certain members expressed hesistation about agreeing to the order without knowing how the city will pay for it.

That was still a concern Thursday.

"I'm troubled with some parts of this," City Council member Ed Montanari said, "including the $326 million cost that goes along with this consent order that we need to approve but (without) having the finance plan attached to that."

Most of the $326 million will be spent on improvements to the system's infrastructure over the next several years. It also includes an $810,000 fine levied by the state which the city will be put toward anti-polluation programs. …

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City Attorney: State won't pursue criminal charges in St. Pete's sewage crisis

St. Petersburg's sewage crisis appears to be winding down

Eve Edelheit

St. Petersburg's sewage crisis appears to be winding down

The St. Petersburg City Council is expected to approve a consent order later today that requires the city to spend $326 million on improving its sewer system.

That steep bill comes with a sweetener: no state criminal charges related to the city’s nearly two-year-old sewage crisis.

The city’s top litigator, Joseph Patner, emailed council members last week to inform them that he and City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch met with state officials June 21 for about an hour. The city attorneys and state officials later had two phone conversations.

“We can now inform you that the State Attorney's Office is closing the State investigation initiated by FWC, contingent upon the city entering into a consent order substantially similar to the draft provided. No charges will be brought against the City of St. Petersburg or any employee,” Patner wrote on July 11.

“This concludes all criminal investigations into the sewage discharge issue. Again, no criminal charges have been brought,” he wrote.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said late Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing. An agency spokeswoman was unable Thursday morning to confirm the city’s version. …

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Paul Congemi's 'Go Back to Africa' rant goes viral after St. Pete mayoral forum

Paul Congemi at Tuesday's mayoral forum in City Hall

Eve Edelheit

Paul Congemi at Tuesday's mayoral forum in City Hall

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayoral candidate Paul Congemi has made national news for a racial tirade at Tuesday’s mayoral forum when he told supporters of International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement-affiliated candidate Jesse Nevel to “go back to Africa.”

In the midst of a question about opportunities for youth in the city, Congemi veered off topic in a bizarre way:

“Mr. Nevel, you and your people, you talk about reparations. The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations," Congemi said. "Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama.”

The large contingent of Nevel’s supporters erupted in disbelief and outrage. “Get out of here!” a woman shouted repeatedly.

Congemi didn't stop there:  “My advice to you, my advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour. Go back to Africa, go back to Africa.” …

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Mayor Rick Kriseman: St. Petersburg stopped Albert Whitted spending before he took office

Kriseman's claims on money spent on the Albert Whitted sewage plant were exagerated

Scott Keeler

Kriseman's claims on money spent on the Albert Whitted sewage plant were exagerated

By CHARLIE FRAGO

Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — In the narrative of the mayor’s race, the 2015 closure of the Albert Whitted sewage plant has been used to assign responsibility for the city’s two-year sewage crisis.

Former Mayor Rick Baker has repeatedly charged that the closure of the plant under the administration of his opponent, Mayor Rick Kriseman, in April 2015 directly led to the massive discharges and spills that started gushing out four months later.

A state report said the closure of Albert Whitted played a key role in the sewage crisis. But Kriseman has blamed it on the 2011 City Council, which voted to close the plant six years ago.

Kriseman recently took that defense one step further:

At a July 6 news conference held with the local Sierra Club chapter, Kriseman suggested to reporters that the city essentially abandoned the Albert Whitted plant after the 2011 council vote. It was left in a state of disrepair, he said, long before he became mayor in 2014. …

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Private cemetery agrees to take Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough commissioner says

An unnamed private cemetery in Hillsborough County has agreed to take Tampa's Confederate monument, according to County Commissioner Victor Crist.

Times File Photo

An unnamed private cemetery in Hillsborough County has agreed to take Tampa's Confederate monument, according to County Commissioner Victor Crist.

TAMPA — A private cemetery somewhere in Hillsborough County is willing to take Tampa’s Confederate monument if commissioners vote Wednesday to remove it.

The cemetery doesn’t want to be named at this time, Commissioner Victor Crist said, but its board unanimously voted to take it and display it on their grounds.

Crist, who approached the cemetery with the idea, said it’s a 12-acre site that opened in 1911, the same year that officials unveiled Memoria en Aeterna in downtown Tampa. According to Crist, some Civil War veterans are buried there in family plots.

It’s outside the city of Tampa in an area surrounded by wetlands and is not near any black churches, he added. Crist had previously proposed city-owned Oaklawn Cemetery as an destination, but it was rebuffed by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in part because of its proximity to St. Paul AME church, a vacant but historic black church, and Greater Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, a large, African American Church.

“They’re excited about this,” Crist said. “It’s a beautiful piece of art, it’s a historical piece, it brings something interesting to that part of the county from a tourism standpoint.” …

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Longtime political operative Vito Sheeley to challenge Wengay Newton in District 70

Vito Sheeley

Sheeley campaign

Vito Sheeley

Vito Sheeley, a longtime political aide, announced Monday he intends to challenge State Rep. Wengay Newton in the Democratic primary in a move that can be seen as political wake from the St. Petersburg’s full-throttle mayoral battle.

A primary challenge for Newton in District 70, which covers parts of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties, wasn’t unexpected after the former St. Petersburg City Council member endorsed Republican Rick Baker for mayor.

Newton had clashed for years on council with Mayor Rick Kriseman.

When Newton endorsed Baker in May, local Democratic officials were abuzz on social media about possible challenges to Newton, who won his first term in November with 76 percent of the vote after besting two other Democrats in the primary.

Sheeley, 44, was a longtime aide for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, and worked for Democrat Charlie Crist’s successfull 2016 win over U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

Shortly after Crist took office, a dispute led to Sheeley's abrupt departure. It didn’t take long for Sheeley, a registered Democrat, to go to work for Jolly.

Most recently, Sheeley has been a paid consultant in Kriseman’s campaign. …

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Baker holds commanding cash lead in St. Pete mayor's race

Former mayor Rick Baker has raised $864,124 in a bid to return to the mayor's office, about $230,000 more than incumbent Rick Kriseman

Scott Keeler

Former mayor Rick Baker has raised $864,124 in a bid to return to the mayor's office, about $230,000 more than incumbent Rick Kriseman

With less than six weeks remaining before the Aug. 29 primary, former mayor Rick Baker has established a commanding fundraising lead of more than $230,000 over incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Kriseman, whose Sunrise political action committee started collecting money for his reelection in December 2015, has amassed $632,673 through the PAC and individual contributions after he formally announced in January.

In any other mayoral election, that would be a staggering amount. But it's not enough in #stpetemayor2017.

Baker has raised $864,124 in individual contributions and his Seamless Florida PAC since announcing in early May.
Baker also has more cash on hand after expenses: $572,653 to Kriseman’s $319, 496, according to the latest campaign filings.

The race became the most expensive in city history weeks ago. 

Four other candidates on the ballot have raised far less money. Uhuru-affiliated candidate Jesse Nevel has raised $7,026 in individual contributions with slightly less than $2,000 on hand as of July 7.

Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter has raised $1,171 and spent slightly more than half, according to the latest filings. …

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Fire Fighters endorse Rick Baker for mayor

Former mayor Rick Baker is probably hugging someone right now after receiving the fire fighters' endorsement. Just not mayoral candidate Anthony Cates III

Lara Cerri

Former mayor Rick Baker is probably hugging someone right now after receiving the fire fighters' endorsement. Just not mayoral candidate Anthony Cates III

The firefighters union has endorsed former mayor Rick Baker, saying he is “tough, but fair” in negotiations and better addresses the department’s needs than incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Rick Pauley, president of the St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters, told the Tampa Bay Times that  Baker, who they endorsed twice in 2001 and 2005, made sure the department had what it needed in a “timely manner.”

Kriseman was always receptive to a meeting, Pauley said, but didn’t deliver results on equipment or concerns about staffing and call volumes.

“St. Petersburg is safer with Rick Baker as mayor,” Pauley said in a news release.

The mayor did deliver a new fire station, but Pauley said the decrepit condition of the old station gave Kriseman little choice.

IAFF Local 747 represents 417 firefighters and paramedics who live in St. Petersburg, Lealman and South Pasadena.

Kriseman has the police union’s support. A state-of-the-art police headquarters didn't hurt. 

The Florida Public Services Union, which represents a large chunk of city workers, hasn’t yet made a choice in the mayor’s race.

The Kriseman campaign responded with a statement from the mayor. …

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St. Pete, it's mayoral mailers season

Rick Kriseman's mailers seek to tie Baker to sewage crisis

Charlie Frago

Rick Kriseman's mailers seek to tie Baker to sewage crisis

With mail ballots going out in a little more than two weeks, the campaigns of Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have initiated mailer bombardments of Sunshine City voters.

Kriseman’s campaign sent two mailers to voters this week, both seeking to tie Baker to the city’s two-year sewage crisis.

It’s a  response to Baker’s incessant hammering of the incumbent mayor on mishaps and communication miscues that have accompanied a historic amount of sewage spills, 200 million gallons since August 2015. Baker has also aired a television ad on Kriseman and sewage.

“Rick Baker’s record on St. Pete sewers doesn’t smell right,” reads one mailer designed to look like a file on Baker, mayor between 2001 and 2010.

A 1,200 gallon spill on Baker’s first day in office due to broken valve is noted.  The 100 million dumped into Tampa Bay under Kriseman is not.

Sure, 1,200 gallons or even the 1.5 million gallons spilled over nine years of Baker’s tenure doesn’t compare to Kriseman’s hundreds of millions of gallond of dumped sewage, but that’s not the point, said Kriseman campaign manager Jacob Smith. …

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St. Petersburg City Council says latest spill hurts city's credibility

[CHERIE DIEZ | Times]

St. Petersburg Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley, seen here at a 2016 City Council meeting, briefed the council on Thursday about the latest sewage spill.

[CHERIE DIEZ | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG — Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley briefed the City Council on Thursday about the most recent sewage spill, which took place the night before at the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility near Eckerd College.

The semi-treated water was released Wednesday because of a construction-related failure, he said as he walked council through what happened.

Parts of the system were out of commission due to construction. After a heavy rain, the water flow in the plant doubled. This caused a 50,000 gallon overflow from a chlorine contact chamber.

At first the city said it was contained by a retention pond. Then officials said the overflow was soaked up by the ground.

In retrospect, Tankersley said the city made a mistake sending out a report to the public before the plant had fully grasped what had happened. Informing the public became an issue during the 2015-16 sewage spills, which prompted the city to expand the Southwest plants and the rest of its sewage system. …

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'We're going to move' Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough Commissioner Crist says

Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist now says the Confederate monument will be moved from its current location in downtown Tampa.

Times File Photo

Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist now says the Confederate monument will be moved from its current location in downtown Tampa.

TAMPA — Once in favor of keeping Tampa's Confederate monument where it is, Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist now says its likely that it will be moved from its downtown location.

Where it will end up remains up in the air. But during an appearance Thursday on WMNF-FM 88.5, Crist said he expects the commission will soon find a new home for it.

"It's realistic to say we're going to move this," Crist told reporter and WMNF show host Mitch Perry. "There are too many people out there that see pain and suffering when they look at this and the board is receptive and sensitive to that."

Commissioners voted 4-3 last month not to remove the monument from outside the old Hillsborough County courthouse in downtown Tampa. However, Commissioner Les Miller has said he intends to force another vote when commissioners next meet on Wednesday.

What's changed in the weeks since the vote? Crist said he has always been willing to consider relocation but there was no plan for where it to put it. He didn't want to see it destroyed or stored, claiming that was the alternative. …

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