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Tracey McManus, Times Staff Writer

Tracey McManus

Tracey covers Clearwater government and general topics in the city. Before joining the Times in August 2015, she spent five years covering everything from education reform to animal welfare for The Augusta Chronicle in Georgia. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., she was raised in Palm City, Fla., and graduated from University of Florida in 2010 with degrees in journalism and Spanish.

Phone: 727-445-4151.

Email: tmcmanus@tampabay.com

Twitter: @TroMcManus

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  1. At donor dinner, Marco Rubio bashes media for coverage of Trump

    Blog

    Sen. Marco Rubio began his remarks to more than 300 donors at the Republican Party of Pinellas County's annual fundraising dinner Friday by addressing the “big news of the week that's impossible to ignore.”

    “The return of American Idol to ABC,” Rubio said to laughs. “We've gotta launch an investigation into that.”

    But when he began alluding to news of the accelerating investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, Rubio expressed both gratitude for a free press that's reporting the issues and contempt for what he sees as politics being covered as entertainment....

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, addressed the Pinellas County Republican Party's annual Lincoln's Day Dinner fundraiser Friday night
  2. Clearwater Beach developer downsizes proposed mooring field and clears another approval

    Growth

    CLEARWATER — A local developer has cleared another hurdle for building what could become the first mooring field in the high-traffic waters of the Mandalay Channel.

    After securing approval in June from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for his 20-acre, 42-boat mooring field, William Blackwood said he listened to the fierce backlash from beach residents and downsized his proposal into a four-boat buoy system instead. ...

    “We don’t want it,” says City Manager Bill Horne.
  3. Crabby's Dockside renovation not what Clearwater had approved, city says

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Crabby's Dockside restaurant reopened last month at 37 Causeway Blvd. on Clearwater Beach after a major renovation, but the final product is not what the city expected.

    The owners defaulted on the lease for the city-owned property when they failed to include a wood-like cladding on the building's exterior that had been "a prominent aesthetic feature" in the development contract, according to an April 24 letter of default from Marine and Aviation director Bill Morris. ...

  4. Scientology's uniformed Sea Org staff clearly absent from downtown Clearwater

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — There's been a glaring shift in the everyday image that has defined the city's downtown for decades.

    The small army of uniformed Scientologists who bustle all day between church buildings and file on and off the church's Flag buses is nowhere in sight.

    While Sea Org staff members in their distinctive slacks and buttoned vests sometimes outnumber the general public, there were nearly none on Cleveland Street shortly after 9 Thursday morning....

    The uniformed Scientologists who typically bustle between church buildings were nowhere in sight Thursday morning.
  5. Clearwater aims to fast-track downtown waterfront revitalization

    Growth

    CLEARWATER — The timeline for completing the city's 10-year plan to revitalize the waterfront and Coachman Park is being fast-tracked, with staff now proposing the majority could be realized within four years.

    The city plans to hire a consultant in October to design the new Coachman Garden; the Green for concerts where there is currently a parking lot; an estuary under the Memorial Causeway; a half-mile Bluff Walk with shaded paths, gardens and terraces; and a gateway plaza with water features and event space at the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue....

    The Harborview Center will be torn down as part of the Imagine Clearwater waterfront plan. Times files.
  6. Clearwater to hold final meeting on water replenishment plant

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — The city on Tuesday will host the third and final public meeting before construction begins on the groundwater replenishment facility this summer. Utilities staff and the Southwest Florida Management District will be on hand to answer questions from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Clearwater East Library, 2251 Drew St.

    The $32 million facility is under design after seven years of study. Clearwater is the first city in Florida and one of only a handful in the country to launch a facility that will purify wastewater to drinking standards and inject it into the aquifer. ...

  7. Lawsuit alleges PSTA gave trolley contract to lesser qualified Jolley Trolley because of lobbying, local advantage

    Transportation

    CLEARWATER — Cincinnati-based First Transit has sued the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, alleging it lost the county's trolley contract because a "who's who of Clearwater" lobbied the board to choose the less qualified Jolley Trolley.

    Jolley Trolley has been running its trolley service in north Pinellas County since 1982, and PSTA began subsidizing the company in 2009 without ever putting the contract out to bid....

    “The board is not just a rubber stamp of the committee,” said Brad Miller, CEO of PSTA.
  8. Church of Scientology takes aim at Clearwater Marine Aquarium after being denied land

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has launched a statewide campaign blasting the ethics and financial practices of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a move that follows the aquarium's recent decision not to sell the church a prized downtown property.

    On Monday, one day before the Pinellas County Commission gave initial approval to the aquarium's request for $26 million of bed tax dollars, the church delivered to the board a scathing, seven-page letter and more than 250 pages of supporting documentation questioning the nonprofit's economic impact and financial responsibility. ...

    The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is asking the Pinellas County Commissionfor for $26 million in tourist tax dollars, but the Church of Scientology says the facility doesn't deserve it. The church sent a complaint to local and state officials, alleging the aquarium has a number of financial problems and should be denied the money. Aquarium director David Yates says the church's allegations are unfounded. The aquarium last week sold a prime piece of downtown land to the city, against the church's wishes. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  9. Clearwater City Council votes 5-0 to buy downtown parcel coveted by the Church of Scientology

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to buy a vacant but high-profile downtown lot from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, intercepting a crucial piece of land the Church of Scientology said it needed for its campus.

    A packed auditorium at City Hall greeted the 5-0 decision with applause.

    Scientology leader David Miscavige had offered to bankroll a multi-million dollar revitalization of downtown if the city stepped aside and allowed the church to buy the lot, which borders its 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat. He pitched the idea last week to a select group of downtown stakeholders with help from Scientology celebrities like John Travolta, and was willing to pay more than three times what the city was offering....

    Socrates Charos of Clearwater gives his disapproval for the city to purchase the Pierce Street property during a city council meeting at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.    Clearwater City Council voted Thursday on whether to buy the aquarium's 1.4 acre lot that the Church of Scientology also wants. The aquarium rejected the church's $15 million offer earlier this month in favor of selling it to the city for $4.25m.
  10. Clearwater City Council votes tonight on buying land eyed by Church of Scientology

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The City Council will vote today on whether to purchase a 1.4 acre vacant lot from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which the Church of Scientology is also lobbying to buy.

    Scientology leader David Miscavige's promise to revitalize downtown with infrastructure improvements, retail recruitment and an entertainment complex with actor Tom Cruise is contingent on the church's ability to buy the aquarium land, according to spokesman Ben Shaw....

    A view looking east along Pierce Street on Clearwater's downtown bluff. At right is a grassy parcel owned by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and coveted by both the city of Clearwater and the Church of Scientology. The City Council will vote Thursday on whether to purchase the land from the aquarium for $4.25 million. The aquarium has rejected the church's $15 million offer. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  11. Scientologists and others step up the pressure as Clearwater nears vote on prized parcel

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The $19 million Skyview condo being built downtown with a penthouse for actor Tom Cruise could be the last investment developer Cleman Agami ever makes in the city.

    That will be one of the consequences if the City Council votes Thursday to buy a 1.4 acre vacant lot the Church of Scientology also is lobbying to purchase, Agami warned in an email to City Council member Bill Jonson....

    Should the Clearwater City Council vote this week to buy a prized piece of downtown land from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium? Or should it decline and allow the Church of Scientology to buy it? Opinions are strong on both sides as the Thursday vote approaches. The vacant parcel in question is between City Hall in the foreground and the multi-story building to the south, which is the church's Oak Cove retreat. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  12. Clearwater's Prospect Towers owner buys Lexington Club seniors complex

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay real estate investor Ben Mallah has purchased the Lexington Club at Renaissance Square Apartments on S Missouri Avenue for $15 million.

    It is now the second affordable housing complex for seniors owned by Mallah's Largo-based Equity Management. The firm also bought Prospect Towers senior apartments on Chestnut Street last year.

    Mallah said he plans to open a convenience store on the property, heat the pool, upgrade equipment in the gym and implement more activities....

  13. City hopes new transit center on Clearwater Beach will push drivers to ditch their cars, take the bus

    Transportation

    CLEARWATER — All 65 spaces in the parking lot at the bottom of Beachwalk were taken, so Hasa Cekic found a place for his SUV to idle and waited.

    His wife and three kids hopped out to enjoy the sand and surf, while Cekic sipped an iced latte behind the wheel, his eyes peeled for some parked car's reverse lights to flash on.

    It took 20 minutes for a spot to open up, but Cekic, who drove from New York for a family vacation, said driving to the beach and fighting for parking was still more convenient than taking the bus, Jolley Trolley or water taxi from the mainland....

    Clearwater and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority are joining forces to build a bus transit center just east of the roundabout on the Memorial Causeway on Clearwater Beach. The goal is to reduce traffic congestion, such as this backup last weekend.
  14. Scientology leader David Miscavige presents Clearwater retail plan to downtown stakeholders

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The evening began with appetizers and drinks on the rooftop patio of the Fort Harrison Hotel overlooking downtown.

    Before the big reveal, guests mingled with Scientology celebrities John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Kirstie Alley and pianist Chick Corea.

    The roughly 70 attendees were a mix of parishioners, business and property owners and downtown players — all hand-selected and there by invitation only....

    Scientology leader David Miscavige presented the church’s plans.
  15. Church of Scientology ups bid for Clearwater Marine Aquarium land to $15 million

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology has offered the Clearwater Marine Aquarium nearly four times what the city is preparing to pay for a vacant downtown property.

    The church offered the aquarium $15 million for the 1.4-acre lot, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw confirmed, far exceeding the $4.25 million deal the City Council will vote to close on April 20.

    It is the second time in three weeks Scientology leader David Miscavige has tried to outbid the city — aquarium officials passed on a $12.5 million offer the church made March 11, opting not to sell before the city has a chance to vote....

    David Miscavige wants the lot for a church rec center.