Thursday, July 19, 2018
News Roundup

In Pinellas commission GOP primary, nothing but praise for Trump

ST. PETERSBURG — All three Republican candidates for Pinellas County Commission District 6 praised President Trump at a forum on Thursday, and all agreed none of his policies have negatively impacted local residents.

"All I see happening right now is economic development is up, jobs are readily available, unemployment is down, so I think so far so good," said State Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole.

When an audience member asked how the candidates would address any negative impact to the local economy resulting from Trump’s tariffs on imports from Canada, China, Europe and Mexico, all three said there was nothing to worry about.

"The private sector will adjust to whatever is necessary in these trade situations," Ahern said. "And look, if it means more things will be now made in America, I’m all for that."

Barb Haselden, a citizen activist in her first bid for public office, said it was "high time" for the tariffs and saluted Trump because he "does understand the world economy."

State Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasedena, assured the audience she trusts "the process" and that "the free market would right itself."

However the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates $713 million in Florida exports are threatened by "an emerging trade war" in retaliation to tariffs Trump placed on imports from Canada, China, Europe and Mexico.

The three Republicans, who participated in the forum hosted by Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, will face off in the Aug. 28 primary for the seat held for 18 years by John Morroni, the Pinellas politician who died May 20.

August’s winner will run against Democrat Amy Kedron, a former college professor from Madeira Beach, in the Nov. 6 election.

Moderator Todd Jennings and audience members quizzed the candidates with questions tying state and federal policy to Pinellas County government.

When Tiger Bay member David Klement, executive director of the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College, asked candidates how they would prepare Pinellas for the "massive economic disruption" expected from rising sea levels, none expressed much urgency.

Ahern suggested he would examine the current Commission’s policies to "look where we are right now, find out where we are right now."

Peters said the focus should be on improving the state flood insurance program.

When Klement noted recent studies estimate sea levels could rise about three feet by 2050, Haselden was skeptical, stating "I can’t agree with that."

"I think that basing today’s public policy on something that might happen 100 years from now is something that I’m not likely to do," she said. "I think there is too much disagreement as to what degree we may have."

However, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimate more than a dozen Florida communities, including St. Pete Beach, could experience recurring tidal flooding unrelated to any storm events by 2045.

A 2017 scientific report by 13 federal agencies stated human activity, especially the emission of greenhouse gases, is the primary cause of global temperature rise since the mid-20th Century.

Ahern and Haselden both said they support increasing the homestead property tax exemption, a proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, because many cities have not lowered property taxes as values have risen.

Homeowners stand to save an average of a few hundred dollars a year, while the added exemption is expected to cost Pinellas County $21.7 million in lost revenue. So what would the candidates cut from the budget if it passes?

Ahern said he would not advocate cutting anything from the budget to compensate because the $21.7 million is about 1 percent of the overall budget.

Haselden said the loss of property tax revenue from the increased homestead exemption would be made up by rising property values.

Peters declined to answer definitively if she supports the increased exemption, saying she was still analyzing how the decrease in tax revenue to local governments would disproportionately affect small fire districts that rely on property taxes.

But she said the county would not need to cut anything from the budget to compensate for the loss if the exemption passes because "I really don’t think the sky is going to fall."

All three said they do not support using public tax dollars, even those collected from tourists on overnight rentals, on funding stadium projects. The issue is hanging over Pinellas County as Clearwater has applied for $40 million in bed taxes to fund $79 million in upgrades to the Philadelphia Phillies stadium and spring training facilities.

The candidates tried to distinguish themselves by laying out their top priorities. Peters, a longtime advocate for mental health reform in the Legislature, said county government must build a coordinated system of care and solutions to address the opioid crisis.

"Now it’s at the local level," she said. "Now it’s time."

Ahern said his priority would be on the county’s infrastructure needs and protecting the county’s ever vanishing green space to "continue to invest in all that’s important to us."

Haselden said she’d bring the strongest conservative voice to the seven-member board, which currently has little friction or disagreement.

"Good public policy is a result of good debate," she said.

Contact Tracey McManus at tmcmanus@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

Comments
Search continues for missing diver at Eagle’s Nest in Hernando

Search continues for missing diver at Eagle’s Nest in Hernando

WEEKI WACHEE — Rescue crews will continue to search Thursday morning for a diver who failed to resurface at a dangerous cave in Hernando County.The unidentified diver was free-diving at Eagle’s Nest, meaning he was not carrying oxygen, sometime befor...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
SEC media days: Why I’m picking Alabama and Georgia to meet again

SEC media days: Why I’m picking Alabama and Georgia to meet again

ATLANTA — Continuing my annual tradition of idiocy, here are my predicted SEC football standings for the fall. I'll revisit them after the season, so I can laugh at myself before anyone else can laugh at me.SEC West1.   ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Jeff Greene says he’ll pay to turn Florida blue; Gerald McCoy has his own Batmobile; and Publix and Kahwa change the coffee game

The Daystarter: Jeff Greene says he’ll pay to turn Florida blue; Gerald McCoy has his own Batmobile; and Publix and Kahwa change the coffee game

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Coastal showers will form this morning before moving inland, according to the National Weather Service. Expect highs to be in the upper 80s to low 90s.• As you head out for your morni...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Romano: One last shot at saving St. Pete Pier art

Romano: One last shot at saving St. Pete Pier art

(Holds a painting against a wall.)Does it look good here?(Moves it lower.)Okay, how about it here?(Moves it to the left.)Are you sure you want this?• • •Now try that with 250,000 amateur critics.And a piece of art that stretches more than 200 feet.Ye...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays place Wilson Ramos on DL for potential extended absence, seek replacement

Rays place Wilson Ramos on DL for potential extended absence, seek replacement

ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays made the inevitable move Wednesday of placing catcher Wilson Ramos on the disabled list while still looking for a replacement.Ramos, 30, strained his left hamstring Saturday in Minnesota, which forced him out of Tuesda...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Must-see golf history with Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome

Must-see golf history with Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome

Thursday is history.There is no way around it, even for Brittany Lincicome, who loves finding her way around it. That's just her. She played with boys growing up, neighborhood football and basketball, baseball — and golf. I remember when she wa...
Updated: 7 hours ago
At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

At St. Pete rally, protesters call Trump’s remarks on Russia ‘treason’

ST. PETERSBURG — Linda and Jack Miller braved the humidity at Demens Landing on Wednesday night for a simple reason:"Treason," said Linda Miller, 66.The St. Petersburg couple joined more than 100 protesters toting signs, pins and megaphones at the "T...
Updated: 8 hours ago
An all-or-nothing All-Star Game

An all-or-nothing All-Star Game

WASHINGTON — Tuesday's All-Star Game was exciting, dramatic, historic — and perfectly representative of the 2018 season, what with the unprecedented power show, display of blazing arms creating a fan club (25 strikeouts), and the emotion ...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Deputies: Masked shooter wounds Dunedin woman in home invasion

DUNEDIN — Deputies are searching for a black-clad gunman who shot and wounded an 18-year-old woman during a home invasion attack Wednesday, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.The shooting was reported at about 1:03 p.m. at 1144 New Yor...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Hernando deputies: Cave diver fails to resurface at the Eagle’s Nest

Hernando deputies: Cave diver fails to resurface at the Eagle’s Nest

WEEKI WACHEE — A diver exploring the Eagle’s Nest, a notoriously dangerous underwater cave, failed to resurface from a Wednesday night dive, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.The person was free diving, according to the Sheriff’s Offi...
Updated: 8 hours ago