Saint Petersburg votes re-election in mayoral race

 Voters elected incumbent Rick Kriseman to be mayor of St. Petersburg by a slim margin on Tuesday.

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Kriseman won 51.64 percent of the vote. His opponent, former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker, received 48.36 percent of the vote. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two candidates, both of whom have served time as the city’s mayor.

Kriseman campaigned with a platform that supported clean energy and LGBT equality, while openly criticizing President Donald Trump. He also emphasized his commitment to reducing crime and improving infrastructure.

Baker’s campaign also focused on reducing crime and making St. Petersburg more environmentally friendly. His campaign website’s “blueprint” also showed his desire to improve public schools, bring more jobs to the area and revitalize the downtown district.

On paper, both candidates seem to agree on most topics—but they certainly did not act like it. Baker, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2010, repeatedly criticized Kriseman’s administration, blaming it for St. Pete’s “sewage crisis” which was worsened by Hurricane Irma. Kriseman called out Baker for not openly opposing Trump.

While the office is nonpartisan, political parties still play a major role. Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican.

A columnist at the Tampa Bay Times advocated for Baker to speak publicly about Trump. For John Romano, the writer of that article, knowing a candidate’s political ideology is crucial when deciding who to vote for, and knowing whether Baker supports one of the most polarizing people in America could have swayed voters.

Kriseman embraced his political affiliation. He received an endorsement from former President Barack Obama, and made national headlines last year with his viral tweet about President Trump.

While people criticized him for the tweet, he ultimately proved that being partisan in an increasingly politically divided nation can be advantageous.

Other Democrats won seats across the United States on Tuesday, leading one Washington Post journalist to label it the “Democratic wave.”

Local politicians congratulated Kriseman after his victory.

Kriseman won despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times, the most popular local newspaper, endorsed Baker. The Times traditionally recommends Democrats, and some have questioned the newspaper’s motive for recommending Baker.

One local news publication questioned the newspaper’s integrity after discovering that a member of the editorial board wrote the foreword in Baker’s upcoming book.

After Kriseman won the election, he tweeted a thank you to those who supported him, and promised to uphold his campaign promises.

Kriseman is the 53rd mayor of St. Petersburg.

 

Walt Disney World Resort’s NBA Experience’s latest update

Preview poster for The NBA Experience. Photo by: Tea Piro

As of Oct. 19, the Walt Disney World Resort has given guests an updated first look into a sports themed experience coming to their main shopping and dining destination, Disney Springs.

In June of 2015, the editorial content director for Disney Parks, Thomas Smith published an article on the Disney Parks Blog, announcing The Walt Disney Co.’s collaboration with the National Basketball Association to create The NBA Experience. The announcement came just before the 2015 NBA Finals, which brought in an American audience average of roughly 20 million.

“We’re excited to join The NBA in offering this unique form of family entertainment,” said Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “It will be a terrific addition to the world-class lineup of shops and restaurants coming to Disney Springs.”

The Oct. 19 announcement featured concept art for what will be the facade of The NBA Experience. The statement referenced the architectural design of modern basketball arenas across the U.S. as contributing factors to the design choice.

While detailed design ideas have yet to be released for the interior of the space, the venue is set to include shopping experiences, games with competitive features, a connected dining location and other interactive aspects.

“This one-of-a-kind experience is sure to be enjoyed by basketball and Disney fans of all ages who visit Disney Springs from around the world, ” said Sal LaRocca, NBA President of Global Partnerships.

On March 14, 2013, Tom Staggs, Chief Operation Officer for The Walt Disney Company, announced the transition of the resort’s shopping center, Downtown Disney, into what is now Disney Springs. The three year expansion resulted in the shopping center almost doubling in size.

The NBA Experience will be replacing DisneyQuest, an indoor interactive theme park that opened at The Walt Disney World Resort in 1998. DisneyQuest featured an array of video games that highlighted attractions found in the Disney parks as a way for guests to enjoy key elements without directly visiting one of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks.

In June of 2015, it was announced that DisneyQuest would close its doors the following year to make way for The NBA Experience. However, DisneyQuest did not officially close until July of 2017.

DisneyQuest demolition site as of November 3, 2017. Photo by: Tea Piro
DisneyQuest demolition space as of November 3, 2017. Photo by: Tea Piro

DisneyQuest was known for its old-school atmosphere, featuring pinball machines and other arcade-style games. While this aspect brought feelings of nostalgia to some guests, others viewed the indoor theme park as outdated. However, Walt Disney World Resort cast members noticed an influx of guests returning to DisneyQuest prior to its closure.

“People know that it’s coming to a close,” said Steve Ruffman, the General Manager of Disney Springs’ West Side and The Landing, to the Orlando Sentinel in June of 2017. “There are Disney gamers, there are Disneyphiles and there are people who are just excited that this has been part of their annual visit to Disney World. It’s now ‘a must-do’ when it was ‘a may-have-been’ a year ago.”

The NBA Experience is coming to The Walt Disney World Resort following the closure of NBA City at Orlando’s Universal CityWalk. NBA City, the themed restaurant that included NBA memorabilia, closed in August of 2015.

“Earlier this year, we decided not to renew the lease for NBA City so we could create an exciting, new concept for that space,” said Universal spokesman Tom Schroder to the Orlando Sentinel.

The NBA Experience’s new location to Disney Springs will add a significant space increase to the basketball themed restaurant. The location of CityWalk’s former NBA City restaurant, now The Toothsome Chocolate Factory & Savory Feast Emporium, offered 17,500 square feet; however, the new location at the DisneyQuest space offers 100,000 square feet.

Although the opening date for summer 2019 has officially been announced, Walt Disney World Resort guests have been voicing differing opinions in the comment sections of the Disney Parks Blog regarding a NBA themed experience at Disney Springs.

Epcot celebrates 35 years by highlighting cast members

On Sunday, Oct. 1, Epcot invited guests to celebrate its 35th anniversary with an array of special events and exclusive merchandise, while also recognizing the hard work of the park’s cast members.

Epcot, originally known as EPCOT Center, opened on Oct. 1, 1982, as the second park within Walt Disney World, following Magic Kingdom. The theme park focuses heavily on innovations in technology and various cultures from around the world. Epcot is also known for employing representatives from each country represented in World Showcase, a major section of the park.

“Walt had it right when he said, ‘It takes people to make the dream a reality,'” said Epcot Vice President, Melissa Valiquette. “From the time you arrive at Epcot, until the time you leave, it is our invaluable cast members who deliver a rich and unique experience to each and every one of our guests. Our cast members take great pride in bringing the wonders of Epcot to life each day.”

Employees from any of the various Disney resorts around the world are referred to as cast members. In particular, Epcot’s cast members were mentioned upward of 10 times during the Fountain View stage celebration that was held at 10:01 a.m. on Sunday.

“We know that these last 35 years at Epcot would not have been possible without the amazing help of our cast members,” said Walt Disney World Resort Ambassador, Brandon Peters.

The ceremony included presentations by two Epcot performance groups, Mariachi Cobre and Voices of Liberty, a cast member processional, speeches by Valiquette, Peters and Walt Disney World Resort President, George A. Kalogridis.

“As a child, I’d been glued to the TV watching Walt Disney, with his message of a fascinating future and a belief in the goodness of people worldwide,” said Kalogridis. “Now, we stand at a park that embodies those ideals. This is a place for family, a place for fun and a place for faith in our vision as a people.”

For the 35th anniversary, guests were able to purchase exclusive “I Was There” merchandise that would only be available until park closure. Retro-inspired merchandise commemorating the anniversary was also sold during the event and will continue to be available.

A 35th anniversary guide map and pin were handed to guests upon entering the park. Specialty cupcakes themed after the Norway pavilion in World Showcase, The Land pavilion and the center attraction, Spaceship Earth, were also sold throughout various locations in Epcot.

Aside from acknowledging the role of cast members, the ceremony’s speakers continuously noted that 35 years was only the beginning for Epcot, referring to upcoming attractions and restaurants.

“It has been a great 35 years, and let me tell you, we have some wonderful additions on the horizon,” said Kalogridis.”I was thrilled that we were able to announce what amounts to nothing less than an ‘Epcot renaissance’ last July at the D23 Expo in Anaheim. As our chairman Bob Chapek said, ‘This work here will be centered around a few guiding principles: We want to keep true to the original vision of Epcot, while making it more Disney, more timeless, more relevant and more family.'”

Kalogridis continued on to mention new attractions based on the movies “Ratatouille” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” that will be added to the France pavilion in World Showcase and to Future World, respectively.

The 35th anniversary of Epcot falls on the same day as the 46th anniversary of Magic Kingdom, another park within the Walt Disney World Resort.

“Epcot has always been and will always be an optimistic celebration of the real world brought to life through the magic of Disney,” said Kalogridis. “I promise you, the exciting plans we have on the horizon, will honor Epcot’s rich legacy of creativity, innovation, while continuing to exceed the expectations of our guests for decades to come.”

Rowdies hope to be next team added to Major League Soccer

 

  1.  The Tampa Bay Rowdies hope to be the next Major League Soccer expansion team.

    The MLS is selecting two new expansion clubs in the second or third quarter of this year, and with St. Petersburg being part of the country’s 11th largest media market, it makes the Rowdies an attractive bid.The owner of the Rowdies, Bill Edwards, plans to spend up to $80 million in upgrades to Al Lang Stadium if the team is part of the MLS expansion. The upgrade would boost the stadium’s capacity from 7,500 to 18,000.

    Stephen Cundiff, president of the Rowdies’ fan group, Ralph’s Mob, believes that the energetic ownership is what will make the difference for the team’s bid.

    “You have an owner that’s willing to spend the money to make it happen,” Cundiff said. “Any sports fan of any team will ever tell you, the one thing they want their owner to do is spend money; and we got Bill Edwards and he’s spending the money.”

    There is excitement among the fans this season as the team has moved to the United Soccer League after spending six seasons in the North American Soccer League.

    Rowdies’ midfielder Luke Boden spent time at Orlando City when it made the transition to the MLS in 2015, and knows what the team has to do to obtain the bid.

    “It was exciting times,” Boden said. “It was down to us to start winning games and trying to win championships to recognition from MLS. With the MLS hopefully around the corner in Tampa, we need to try and win something this year, and as I say, get that MLS attention.”

    The Rowdies have started a social media campaign on Twitter with #MLS2StPete.

 

Clearwater Beach Spring Break Parking

Spring break is coming up and Clearwater Beach is offering something that will make visiting the beach less of a hassle.

The beach opened Pelican Walk Parking Garage on Poinsettia Avenue at the end of January. The goal was to help with parking problems that occur on the beach.

Jason Beisel, the Public Communications Coordinator of Clearwater expects the garage to improve the flow of traffic.

“Especially this time of year with spring break… we have an influx of visitors,” said Beisel. “But what we built it for is so people have a place to park.”

The location used to be a single level parking lot, but the new garage offers 702 spaces. It also helps beach employees who had trouble finding parking for a reasonable price. Parking in the garage costs $2 an hour or $20 a day.

“Some lots around here, you can pay up to $50 a day to park,” Beisel said. “So, we have contracted with some businesses where they pay a flat fee and they’re able to park here and it helps alleviate some of the parking problems for employees.”

The garage cost over $11 million to build. Most of the money came from parking fees collected on the beach and tourism dollars. A smaller portion came from taxpayer dollars.

“It just helps the whole beach and the economy to bring people out here so they can enjoy themselves and spend money at all the different shops,” Clearwater resident Tim Lavelle said. “It’s just good for everybody.”

 

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 6, 2017

In this news brief: President Donald Trump visits MacDill Air Force Base; a Bradenton man is in custody following a police standoff; Pasco County launches a recycling survey designed to better understand residents habits; a police dog and his partner are back to work.

 

Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market’s Unique Vendors Attracts Throngs Of Curious Crowds Weekly

On Tuesdays, vendors line the sidewalks of Gulfport’s historic Waterfront district. The Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market attracts more than 1,000 people from October through to April.

In 2006, the market got its start in a small courtyard with only three vendors. Today, the market hosts up to 80 vendors on any given Tuesday during the season and contributes to community projects by providing grants with the money generated.

Susan Blankenship, market operations manager, appreciates the community element of the weekly event as well as the opportunity for visitors to find out about the Gulfport community.

“It gets people who live close to come down and walk around,” Blankenship said. “They get to know each other and socialize, and (it) gives new people an opportunity to find out about our great community.”

In an effort to maintain variety, prospective vendors are decided upon by a committee that reviews application submissions.

Variety is something that does not come short at Jerky Man Dan’s, where jerky, ranging from kangaroo, ostrich, duck, elk, alligator and more, can be found.

After being idle for one year, Jerky Man Dan’s is now up and running but with a new purpose and owner, Ted.

After the death of his brother, 58-year-old Ted decided to continue his brother’s entrepreneurial pursuit with the aim of aiding his mother while she struggles with her diminishing mental health.  

Since coming to the market each Tuesday, Ted has seen a light in his mother. Coming to the market is something that his mother, Marie, enjoys doing.

“I’m blessed enough to be able to spend some time with my mother before she passes away, to get her out of the house and let her enjoy life,” he said.

Explore Tampa’s waterways with Riverwalk Boating Company

 

Jason Olewinski has lived in Tampa for nearly thirty years. A few years ago, he wanted to explore Tampa’s waterways, and what originated as a personal motorized kayak quickly became Jason’s reality and an affordable opportunity for both tourists and locals to enjoy Tampa’s canals.

“For the past few years our entertainment options have been limited,” Olewinski said. “So I went ahead and just bought a few and threw them down here and so far people have been loving it.”

Along the Tampa Riverwalk, next to the Convention Center, you will spot 6 green mini- powerboats floating in the water. Established in 2014, the Riverwalk Boating Company provides a thrill and unique water experience for all. Whether you have prior boating experience or not, you can be the captain of your own two- person mini- powerboat, minus the hassle of maintenance and repairs of owning a boat.

The mini boat can take you through the Tampa waterways. The winding Hillsborough River will take you north around the city and south along Bayshore to Davis Island.

Chris and Chantal are vacationing for the week and just happened to walk by the boats while exploring the city. The two decided to take out a boat for the afternoon and travel along Bayshore Boulevard.

“I loved it! It was so much fun. They go decently fast,” Chantal said. “The waves… that was fun, feeling it go all crazy for a second.”

Riverwalk Boating Company is open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. until sundown. It is an enjoyable option for anyone 18 years or older with a driver’s license and a credit card, and dogs are also welcome onboard. The prices start at $35 for 30 minutes or $50 for one hour, and there are special rates if you rent out more than one boat.

To reserve your boat, visit riverwalkboating.com.

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Millennials Will Be The Deciding Vote

Millennials get a bad rep and have been called the “narcissistic generation.” Campaigns do not depend on the millennial vote although they could actually be one of the most important demographics to target. The rising cost of college education and the labor market affects this generation, causing millennials to be concerned about their futures.

According to the Center for Research and Information on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, 22-23 million young Americans voted in the 2012 presidential election Millennials currently make up the same proportion of the U.S. voting-age population as the baby boomers.

“That’s why Romney lost because Romney lost the youth vote and so, therefore, lost the general election,” said Chairman of the USF Republicans, Georgia Pevy. “We’re a big swing category. If people don’t focus on us, then they’re not going to win.”

More than ever, politics are gaining popularity on social media as candidates are trying to reach young voters, and while there has been the notion that millennials are apathetic towards public affairs, they are projected to make up 40 percent of the eligible voters by 2020, as per the Center for American Progress.

eVolunteers and polling center employees encourage voter participation and give a rousing ovation to first time voters.

The 22-23 million millennials who voted in 2012 make up nearly half of eligible young people. This year more is expected to take part and engage in the elections.

“There’s a lot of them, and if they did turn out, it would be a big deal,” Pevy said.

Florida Focus News Brief Oct. 12, 2016

In this episode: the Florida voter registration deadline is extended until Tuesday the 18th; Hillsborough and Pinellas counties make a nationwide list of of counties with the most death sentences, according to a Harvard report; the ride-sharing company Uber is partnering with the Tampa Bay Lightning for an exclusive pick-up lane; Halloween costume stores are stocking up on presidential candidate masks.

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Florida Focus News Brief Oct. 4, 2016

In this episode: Hurricane Mathew causes the White House to cancel a Florida visit; The University of South Florida fraternity is under temporary suspension; A mobile home park in Lakeland is being sued for racial discrimination; Hillsborough County Police are looking for two burglary suspects; Florida has the nation’s largest increase in household spending.

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Florida Focus Sept. 29th, 2016

In this episode: Uber will pay $250,000 for a temporary license as part of their new agreement with Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission; Gabrielle Giffords led an anti-gun violence rally in St. Pete today; HRI Properties won a bidding war for an empty lot in downtown Tampa and plans on starting construction next year; Pinellas County Department of Health celebrates World Heart Day; Pinellas County firefighters exercise a way to rescue people from collapsed buildings.

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Florida Focus News Brief Sep. 26, 2016

In this episode: an elderly woman is injured when a car crashes into her home; Governor Rick Scott issued a new emergency rule; care for transgender patients is being offered in southwest and central Florida; a pilot program is expanding streetcar services in Ybor and downtown Tampa; and red tide has been detected in bay area beaches.re

 

Florida Focus News Brief September 21, 2016

In this episode: Sewage problems spread across the Bay area following Hurricane Hermine; Clearwater Police participated in opioid overdose training; City officials released new details about a High-Speed Ferry service; The church of Scientology hosted a prayer party for International Day of Peace.

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USF’s Solar Energy Fair

On Saturday Mar. 26, the Solar Energy Society at USF held their annual Solar Energy Fair. It is an event created to help teach the Tampa community about the latest innovations and technologies offered around the city. At this year’s event, there were Question and Answer panels with University professors and specialists; however, the true heart of the event lies with the students who make it all possible.

This year, two USF graduates presented their research to the public in order to share their new ideas. “I have always been a solar enthusiast,” said Arun Kumar. “I hope that these technologies and my research can be used in Third World countries to help other people.”

New breakthroughs are also coming from female students, such as Francesca Moloney who said: “From an early age I knew I wanted to focus my career on something in the environment.”

Both of these students hope to take their research and implement them at the university and across the Tampa Bay area. If their research and innovations succeed, they hope to apply them around the world. They aspire to build awareness in the community about the research being conducted, so that people can make wiser choices in their everyday lives.

Author James Morrow gives lecture at USF

On Monday, March 21, 2016 renowned science fiction author, James Morrow, will be visiting USF to discuss his new novel, “Galapagos Regained”.

Morrow will be giving a lecture on the fourth floor of USF’s library at 6:00 p.m. where he will discuss issues of science, religion, and pop culture. Joining Morrow will be fellow science fiction author and USF professor, Rick Wilbur.

“I’ve been in the science fiction community for a long time,” said Wilbur. “Getting Morrow to do this lecture was as easy as some scheduling and making phone calls to a comrade.”

After a small amount of aligning schedules between Wilbur, the university, and Morrow, the author is set to discuss his latest novel as a part of USF’s humanities institute’s lecture series.

“I urge all students who can make it to attend Morrow’s lecture,” said Wilbur. “He’s an incredible author and this is a great opportunity to discuss contemporary issues with a knowledgeable professional.”

Morrow, a self-proclaimed scientific humanist, is an author famous for his unconventional historical novels, which often examine the intertwining concepts of religion and science. His latest novel, “Galapagos Regained” plot centers on a Victorian adventurer who decides to repeat the voyages of Charles Darwin.

Anyone, whether a student, faculty or community member, will be able to attend both Morrow’s lecture and the event’s reception and book signing free of cost.

USF alumni eats like a caveman

 A young entrepreneur has taken her passion for eating healthy and combined it with her passion for cookies to create her own company Base Culture. This company is not like any other sweets retailer that sales brownies and banana bread; all of the products are paleo friendly, meaning they follow the popular Paleo Diet.

“The Paleo Diet is nicknamed the caveman diet for a reason” says Base Culture founder Jordann Windschauer, “If you were to follow the Paleo Diet, you eat meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit.” Windschauer praises the diet and even goes on to say that she felt “more alive than ever and had more energy than she had had in years.”

While the Paleo Diet did have its ups it also had its downs. Windschauer enjoyed the new found energy boost, but she also missed all the sweets she used to eat.

“You know it got really hard not being able to just grab banana bread on the way to work in the morning. I looked for products that could satisfy my sweet tooth but would also satisfy paleo requirements but there were none” said Windschauer. It was that same day she took matters into her own hand and stated creating “sweets” that were made solely from seeds, nuts, and fruits.

She then took her paleo friendly sweets she baked to her local gym to share with her friends and they became an instant hit. People soon began offering compensation for her products, and overnight the company Base Culture was created.

Many customers have claimed to not even taste the difference between paleo friendly brownies and regular brownies. “I just tasted it and it’s actually really good and it’s awesome that it’s really healthy” said satisfied customer Lexi Ashby.

The idea of paleo friendly products has taken the market by force. Since the company’s beginning in 2013, Base Culture products are now available in over 50 stores nationwide and will soon be available in Walmart.