Governmental action from around the Gulf Coast.
Cash burning a hole in city's pocket?
DUNEDIN — Last week we reported here that the city had too much money because it built up $7.5 million in its reserve account, $3.9 million more than required by its policy to hold 15% of the city's operating budget in reserves. Now, the city has found a way keep that cash from weighing it down: spend $73,150 on a branding campaign. In a 4-1 council vote, the city hired West Palm Beach-based Wilesmith Advertising to put together a plan to promote the city to visitors. Funding comes from the community redevelopment agency reserves ($23,000), vacant position savings ($34,150), and Visit Dunedin ($16,000).
$22.6 million in bed tax bucks for tourist groups
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — Commissioners agreed to spread a total of $22.6 million to 16 local tourism organizations during fiscal years 2012 and 2013 following a recommendation by the Tourist Development Council. Tampa Bay & Company, the county's convention and visitors bureau that handles tourism marketing, gets the biggest share — $8 million in 2012 and $8.2 million in 2013.
The funds come from 3% of the 5% tourist development sales tax collected on overnight stays with less than a six-month lease. Commissioners also approved a reserve of $1 million for potential implementation of an emergency/disaster recovery plan for tourism.
Among other venues and organizations that will receive funding is the Tampa Convention Center, which will receive $1 million in 2012 and $1.1 million in 2013, primarily for capital improvements. The Tampa Bay Sports Commission will receive $500,000 in 2012 and $560,000 in 2013. The Straz Center for the Performing Arts will receive $450,000 in 2012 and $470,000 in 2013.
Temple Terrace tug-of-war
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — The county commission's part of the redistricting process is due to be completed in June before the feds get a look at it, but two commissioners representing adjoining districts have different ideas where the lines should be drawn around Temple Terrace. District 2 Commissioner Victor Crist wasn't happy when early drafts put the entire city into Commissioner Les Miller's District 3. Crist has lived in the Temple Terrace area for 26 years. Crist wants a line drawn down 56th Street, which would give him most of the city. Miller would get a small section on the west side of Temple Terrace. Crist argues that the city benefits by having two commissioners represent the city. Temple Terrace commissioners, at least, agree. They recently voted unanimously to support Crist's plan.
Redistricting of political districts is required every 10 years following the publication of Census population data. The county commission's four single-member districts must be rebalanced to make the districts roughly equal in population.
Port signs Panama Canal deal
MANATEE COUNTY — Hoping to leverage its growing investments in Port Manatee's capacity to handle container shipments, the port signed a memorandum of understanding with the Panama Canal Authority. The two-year deal signed by David McDonald, the port's executive director, and Alberto AlemÃ¡n Zubieta, CEO of the authority, aims to increase trade through a strategic marketing and information-sharing alliance. That effort focuses on soliciting shippers worldwide to promote both the canal and Port Manatee. The port plans to use the agreement as the basis for a targeted marketing effort to attract container lines, third-party logistics providers and distribution and warehouse developers to and around the port.
Although still a small player in the container business, Port Manatee spent $150 million during the past decade to increase its capacity by 50%. The port plans a $750 million expansion that will increase its container capacity to nearly 1 million annually.