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Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer

Richard Danielson

Richard Danielson covers city government and politics in Tampa. He joined the Times in 1987. He is the main contributor to PolitiFact Florida's Buck-O-Meter, which tracks Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's performance on 34 campaign promises.

Phone: (813) 226-3403


Twitter: @Danielson_Times

  1. South Florida poaches debris pickup trucks once headed to Tampa


    The Tampa Bay area has an estimated 2 million cubic yards of debris from Hurricane Irma waiting at the curb — enough to fill a line of dump trucks stretching 735 miles from Tampa to Tupelo, Miss.

    But many trucks that could help make those tree limbs disappear have been diverted to South Florida, where hauling fees have shot up since the hurricane.

    That has left several bay area communities and their private storm debris contractors scrambling....

     Tree debris from the winds of Hurricane Irma lay along the curb and in Demens Dr. South near the intersection of 16th St. S., St. Petersburg, 9/22/17
  2. Calling it a 'dangerous precedent,' Tampa chamber opposes city tax increase


    TAMPA — Calling the possibility a "dangerous precedent," the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday took the rare step of opposing City Hall's proposal to raise Tampa's property tax rate because of its impact on business.

    The city's $974 million budget for 2018 would boost the tax rate from $5.73 to $6.33 for every $1,000 in taxable property value.

    "Business leaders in Tampa make tough budgetary decisions to keep their companies running effectively," chamber CEO Bob Rohrlack said in a statement. "We expect that same leadership from our elected officials."...

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce voted against supporting a city tax hike on commercial property. Pictured is Bob Rohrlack, CEO of the chamber. | [Times file photo]
  3. Tampa poll rates streets, flooding, police-community relations and transportation as top public priorities


    A city of Tampa online survey of the public's priorities for the next 18 months rated improving streets and easing flooding as the top priority of nearly 89 percent of respondents.

    Nearly tied for second were police-community relations and transportation options, including light rail. Both were rated as important by nearly 75 percent of those surveyed.

    The lowest priorities: additional workforce housing (32.3 percent) and keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the area (39.4 percent)....

    Survey results
  4. Tampa council cuts Bob Buckhorn's proposed property tax rate increase for 2018

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to scale back Mayor Bob Buckhorn's proposed property tax increase for 2018.

    Buckhorn originally proposed a tax rate that would have added $140 to the city tax bill of a homeowner who lives in a house with the average assessment of $166,579.

    But that proved to be too much for most council members, who tend to support the mayor's proposed spending....

    The Tampa City Council meets at 6 p.m. tonight for a first public hearing on the city budget and proposed property tax rate for 2018.
  5. Tampa had plans for aftermath of Hurricane Irma, but also improvised


    TAMPA — Having seen hurricanes hit other cities, Tampa officials have had time to think about how they would react if a major storm struck the city for the first time since 1921.

    Hurricane Irma wasn't a direct hit, but Tampa was roughed up enough that City Hall put its recovery plan in action: A private contractor was brought in to pick up storm debris daily, recreation centers were opened for kids out of school, and the city scraped together $1.5 million in state and federal housing funds to help pay for repairs to homes of low-income residents....

    Volunteers from Ford's Garage scoop macaroni and cheese for residents of Robles Park Village during a food giveaway Thursday. The Tampa Bay Lightning in coordination with community partners and the city of Tampa served more than 1,600 meals donated from six local restaurants. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times
  6. Hurricane Irma: What we learned


    Now that Hurricane Irma has staggered through Florida like a drunken tourist, it is telling that the early lessons from the storm's impact around Tampa Bay are less about life-and-death and more about quality of life.

    We learned the value of having generators on stand-by. Of knowing the rules of the road at intersections without signals. Of knowing your neighbors. And of pre-brewing some good coffee for the morning after the storm....

    St. Petersburg police Officer Kevin Palmer shares recovery information with Tyrone Baldwin, 71. Local officials praised first responders and public employees for their service during the storm.
  7. Tampa opening assistance centers to help residents apply for FEMA aid, home repair funds


    TAMPA — City Hall is opening four community assistance centers to help Tampa residents apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid and for limited local funding to help repair damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

    The city's Disaster Recovery Program will take applications until its $1.5 million in funding is exhausted. The city created the program by putting together federal Community Development Block Grant and State Housing Initiatives Partnership funds....

    Hurrricane Irma toppled a large oak tree onto a house on W Genesee Street in South Seminole Heights. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  8. Tampa to pick up storm debris daily through Oct. 27


    TAMPA — City Hall has activated a private contractor, Ceres Environmental, to begin picking up and hauling away debris from Hurricane Irma starting Thursday.

    Storm debris collection will continue 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. seven days a week through Oct. 27. Residents should place debris at the curb and:

    • Separate debris into the following categories: vegetative (un-bagged), construction and demolition, appliances and white goods, such as refrigerators or washers and electronics....

    A contractor for the city of Tampa will start picking up storm debris Thursday and will continue through Oct. 27.
  9. With schools out, Tampa opens rec centers early


    With schools closed, the city of Tampa is opening its recreation centers early starting today to give kids and a parents a break, officials said.

    Normally, the rec centers would not offer programmed activities until the afternoons after school, city spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said. But they will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today through Friday.

    “Thousands of residents in the city are still out of power. It’s hot and uncomfortable. We are hoping by opening up the parks and pools, families will be able to get out, cool off, and make the best of the next couple days,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in announcing the openings. “Our work didn’t stop after the sun came out. We are out in neighborhoods cleaning up debris, fixing traffic signals and addressing issues in every corner of our city. Be patient with us and be kind to your neighbors. We are all in  this together.”...

    Tens of thousands of children and teens have taken advantage of extended hours at Tampa's recreation centers during the Stay & Play program during the summer. This week the city is opening recreation centers early to give kids who are out of school something to do.
  10. Tampa postpones public hearing on proposed 2018 budget and tax increase to Monday

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The City Council on Wednesday postponed an important public hearing on the city's budget and property tax rate for 2018 due to Hurricane Irma.

    With Tampa residents still returning home, cleaning up and waiting for power to come on, city officials said it was unfair to expect residents to drop what they were doing, trek to City Hall and weigh in on the budget.

    "I don't think two days after a major storm was the appropriate time," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said before the meeting....

    The Tampa City Council has postponed until Monday a pubic hearing on Mayor Bob Buckhorn's proposed budget and property tax increase for 2018. [City of Tampa]
  11. Waste water spilled in Tampa when Irma knocked out power to pumps


    TAMPA — More than a third of Tampa's sewage pumping stations lost power during Hurricane Irma, leading to an undetermined volume of untreated waste water being spilled throughout the city, and most of the pumping stations still lacked power Tuesday.

    The city has 230 pumping stations. The hurricane knocked out power to 80 of them, according to Brad Baird, the city's top utilities official. As of late Tuesday afternoon, 75 still had not had electrical service restored....

    Tampa officials say widespread power outages during Hurricane Irma knocked many waste water pumping stations out of commission, resulting in overflows from the stations and manhole covers. TIMES FILE (2015)
  12. His city spared, Tampa's Bob Buckhorn resumes life as a mayor in full


    TAMPA — After sleeping for an hour on the floor next to a treadmill in an exercise room at Tampa's emergency operations center, Mayor Bob Buckhorn ventured out Monday morning for what was officially a tour of the damage from Hurricane Irma.

    But within a few miles, it felt more like a victory lap.

    "This is better than I expected," Buckhorn said from the front seat of a black city SUV driven by a police detective. Minutes later, he called Air Force Col. April Vogel, the commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base....

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn talks with police Officer Britt Martinez, who was working Monday with her police dog Taz, and Officer John Sitton in downtown Tampa. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
  13. Tampa lifts curfew, prepares to clean up


    TAMPA — The city of Tampa lifted its curfew at 8 a.m. Monday amid reports of sporadic but not extensive damage.

    A drive through downtown, Davis Islands, Hyde Park, West Tampa and Tampa Heights around 7 a.m. turned up virtually no structural damage, but many tree branches in the street and a few trees toppled over. In Tampa Heights, a large oak tree did take down some power lines on the 100 block of E Gladys Street....

    Many streets, like S Orleans Avenue, south of W Swann Avenue, were carpeted with small branches Monday morning.
  14. County's Mike Merrill contradicts Mayor Buckhorn, says there's no 'curfew'


    TAMPA — Is Tampa under a curfew starting at 6 p.m. Sunday or not?

    Yes, Mayor Bob Buckhorn declared Sunday morning.

    No, countered Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill at a 4 p.m. news briefing, not for Hillsborough County or any of its three cities — Tampa, Temple Terrace or Plant City.

    Merrill said only the county administrator has the authority to set a curfew under a state of emergency....

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, foreground, and Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, at rear, spoke as one Thursday about preparations for Hurricane Irma. They disagreed Sunday about a curfew. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]

  15. Tampa closing westbound lanes on Gandy Bridge, Courtney Campbell causeway; will pull officers from streets after


    TAMPA — Tampa officials said about 4:45 p.m. Sunday that police were closing the westbound lanes of the Gandy Bridge and Courtney Campbell causeway in response to deteriorating weather and driving conditions caused by Hurricane Irma.

    As soon as the bridges are closed, Tampa police plan to pull their officers from the street, city spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said. Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said the city will not be able to dispatch police officers or firefighters to perform rescues once sustained winds exceed 40 mph....