Chris George Sig - Hat Tips

Hat Tips & Facepalms is an occasional column that features some highlights and lowlights from Pinellas County and beyond.

HT to Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco counties: The agency on June 3 celebrated the groundbreaking of its largest development to date, a 75-lot affordable housing project in Pinellas Park. Habitat bought the 7.3 acres at the corner of 68th Street and 62nd Avenue North one year ago for $2.1 million, and has put that money to good use in helping to boost the supply of the area’s affordable housing.

FP for the state Legislature: Specifically the House, which decided it was a good idea to divert — or sweep as it’s called — a big chunk of money from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund back into the general fund. Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Senate had recommended full funding of the fund, but the House disagreed, leading to a compromise that ended up with $115 million going to Hurricane Michael relief efforts, $85 million to the rest of the state and $125 million swept back into the general fund. Local governments that desperately need the money are requesting DeSantis veto the budget item. Let’s hope — for once — common sense prevails and he listens.

HT to the city of Largo and developer Gary Tave: The Largo native joined city officials in celebrating a groundbreaking June 5 on West Bay Lofts, the city’s first mixed-use project. Tave and the city hope the $48.8 million project that includes a five-story building on the 500 block of West Bay Drive and a three-story building on the 600 block will be a catalyst for more redevelopment in the downtown area.

FP for the city of Largo: For his project, Tave bought the 500 block of West Bay Drive for $200,000 in early 2016. The problem? Well, the city bought the block just before the recession in 2007 for $1.8 million. That means the city took a $1.6 million hit. Ouch. Despite the loss, Mayor Woody Brown said it was the right decision to buy the property. Hopefully, Tave’s project can prove him right.

HT to high school baseball teams: Calvary Christian, Dunedin and Seminole all made a great run in the postseason this past month. Calvary captured its second state title in three years, Dunedin fell just one win short of its own state crown and underdog Seminole made it all the way to the regional championship.

FP for Rays “fans”: In late May, only 5,786 watched the team beat the Blue Jays at the Trop. It was the lowest number in the team's 22-year history. Last week, the team put 5,000 tickets for five home games on sale for just $5. The team only sold out of two of those games, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Somehow — and I didn’t think it was possible — it feels like the team’s prospects of sticking around are even worse.

HT to U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Gus Bilirakis: Each congressman played a role in working to secure federal funding to help improve the state’s water quality. Crist was able to get $10 million in the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020 to address harmful algal blooms, including red tide. Bilirakis helped restore $3 million in federal funding for the Anclote River Dredge Project, which had been diverted to hurricane relief efforts in the Panhandle.

FP for Madeira Beach and Belleair Beach drama: There’s a reason some call it “Mad Beach.” A discussion about the city’s fireworks turned into an even better show than the pyrotechnics themselves when new Commissioner Doug Andrews expressed concern that the city hadn’t lined up a barge yet and took aim at City Manager Jonathan Evans and Fire Chief Derryl O’Neal. It wasn’t pretty. Click this link to read the story and enjoy.

While you’re on our site, check out the latest from the Belleair Beach council, which must’ve seen Madeira’s drama and thought, “Hold my beer.” Let’s just say, there’s a point during the June 3 meeting when new Mayor Joseph Manzo called upon a nonexistent deputy to stop the just-fired city attorney from reading a statement.

Hopefully these kinds of meetings aren’t a signal that the incivility plaguing our national politics has now seeped its way into the culture of our local governments.

HT to 60 percent of Dunedin residents who were surveyed earlier this year: That’s how many said they rely on our Dunedin Beacon to get information about their city. I, on behalf of the TBN crew, would like to thank those residents for their wise choice of news outlets.

FP for the other 40 percent: What’s the problem, folks? Get on board with the rest of your neighbors. You won’t be disappointed.

Chris George is editor of the Largo Leader. He can be reached at 727-397-5563, ext. 316, or by email at