Best Of 2016

Best political upset

In the political realm, conventional wisdom is being turned on its head this year. An unlikely indicator of defiant 2016, locally at least, was the election for the St. Pete City Council seat that opened up with the departure of Wengay Newton, who termed out. The race to represent a large swath of downtown and south St. Petersburg had a crowded primary, but was narrowed down to Newton’s brother, Will, and activist Lisa Wheeler-Bowman (then named Lisa Wheeler-Brown). Both were excellent candidates and had their own sets of strengths that suited them for representing the district. But Wheeler-Bowman won despite tons of money spent (not necessarily directly by Newton’s campaign, but by “friends,” shall we say) trashing her by way of mailers and a local pay-for-play blog. Some will say she won due to her position on the Tampa Bay Rays (let ‘em go if they wanna go), but we’d like to think she won because she busted her ass for it, and because we are all very tired of negative campaigning. —KB

People, Places & Politics: The who, the where and the WTF?!

People, Places & Politics

The who, the where and the WTF?!

Best antidote to campaign bullshit

Perhaps the most convincing indication that PolitiFact is doing a good job (besides that Pulitzer) is the fact that their fair-minded analyses of candidate-speak have riled up partisans on both sides of this season’s bitter political divide. Maybe we’re living in a post-fact world — those multiple Pants On Fire! judgments against Trump don’t seem to matter a whit to his supporters — but at a time when rumors, lies and conspiracy theories dominate the national conversation, the sober-sided truth-tellers at PolitiFact provide a much-needed dose of sanity. —David Warner


Runners up:  Pass-a-Grille, St. Pete Beach.

wikimedia commons

Runners up: Hogan vs. Gawker, wrong-way drivers.

Best capitalism/history love story

Often, the first thing to go when “progress” comes to town are local historic landmarks. Often, they don’t go away without a fight from local preservationists who argue that the sense of place these old, iconic structures create is a much better economic development tool than a spattering of condos. But former cigar industry hub Ybor City is melding the two ideas, and investors are instead refurbishing old buildings, turning them into apartments and hotels for the growing number of people who live elsewhere but work in Ybor. —KB

Best city councilperson

If you’re young when you ascend to elected office, your inclination may be to play ball so that you don’t make any enemies as you seek to hold onto your seat and, you hope, climb the ladder. Maniscalco instead seems to vote in ways that reflect his district as well as his generation. As a member of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Board, he was the sole dissenting vote against imposing prohibitive rules against ride-sharing services. He also opposed the unpopular TBX tollway project. If he had lost his 2015 runoff election to Jackie Toledo (who is now running for State Rep. Dana Young’s soon-to-be former seat), the conversations at the dais would likely be very, very different. Plus, he digs Bowie, and conversing with him about music is a rare pleasure for reporters who tend to feel like a round peg in a square hole at gatherings of local politicos. —KB

Runners up: Tampa, Dunedin.
Best clusterf*ck
Flickr user DonkeyHotey

Want to succeed at least somewhat as one of two major political parties? Rule #1: Cultivate a deep bench of talented candidates and operatives. Rule #2: Try not to put those people in the same races, where they’ll expend precious resources cannibalizing one another. Can we guess which of these rules Tampa Bay Democrats aren’t quite getting? Sure, some of their problems stem from gerrymandering and candidates preferring to run for open seats in districts Dems can actually win, but when you have 18 talented Democrats in six bloody primaries, it costs money and confuses voters… though it’s fun for us political reporters. —KB


Runners up: Ferg's Sports Bar, Oxford Exchange.


Runners up: Hillsborough, Pasco.