Increased food spending, lower gas prices give retailers boost for Independence Day

With Independence Day arriving Tuesday, retailers expect a surge in one of the things Americans do best – eat.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts Americans will spend more than $7.1 billion for Independence Day weekend on food items for picnics, barbecues and other celebrations. That’s an increase of about $2 in per-person spending over 2016.

Numbers from the NRF annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insight & Analytics, note that as many as 88 percent of those surveyed (an estimated 219 million Americans) will be celebrating Independence Day weekend, with 162 million of them — 66 percent — taking part in a cookout or picnic, spending an average of $73.42 per person, up from $71.34 last year.

Americans will be showing their patriotic spirit with flags and clothing. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers — 65 percent — own an American flag, while more than half (53 percent) will wear some sort of patriotic themed clothing like T-shirts, bathing suits or shoes. Forty percent own some other patriotic themed decorations, and 28 percent say they plan to buy additional patriotic items.

Fireworks are another popular Independence Day activity, despite July 4 falling on a weekday in 2017. Less than half of Americans — 44 percent — plan to watch fireworks Tuesday night, while 14 percent will watch a parade.

Lower gas prices will also have a noticeable impact on Independence Day activities, with nearly 33 million Americans planning to head out-of-town for the long weekend, up from 31 million last year. The NRF survey found just 18 percent of Americans are concerned about gas prices, down from 21 percent last year; it is at the lowest level since the survey began in 2004.

Worries about gas prices for Independence Day peaked in 2008 when 59 percent of Americans said they were concerned over the cost of gas.

Pinellas County wage-theft law challenged as unconstitutional

A Largo executive search firm is challenging the constitutionality of Pinellas County’s recently enacted wage-theft ordinance.

KLA Industries is an Ohio-based executive search firm located at 801 W. Bay Dr., Suite 203 in Largo.

Zachary J. “Zach” Burns, 30, is a Madeira Beach resident and former KLA employee who recently moved from West Chester, Ohio. State records show Burns incorporated the recruitment company Stratus Search in March 2017. Stratus Search has its office at 3530 1st Ave. N, Suite 203, in St. Petersburg.

In 2015, Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously to enact a “wage theft” ordinance. In effect as of Jan. 1, 2016, the law allows local workers who believe an employer has illegally denied them wages to file a complaint with the county’s Office of Human Rights, which also fields complaints on housing, employment and disability discrimination issues.

If successful, employees are awarded treble damages. Much of the ordinance came from a similar one enacted by the City of St. Petersburg in 2015.

According to a complaint filed May 23 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, shortly after Burns resigned from KLA Industries in 2016, the company placed a recruit with one of his former clients and obtained payment for doing so.

When KLA refused to pay Burns the $5,400 commission, he filed a wage-theft complaint with the Office of Human Rights.

While the hearing will not take place until July 17, KLA is being proactive, filing a suit where the company denies Burns is entitled to the commission, and accuses him of trying to steal its clients.

KLA is contesting the constitutionality of the county’s wage-theft law on several grounds: It sets up an impermissible court outside the supreme court, district courts of appeal, circuit and county courts; it does not allow trial by jury and does not allow an employer to pursue counterclaims or assert any set-off defenses against the amount owed or against the imposition of treble damages.


Two Largo court petitions raise question of fairness in Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act

A pair of City of Largo court petitions raise questions on the fairness of the state’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Ronisha Ke’irra Scott, 24, is a St. Petersburg resident. An African-American woman, Scott lives in a 675-square-foot St. Petersburg home appraised by the county at $26,435, with a sales value of $31,900.

On June 1, Largo Police arrested Scott for running a stop sign and having “excessively tinted windows.” During the stop, officers allegedly found two dilaudid pain pills and a lit marijuana cigarette in her 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier.

Scott insisted neither the pills nor the joint were hers.

Before the June 1 incident, Pinellas County records show Scott’s only criminal charge had been in 2016 for misdemeanor retail theft.

Gary Stevens Sunday is a 47-year-old Clearwater resident. Sunday, a white male, owns a 1,336-square-foot home that the county appraises at $139,931, with a sales value of $172,600.

On the same day as Scott’s detention, Largo Police also arrested Sunday after allegedly finding methamphetamine in small baggies, a meth pipe, syringes, a safe, and a digital scale in his 2015 Kia Optima SX.

Sunday, like Scott, denied the items belonged to him. The arrest report does not explain why police stopped him.

Sunday was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. According to his arrest report, he is unemployed.

Online dockets show Stevens pleaded “not guilty” to the criminal charges.

A common interpretation of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act is that law enforcement can seize and permanently keep certain items that were an instrument of, or a product of, a crime. Defendants need not have been convicted of the crime, nor even be charged.

On June 9, the City of Largo filed separate court petitions in Pinellas County Circuit Court to seize the vehicle from each of two wildly different criminal suspects — Scott and Sunday.

The requests raise several issues about the fairness of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.

If Sunday is accused of dealing in illegal drugs, the Act would seem reasonable — although some legal experts argue it is unfair to seize a defendant’s property unless (or until) he or she is charged and convicted of a crime.

On the other hand, Scott’s alleged crime was not dealing drugs, and her record shows no such offense in the past. In this case, seizing her vehicle might seem unnecessarily harsh, especially if Scott needs the vehicle to drive to work.

Taking Scott’s car could drive her further into poverty.

While an attorney is representing Sunday in his “not guilty” plea, online dockets show Scott has not yet filed a plea, nor does she have an attorney.

All this leads to one question: Is Largo’s attempted seizure of Scott’s car an appropriate, reasonable and legal application of Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture law?

Phil Ammann 07.17 Update

Philip Ammann

(727) 492-6025

Twitter: @PhilAmmann

History & Accomplishments

2013-present: Vice President/Director of Operations

Extensive Enterprises Media, Tampa, Florida.

Overall supervision, management content production: SaintPetersBlog, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising, Alabama Today, SUNBURN newsletter. Combined daily audience of +20K unique visitors. Reports directly to publisher/editor-in-chief.

Compile, aggregate, edit and write news stories drawing from a variety of sources – online, wire services and traditional news — breaking news, features and commentary. Monitoring news and social media, and update various sections of the sites.

Primary focus on Florida in general, individual beats also emphasize Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa Bay local governments and politics.

Monitor, edit and supervise all content; social media campaigns — Facebook, Twitter (account with +8K followers), Instagram, etc. – managing, editing, scheduling. Edit, post audio and video. Proficient in AP style; self-hosted WordPress CMS; SEO functionality.

2001-present: Chief Operating Officer/President                            

Silent A Productions, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Freelance online copywriter/managing partner: Research, writing, editing and proofreading; emphasis on SEO marketing, web content and print.

Recent clients include:

ColDesi/Colman and Company Inc.:  Staff Copywriter/Content Producer: Research, write and edit SEO/keyword-rich blog posts, press releases and related content.  copywriter: Mobile applications whitepapers, copy for “POTUS” mobile app, landing pages, splash pages, press releases, blog posts and social media.

LazyDays Inc.: Copywriter: Research, write and edit lifestyle and technical print articles for  BetterRVing Magazine.

Ovation Technologies: SEO Marketing, copywriting, editing and proofreading for Ovation Technologies blog; press releases; online and print marketing material.

2012-2013: Digital Producer/Publisher.                            

HRNewsDaily, Tampa, Florida.

Research, write and edit keyword/SEO content for press releases, blog posts, news articles and whitepapers. Average daily reach: 300-500 unique visitors.

Specialty: Software-as-a-Service, human resources, compliance, recruiting, hiring and onboarding.

Social media integration: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Digg and StumbleUpon.

Applied Google Analytics/AdWords for actionable insights to increase SEO functions.

Created visual design components/ website layout.

Self-hosted WordPress CMS/Theme development.

2011-2012:  Blogger      

Media Best Interactive, Tampa, Florida.

Research, write and edit professional keyword-rich web content: blog postings, SEO methods. Topics include investing, business, fitness and health. Content management through WordPress CMS.

2011-2012: Reporter/Editor, Pinellas County, Florida.

Reporter and guest editor for a hyperlocal news website, a subsidiary of AOL. Reporting emphasis: arts and local government.

Produced and supervised online and multimedia web content, photos and blog posts. Utilize proprietary CMS, for web content and social media feeds.

2009-2011:  Digital producer

Media Impact Advertising, Clearwater, Florida.

Writing, proofreading and editing creative and detailed content used in direct marketing, email campaigns, internal and external communications.

Collaborated with artistic director, graphics design teams and writers to produce print, email and marketing copy.

Duties included SMS text copy, blog posts, social media and press releases applied SEO and keyword functions.

Supervised script production for radio and TV spots.

Responsible for a tenfold increase in response rate compared to previous promotions.

Core Competency

Reporting, research, editing and writing for web content, print, electronic and broadcast, proficient in AP Style.

Keyword-rich content for both SEO & SEM.

Proficient in MS Office 2013 Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint), Open Office.

Experienced in Adobe Acrobat Suite, Photoshop CS6 and WordPress. Proprietary CMS programs.


University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 2008-2010.

BA in Mass Communications/Journalism: Magna Cum Laude

Kappa Tau Alpha; Journalism Honor Society

Concentrations: Public Affairs Reporting, News Editing, Broadcast Writing, Online Marketing, Research Methods, Photojournalism, Media Law.


Kappa Tau Alpha; Journalism Honor Society

USF Chancellor’s List Scholar (2009- 2010)

USF dean’s list (2008-2010)

Osher Re-Entry Scholarship: Full merit-based USF scholarship