Daily Mail: "Scientology town Clearwater"

Discussion in 'Media' started by The Wrong Guy, Mar 31, 2015.

  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    Gabe Cazares and Hubbard Policy

    By Mike Rinder, December 12, 2017


    Tony Ortega has a must-read article on his blog this morning.

    Researcher R. M. Seibert obtained Freedom of Information Act documents from the FBI about the “ops” (the scientology term — short for operations — to describe campaigns against enemies) against former Clearwater Mayor Gabe Cazares. The stories about what was done to Cazares are horrifying.

    But it’s also worth noting the underlying POLICY of scientology that resulted in these actions against enemies of scientology.

    It is often claimed (and I did it myself for many years) that the Guardian’s Office were “rogue operatives” — but that ignores the fact that L. Ron Hubbard laid out how to go about destroying enemies of scientology with these sort of staged operations and planting of false stories. Hubbard fancied himself as a spy and wrote a considerable amount of scientology POLICY about the craft of “intelligence” and covertly controlling and influencing people and situations for the benefit of scientology.

    This is STILL THE POLICY of scientology. It is written by L. Ron Hubbard and thus cannot be changed or altered in any way.

    Read the article by Tony Ortega today before you read the document below. You will understand how scientology using planted documents and fake scenarios to smear and scandalize opponents came to be.

    The examples of “Gosh Porge” and “Bish Smish” in the reference below are not just funny asides. They are directives on HOW to destroy someone. The parallels to Cazares and Paulette Cooper are eery.

    This is ONE of Hubbard’s writings, directed to the Guardian’s Office. It has subsequently been formalized into an “OSA NW Order” — this is a retype of the original communication Hubbard sent to his wife, Mary Sue (CS-G – Commodore’s Staff Guardian Office) and other Guardian Office executives and “intelligence” personnel. As with a lot of Hubbard’s communication on “sensitive” matters, it was not signed. He did not want to incriminate himself (in later years, he would sign his name “*”). Bear in mind, this is just ONE of the documents Hubbard authored on the subject of “Intelligence” and dealing with enemies. It happens to be the one that has the most direct relevance to the story today.

    Below the document I have pulled some specific passages to highlight and comment on them.

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  2. The Wrong Guy Member

    He was Scientology’s most famous spy, then he turned witness and vanished. Now, here he is.

    By Tony Ortega, December 14, 2017


    In 2014, while we were working on our book about Paulette Cooper, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, we got a fascinating break.

    A researcher who was helping us said that he had managed to track down Michael Meisner.

    For those of us who study Scientology’s history, it’s a name that has always been shrouded in mystery. We have often wondered what happened to the super spy who carried out much of the legendary Snow White Program, the largest domestic infiltration of the U.S. federal government in its history, on behalf of Scientology’s infamous original spy wing, the Guardian’s Office.

    Meisner was born in Chicago in 1950, and was a college student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when he became interested in the Scientology mission there in November 1970. He was later trained for the Guardian’s Office and then was sent to Washington DC in 1973 as L. Ron Hubbard’s Snow White Program was going into effect around the world.

    Meisner became responsible for a stunning amount of burglarizing in Washington DC federal agencies, as we explain at some length in our book.

    But then, one of the FBI’s first female agents, a woman named Christine Hansen, answered a call about a pair of suspicious characters at a DC law library on June 11, 1976. She questioned the men, Michael Meisner and his partner, Gerald Wolfe, and then let them go, but later realized they had given her false information. By pure luck, on June 30 she ran into Wolfe again at the IRS headquarters and put him under arrest.

    Scientology sent Meisner into hiding in Los Angeles as they watched what would happen with Wolfe, and then put Meisner under guard when he became impatient.

    A year later, in June 1977, Meisner escaped his Scientology guards and turned himself in to the FBI. Three weeks after that, on July 8, 1977, the FBI served search warrants at three Scientology locations in DC and Los Angeles in what was the largest raid in FBI history.

    Meisner then served as a witness as the Justice Department prosecuted and got convictions for eleven top Scientology officials, including Hubbard’s wife, Mary Sue.

    And then, Meisner vanished.

    Now, our researcher told us where he was living, and showed us how he knew this was the same Michael J. Meisner, born August 8, 1950, who had attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and who had turned witness for the FBI.

    We sent a letter to Meisner and called him, asking if he’d be interested in speaking to us for our book, and hoping that he would — one of the things that we were trying to do in Miss Lovely was get multiple perspectives on the operations that had been aimed at Paulette Cooper.

    Meisner claimed we had the wrong guy, and told us not to call him again.

    We let the matter rest for several years.

    But now, we are bringing it up for multiple reasons. First, because we obtained the FBI file on former Clearwater mayor Gabe Cazares, which we made public Tuesday. It was Meisner who told the FBI about the details of Scientology’s plot to ruin Cazares with a bizarre hit-and-run accident in DC in 1976.

    And also, in the years since we first contacted Meisner, one of our excellent helpers, researcher Eivol Ekdal, has tracked down photographs of Meisner which helped us learn how he managed to transform himself and his life in almost unbelievable ways.

    After he provided testimony in the Snow White case and then obtained a new identity in a witness protection program, Michael Meisner went back to school, got an engineering degree, and then by 1981 found work in, of all places, the nuclear power industry.

    He started out as a licensing engineer with the company that became Entergy in New Orleans, then moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1988 at the Grand Gulf nuclear power station. By 1996, he was the director of licensing for five Entergy nuclear power plants, and then he became president of the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company in 1998 and then its chief nuclear officer.

    His rise was meteoric, and it was all done under his original name. (He apparently only used the assumed identity for his return to college.) From 1997 to 2005, Meisner oversaw the decommissioning and deconstruction of the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant in Wiscasset, and then retired.

    And almost as surprising, we learned that Meisner’s sister, Mary Jo Meisner, became well known as a newspaper reporter and editor — she was city editor of the Washington Post from 1987 to 1991, editor in chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from 1993 to 1997 and a vice president of the prestigious Boston Foundation from 2001 to 2016. Three times, she was a judge for the Pulitzer Prizes. Today, she teaches at Harvard. But she sure sat on one hell of a story during all that time.

    Fascinated that Mike Meisner felt so secure that he had gone back to his original name, we hoped he would talk to us about his amazing second life. But he’s not interested.

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  3. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater looks to revisit land swap with Church of Scientology | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, December 22, 2017


    In June, City Council members surprised Church of Scientology officials when they voted to halt a land swap that had been in the works for months.

    The church had bought a vacant lot just east of downtown under the impression it could trade it for three small city-owned parcels Scientology needs for its campus.

    When it came time to make the trade official, however, engineering staff cautioned the city may need those unused parcels in the future. Council members decided the timing was not right and voted 4-1 to postpone the swap indefinitely with Council member Bob Cundiff voting against waiting.

    Citing a now-urgent need for the Scientology-owned lot on Cleveland Street to use as retail parking, the city has asked to restart negotiations with the church. But since the first time around, local church officials have gone dark on communicating with the city.

    City attorney Pam Akin said she contacted Scientology attorneys at the end of November to arrange a meeting with local church officials and update the conversation. She said she has still not gotten a response on whether they are willing to meet.

    City Manager Bill Horne said Scientology leader David Miscavige called him on Dec. 8 because "he was apparently aware of (Akin) reaching out and not getting a response."

    "He said for us to move forward with it, and that’s what we’re trying to do," Horne said.

    Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw did not respond to a request for comment.

    Horne said if church officials are not willing to meet with city staff, the details will have to be worked out between each side’s lawyers and could go to the Council for a vote early next year. Church staff has drastically cut back communication after the City Council voted in April to buy a 1.4 acre downtown lot the church also coveted.

    This land swap would involve the church trading its lot, adjacent to the Nolen apartment complex at 949 Cleveland St., in exchange for: 600 Franklin St., which holds the former fire marshal building; a parcel on the northwest corner of S Garden Avenue and Court Street with seven parking spaces; and nine parking spaces on Watterson Avenue that abut the Garden Avenue parking garage.

    After the Council voted down the swap, Scientology attorney Monique Yingling called the decision unfounded because the deal had been in the works for six months with no previous sign of hesitation from staff.

    She stated in a letter her clients would be watching to see if religious discrimination was at play.

    City commissioned appraisals showed the Scientology lot is valued at $600,000, well above the $425,000 combined value of the three city parcels.

    But since they voted to postpone the trade, some City Council members who had reservations say those concerns have changed over the six months.

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  4. I think it's just about time to start referring to McManus in the same sentence and breath that we talk about Tobin and Childs.
  5. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater City Council Candidate Tom Keller says he’s a voice for the ordinary resident

    Editor’s note: Ahead of the March 13 election, the Tampa Bay Times is publishing profiles on Clearwater City Council candidates for Seat 4 today. Profiles on candidates for Seat 5 will appear next week.

    By Tracey McManus, January 12, 2018


    Keller said he would advocate for the swift implementation of Imagine Clearwater, the city’s $55 million waterfront redevelopment plan, but would be a watchdog to ensure conservative spending on construction costs.

    He said he supports the plan as a way to revitalize the city’s long-struggling downtown. He said while the Church of Scientology takes immaculate care of its properties, its overwhelming presence downtown can be a deterrent to the general public.

    "If they are going to buy property downtown or buy any more, is it going to be something all the citizens can enjoy?" Keller said. "Moving forward, I want to speak to them and tell them my desire with anything they’re doing, I don’t want to have to convert to Scientology to enjoy stuff they’re doing down there. We can’t just have Scientology downtown."

    Keller said he is interested in improving communication between the city and the church, which has frayed in recent months, but that he has not yet been in touch with church officials for his campaign.

    More at

    Clearwater City Council candidate David Allbritton touts track record in civic life

    By Tracey McManus, January 12, 2018


    Allbritton said the city’s $55 million Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment plan is key to bringing downtown back to life. He said maintaining open communication with the Church of Scientology, downtown’s largest property owner, in that effort will be vital.

    But he said encouraging private business to invest so the redevelopment plan does not "lose steam" is just as crucial. He said being an advocate for revitalization and helping businesses navigate the process of opening shop during this transition phase is one of his priorities.

    "In the near future we’re going to start seeing, instead of the city and Scientology trying to get together on things, there’s going to be a third leg to this," he said. "There’s going to be the private sector, and if we can get the private sector in with the city and Scientology, I think we can make some things happen."

    More at
  6. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater city council candidate gets ringing endorsement from a Scientology front

    By Tony Ortega, January 26, 2018


    One of our tipsters forwarded to us an email put out by Pat Clouden of the Concerned Businessmen’s Association of Tampa Bay, which is a ringing endorsement for candidate John Funk in the upcoming March 13 election for Clearwater city council members.

    “There is one guy running who we really like. We’ve met him and he is a like-minded fellow who would be awesome for Clearwater City Council Seat 5. His name is John Funk,” the email says.

    Well, that’s nice, but Mr. Funk is apparently a bit of a longshot. As Tampa Bay Times reporter Tracey McManus explained last week, he’s a political newcomer who is trying to unseat a popular incumbent, Hoyt Hamilton, and he has some dodgy things on his record.

    There are some tax liens and bankruptcies in his past, for example, but Funk explained to McManus that in his 40 years selling real estate, there have been some tough years, which we can certainly appreciate.

    But there’s also the thing about running over a motorcyclist in 2011. McManus found that Funk was cited in an accident that killed 53-year-old motorcyclist Eugene Harris.

    “That was not my fault but I did get cited, yes, because they were on a mission to make sure that I got a ticket,” Funk told McManus. “It was horrific. … It’s something you don’t ever forget.”

    So, OK, this guy has some hurdles to overcome as he attempts to get elected to Clearwater’s city council.
    But hey, with the CBA and Pat Clouden on board, maybe he’ll get some momentum going?

    That is, if an endorsement by a Scientology front group and one of the church’s most active members and boosters is the kind of thing that helps a candidate get elected in Clearwater.

    We sent an email to Funk, asking him what he thought about a Scientology front organization endorsing his run for city council. We’ll let you know if he responds.

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  7. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater council candidate’s development plan relies on Scientology’s cooperation

    By Tracey McManus, January 12, 2018


    On the campaign trail and during recent debates, City Council candidate John Funk has made one issue the crux of his platform.

    He has questioned whether the city should be prioritizing its $55 million waterfront redesign Imagine Clearwater and business incentives as the keys to revitalize downtown. Instead he is pushing a redevelopment idea of his own:

    Funk has proposed luring a private developer to build a boutique outdoor mall on a roughly 10-acre cluster of properties along the south side of Drew Street between Fort Harrison Avenue and the railroad tracks on East Avenue. With the right investor and cooperation of the property owners, he has said, the area could be turned into a high-end shopping center like Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif.

    He pivoted to the proposal in two recent debates when asked specific questions about Imagine Clearwater, downtown parking, business incentives, regionalism and restaurant recruitment.

    "There’s a part of downtown that is a jewel box as far as I’m concerned," Funk said at a Feb. 8 City Hall forum. "I would boldly like to say we need to see about developing that 10-acre piece."

    Most of the footprint in Funk’s 10-acre proposal is controlled by the Church of Scientology or its parishioners. Even if he were to recruit an interested developer, the project would require Scientology and the other property owners to sell or agree to redevelop their properties.

    Funk, 71, a real estate broker, declined an interview with the Tampa Bay Times to discuss specifics of his plan or whether he’s working with Scientology officials. Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to questions about whether the church was working with Funk.

    However, Funk’s proposal mirrors some aspects of a redevelopment project Scientology pitched last year for downtown, home to the church’s international spiritual headquarters.

    In March 2017, Scientology leader David Miscavige offered to renovate Cleveland Street buildings, recruit high-end retail to empty storefronts in the downtown core and build an entertainment complex with actor Tom Cruise on three blocks of mostly vacant land along Myrtle Avenue.

    Miscavige hinged the offer to build this "outdoor mall" on the condition the city agree to step aside so he could buy a 1.4-acre vacant lot on Pierce Street the church needed for its campus. He rescinded the entire retail offer in April, when the city bought the Pierce Street property from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for $4.25 million, a third of the price Miscavige offered.

    Miscavige purchased the mostly vacant Myrtle Avenue stretch for $9 million in February 2017 under a limited liability corporation in anticipation of the now-defunct retail project.

    A one-block portion of Scientology’s Myrtle property covers the eastern boundary of Funk’s 10-acre development proposal.

    At the Feb. 8 candidate forum at City Hall, Funk described the boundaries of his proposal as "the south of Drew Street behind Fort Harrison and to the west of the railroad tracks behind Bank of America." At a Clearwater Downtown Partnership forum on Feb. 5, he brought a rendering of the site that excluded part of Scientology’s buildings along Fort Harrison, which have the public Waterson Avenue behind them.

    When asked to clarify the discrepancies of the boundaries in an email with the Times, Funk responded vaguely: "After decades of inaction it’s time to let the marketplace set the boundaries. The developer has indicated that this would be the general area."

    Funk did not name a developer he is working with and declined an interview request for specifics. Shaw did not respond to the question of whether Funk’s proposal is related to Miscavige’s 2017 retail plan.

    The church controls nearly every parcel on the western boundary of Funk’s proposal of Fort Harrison Avenue, with four buildings owned under the Scientology name, one under a corporation managed by church secretary Glen Stilo, and one owned by a corporation authorized by renowned pianist and Scientologist Chick Corea, according to property records.

    Separate corporations managed by Scientology parishioner Fabio Zaniboni own one property on Drew Street and one on N Garden Avenue within Funk’s footprint. Zaniboni did not respond to a request for comment.

    Another property on Drew Street is owned by a corporation registered to parishioner Vladislav Musatov, who could not be reached for comment.

    Andrew Nall, owner of Nall Lumber on Drew Street, is the longest resident of this stretch, with his family’s business in the same location for 102 years. Nall, who said he is not a member of Scientology, said he has no plans to sell.

    Although Funk has publicly proposed naming the outdoor mall "The Nall Mall" in honor of the family, Nall said he does not approve the use of his name.

    "He hasn’t approached us about it," Nall said.

    Investor Daniels Ikajevs owns a large parking lot that takes up roughly a third of the 10-acre footprint. Ikajevs, who has said previously he is not a member of Scientology, did not respond to a request for comment.

    Nine of the 12 properties in the cluster sold within the last decade for a combined $13.3 million, according to property records. Additionally, Scientology bought the stretch of parcels along Myrtle Avenue in one $9 million deal but only the portion to the west of the railroad tracks overlaps into Funk’s proposal.

    Funk, who is running against Seat 5 incumbent Hoyt Hamilton in the March 13 election, is the only candidate in either of the two races to run his campaign with support from prominent Scientologists. Retired building contractor David Allbritton and advertising salesman Tom Keller are running for Seat 4, being vacated by the term-limited Bill Jonson.

    Aside from the $3,196 Funk has used from his own pockets, most of the remaining $10,000 he has raised has come from prominent Scientology members like PostcardMania founder Joy Gendusa; Consumer Energy Solutions CEO Pat Clouden; cybersecurity training startup KnowBe4 owner Stu Sjouwerman; Markets for Makers founder Natalie Nagengast; David and Monica Agami, of the Agami family building the Skyview condo on Cleveland Street; Scientology donor Claire Loehwing; and Consumer Sales Solutions founder Tom Cummins, according to treasurer reports. He also received support from Mary Repper, a former political consultant who has done extensive public relations work for the church.

    City Manager Bill Horne said in his 20 years as Clearwater’s top administrator, he’s never seen an elected official or a candidate push a development proposal without city staff input and collaboration.

    Horne said Funk has not discussed the project with him or his staff, and the little information he’s gotten about it has been from the public candidate forums.

    Typically, the City Council would vote as a body whether to use city resources to approach property owners and create a development plan. Or a developer would approach the city with a concept after already assembling property, Horne said.

    "Our philosophy has always been ‘Let’s create the best environment for redevelopment,’?" Horne said. "Our philosophy has not been to go out and be the private sector and be the private market."

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  8. The Wrong Guy Member

  9. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology tries to get a Christian minister in trouble for helping Dee Findlay burn her past

    By Tony Ortega, May 1, 2018


    Dee Findlay ended 2017 with an item from her bucket list: She burned more than $10,000 worth of Scientology materials that she had bought on an impulse back in 2010.

    Dee is a well known figure here at the Underground Bunker. She’s been celebrated for her memorable address to the Clearwater City Council regarding a controversial land purchase that the Church of Scientology wanted to get its mitts on. She’s been outspoken about her work as an OSA volunteer in the 1980s, helping the church spy on local officials, and she regrets being pulled back into the organization temporarily in 2010.

    But she still had a huge pile of books and lectures sitting around from that brief return, and she wanted to get rid of it.

    “It was well over $10,000 I paid. And I didn’t know what I was going to do with it all. Most of them were never opened,” she says. She knew she didn’t want to throw it in a dumpster. “I didn’t want the responsibility of anyone else going near any of that stuff. So that’s what I had on my bucket list — a bonfire.”

    As the end of the year approached, she mentioned it to her friends Deb and Dick Maxwell, who have become known for their activism at Scientology’s Clearwater buildings.

    “I became friends with them. I showed them what I had, and they offered to do it. They brought a trailer,” she says. And they took the pile of books to a place where they knew they could burn it without breaking the law — behind the church the Maxwells belong to.

    “It’s in the country, and they knew they were allowed to do it. There was no problem with having the fire there,” Dee says.

    Before lighting the pile, they carefully separated out plastic binders and other items to throw in a recycling bin. And then they lit what was left.


    Now, however, the pastor at the church where the fire occurred, and where the Maxwells are members, has received a letter of complaint from the Church of Scientology’s Pat Harney, a Sea Org member who works for Scientology’s secret police and PR squad, the Office of Special Affairs.

    It’s a very entertaining the letter, and a classic of its kind, right out of the L. Ron Hubbard playbook. Harney writes to Pastor Bill Strayer of the Calvary Chapel Worship Center in New Port Richey, trying to get the Maxwells in trouble for the fire.

    We told the Maxwells we loved the detail about the Nazis burning books “by Jewish authors.” Scientology never tires of trying to compare its plight to the Holocaust. “They are entertaining, to say the least,” Dick told us. “And we love Dee!”


    More at
  10. The Wrong Guy Member

    Editorial: Clearwater should slow effort to switch to strong mayor | Tampa Bay Times

    Establishing a strong mayor government in Clearwater would offer no guarantee of better government or of faster progress on Imagine Clearwater. The real issue about rejuvenating downtown is not whether there is a strong mayor — it’s the long shadow of the Church of Scientology, downtown’s largest property owner.
  11. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater’s land swap with Scientology seemed like a good idea, until it wasn’t, but maybe is again

    By Tracey McManus, May 7, 2017


    A real estate trade with the Church of Scientology that the city asked for, then shot down, then revived, only to kill it all over again is back for another round, giving whiplash to all involved.

    Here’s what’s at play: the city owns three small properties downtown, one with a vacant building and two with a handful of parking spaces, the church wants for its campus. The church owns a vacant lot east of downtown the city wants for retail parking.


    The council voted 3-2 Thursday to vacate a right-of-way required for the swap.

    More at
  12. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater approves land swap with Scientology after a year of back-and-forth

    By Tracey McManus, May 18, 2017


    The third time was the charm for the city to close a long-debated real estate deal with the Church of Scientology.

    After two previous deals were scuttled over more than a year of negotiations, the City Council voted 3-1 on Thursday night to give Scientology three small downtown properties in exchange for a vacant parking lot on Cleveland Street.

    City Council member Hoyt Hamilton voted in opposition and Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell was absent.

    The city plans to use its newly acquired lot, adjacent to the Nolen apartments at 949 Cleveland Street, as retail parking for businesses. Community Redevelopment Agency Director Amanda Thompson said the space was critical to recruit commercial tenants at the Nolen — which has struggled without a retail parking lot — and for the 15-story high-rise under construction across the street.

    Scientology will acquire the former fire marshal building at 600 Franklin St., seven parking spaces at S Garden Avenue and Court Street, and nine parking spaces on Watterson Avenue.

    The vacant lot the city will receive is worth $185,000 more than the three properties it’s giving up, according to the most recent appraisals.

    The Franklin Street property and the Court Street parking spaces surround the footprint of Scientology’s proposed L. Ron Hubbard Hall auditorium.

    Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw did not respond to a request for comment Thursday or previous questions about the church’s intention for the Watterson Avenue spaces, which are four blocks north of the other two properties.

    Hamilton said although the city would be gaining higher valued property in the deal, he is uncomfortable doing business with Scientology since church officials have almost completely stopped communicating with city officials.

    The city is working to revitalize downtown with restaurants, retail and a reshaped waterfront park. But Hamilton said Scientology is "not showing they are interested in the same things the people of Clearwater are."

    "I would love for Scientology to prove me wrong when I say I’m not sure that’s what they want to see," he said. "I would welcome them to prove me wrong and show that I’m wrong.

    "But because of the fact they’re not communicating with us right now, I’m not inclined to move forward with this land swap."

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  13. The Way To Happiness at work in Clearwater:

  14. The Wrong Guy Member

    Tom Cruise moving to Clearwater? The rumor’s back again

    By Tracey McManus, August 1, 2018


    Like clockwork, the forever-resurrected scoop that Tom Cruise has finally moved to downtown for good resurfaced in national tabloids last week, with People magazine proclaiming the actor and devout Scientologist has once and for all, and truly, for real this time, settled into his multi-million dollar penthouse near his religion’s mecca.

    The Aug. 6 (EXCLUSIVE!) cover story, posted online July 25, cites "sources" who say Cruise has been busy renovating the pad and has been spotted out and about downtown with Scientology staffers.

    The story, which has exactly zero new details from headlines printed ad-nauseam over the years that were just as thinly sourced, opened the flood gates.

    Blogs, newspapers, TV stations, tabloids and social media feeds across the world lit up.

    For anybody who cares about facts, here is what we know for sure. Spoiler alert: It’s not much.

    Developer Moises Agami, a Scientologist from Mexico City, began renovating the 10-story Skyview condo tower at the corner of Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street around 2013. It’s about a block from Scientology’s Flag building, where parishioners from across the world take courses and receive spiritual counseling known as auditing.

    The tower was originally proposed as 51 two-bedroom units, but contractors filed paper work with the city in September 2016 to turn the top three floors into a lavish penthouse complete with a gym, theater, pool, garden, game room, four bedrooms and a loft. The permit application also included plans for a private garage with a car elevator on the second floor with a corridor leading to a wing with a flight simulator, office space and sports storage area.

    News of the $3 million penthouse renovation sparked international tabloid stories declaring the addition was surely being built for Cruise. City officials could only confirm they heard the same rumors the rest of the world had.

    The penthouse was bought by Home Base Five Trust in August 2017 for $9.5 million. The trust is registered to Nancy Chapman, and the deed’s address is her Los Angeles business management firm, which Hollywood Reporter has reported represented Cruise in the past.

    But a lot has gone down in Clearwater since penthouse rumors started in 2016.

    In March 2017, the Tampa Bay Times broke a story that Scientology leader David Miscavige had purchased six key downtown properties under anonymous LLCs in early 2017 totaling almost $30 million.

    Turns out, Miscavige was preparing a retail overhaul for the city’s long struggling downtown. He offered to bankroll a total overhaul of Cleveland Street facades, have his hired consultants recruit luxury retail to empty storefronts and build an entertainment complex in partnership with Tom Cruise.

    Yep, there was a catch.

    In exchange for the makeover, Miscavige asked the city to step aside and allow him to buy a 1.4-acre vacant parcel, adjacent to Scientology’s 13-story Oak Cove religious retreat, to build a swimming pool and other accommodations for parishioners.

    But the city wanted it too. The parcel is also across the street from City Hall, and officials wanted it so they could redevelop the two sites into a residential or retail project for the public.

    Long story short, Miscavige offered the owner of the vacant lot, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, $15 million — far exceeding the $4.25 million the city offered. But the aquarium chose to sell to the city, its longtime partner, and the council bought the land in April 2017.

    Let’s just say it didn’t go over well.

    Miscavige swiftly rescinded his retail offer, and since then, he and his staff has mostly cut communication with city officials.

    But the church still owns all that property it bought in 2017 for the retail plan, including the two blocks of vacant land it bought for Cruise’s entertainment complex. Oh, along with its $230 million real estate portfolio in the city.

    So here we are.

    According to Clearwater senior planner Mark Parry, the Skyview’s 2016 penthouse renovation permit is still active, meaning "they’re still doing work."

    So is Cruise really moving to Clearwater?

    Not to start another international tabloid rumor, but word on the street here is mixed.

    "The latest thing I heard is his unit might be for sale because he’s not coming here anymore," Council member Hoyt Hamilton said of Cruise. "Life is too short for me to even worry about that."

  15. The Wrong Guy Member

    Here's another press release from the cult:

    Scientology Volunteer Ministers Honor Sacrifice with Patriot Day Banquet

    On September 8th, the Scientology Volunteer Ministers are holding their Patriot Day Awards Banquet to honor those who worked tirelessly and lost their lives serving at Ground Zero. The event will be held at Downtown Clearwater’s Historic Fort Harrison at 5:30pm. There is no cost to attend.

    “The first responders at Ground Zero are a perfect reminder of selfless service to others,” said Ms. Glendy Goodsell, Executive Director for the Scientology Volunteer Ministers (VM) Florida. “VMs are honored to have assisted those heroes during a very dark time in America’s history.”

    Ms. Mirit Hendrickson, President of VM Florida, will serve as the MC for the banquet and present awards to several people who were on the front lines during Ground Zero. Those awardees include Judy Fagerman, a Volunteer Minister; the President of the New York Rescue Workers and a retired NYPD Detective and Lieutenant.

    Each of the awardees will share their experiences during 9/11. After the awards, guests are invited to stay for a concert performance by the Church of Scientology’s Flag Band.

    Taking lessons learned from assisting first responders on 9/11, VMs have since trained and partnered with more than 800 different groups, organizations and agencies including the Red Cross, FEMA, the National Guard as well as police and fire departments around the world.

    In Clearwater, VMs are most noted for their work after Hurricane Irma with several hundred volunteers contributing to relief efforts on September 11, 2017. During a weeklong power outage in the Greenwood Neighborhood, the VMs cleaned the debris from every street in the neighborhood and provided food, water and ice for those in need.

    The VM’s determination to help is described as L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology Founder, wrote, “A Volunteer Minister does not shut his eyes to the pain, evil and injustice of existence. Rather, he is trained to handle these things and help others achieve relief from them and new personal strength as well.”

    To attend the Patriot Day Awards Banquet or for more information about the Scientology Volunteer Ministers, please call (727) 467-6965 or email

  16. The Wrong Guy Member

    This article has no mention of the cult, which is why I missed it when it was published.

    18-month game plan outlined for downtown Clearwater

    By John Morton, Tampa Bay Newspapers, October 4, 2018


    The completion of four steps in the next year and a half will be critical to downtown Clearwater’s redevelopment.

    That’s what Amanda Thompson, director of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, told City Council members during an Oct. 1 workshop as she unveiled strategy for an 18-month action plan she’s hoping city leaders will adopt at an Oct. 29 meeting.

    The steps are:

    • Create and share authentic positive stories about downtown Clearwater.
    • Begin construction on Imagine Clearwater.
    • Permit 600 housing units.
    • Attract $100 million of private investment.

    “There’s a huge desire to have this vibrant, livable downtown,” Thompson said. “We have the framework and assets in place.”

    She noted that, with Tampa’s and St. Petersburg’s waterfronts being mostly built out, “I’ve heard from developers that this is the next place.”

    Thompson said the “work, live and play” concept was the best approach to downtown development. She said some unknowns will likely be in play the next 18 months, including the condition of the local real-estate market, but the one known is that the city’s mayor and manager will be in place throughout the timeframe.

    “Most importantly, we have stable leadership to March of 2020,” she said.

    Mayor George Cretekos will face term limits and City Manager Bill Horne will be retiring at that time.

    One challenge, Thompson said, is continuing to fight a perception that Clearwater is “risk adverse.” Instead, she wants people to consider the city as “committed.”

    One step in that direction was the city’s recent decision to simplify the permitting process in some cases by eliminating the need for public hearings by allowing staff to approve proper applications. Also, the city removed parking guidelines and requirements for many situations.

    In regard to promoting the downtown, a new logo and website has been developed, Thompson said, and “wayfinding” signage is going out for bid in an effort to direct people around downtown.

    Furthermore, a fulltime public relations employee will soon be hired and a social media campaign will be a focus.

    Taking center stage also will be downtown events that bring the holiday season to life.

    “We want people to know we are lively, and not just about concerts,” Thompson said of her desire to offer great variety in the city’s core and not just be known for waterfront musical performances at Coachman Park or shows at Capitol Theatre.

    As a result, she has planned “something to do every day” between Nov. 19 and Dec. 30.

    That will include rotating retail vendors in Second Century Studios, a downtown carnival Dec. 7-9, holiday-themed movies in Station Square Park, and a Dec. 21 street-level holiday production where an area of downtown will be blocked off.

    As for Imagine Clearwater, the city’s ambitious $55 million master-plan overhaul of 60 acres west of Osceola Avenue between Drew Street to the north and Court Street to the south and including Coachman Park, public feedback was provided in August during a series of open meetings that showcased the 15-percent design.

    Underway now and to be completed by Oct. 29 is a parking study that will present ideas to create new slots that are being eliminated by Imagine Clearwater.

    “We need to be smart where we place them,” Thompson said. “From them, we need people to walk down Cleveland and Main streets, therefore supporting our businesses and restaurants, to get to Imagine Clearwater. We need to be truly integrated.”

    Next comes the pursuit of developers for the city-owned parcels associated with Imagine Clearwater.

    They include the City Hall site, the lot across the street from it, and the Harborview Center – a location considered the gateway to Imagine Clearwater and set for demolition.

    “Nothing is more exciting to investors than seeing dirt turning,” said Thompson, who expected to focus on developer recruitment in May.

    The construction of apartments is another step during the next 18 months.

    “We can’t emphasize enough that this is a safe, clean place to live,” said Thompson, who noted the importance of recently renewing an annual agreement with the city’s Police Department for two fulltime downtown officers.

    Meanwhile, two parcels are being released this month for the potential creation of housing – 3-plus acres between South Martin Luther King Jr. and South Washington avenues and then 2-plus acres at 1250 Cleveland St.

    Another is a warehouse and the greenspace around it on South Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

    “That’s our best chance for that destination restaurant/brewery/entertainment venue,” Thompson said of the parcel.

    She added, “These are three key pieces the CRA has owned for quite a while going out for redevelopment.”

    Thompson said an influx of apartment residents is a critical element for the business district.

    “I hear all the time that without people living downtown we don’t make it past year one or year two,” she said of potential business owners she’s trying to recruit. “We need ongoing foot traffic.”

    Thompson said her goal is to establish four to seven new restaurants and/or bars during the 18 months.

    Continued at
  17. The Wrong Guy Member

    Today the Tampa Bay Times published this editorial:

    Tampa Bay Times recommends: Vote no on Clearwater strong mayor


    Clearwater also has a unique concern: The Church of Scientology, the largest downtown property owner and a key impediment to attracting business and new investment. It’s not inconceivable that Scientology could find it easier to manipulate a strong mayor than a city manager and an entire city council. Supporters of the charter change say city voters would never stand for it, but Scientology could find a way to influence elections with lots of campaign cash that could be difficult to trace.

    More at
  18. The Moth Member

  19. The Moth Member

  20. The Wrong Guy Member

    Tampa Bay Times finds fun tie to Scientology in strong-mayor Clearwater campaign

    By Tony Ortega, October 19, 2018


    Tracey McManus has a really fun piece today at the Tampa Bay Times about a tie between a strong-mayor initiative on Clearwater’s November ballot and the Church of Scientology, which may be counting on the change in local government to have even more influence over how the town develops into the future.

    Mike Rinder cautions in the piece that Scientology may not be banking too much on the initiative passing, but City Manager Bill Thorne tells McManus that Scientology leader David Miscavige made a remark suggesting that the church is counting on the initiative passing. Miscavige was clearly frustrated that Clearwater’s city council stymied a land deal he favored last year, and some observers believed that Miscavige wanted the change in local government and might be behind it. But there had been no obvious tie between Scientology and the campaign, until now.

    Tracey’s excellent story has the details. Head on over there and soak them up.


    Leader of Clearwater’s strong mayor initiative goes to work for prominent Scientologist

    By Tracey McManus, October 19, 2018
    • Like Like x 1
  21. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology is pulling out all the stops for its next gleaming Clearwater landmark

    By Rod Keller, The Underground Bunker


    L. Ron Hubbard Hall is coming to downtown Clearwater, faster than most observers thought possible, but slower than Scientology has been telling its membership. For most of the year Scientology has been telling members that the new 3,600-seat theater and museum building will be breaking ground in November. They don’t need permission if they intend to have a photo op with golden shovels as a ceremonial groundbreaking. But Scientology has three obstacles to clear before they break ground in order to build a foundation and it can’t happen this month.


    How soon can we expect LRH Hall to be completed? The plan doesn’t say. The neighboring Super Power building began construction in 1998 and opened to Scientologists in 2013. Scientology denies that they deliberately delayed the opening in order to raise more money for the project. The pressure on Scientologists to donate in that period was intense and fundraising for LRH Hall is ramping up as the groundbreaking approaches. The very name of the new facility will help their efforts. This is being sold not as a donation to Scientology, but as a way to personally honor L. Ron Hubbard. Even those members with doubts or questions about current management will find it hard to refuse to honor Ron.

    More at
  22. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology’s weirdly detailed shrine to L. Ron Hubbard in Florida even has ocean sounds

    By Tony Ortega, November 8, 2018


    Our thanks again to Rasha, who rushed to us the newest Source magazine out of Scientology’s spiritual mecca, the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida. Most of it is the usual drivel, encouraging members to drop large sums on a visit so they can achieve Super Power or the L. Rundowns. But among the usual blather, one item really caught our attention.

    It was a piece specifically about the shrine they’ve erected to the Commodore himself, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, in the Flag Building (i.e. “Super Power”), which was opened in 2013 to much fanfare.

    Now, all Scientologists know that every Scientology “org” around the world — whether “Ideal” or not — has an office for Hubbard, all kitted out for the day when the Commodore steps back in to take over the operation again once he’s back from Target Two or wherever he currently is. But the LRH Office at Flag is something special. It’s more of a museum to the man than just an office, and it attempts to replicate the experience of visiting the Commodore while he was running Scientology from sea aboard the Apollo, which took place from 1967 to 1975. There are even sea sounds! Here, take a look at the description as it appears in the magazine:

    Continued at
  23. The Wrong Guy Member

    Prominent Scientologist buys up $16 million worth of downtown Clearwater property | Tampa Bay Times

    By Tracey McManus, November 23, 2017


    A company run by Moises Agami, developer of the Skyview condo tower and part of a family that is one of the Church of Scientology's largest donors, recently purchased $16.4 million of property on and around Cleveland Street, putting him in control of a major swath of downtown.

    Agami's company CBW Management bought nearly all the downtown holdings of longtime owners Terry and Anna Tsfatinos on Nov. 16, according to Pinellas County property records. Almost all of Agami's purchase borders the nine-story, all glass Atrium office tower at 601 Cleveland St., one of a half-dozen downtown properties Scientology leader David Miscavige bought last year for a retail project he later rescinded.

    The portfolio includes a dozen storefronts that make up most of Cleveland Street's southern 600 block; storefronts at 425 and 519 Cleveland St.; a trio of storefronts at 514 Park St. directly to the west of the Atrium; and a parking lot and office building behind the Atrium on Park Street.

    Agami has not informed city officials of his intentions for his new properties or whether the purchase is related to Miscavige's 2017 retail plan. Neither Agami nor Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw responded to multiple requests for comment.

    But City Manager Bill Horne said the deal follows the pattern of property assemblage Miscavige began last year.

    "All of this would fit in with the church's view on retail development if that's what they're planning to do," Horne said. "Clearly (Agami) is very much aligned with the church. If the church wants to do any part of a retail plan, then Agami is the way to do it."

    In early 2017 Miscavige bought six downtown properties and two vacant blocks on nearby Myrtle Avenue totaling $27 million through limited liability companies, transactions first made public by the Tampa Bay Times. The Times revealed Miscavige hired consultants to recruit high-end retail to empty storefronts and was working to either own all property in the downtown core or have the cooperation of private landlords to implement an outdoor mall type development. Miscavige later told the City Council he would pay to renovate the facades of Cleveland Street storefronts and was planning an entertainment complex on the Myrtle Avenue strip with actor and Scientologist Tom Cruise.

    Miscavige hinged this offer to revitalize the struggling downtown on his ability to purchase a 1.4-acre vacant parcel across from City Hall that he wanted to add to Scientology's international spiritual headquarters. He rescinded the redevelopment offer in April 2017 when the Council voted unanimously to buy the parcel for city use.

    Horne said he has not spoken to Miscavige about the now-rescinded retail plan since before the April 2017 vote and is unclear of Scientology's intentions for the retail properties it acquired.

    The Agami family, of Mexico, was given one of Scientology's highest honors in 2016 for their donations of $10 million, at least $7.5 million of that coming in the previous two years, according to Tony Ortega, a writer who runs an in-depth blog critical of Scientology.

    Around 2012 Moises Agami began renovating the former AmSouth bank building across from the Capitol Theatre into the Skyview condo after a redevelopment project by fellow Scientologist Elias Jafif failed to take off. The Skyview's $3 million penthouse was built with a gym, theater, pool, flight simulator and car elevator, prompting speculation Cruise is the intended tenant.

    Companies Agami controls also own almost all of the buildings on the north side of Cleveland Street's 400 block and two mostly vacant lots across from the Clearwater Main Library. He runs the companies with his brother, Cleman Agami, and Diego Jafif, the son of Elias Jafif, according to state corporate records.

    Agami, 38, bought two vacant lots at the corner of Edgewater Drive and Sunset Point Road in May for $3.2 million, according to property records. Although plans have not yet been submitted, assistant director of planning and development Gina Clayton said Agami has had preliminary discussions with the city about building a condominium on the site.

    The city is in the midst of multiple revitalization efforts to bring more retail, residential, and food and drink establishments into the downtown core. The roughly $50 million Imagine Clearwater plan is in design, a project aimed to awaken the waterfront with greenspace, gardens and a mixed use plaza to give businesses more reason to invest in downtown.

    Community Redevelopment Agency Director Amanda Thompson this month launched an 18-month strategy to "change the perceptions held by the public and investors" about downtown. The strategy calls to expand public art, create signature events, improve parking, bring more foot traffic to complement future residential projects, lure more restaurants and bars, and other improvements.

    Thompson said she would like to know Agami's long-term plan for his properties but that it doesn't change how she approaches all property owners in getting them "excited about investing." Thompson recently revamped an incentive program for property owners that provides up to $250,000 in reimbursements for projects like breweries and restaurants and invited all downtown stakeholders to apply.

    "We try to treat every property owner the same," Thompson said. "We want you to know about the programs available, to encourage everyone to take advantage of them and we are focused on getting more investment in downtown to build more retail, commercial and residential."

    Prequalifying for the incentive program ends on Nov. 30. So far, Thompson said, she has not received an application from Agami.

    Senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Tracey McManus at or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

  24. The Wrong Guy Member

    Intent unknown regarding purchase of downtown Clearwater properties

    By John Morton, Tampa Bay Newspapers, December 6, 2018


    One of the goals set forth by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency for the next year and a half is to see $100 million in downtown investment.

    A decent-sized step toward that played out Nov. 16 when CBW Management, a company led by Skyview Tower developer Moises Agami, purchased several properties in the downtown core totaling $16.4 million.

    They include 425 and 519 Cleveland St. and three storefronts at 514 Park St.

    “Attracting private investment is one of the CRA’s four key strategies over the next 18 months,” said Amanda Thompson, the CRA’s director. “Mr. Agami is a private developer who currently hosts one of downtown’s most successful restaurants, Clear Sky on Cleveland Street. We look forward to working with him to attract new tenants to fill the vacancies in the properties he has recently purchased.”

    City leaders, however, have not been informed of Agami’s intent.

    “Typically, property owners do not share their plans for their property unless they are requesting grant funds or are about to begin the permitting process,” Thompson said.

    The CRA is currently offering incentive programs for property owners and potential tenants, hoping to attract “destination” businesses such as breweries.

    “Mr. Agami’s staff is meeting with CRA staff this week to learn more about our food-and-drink grant program for property owners,” Thompson said on Nov. 29. “There have been no further conversations.”

    The properties were owned for years by Terry and Anna Tsfatinos. The purchases by Agami represent most of the couple’s downtown inventory.

    Agami is a key player with the Church of Scientology, and most of his purchases are near the nine-story glass Atrium at Clearwater building at 601 Cleveland St. that Church leader David Miscavige bought for $13 million early last year, along with other properties, as potentially the start of a downtown retail project. That group also attempted to purchase vacant land adjacent to City Hall, at 301 Pierce St., that was owned by Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The church wanted to develop the parcel into a swimming pool and playground area for guests of its adjacent hotel, The Oak Cove.

    Miscavige at that time outlined plans for the City Council that would revitalize downtown’s Cleveland Street by focusing on developing retail businesses, and included the creation of a downtown entertainment center. Miscavige also implied in meetings with city officials that the church would be willing to fund the facade overhaul for the Cleveland Street district in an effort to update old buildings that possess a lot of character. It was contingent on the city backing away from its desire to purchase the vacant land on Pierce Street.

    However, the City Council in April of 2017 voted unanimously to purchase the 1.4-acre parcel for $4.25 million, and as a result Miscavige rescinded his plan.

    The move by the city gave it a contiguous tract of 2.1 acres of property along the north and south sides of Pierce Street between Osceola Avenue and the waterfront. It’s key real estate in the city’s desire to attract developers for its $50-plus-million Imagine Clearwater plan.

    Since then, Agami’s recent purchases are the first in the form of a bundle that could be connected to the Church. Is it a move designed to potentially jumpstart the church’s desire to re-establish a large project?

    A request for comment to that question was not returned by Agami.

    Said George Cretekos, the city’s mayor, “My hope is that Mr. Agami will work with the city to redevelop these properties into an active retail and commercial area to be used by the entire Clearwater community and its many visitors to the area, as well as those to the Church of Scientology.”

  25. The Wrong Guy Member

    This was published today:

    Florida Prisons Host ‘Betterment Program’ Run by Church of Scientology | Sputnik International


    Florida’s prison system has given the green light for the Church of Scientology to operate a “betterment program” for inmates via its Criminon rehabilitation program. The group is in 120 Florida prisons, and the most recent class of graduates finished their course last Thursday.

    Criminon might at first seem an unlikely group to be admitted to any prison system, given its extensive criticism of the conditions in which inmates are housed, including opposing psychiatric care and anti-psychotic drugs, which it describes as keeping inmates "forcibly drugged to keep them under control."

    Despite this, an increasing number of Florida prisons are opening their doors to the group. Its program at Manatee County Correctional Institution graduated 24 inmates earlier this month, and Everglades Correctional Institution graduated 20 back in August, according to a December 13 press release.

    Criminon has widespread operations across the US. Its website claims it services roughly 100,000 inmates in more than 2,000 prisons "through correspondence courses or delivering on-site seminars, with remarkable results."

    "Criminon provides inmates with the knowledge and skills to change their lives and become productive members of society," the group's page continues. "Inmates who have completed the Criminon program show dramatic improvements in compliance with conditions of probation — including restitution, fine payment and community service."

    The group further claims to "cut 80 percent recidivism rates to zero and entirely eradicate cellblock violence."

    <snipped to last paragraph>

    Michelle Glady, communications director for the Florida Department of Corrections, told the Florida Times-Union for a story published Tuesday that while Criminon's classes span a variety of areas, from parenting to drug addiction, she wasn't aware of its views on psychiatry and mind control. However, she assured the publication that such teachings wouldn't be allowed in Florida correctional facilities.

    More at
    • Like Like x 1
  26. The Wrong Guy Member

  27. The Wrong Guy Member

    Scientology wants you to bring your kids to its creepy ‘mecca’ in Florida — it’s an adventure!

    By Tony Ortega, January 28, 2019


    Thanks to Rasha, we have the latest copy of Source magazine, which the Church of Scientology puts out to advertise the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida to its members. In general, this issue is a lot of rah-rah repetition of the stuff you’ve heard a million times before. But one article really stood out from the rest and we thought you’d like to see it.

    It’s a feature about what a load of fun it is to pack up your kids and take the whole family to Flag for a great adventure. And it features the Deneko family from, of all places, Siberia.

    On their stay, mom went OT. Dad did Super Power, and the kids did their own courses while everyone had a blast. Hey, why not throw your own kids in the car and come on down!

    We’re really looking forward to your responses to this piece, but the first reaction we had to it was to think of another Siberian family that experienced Scientology’s Flag Land Base. We’re referring, of course, to Katrina Reyes, who was only 11 years old when she came with her mother to Flag and signed the Sea Org’s billion-year contract. After the Source article, we’ll remind you about Katrina’s experience, and relate some things she had to say about the Deneko family.

    Here’s the story. Prepare for some happy trans-Siberian orchestration:

    Continued at
    • Like Like x 1
  28. The Wrong Guy Member

    Man arrested for noise ordinance violation while protesting Church of Scientology

    By: WFLA 8 On Your Side Staff, January 30, 2019


    A man was arrested for a noise ordinance violation after he protested the Church of Scientology over a loudspeaker and refused to stop.

    Matthew Salvatore Tringali, 59, of Waco, Texas was arrested and booked into the Pinellas County Jail on Tuesday, according to an affidavit.

    Clearwater police responded to reports of a protest in front of the Church of Scientology on Harrison Ave and encountered a man with "an amplified noise device," that was being used to disturb the peace, police said.

    Police asked Tringali to stop using the device multiple times, but he refused and told them "I don't talk to cops," according to the affidavit. He also refused to provide any identification.

    Tringali was arrested for violating the city's noise ordinance and resisting an officer without violence. He's since been released from the Pinellas County Jail.

  29. The Wrong Guy Member

    Another Scientology monument to L. Ron Hubbard is going up in besieged Clearwater

    By Rod Keller, The Underground Bunker, February 17, 2019


    Scientologists in Clearwater, Florida have been informed that the empty lot between the Super Power building and the parking garage can no longer be used for parking. The long wait is over, construction on L. Ron Hubbard Hall is about to start. We reported last year on the fundraising efforts to build the 4,000-seat theater, and we have a few more details about the project now that the project has been approved by the planning department. The hall will have more seating than the 2,180-seat Ruth Eckerd Hall usually rented for major Scientology events.

    Continued at
  30. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater rejects Scientology’s bid for former fire station

    The church was the only bidder, but the city says it wants a commercial development.

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times, May 17, 2019


    Last June the City Council decided to postpone demolishing former Fire Station 45 on Franklin Street, which has been vacant since 2014, to explore adaptive reuse of the building instead. The hope was to attract a brewery or restaurant to the old fire house, helping the city’s ongoing downtown revitalization efforts.

    On Jan. 7, the Community Redevelopment Agency invited private developers to pitch letters of interest on how they would transform the building if given the chance.

    By the deadline of April 8, only one organization responded: the Church of Scientology.

    Scientology offered to purchase and renovate the two-story building to transform it into a “multipurpose cultural center for the Clearwater community” to complement “the recent infusion of art into downtown,” spokesman Ben Shaw stated in his letter of interest.

    The property sits to the east of the church’s seven-story, 300,000-square-foot Flag Building, where parishioners from across the world take courses and receive spiritual counseling. In an August land swap with the city, the church acquired the former fire marshal office on Franklin Street, adjacent to the old fire station. The city acquired a parking lot on Cleveland Street in exchange for the fire marshal office, seven parking spaces at S Garden Avenue and Court Street, and nine parking spaces on Watterson Avenue.

    Shaw said Scientology would pay the operating costs and work “in coordination with a nonprofit to run the facility.” Shaw did not specify which nonprofit would run the facility, but Scientology supports several nonprofits it describes as “social betterment” organizations like The Way to Happiness Foundation, Criminon and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

    But on Monday, the City Council essentially passed on Scientology’s proposal, making clear they want a commercial development, not a nonprofit use, on the site.

    Continued at
  31. The Wrong Guy Member

    Neighbors protest height of Clearwater condo proposed by developers tied to Scientology

    Residents are fighting the 86-foot-tall condo for its impact on surrounding homes. But they also doubt the developers' assurances that the Church of Scientology is not involved.

    By Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times, May 18, 2019


    About 15 years ago, Edgewater neighborhood residents rallied against a proposal to build a 59-foot condo in place of two mom and pop motels near the waterfront corner of Edgewater Drive and Sunset Point Road.

    Technically, residents lost in 2004 when a judge upheld the Community Development Board's approval of the project. But after demolishing the Bay Queen and Edgewater motels, the developer's project fell through. Neighbors have enjoyed a large vacant lot, with nothing obstructing the waterfront view, for more than a decade.

    Now residents of surrounding one- and two-story homes have dusted off their old “no tall condos” logo, printed more T-shirts and relaunched their opposition campaign against a new 80-unit luxury condo proposed for the site.

    Valor Capital CEO Moises Agami and his father-son partners Elias and Diego Jafif are proposing a 7-story, 86-foot-tall condo building for the property, which they bought last year for $4 million, according to Pinellas County records. The Community Development Board is scheduled to vote on the project Tuesday. City planning staff have recommended approval.

    Neighborhood association president Kate Belniak said most residents are not against development on the site, but the height and scope of Valor's project would overwhelm surrounding homes.

    “We're not opposed to all development,” Belniak said in a statement. “We're hoping for something more sensible.”

    Most of the 3-acre site sits as an island of tourist zoning on the western edge of the residential neighborhood. Neighbors have submitted more than 150 signatures and 30 letters opposing the project, concerned a 7-story condo clashes with the character of the area. Residents on Sunnydale Drive, the dead-end road bordering the property to the north, where the condo would have a residential entrance/exit, fear 80 more units will add congestion to a street that already backs up during peak times as drivers try to turn onto busy Edgewater Drive.

    The developers' involvement as members of the Church of Scientology, at a time when companies controlled by parishioners have bought large pieces of real estate downtown, has also raised concerns among neighbors. During the developers' presentation at the Edgewater neighborhood association meeting in October, residents questioned Diego Jafif on whether the Scientology organization was actually behind the project.

    In an email to the Tampa Bay Times, Jafif said “the Church of Scientology has absolutely nothing to do with the project.” He said the quality, design and aesthetics of the condo would be a boost to surrounding properties.

    The condo would be Valor Capital's second residential project in Clearwater following the SkyView condo on Cleveland Street.

    A company controlled by Agami, with which Diego Jafif is involved, purchased $16.4 million of property on and around Cleveland Street in November, putting him in control of major swaths of the downtown core. Another company now controlled by Agami and Jafif bought most of the north 400 block of Cleveland Street in 2003.

    Continued at
  32. The Wrong Guy Member

    Clearwater mayor takes aim at downtown business owners | Tampa Bay Newspapers


    The future of Clearwater Fire Station 45 is still up in the air after only one organization offered to take the historic building off the city’s hands.

    That organization — the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization — told the city it wants to use the former fire house at 1140 Court St. as a multipurpose cultural center, Assistant City Manager Micah Maxwell told the City Council at its May 13 work session. He said Community Redevelopment Agency staff rejected the idea and instead recommended demolishing the building.

    The City Council in January published a request for Letters of Interest (LOI) from businesses proposing new uses for the former fire house, which needs substantial renovation, asbestos removal, and other work, city documents show.

    According to its letter, the Scientologists would pay the operating costs for the center and work with an unidentified nonprofit to run the facility.

    The building won’t be demolished soon. Before that happens, councilmembers must decide several projects, including the location of a possible joint-use facility, intermodal transportation, and the resolution of other downtown projects. The fire house could be turned into additional police department offices, Maxwell told the council.

    The city’s LOI asked for ideas specifically for adaptive reuse of the building, which is defined as the “aesthetic process that adapts a building for new uses while retaining its historic features.”

    Councilmembers and Mayor George Cretekos hoped to hear from business owners interested in opening a restaurant, a clothing or other retail store, perhaps even a brewery, on the site.

    Cretekos expressed dismay that Clearwater’s business owners hadn’t stepped forward with ideas for the fire station.

    “I keep hearing over and over again from the business community and especially the downtown partnership that that’s an ideal place to have a microbrewery put up,” Cretekos said. “Well, you know, it’s time that these people who had these great ideas come forward. Here’s a facility that would work, instead of talking, here is something you could do. And I’m disappointed in the (Clearwater) Downtown Partnership, among others, who keep telling us we have ideas (but don’t) come forth with plans for the redevelopment.”

    Continued at

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