Saturday, April 27, 2013

It's Time to Go On the Record

If you're a candidate for City Council or the Mayor's office it's time to get some straight answers to some serious questions. No political double speak, no softballs here is your chance to put it on the record for all to see.

Below are seven questions, critical to St. Petersburg's future.

If you're a candidate we all challenge you to post your answers to these questions in the Comment Section below, or set up an account (it's very easy) and blog your answers.

Here are the candidates as of this date. Let's see who has the courage and the integrity to go on the record in social media and tell you what they think and what they will do.

Candidates: (Up to date list at City Elections)

Mayor
Anthony Lenardo Cates
Email: anthonycates4mayor@gmail.com

Paul Joseph Congemi
Email: None

Kathleen Sweeney Ford
Email: Kathleen@Fordlawfirm.net

David William (Bill) Foster
Email: dwfwhf@aol.com

Rick David Kriseman
Email: rickkriseman@tampabay.rr.com

District 2
James Richard Kennedy, Jr.
Email: jim@jrklaw.com

District 4
Dr. David McKalip
Email: dmckalip@neuro3.net

Darden Janell Rice
Email: darden.rice@mac.com

District 6
Sharon Russ
Email: freedomlady222@yahoo.com

District 8
Alexander C. Duensing
Email: Lexlander@gmail.com

Amy Elizabeth Foster
Email: amy@amyforstpete.com

William B. Hurley
Email: LBWB4@Live.com

Questions:

1. Should the LENS come to a referendum, will you support voting to stop the project.

2. Do you support closing the Pier?

3. Will you move to end the red light camera program?

4. Do you support the Rays talking to anyone in Pinellas County or Hillsborough County about a stadium site?

5. Do you support the neighborhood association concept and what will you do to specifically help rebuild this City asset?

6. Do you support hiring a new Police Chief?

7. What specifically what will you do to begin to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in South St. Pete?

And for the record, cop out answers like see my WEB site, social media is irrelevant, now is not the time, or I will address that later will simply put you in the same bucket with the current batch of ineffective Council members and a lackluster Mayor.

Just to make sure everybody on the list, with the exception of Mr. Congemi (who does not yet have e-mail), gets this, why don't you click on the e-mail icon below and send it to them. Their mail addresses are above.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is It The LENS...Or Is It Wengay?

Last week's LENS Review Meeting and City Council meeting probably represents the ultimate low in St. Pete City elected officials respect for the opinions of citizens since the public land grab taking private property for the Dome.
In my 28 plus years with the City I cannot remember a scene reflecting such blatant disregard for the public's views and feelings as these two meetings.
The LENS Review meeting was nothing short of a set up, and every attempt from the outset was to attack and belittle the public and those who came to speak to the issue. It was Mike Connors at his best until Bud Risser and his team called him out.
I hadn't really thought of the LENS as a road sign, but the maybe "Dangerous Curve" would be appropriate.
There is however a greater dynamic at work. 
I'll willingly concede Wengay Newton needs to calm down, shorten his answers and follow parliamentary rules. He makes a lot of his own problems. But he is also frustrated.
What is disconcerting is the condescending way he is treated by everyone on the dais. From Kennedy's snide remarks, Dudley's snorts, Gerde's attempts to be clever, Nurse's side comments, Kornell's scrunched up face, Curran's efforts to be cute and Danner's open disgust, it is downright ugly.
Add to it Mayor Fosters' complete inability or desire to deal with Newton on any level and you probably have an insight into why not much is happening on the South Side.
Let's take it as a given all you folks on City Council and the Mayor are smarter, better educated and more successful than Wengay, that you can say more with fewer words than he can, your sentence structure is more pleasing to your ears than his and you probably make more money than he does.
But there is one thing that you don't have over Wengay, you were all elected by the same  citizens of St. Petersburg and he deserves your respect as an elected official just like each and every other elected member of City Council and the Mayor.
Right now the City Council is looking more like a bigots convention than it is a governing body.
The crowning moment of political absurdity came when after almost and hour and a half of public pleading and five hours of waiting, Newton's new business item to simply put the closing of the Pier on hold came up and not one of you so called public servants would second it so there could at least be a discussion.
Why?
Legal got you scared?
So you would have not to go on the record and vote?
Or is this just your way of trying to make Wengay look bad? Seems a bit petty to me.
The only people who looked bad are you who would not appropriately dispatch your responsibility as elected representatives of the citizens of St. Petersburg and consider a fellow Council member's motion.
Over 40,000 petitions, 400 jobs, 25 businesses, shuttering and destruction of a City asset that still attracts visitors, what does it take to get your attention?
I don't know about you, but I would see no reason to reelect any of the obstinate seven currently sitting on City Council or the Mayor.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ford Is In ...Now What?

Kathleen Fords' decision to run a third time for St. Pete Mayor was announced quietly to few supporters who gathered at Demons Landing for the Monday announcement.
She is in the race now and things have really changed.
Kriseman, who was setting back and letting Foster gradually self destruct, must now come out and take some firm positions on the Pier, the Rays and the budget to name a few. Throw in the Police Department that desperately needs a new Chief, a demoralized Fire department and Rick needs to get on some specific talking points and he needs to get to them quickly.
Ford is already on all these issues armed with a basket full of facts and ideas.
Kriseman, who has spent the last few years in Tallahassee playing politician where politically correct is in, dealing straight up is out, told me  (A Casual Conversation With Rick Kriseman) one of the reasons he did not run for re-election to the Legislature was the Tallahassee politics. His City Hall steps announcement speech was all Tallahassee political double speak.
Well Rick,  here's your chance to get in the real game and is going to have to be quick.
All of that out of town money may also become an issue. Those folks don't usually donate just for the fun of it.
Kriseman can wait for Ford to explode, but I wouldn't count on that this time.
Bill Foster may find himself feeling like the kid watching the ball game through a knothole in the outfield fence. It would appear that a growing number of people neither want to hear or care what the current Mayor says or thinks about anything.
Foster is responsible for the Pier debacle, the current state of relations with the Rays and the County. He has done little with South St. Pete and his support for neighborhoods has been abysmal.
Staff morale is low enough to walk under a snake. He has played politics with the cops and the firefighters and he simply needs to go.
I am pretty sure there is a secret campaign plan.
The still un-played card in the hand is Rick Baker. I am not sure what Rick Baker is doing for Bill Edwards, but he can probably do it in a full body cast. The former Mayor needs a new challenge.
In my Post A Casual Conversation with Rick Baker, there is a quote in the next to last line you should read.
Is this that moment? Are these the "conditions"? We may not know for a while since candidates have until the end of June to file and raising money would simply not be an issue for Baker. He may wait and see how things unfold.
Baker would not be thrilled with Kriseman as Mayor, possibly not concerned enough to run again, but if Foster continues to weaken and it looks like Ford may win the primary then the former Mayor has some serious soul searching to do.
Note: Beginning with this Post  in the interest of full disclosure I will list in the last tag line the local campaigns in which I am directly involved and the nature of my participation.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
 
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to the Darden Rice Campaign

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bill Foster Still Firmly Straddling the Pier Issue

First he was for the LENS, then he was kind of against it, then he was for a referendum, then he supported the City Legal staff's position that allowing the people to vote wasn't necessary, and most recently in truly ostrich style political double speak he said he doesn't think the Pier will be much of an issue in his reelection bid.
Well the chickens are about to come home to roost as Stop The LENS gets ready to Petition to stop the LENS. The group anticipates it will have sufficient petitions signed in the next two weeks or so.
The big question is "What will Bill Foster do"?
Will he support the people, will he pander the political power structure or will he sit idly by and watch events unfold? In light of the Columbia deal, which probably should not have happened, can he reverse positions and suggest the LENS project be stopped.
Will he be part of a stall tactic designed to get the current Pier closed and start the demolition project?
Can he put his foot down, step up, stop all activity on the LENS and force the issue to a referendum? Is that even legally possible given the Charter?
Will he support continued funding of the design effort while the Stop The LENS Ordinance and potential referendum unfolds. Will he put up with a 90 day delay by City Council as they try to get the current Pier shut down and torn down? Or will he just sit there and watch claiming to be powerless.
I'll bet you would like to ask the Mayor Some of these questions in person.
Well, here's your chance at a most appropriate venue.
Thursday April 11 at the Fine Arts Museum, just round the corner from the Pier approach, meeting starts at 6:00PM. Mayors Night out.
You can make it a night to remember.
The rest of City staff is supposed to be there including the Legal department. You might want to pose some of these questions to them.
If you need a list of questions, send me a e-mail and I will forward them to you in list form.
Have your say.  Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Can Stop the LENS Win and Loose In the Same Breath?

Now that judge Day has ruled in the City's favor attention turns to the Stop The LENS effort.
You can read the Stop the Lens Referendum Petition by Clicking here. Ordinance proposed by the Stop The Lens committee.
You can review the St. Pete City Charter by clicking here, City Charter Referendums are discussed in Article 7 (VII). 
City Council has 90 days (Article VII, Section 7.08 Action on Petitions) to act on the Stop the LENS Petition.
A lot can happen in 90 days.
If the Stop The LENS Petition is found sufficient and  City Council brings this Ordinance forward and approves it,  is there no need for a formal vote by the Public or is there? It would seem that approving the Ordinance as Proposed by the Stop the LENS Petition would remove the requirement for a public vote.
The Agreement with the Maltzan group is by a Resolution (RESOLUTION 2012-233 ADOPTED BY THE CITY COUNCIL ON MAY 17, 2012)  so another question is: does Article VII, Section 7.07 referendum petitions; suspension of effect of ordinance, apply? Can the City argue that the suspension Section does not affect the Resolution since Resolutions are not specifically mentioned in the City Charter?
Could the City then continue, moving forward appropriating funds during the 90 day period?
What if City Council adopts the Ordinance as presented in the Petition, the Mayor does not veto it and the Ordinance stopping the LENS project goes into effect.  
Has the City Council now met the requirements of the Stop the LENS Petition? Council action has been taken to terminate the Agreement with the Maltzan group to build the LENS.
Would there still be a referendum?
The Project Manager has 5 days to notify the Maltzan Group of the City's intention.
What if, in that 5 day period, City Council at a regular meeting simply votes to continue the LENS project via a new Resolution? Not to reverse their position on the Stop the LENS Ordinance, but merely to continue the LENS  project.
Have the legal terms and requirements of the Stop The LENS Petition been met? Is the Petition now mute?
Can City Council actually do that?
All of this may sound a bit farfetched, but if you have been following the trail of this project and the extraordinary efforts made to keep it afloat, the maneuvering by the administration and the City Council to keep the decision out of the hands of the public; and by chance have set in on any of the legal proceedings regarding the Save the Pier petition, you should be fully aware that there is little beyond the realm of the imagination in these proceedings.
City Council and the Administration willingly pushed aside the desires of the original 20,000 plus petition signers on a technicality to keep their pet icon afloat, there is little reason to think that that same attitude is not still prevalent.
There will be some reason to celebrate when the Stop the Lens Petitions are certified, but the real work will start when City Legal advises Council of their options.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Is the City Council Bastion of Support for the LENS Starting to Crack?

You could sense the discomfort among City Council Members as  workshop proposed by Chairman Karl Nurse to discuss technical and functional issues related to the LENS.
they discussed the
Caught in the dilemma of mounting pressure for a vote, the growing likelihood the Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg's petition drive will succeed, the public's distrust of City Council and the Foster administration and the upcoming elections, Council approved the workshop in a 5 - 3 vote. The  LENS stalwarts, Curran and Danner along with Kornell voted against the workshop.
Does this vote  indicate a change of heart? Probably not, but it is a reality check.
Although the Judge in the Kathleen Ford lawsuit has yet to rule as of this Post, just the length of time he is taking is of some concern to the City.
The workshop proposed by Council Chairman Karl Nurse is to focus on functional and  technical issues like the decision to replace concrete panels with cheaper aluminum clad steel panels on a steel frame work.
As one who has spent inordinate amount of time replacing aluminum parts held together with steel screws on my boats I can attest to the concern about the materials, the fasteners, salt water and how the whole thing will work over time.
The City should be demanding answers, since this kind of corrosion based failure occurs slowly over time and mostly out of sight.
It is unlikely the City will be able to secure an enforceable warranty from any panel manufacturer regarding corrosion failure beyond 5 years.
Other issues such as roadway widths and turning radiuses for emergency vehicles are easily addressed, but the City should not settle for current minimums as these types of vehicles have a tendency to get bigger and longer over time.
Also on the April18th meeting agenda will be a discussion of referendum options as the City tries to avoid a special election.
This whole special election cost issue seems to me to be a red herring given the fact this Council and administration have no issue spending money for almost anything including the current "educational effort" that showed up in your water bills and on the City's WEB site supporting the LENS.
Even the argument that the Pier Visioning Process somehow supports the LENS effort seems more and more hollow each time it is trotted out. Why Ed Montanari  continues to support the LENS mystifies me.
The workshop on April 18th should produce some interesting information, the Maltzan Group will report to City Council on May 12th, the Judge in the Kathleen Ford lawsuit should announce his findings any day, and the Concerned Citizens for St. Petersburg should complete their petition drive by the end of April.
Staring to look like the perfect storm to me.
Have your say.  Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Consolidated 911 Dispatch

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has proposed unifying County Law Enforcement Dispatch. See Stephen Thompson's article: Pinellas sheriff proposes consolidated dispatch system, in today's St. Petersburg Tribune. You might also find my recent Post: St. Pete Police Communications Center: It's Time to Take a Hard Look at Costs interesting.
Thompson points out that you if you have a Police emergency, you have to tell your story twice  first to the County call taker, then to the local dispatcher. Actually in St. Pete in most cases you have to tell it three times, once to the County 911 call taker, then to the St. Petersburg call taker and at least part if not all of your need a third time to the St. Pete Police dispatcher. All the time vital seconds are going by.
The St. Petersburg Police Communications center is an expensive and redundant carry over from the last century. With a staff of nearly 100 including workers, supervisors and managers, the annual budget approaches $10 million.
Currently under Construction at the Sheriffs complex, far away from any potential flooding, is a new state of the art, hurricane hardened facility conceived and designed to provide emergency dispatch  and communications services for entire County.
The new St. Petersburg Police building contains and extensive section for the current 911 call center requiring millions of dollars of highly technical infrastructure which duplicates what is now under construction at the Sheriffs facility.
I have suggested on several occasions that City Council request or demand a detailed report indicating what portion of the $50 to $60 million for the Police complex is related to building the communications center. So far Council has not asked, the Mayor has not volunteered and the Police department has been mum on the issue.
 So having been there for five years providing IT service to the Communications center I'll hazard a guess of $8 to $10 million dollars if no stand by facility is included.
The argument a backup or standby center would still be required is just not valid when you look at the redundancy built into the Sheriffs new facility.
Add to that the annual operating cost savings from eliminating the communications center, less whatever the Sheriff might charge for the service, and you also have significant operating budget impact.
It is time Council asked for and get the information.
While I was IT manager for the St. Pete PD the subject of any consolidation was completely off the table. Even simple network connectivity for information sharing was difficult to get approved. The issue? Rampant paranoia that the Sheriff would swoop in and take over the PD.
You are going to see a lot of stonewalling from PD management, and a lot the "we know the City better than the County", never mind the fact that all fire and emergency medical dispatch for the entire County is now handled by the County's existing 911 center.
The technical problems are easily overcome and the Police Departments Computer aided Dispatch system and Records system will soon need a major upgrade.
City Council will have to push this issue. The Police Chief is unlikely to drive the issue, the Mayor needs the PD and those votes in the Communications center for the election.
City Council, it's up to you to ask the questions and get the answers.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Auto Thefts up...Fire Response Diminished

I noted with interest that auto thefts in St. Petersburg are up this year. In its typical, we take no responsibility for anything, the Police department is blaming citizens for the increase because they are leaving their keys in the car even leaving it running, granted not a very bright idea.
You folks need to stop that.
 But then later indicating that the thieves are hanging out at convenience stores and other places where they know people do these dumb things and stealing their cars.
It would seem that maybe an effort to police the areas where the "thieves are hanging out" would be a logical approach to the problem.
Down at the Fire department we learn a new term "Browning out equipment"  See Mark Puente and Kameel Stanleys article St. Petersburg idles fire units to help deal with cash crunch, in the Tampa Bay Times for more detail.  Apt in several ways this term means certain fire apparatus is off line for periods of time to reduce personnel overtime.
For a Mayor who often touts the importance of public safety, it seems interesting that these type of budget cuts would be foisted on the Fire Department. The president of the St. Petersburg Firefighters Association, Michael Blank summed it up when he said "we've been lucky, that's all".
Most St. Pete citizens would prefer the fire fighters be more confident that the support they need will be at the scene rather than relying on luck.
I think relying on luck and to some degree putting fire fighters at risk is just plain bad judgment on the Mayors part when there are plenty of other budget cuts that can easily be made.
Much has been made of the fact that Police department, where overtime seems abundant, supported the Mayor in his election campaign while the Fire department did not. It's a little hard to believe that that kind of petty politics would creep into the budget process, but then there are a lot of things hard to believe about this Mayor.
The argument often used is all City departments must share equally in the budget cut process, does not square well, with the statement public safety is job one. Foster talks the talk about public safety being job one, but he rarely walks the walk.
It's way past time for the Mayor, the Council Chairman and the City Council to stop worrying about Gay marriage, gun control, the next major art issue and Beach drive, and start focusing on what keeps the citizens of St. Petersburg safe.
Have your say.  Be sure to get a petition for the Pier Referendum and complete it properly. Information and schedule of events at Stop The Lens.