Thursday, May 30, 2013

Foster - Let's Muddy The Water

The latest round of maneuvering by the Foster Administration to dilute and complicate the petition
initiative shows just how callous the Mayor really is.

Stop the LENS and its leadership, in good faith, agreed to hold the petitions and have the Stop The LENS vote on the August referendum. Primarily to save the City the $250,000 cost of a special election.

Their reward?

An attempt by Foster and his staff to add questions, lengthen the ballot and generally muddy the waters by starting a rivalry about what the new Pier proposal should be.

Brings to mind the old saw, "no good deed goes unpunished"

The proposed ballot, which puts the LENs issue last after a question about recycling, shows just how far the administration is already willing to go to make this thing difficult for the public. Put their straw poll questions up front, put the public's issue last.

The Foster administration will stay within their legal rights as they attempt to manipulate the ballot, and we can only hope that City Council will not go along with this charade.

That is likely hope wasted.

The view of the peoples' opinion and their desires by Mayor Foster, Danner, Dudley, Kennedy, Kornell and Curran seem to grow uglier each day.

The Mayor's questions include: should we continue having a pier, allow a private company to build and operate a pier or build a simple wooden pier for fishing.

Read those again.

Not one of those suggestions is in the Pier Task Force recommendations.

These questions show either just how much the Mayor really is out of touch with the public and his own Task force, which he has touted up to now, or reveal the true vindictive nature of a mayor who is about to lose an election.

There is not much the Stop The LENS committee can do at this point, except make a note that Bill Foster cannot be trusted.

The questions proposed by the Mayor are an attempt to confuse the voter not gather information.

Let's get the LENS issue decided, up or down then if it gets voted down the administration can gather some information on the November ballot.

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

Foster - Let's Muddy The Water

The latest round of maneuvering by the Foster Administration to dilute and complicate the petition initiative shows just how callous the Mayor really is.
Stop the LENS and its leadership, in good faith, agreed to hold the petitions and have the Stop The LENS vote on the August referendum.  Primarily to save the City the $250,000 cost of a special election.
Their reward?
An attempt by Foster and his staff to add questions, lengthen the ballot and generally muddy the waters by starting a rivalry about what the new Pier proposal should be.
Brings to mind the old saw, "no good deed goes unpunished"
The proposed ballot, which puts the LENs issue last after a question about recycling, shows just how far the administration is  already willing to go to make this thing difficult for the public. Put their straw poll questions up front, put the public's issue last.
The Foster administration will stay within their legal rights as they attempt to manipulate the ballot, and we can only hope that City Council will not go along with this charade.
That is likely hope wasted.
The view of the peoples' opinion and their desires by Mayor Foster, Danner, Dudley,  Kennedy, Kornell and Curran seem to grow uglier each day.
The Mayor's questions include: should we continue having a pier, allow a private company to build and operate a pier or build a simple wooden pier for fishing.
Read those again.
Not one of those suggestions is in the Pier Task Force recommendations.
These questions show either just how much the Mayor really is out of touch with the public and his own Task force, which he has touted up to now, or reveal the true vindictive nature of a mayor who is about to lose an election.
There is not much the Stop The LENS committee can do at this point, except make a note that Bill Foster cannot be trusted.
The questions proposed by the Mayor are an attempt to confuse the voter not gather information.
Let's get the LENS issue decided, up or down then if it gets voted down the administration can gather some information on the November ballot.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Four Weeks and Still Waiting

If you have not had a chance to look at the websites of the candidates for St. Pete Mayor here are the links: Bill Foster, Kathleen Ford, Rick Kriseman.

Foster’s site is by far the most developed. Be sure to scroll through the Foster 40 to see the Mayor’s take on how he is doing. Want to comment?  Please do so here.
Ford’s website features a letter to the public that states her basic positions. Kathleen has been very consistent in her approach.
Kriseman’s site contains a video with some generalizations and large plea for donations. It seems like Kriseman is a candidate for Mayor but he is running a campaign for a state office. It may be time for some new advisers.
The mayoral candidates have all been very quiet on key issues and have yet to respond to my seven questions from It's Time To Go On the Record.
So far, four City Council Candidates have laid out their positions on my seven questions. Dr. David McKalip, Steve Gavin, Carolyn Fries and Bill Hurley are now On The Record. Click here and scroll down to Comments to see their responses.
My biggest disappointment so far is Darden Rice who continues to play more on the politics and less on the issues. Rice said. "I am competing against myself to work harder every day. We simply can’t risk my major opponent being someone who would be in public office. It would be the worst thing for this city."
Possibly, but if we get a City council person who spends most of her time playing politics, cozying up to the Democratic party power brokers and ducking the issues we get another ineffective council member.  All of Rice’s opponents are on the record, but so far Darden is silent. 
And before someone points it out, yes down there at the bottom I did contribute to Darden’s campaign because I thought she was ready to go to work for St. Pete. So far it seems she is working for Darden.
I suspect there are several of us who contributed to Darden’s campaign that would like to see a little less politics and stage setting and a little more substance.
The challenge is to go on the record so voters will know where candidates stand on these significant issues. St. Pete needs a roll up our sleeves City Council and Mayor who will work on the serious problems and find solutions. This neither the time or place to be furthering your political career.
It’s been four weeks and we are still waiting.
Note:
If you are CANDIDATE and going to respond click here It's Time to Go On The Record and respond to each question as a SEPARATE Comment.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign

Sunday, May 19, 2013

DR. McKalip's Political Problem

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. David McKalip over lunch to talk about some issues and some politics.
Like most of the medical professionals I know, especially surgeons, David McKalip is intense.  The guy is smart, articulate, passionate, informed and strongly opinionated. When you routinely hold someone's life in your hands, I think those characteristics go with the job description.
Also part of that job description is self-confidence and not being overly concerned about what dissenters say.
That description sums up Dr. McKalip, the physician, and also to some degree Dr. McKalip, the activist/politician.
As an activist, Dr. McKalip has made a few sparks and a fair amount of smoke, but he has really not made much headway with the administration or the City Council.
He appears to be viewed as more of a political gadfly at times along the lines on Emily Rogers Coyeman (This is a sincere compliment as many long time City Council watchers will understand. Emily was one of my favorite people).
These are people who come regularly to City Council with well thought out valid points of view that are generally ignored by those on the dais.
Now comes Dr. David McKalip, the candidate.
Several of the local political "operatives" would probably like to take McKalip on as a client: He is articulate, good looking, strong from a career perspective, has popular strategic positions,  probably has some money,  but the opinion is he just not controllable. And by control here, I mean that he may lack the ability to sit down and listen to people whose career is politics, and glean the valuable insight into how to get elected without sacrificing principles.
Political operatives are not miracle workers; they are just very talented folks who understand the politics and function of running a campaign. They don't like to lose, it's bad for business, and they frequently see candidates who don't listen like Dr. McKalip as ticking time bombs.
When your day job is to be absolutely sure you’re right, it can be pretty hard to listen to some guy who only made it through three years of college tell you you're wrong.
Indeed, in our conversation, when challenged about a position McKalip's pushback is pretty intense.
Then there is the whole issue of Dr. McKalip, the City Council Member.
The current City Council is not as dumb as it is dysfunctional. If you join this group thinking you're going to reform the process and save the City, you will likely be in for a rough ride.
The reason why the LENS and red light cameras, for example, made it this far is strong consensus building among a majority of the sitting council members. Local politics is a consensus business and you don't build a consensus by regularly pointing out how stupid your fellow council members are, even if you are right.
We have seen our share of political activists elected to City Council and generally they have not been very effective.
If Dr. McKalip could take a step back, gather a campaign group that is not afraid of him, restrain the desire to show up at every City Council meeting and berate council for their latest silly move, he could give Darden Rice a serious challenge.
Right now all Rice has to do is sit quietly on a big campaign war chest and let Dr. McKalip self-destruct.
And that is probably why the Rice Campaign has yet to respond to my post, It’s Time to Go On the Record.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Foster Slowly Strangling The Neighborhood Associations

Bill Foster has put on an appearance of supporting the neighborhood associations in St. Pete, but behind the scenes he has steadily worked to diminish their effectiveness and influence.
For example, the Neighborhood Partnership Grants Program was set up to encourage neighborhoods to plan specific projects, document them, provide an approval process and funding for those projects.
This effort is a lot more than prettying up a neighborhood entrance or putting up a sign, it is an opportunity for citizens to get into the process and see how projects are planned, approved, funded and implemented.
The last year for the Neighborhood Partnership Grants Program was fiscal year (FY) 2012. With decreased budgets (General Capital and Penny dollars) for projects, the program was not funded in FY 13 (current year) or proposed for FY 14.
Two FY 12 grant recipients are in the process of completing their FY 12 projects; the other recipients have completed their projects.
The neighborhood association program was the effort of Mayor David Fisher to provide a more open government, more civic participation and encourage citizen participation in city governance.
Candidly, it was not real popular with staff, all of those pesky citizens meeting with staff, asking questions, learning about how things actually get done, sometimes gets in the way of progress as politicians and civil servants describe it.
Mayor Fisher was adamant about the Neighborhood process, Mayor Baker learned how to use it effectively and Mayor Foster has generally done about all he can to dismantle it. 
Under the guise of budget cuts, Foster has reduced the Neighborhood support staff and eliminated programs like Neighborhood Partnership Grants.
Through the Mayor's leading, or lack thereof, a strong message has been sent to staff that input from neighborhood associations and the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) isn't really all that important.
Neighborhood associations, and CONA should be the source for on the ground programs that are needed, an information exchange channel and an incubator for future community leaders to learn how the City government functions.
To be fair, in some cases CONA has been its own worst enemy, but Foster's efforts to minimize the neighborhoods has been effective.
In the past a CONA meeting would have 50 to 60 people in attendance with a compliment of city staff and Police Department officials. Today the attendance is more like 20 to 30 people with little support from city staff save the lone City staff member still working with the neighborhoods.
Without neighborhood input, local government reverts to what it thinks is best and that is where St. Pete finds itself.
David Fisher was a visionary and not afraid of what the people thought, Rick Baker was an implementer who knew how to use the power of neighborhood involvement to make things better and Bill Foster -  I'll leave that one to you, but one only has to watch City Council meeting after City Council meeting full of angry citizens to know something is just not right.

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

Friday, May 10, 2013

Two Weeks and Waiting for St. Pete Candidates to Speak Up

Two weeks ago I posted a list of seven questions, It's Time To Go On the Record,  for St. Pete Council and Mayoral  Candidates to answer:
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?
So far only one has responded.
There are lots of fund raisers, people asking for your help, support and money, but so far only Dr. David McKalip has gone on the record with where he stands.
We are approaching the 90 day window before the primary, it is time for less politicking and some serious substance about where these candidates actually stand.
Their websites contain no specifics, they are absent from public appearance save the incumbents, but they sure do want your money.
If this batch of candidates is going to ignore the peoples' desire to understand where they stand on key issues, then maybe we need some more candidates.
We don't need a new City Council and Mayor setting up a new representative government to carry out their own personal agendas.
If they are not willing to go on the record now with where they stand on these seven questions, it is pretty safe bet you will disappointed if you vote for them.
In the mean time copy these questions and put them in your wallet or purse and on the rare chance you see them in public ask them one of these questions. You might also e-mail them the questions or a link to the Post above.
My advice for now is sit on your wallet and your check book until you find out what these candidates are really thinking.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Pier - Are You New to The Argument?

People just picking up on the Pier issue must be confused as to how a City could find itself in such a predicament.
It all began with a study that said the current Pier approach was deteriorating rapidly and would need replacement in the next few years. Then Mayor, Rick Baker, set up a project to replace the Pier approach and established a $50 Million funding mechanism using Tax Increment Funding (TIF) to pay for the Pier approach project.
Somewhere along the way, I'm not sure anyone knows exactly where or how, a group of people decided that maybe what should be done is replace the whole thing because they thought the inverted pyramid had out lived its time.
This group managed, though some "artful" politics, to change the TIF Funding agreement, broadening the use of funds definitions.
The original TIF funding never anticipated replacing the entire structure, so the City began working on some concepts such as shortening the approach and making it smaller that would allow for enough money to replace the entire Pier.
The Pier Task Force was set up to determine what the public would like to see as a replacement, and through a series of carefully managed public meetings a final Visioning Report was produced.
Unfortunately during the Pier Task Force project the arts community and elite core of downtown movers and shakers began to hijack the process and the Pier Visioning Report was put on pretty much permanent ignore.
This group of elites aided by a core group of City Council members, Curran, Danner, Kennedy Kornell, Dudley began to develop a process that would all but eliminate true public input, setting up an "international' design competition, and a jury of people from outside the City who had no feel for St. Petersburg or how it's citizens felt, to select the final design that for all intent and purposes reflects none of the average citizens ideas or desires for the new Pier.
It was all about "art".
Right about here things started to go off the tracks as the people began to cry foul about the selected design and the process that got them to the LENS.
The City administration refused to back up and the public, becoming more incensed at being ignored, began a petition drive to get a vote on the LENs project.
The City offered those wishing petition against its now pet project no help in the petition process and publically spit in their face by refusing to work out ballot language during the petition process and during court ordered mediation.
The petition appears to have been flawed as determined by the court. The wishes of 20,000 plus signers ignored.  An appeal is pending.
As it became clear that the original petition was likely to fail, a second group, Stop The Lens, began a new petition drive with new language that the City says meets the requirements, but time will tell.
A obstinate City Council, declaring its right as a representative democracy, has continued to be supportive of the arts community, down town beach drive business interests, and the Chamber of Commerce in its attempts to get its way and build a structure that 67% of the public does not want, that it has not the money to build and a design that no longer comes close to the original concept or proposal.
If you wonder what all the fuss is about that's it in about 600 words.

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

Friday, May 3, 2013

Kennedy - Curious or Clever?

Thursday's Pier/LENS discussion went about as to be expected. Those against, those for, City staff propping up an ever flawed initial design, and a frustrated City Council after  staff dropped a 400 page technical report on City Council members door steps Friday.
All Council members complained to one degree or another about a lack of time to fully digest the information.
Buoyed by the latest polling numbers, opponents once again begged City Council to not close the Pier a point that Council never did address officially.
Those in favor continue to deny the public is upset, the people want to vote and the fact that they even should have a vote.
Pretty much status quos. Until....
Right in the middle of the Council discussion Council member Jim Kennedy presented a motion to delay the vote for two weeks so Council could get some additional information from staff.
There was a long pause then Councilman Gerdes seconded the motion "for discussion purposes", he said.
The interesting point is by delaying for two weeks, the Stop the LENS petitions which are being held so a vote can occur on the primary ballot, avoiding a special election, will, in all likelihood, be submitted and possibly even certified before the Council next takes up the issue. 
Once the Stop The Lens petitions are submitted and possibly certified, the likes of Dudley, Kornell, Gerdes and Kennedy will all have some political cover for voting to deny the second round of  funding, at least until after the primary vote.
After some discussion, some of which was a bit heated, City Legal informed Council that it could not make substitute motions until Kennedy's motion was voted on and City Council then voted to delay for the two weeks, essentially ending the formal discussion about approving the next round of funding.
So in one move Kennedy, essentially stopped the funding vote, delayed the process until the referendum picture is clearer and set the stage to use the referendum as an excuse to not go forward at least with all of the $1.5 Million dollars or so in funding all in the name of getting more information.
Not bad for one motion.   
Curious or clever I'll leave that up to you, but I would like to see some serious competition in the District 2 race.
e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign