Thursday, January 31, 2013

SweetBay 1 Foster 0 - Real Loser - Midtown.

It was a long shot from the start. everyone in the Baker administration new the Grocery store anchor in the Tangerine Plaza would be a struggle.
Just getting the shopping center constructed had been a major task. It took a special developer, a lot of support and a lot of courage to go forward.
The City did all it could. There were special police patrols, city promotion, and lot of praise for SweetBay. But in the end it simply did not work.
The community never really rallied around the store. Wal-Mart opened a Super Center  within driving distance and that left only those with limited transportation options to support the SweetBay.
It was a challenging location, moderately safe in the daytime, a serious challenge at night.
Early last year the SweetBay people met with Mayor Foster about the performance of the store, and for some reason he either just blew them off or forgot the meeting. Regardless, the City did not take any proactive action to help, and that probably added to the decision to close the store.
Foster has not really paid that much attention to Midtown or the South side since the election. Odd given the fact that it was the South side vote that put him in the Mayor's seat.
What all of this really shows along with the Thursday Council meeting melt down is Foster's lack of a grasp on how the City should be run.
It would be tempting to say the Foster administration has performed badly in the first three years, but when you look at the facts pretty much the same people are in the Foster Administration that were in the Baker administration.
With the notable exception of Goliath Davis, the faces are pretty much the same.
So why is it that this same crowd of people lead by Rick Baker accomplished so much and under Foster they have been significantly less effective?
You could blame the economy, the City Council or a host of other things, but what it boils down to is even really good people without leadership have a difficult time getting things done.
Since the day Bill Foster took office there has been no clear direction. Baker had the Baker plan, four simple points. Foster has the Foster Forty, reconfigured but never really applied to the organization.
Under Baker you knew what your job was, under Foster everyone is sort of doing their own thing.
Foster has been called "the chicken soup of  St. Petersburg Politics", but it looks like the chickens may be coming home to roost.
SweetBay is a notable loss, especially in light of the Mayor's failure to act when he knew there was a problem, the Rays and Baseball get messier every day, and while the Pier/LENS issue is still up in the air the chances are getting better and better there will be a vote.
The South side of town is still in a mess, the neighborhood associations have all but been killed off and City Council is in near revolt.
Not a great story for three years of effort.
The City of St. Petersburg has gone from a shining light to a flickering flame.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Foster Melt Down

Last week was a bad week to be Bill Foster.
Sweet Bay is packing their wagons and heading out of town,. Everyone from the County Commission down is up in arms and his honor's memory apparently took leave of him forgetting the meeting where SweetBay apparently told him the store was a loser.
The lord of baseball, Bud of Selig, called St. Pete a loser, (not the first time), the band of radical Hillsborough commissioners continues to pursue his honors first love, even as  Stu Sternberg encouraged the courtship in the face of the impending doom speculated about by the Mayor and his legal team.
The threats about suing baseball are becoming less important every day as both Major League Baseball and the Rays ratchet up the pressure.
The Pinellas County Commission is also talking to the Rays. Hinting the Mayor's parochial stand may be leading to the total departure of the Rays from the area.
The Mayor had become a bit unhinged on a local radio show in a discussion about the Rays. when he said "if it was up to him the Rays just go already" Not his finest hour.
This whole baseball thing was going down the crapper faster than a $5.00 pint of suds at the Trop, oops make that a $12 pint. And that just reminded him of the whole LENs mess.
Wengay of Newton had lobbed a few SweetBay cannon balls the his honor's way, and Leslie Curran had gotten in few shots also.
To top it all off,  he had just had a tongue lashing from the  Theresa Lassiter (Mama Tee) long time advocate for her south side community. Who summed it up better than any of us writers or bloggers.
I love Mamma Tee.....
All in all not a good week for the campaign to retain his position.
If you happen to catch the video of the City Council Meltdown video in Mark Puente Times article,  watch  in the upper right of the screen as Kennedy and Gerdes as they grab their coats and think about heading for the exits. Now there are a couple of leaders for you. Run, run as fast as you can.....
The antics of last week are more what we expect from the mayor of St. Pete Beach, or Madera Beach not St. Petersburg.
As the Mayor continues to implode, more and more people are starting to pull away and take him less seriously. And that includes the staff.
The problem is Bill Foster is just not very good at running the City.  He never has been and he likely will never be very good at it. He seems to lack the maturity, temperament and leadership capacity for the job.
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.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Dastardly Excuse

I could not believe it! I reread it three times.

There in Mark Puente's excellent Times article: Sweetbay officials say they met with St. Petersburg mayor about struggling Midtown Store, the Mayor is quoted as saying "That time period, Foster said, was just after the city buried three police officers killed in the line of duty. Foster said it is not possible for him to remember details from the thousands of meetings he holds each year."

The Mayor of one of Florida's largest Cities, invoking what has to be the darkest moment in the City's history as an excuse for not doing his job. A meeting about the very part of the City central to officer shootings and he can't remember it.
I was there. I was at the Police Department and I know that all of the people around me, those that worked with me and for me, those on the entire City staff doubled down on detail after those horrific events.
These tragic events were not an excuse to do less, they were a loud call to do more, to do better, to do all we could regardless of  our job to improve the quality of life north and south of Central Avenue.
How can it be that the Mayor cares so little for the south side and Midtown that he would forget a meeting about a key pivotal part of helping this community improve itself, let alone not take  immediate action. How can that be?
The African American community supported Bill Foster in the election because, thanks to some help from the PBA and others, they were convinced that Kathleen Ford would fire Goliath Davis and turn a blind eye toward the south side.
They were half right. Davis would have been fired, and much more quickly, but Midtown, Childs Park and the rest of South St. Pete would not have been put on ignore.
Bill Foster fired Goliath Davis and even worse did not replace him with a trustworthy competent African American voice in the administration, and has not spent much time looking South since.
It seems unimaginable that when the ownership of the center piece of  almost 10 years of effort to improve Midtown  meets with the Mayor and asks for help to keep the effort going, the Mayor would simply forget.
There was a saying that went around the organization about that time. It went like this: "If you want to get something done in this administration make it look like a baseball"
Maybe if the SweetBay folks had of changed the name to "SweetBall" and bought a banner at the Trop the Mayor would have remembered.
There is an election coming up. Let's hope you don't forget this little incident when you mark your ballot.
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rediscovery of Max's World

My five year old poodle Max had just come home from cataract surgery on both eyes. The first night he mostly slept. Early the next day he had scheduled check up visit at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners.
The post op medication regimen began immediately the first night. There were 4 different dugs and 5 different eye drops administered several times a day each on a slightly different schedule.
It was so complicated that I laid out and EXCEL spread sheet to keep track of when each medication was given. I actually got the idea from another patient at Blue Pearl as they were discussing their pet's care.
MAX was doing great, a follow up visit was scheduled for a week later and the cage containment would continue for three more weeks.
For his part Max was ready to explore his newly rediscovered world. We set up the cage so Max could see out the window, and it was amazing  to watch him re catalog all of the things he could see in the neighborhood.
The one week checkup showed a small scratch on one cornea, so the medication regimen changed slightly and a three week visit was set. I had to redo the spread sheet.
At this point Max was allowed down on the floor for a few minutes after each medication and he began to slowly explore the house. The rediscovery process he used was fascinating.
First he would go to an item like a chair, identify it by smell and then step pack and just look at it apparently rebuilding his visual memory with clues from his other senses. He literally worked his way through the entire house and back yard.
Since he had been on the losing end of most of his recent wrestling matches with Harley, he was ready to rumble every time he had a few minutes of floor time.
The major concern was any lunging motion during the first few days which could cause the cornea stitches to tear. So Theresa and I had to play referee.
The small lizards that occupy most of our back yards and the local squirrels had been choice objectives of Max's pursuits. When he realized he could now once again see them the game was back on.  Max had begun rediscovering a world that those with sight take for granted.
Modern veterinarian medicine can do for animals almost all that modern medicine can do for us. It is nothing short of miraculous. We often think there are no miracles anymore, until you experience something like Max's return to vision, or a child healed or something in your own life.
There is, however,  a exploitive side to all of this. In human medicine they exploit our fears, in veterinarian medicine the exploit our love for the helpless creatures with which we have been entrusted. They get away with it because there are enough of us who will pay the bill.
The exploitation begins with those who manufacture drugs and medical equipment and continues through the system to hospitals, doctors  and pharmacies. You hear a lot of talk about the cost of health care, but no one wants to take on the health care industry.
 In recent days my thoughts returned to the lady in the waiting room at the first Vet specialty clinic I visited and I wonder how it all turned out? One thing you can rest assured of,  it was expensive.
A few days ago someone ask me how Max was doing. When I said, "really great", they ask, "how much did all of this cost"?  I had to stop and think. It seemed sort of irrelevant.
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I Was Blind But Now I See

Max had a pretty good summer and fall his 5th year, but it was clear his vision was failing rapidly. Less willing to play, unable at times to find his favorite toy, Max became a bit more lethargic, but still managed to come in and wake us up every morning with the squeaky ball.
 Although there were days I had to find it for him.
Dogs do compensate as they lose their vision, and Max would always place the ball in a spot where he could remember where it was as time went on.
A follow up visit to Blue Pear Veterinary Partners on Ulmerton Road, the second clinic I had visited, provided the expected diagnosis: Max was virtually blind in one eye and the other had gotten much worse.
It was fascinating and heartbreaking to watch as Max compensated for his decline in vision, still happy, loving and willing to play he was doing  well but by fall he was struggling.
His playmate Harley, our other dog, seemed to take note and was a bit protective.
The information that Dr. Stengard, from Blue Pearl, had supplied was very detailed. Cataract surgery in canines is very similar to cataract surgery in humans, with one major difference. Just as in humans, the restoration of vision is virtually immediate, but canines cannot take care of the post operation medication and eye drops.
You the pet owner play a major role in the total success of the surgery and its long term out come. And it is no small role. In the Picture are just a few of the drugs and eye drops, administered 17 times each day no closer than 10 minutes apart for the first 7 to 10 days.
Theresa and I had a pretty busy travel schedule through October and November so we set the date for surgery on both eyes for early in December.
Max went in the Clinic at 8:00AM December 10, and I picked him up at 4:30PM. He could spend the night at home, but had to be back at 8:00AM the next day for a follow up. Pressure in the eye is the major concern.
Max was excited when I got there at 4:30, the only outward indication of his experience was small bandage on a front paw where the IV had been and some shaving around the eyes. I left with Max and  a huge bag of pills, drops and medications.
I took him out to the truck, his favorite of all our vehicles, set him in the front seat and climbed in on the driver's side.
He sat there in the seat looking intently at me. It was like he wanted to say something. The gaze was intense. He climbed up on the console and licked my face all over, then sat back down looked out the windshield as if to say "let's go home". Needless to say, it took a couple of minutes for me to regain some composure and drive home.
Once home Max was confined to a cage, since there were stitches in the cornea which would dissolve and stitches at the corner of the eyelids which would be removed. He needed some down time with little activity.
Dr. Stengard and the staff had indicated that Max could see very well now but that his vision would improve over the next few days. They also said that he would spend some time readjusting to visual images as clues and motivators, since he had been using other sensory means to arrive at  these same reactions.
In my final Post of this series on Friday I'll tell you a bit about Max's reactions to being able to see, post op care, and how Max is doing.
If you missed the first post of this thee part series, you can see "Going Blind" by clicking here
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Going Blind

Let me introduce you to Max. That's him there in the picture.

Max is our five year old Poodle. He is a happy guy who loves people and his favorite playmate Harley, our Bichon/Shih Tzu mix.

Curious and smart, Max enjoys life.

His favorite daily event is to hop in bed with Theresa and me each morning with a squeaky ball and serenade us with a wakeup morning tune. It starts his day and ours on a very cheerful note.

About 18 months ago, just after Max turned 4, I noticed a slight haze in one eye, after a few weeks it seemed to be getting worse. A trip to the family vet resulted in a diagnosis of a cataract and a referral to a canine ophthalmologist.
My visit to the first canine ophthalmologist was distressing to say the least. A very short examination with a diagnosis: Max was virtually blind in one eye and had a fast onset cataract growing in the other eye and then a lengthy sales pitch followed by a very hard sales close on very expensive cataract surgery.
I was stunned at the diagnosis, since Max was just 4 at the time and seemed to be doing OK and obliviously shocked at the cost.
As I left the office, I was struck by an elderly lady setting the  fairly posh waiting room with a small dog in her lap, a tissue in her hand, misty eyes and for some reason I noticed she wore no wedding ring. The little dog was probably one of the major things she focused her love on and it was obviously in trouble.
I sought out a second opinion with equally interesting results. This time the eye exam was longer, more through. Diagnosis: Max could probably see some shadows through the bad eye and had fair to poor vision in the other. The Clinic also provided a detailed description of the procedure and a line item estimate of all costs, medications and post operation requirements so I could have time to look it over.
There was some time to make a decision, but Max was going blind. And some comforting advice that many dogs do very well as they loose their vision, often adjusting to the point it is difficult to tell they can't see when they are in their home environment.
The cost was large, over 20 times what Max cost as a puppy. More than enough to buy the used Jeep I had been wanting. But certainly not out of reach.
As I left, my mind flashed back to the elderly lady at the first clinic. I could certainly afford the cost, but what about those who were left with only a pet to love them and perhaps not able to deal with these kinds of expenses?
It was a sobering thought.
Veterinary specialization has been a rapidly growing and highly profitable field over the years. A great deal of its success is based on the simple fact that we are highly dedicated to these pets in our lives who give us unconditional love.
There are canine specialists in virtually all of the same fields there are human medical specialists.  You can get some details at the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialists.
I took Max home and decided to wait a while. Next Post, I follow Max's continuing journey. 
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Light Rail Revisited

Everyone is all in a flutter about a recent poll that shows a growing sentiment for light rail in the Bay area.

On the surface light rail seems like such a good idea. Get on the train and smoothly and effortlessly get where you are going. No cranky motorists or maddening red lights, it all seems so wonderful.

It rarely works that way, unless you live right next to the light rail station, and where you are going is close to a rail station.
Fact is few of us will live next to a light rail stop, even fewer of us would want to, and the probability that where you want to go, especially in Pinellas County, being within even a reasonable walking distance of the light rail station is very low.
All of the beautiful pictures of futuristic trains and idyllic views of smiling riders can lull you into a false sense of feeling light rail is the answer.

Here in Pinellas County with 24 different local governments, multiple retail, industrial, educational and governmental centers, light rail becomes problematic.

For most of us it will be either a bus ride or a car trip or bike ride to the light rail station and then a hike, cab, trolley or bus ride to our final destination. Reverse that process including dragging all those packages to get home. Going to the grocery store becomes a four hour trip with multiple fares verses a quick drive.

You're going to hear the word "intermodal" a lot in these light rail discussions, that's light rail speak, for "we have to hang a lot of crap around this thing to make it work".

Things like busses, cabs, trolleys and other forms of transportation to actually get riders to where they want to go. All very expensive, generally inconvenient and not self supporting from a revenue perspective. Once in place the flow of tax payer money to subsidize light rail will only grow.

Then there is the old ruse that the community will evolve and business will tend to congregate around the light rail stops. That will be real comforting to you if you own a business that will be nowhere near a light rail stop.

Could light rail really work in Pinellas County. Maybe. But the people who push it the most are those who will benefit the most: those selling the train systems, building the tracks and acquiring the right of way.

When you get down to the facts, the cost of acquiring right of way, building the system, operating and subsidizing it and all of light rail's supporting infrastructure in Pinellas county will be as staggering as will the tax bill that goes with it.

Next time they poll the light rail issue the question should probably be would you support an increase in your property tax or sales tax to build a light rail system? The results might change a little.

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.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Casual Conversation with Rick Kriseman

Rick Kriseman began his political career when he was appointed to the St. Petersburg City Council in 2000. He won reelection in 2001 and 2003 before stepping down in 2006 to run for the State House of Representatives.
I had the pleasure of being on City staff during the time Rick served on City Council. He was a dedicated and focused City Councilman.
Kriseman decided not to run for a fourth term in the State Legislature in April of 2012, and that further fueled rumors that he might make a run at the St. Pete Mayors' slot.
Rick and I sat down this past week at the Kahwa Coffee Shop south for some great coffee and a casual conversation.
Like most of the people seriously considering a run for the St. Mayors’ spot, Rick Kriseman is fully aware of the City’s problems and opportunities.
For someone who just finished a 6 year stint in Tallahassee Rick looks great. Currently practicing law at Lucas, Green and Magazine in Clearwater, Rick gets into political mode quick.
His answer to my first question: "where do you think the City is", was quick and decisive.
"I don’t know where we are going. It’s like a car stuck in neutral", Rick said.
“What do you see as major issues”, I asked?
“Beyond the Pier and the Rays, I think the age of City staff is a critical issue”. "I am concerned about the ongoing decline in institutional knowledge and the lack of a transition plan”, Rick responded.
“Are you ready to be the CEO of a nearly 500 million dollar a year business" I asked?
"Absolutely” Rick Replied!
"How would you govern differently than the current administration”, I asked?
“The best leaders are those who recognize their shortcomings and surround themselves with people who compensate for those short comings", Rick replied.
"I would govern differently by offering a clear vision for the future, by being bold and proposing initiatives that move St. Pete forward, by solving problems instead of kicking the can down the road".
"I would work every angle I could with my friends in the Obama Administration to bring federal dollars home".
"My frustration with Tallahassee was: that good policy doesn't advance because of partisan politics. Local government is the place where we can actually accomplish things and where every resident can be invested in and take pride in our accomplishments." Rick replied
“What would you do differently than the current administration”, I asked.
 “I would have better communication with both staff and Council. It seems the staff has no firm direction, they don’t know where the City is headed”, Rick replied.
“What do you think the major tenants of good municipal administration are”, I asked?
Infrastructure, quality of life and education”, Rick replied. “I don’t think we have taken the fullest advantage of our opportunities the last few years”. 
Rick also expressed deep concerns about the crime level in St. Pete and especially the South side of town.
I asked Rick about how his wife and family felt about a Mayoral run and he said, "We haven't really had the serious discussion yet", but they will be fully on board before I make a decision to run".
We covered a wide range of subjects from the Pier to the Rays and Rick’s concern about the City’s aging infrastructure, he has a good grasp of the issues and ideas about how to address them all, but he can reveal those for you if and when he decides to run for Mayor.
I did ask the big question, “are you going to run”? His answer: “I’ll know in a few weeks.”
If your following the St. Pete Mayor's race ,you might find the following Posts interesting: A Casual Conversation with Rick Baker, A Casual Conversation with Herb Polson, Is Rick Baker Really Out of The Mayor's Race 

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