Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 City of St. Petersburg Municipal Elections - Candidates List

The Primary election is August, 27, 2013 and the general election is November 11, 2013.
Here is a list of current St. Petersburg Mayoral and City Council Candidates as of 3/30/13. You can find this information updated as new candidates enter the race at  the City's WEB site Candidate list.
Announced Candidates
David William (Bill) Foster
5079 Dover Street NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
(727) 410-0154
Rick David Kriseman
P.O. Box 48806
St. Petersburg, FL 33743
(727) 409-8138
Anthony Lenardo Cates
4699 21
st Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
(727) 642-7773
Paul Joseph Congemi
4819 8
th Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
(727) 322-8096
Email: None
District 2James Richard Kennedy, Jr.
856 Second Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 821-6888
District 4
Dr. David McKalip
1078 42
nd Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
(727) 822-3500
Darden Janell Rice
P.O. Box 812
St. Petersburg, FL 33731
(727) 560-2479
District 6
Sharon Russ
4339 6th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
(727) 768-1223
District 8
Alexander C. Duensing
4720 31st Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
(727) 289-5106
William B. Hurley
3027½ Burlington Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33713
(727) 512-5073
If you're interested in running for one of these seats you can contact the City Clerk for information.
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.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The St. Pete Police Communications Center...It's Time to Move

The Mayor could take a big step forward in solving the City's budget problem by using the Sheriff's 911 call center for Police dispatch.
Nobody in the Foster administration has ever formally asked Sheriff Bob Gualtieri for quote to provide those services. All they have done is make excuses about why centralized dispatch for police won't work. Fact is it is working in a number of communities in Pinellas County.

The St. Pete Communications center budget approaches $10 million, and the cost to replicate this basically duplicative service in the new police facility has never been fully disclosed.
A decision to begin a migration of police dispatch to the County  right now would be a double savings by reducing operating costs and the capital cost of the new Police facility.
Chief Harmon's argument that the new facility would need to house a "backup" is simply wrongheaded when you look at the County's new Communications facility coming out of the ground.
The City's current computer system allows for interfacing with other agencies so the records and software issuers are really mute.
It's a classical case of turf protection coupled with the paranoia that runs rampant at the Police Department about the Sheriff "taking over".
At a time when County officials and some forward thinking City officials are beginning to have some serious conversations about some consolidation to save money, this one in St. Pete is no brainer.
Keep in mind that the County already dispatches all fire and emergency calls, and, as I have stated before, when was the last time a fire rescue and an ambulance did not show up when dispatched?
It is way past time for Mayor Foster to start pushing to eliminate the highly costly and totally duplicative communications center. The problem is he cannot get any straight answers out of the Police department.
The Mayor should set drown with the  Sheriff and the Police Chief,  if he will cooperate, and work out the details, get a cost proposal and then make a decision.
It's not rocket science, it's just good management.
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Where Have All the Candidates Gone?... Long Time Passing...

If that sounds a little familiar say it slowly then hum the tune.
It was not long ago that the St. Pete Mayor's candidate pool looked pretty full. There was Scott Wagman, Ken Welch, Herb Polson, Kathleen Ford, Jeff Danner, Leslie Curran, Wengay Newton, Rick Baker, Rick Kriseman and of course the Mayor, Bill Foster.
To date  Anthony  Cates,  Paul Congemi, Rick Kriseman and Bill Foster have formally announced their candidacy.
So what happened?
If you look at the list above, all of these folks are pretty familiar with the City and how it runs. They know the challenges and the commitment it takes to do the Mayor's job right and what it would take to mount a successful campaign.
Looking at the issues: a $3 million dollar budget deficit, the Pier, the Lens and its financing, The new Police Building, a Police Department desperately in need of new leadership, a deteriorating infrastructure of road, waste water and potable water systems, you have to really appreciate a challenge to throw your hat into the ring.
Including capital expenditures, the City is a nearly $500 million dollar a year business, with over 250,000 very vocal customers and over 2500 employees.
The Mayor is the Mayor, dealing with political issues, but he or she is also the CEO of one of the County's largest employers and businesses.
Bill Foster has been quoted recently as saying he is working 12 hours a day running the City and hasn't had time to start campaigning. Some might poo poo that, but I can tell you from watching the last two or three mayors up close, he is not exaggerating the time commitment.
The job takes a pretty big toll on the Mayor's personal career, and his or her family. It pays just north of $120K. Not really that much given the responsibility.
For some strange reason, being Mayor of St. Pete has not been much of a career path builder in politics. Most of the recent St. Pete Mayors have returned to private life and tried to rebuild their careers or businesses.
It used to be running for Mayor of any city was an ego trip. A way to "be somebody". Today in most cities, St. Pete included, it is a ticket to a four year nightmare of work and responsibility often with little thanks.
Given that bright picture of the job, is anyone else likely to throw their hat into the ring?
It depends. There are some viable candidates who have not said they won't run.
 If Rick Kriseman would come out with firm positions on stopping the LENS, a new Pier process, building the new Police building, restructuring the Police Department, a program to once again focus on South St. Pete issues, and a firm position on rebuilding the neighborhood structure from the David Fisher days,  he might keep one or two potentially strong candidates from jumping in. Not just flowery stuff,  real promises and commitments.
Rick might be able to turn it into  essentially a two man primary which would also be a referendum on some of the City's major issues.
If you go back to the list above, there are some political powerhouses that have not yet been formally heard from. Time is growing short, look for some action, very soon.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Will Light Rail Get the Greenlight In Pinellas County?

True to form the transportation sales tax revenue effort is getting off to a "hype it up" start with "Greenlight" as a theme by Tampa based PR firm Tucker Hall.
Makes you wonder if they could not find a Pinellas based PR firm that supports the referendum.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is ponying up $300,000 for the effort. I assume that  $300k is from tax payer revenue.
Kind of interesting with all of the talk about PSTA going broke before the end of the year.
It's the stuff PR campaigns are made of: T-shirts, signs, banners and a lot of social media work.
I don't know about you, but it kind of irks me that the County is spending my tax dollars to convince me to vote for something I have absolutely no intention of voting for.
Tucker Hall plans to establish some committees  consisting of  business, civic and government leaders  that ultimately become the Greenlight Committee.
Noticeably, average citizens were left out of the mix.
Maybe we should start the "Yellowlight" initiative to urge caution and request $300,000 from the PSTA to promote the case against the sales tax referendum. Seems fair to me. After all it is our money.
Just the fact that the transit (light rail) planners, PSTA, TBARTA, etc.  feel the necessity to hire a first class PR firm to promote the sales tax referendum, should send a strong message to voters that this is a boondoggle in the making.
If it's such a great idea it should sell itself to voters.
As stated before, I am not against development of public transportation, but I am vehemently opposed to a sales tax, that takes over $100 million dollars a year out of the economy with no specific plan and creates huge public trough where consultants, planners, PR firms and lawyers lap up the money while producing only plans, meetings, committees, pretty pictures, maps and some mildly interesting social media content.  ie, TBARTA.
To say nothing about making the sales tax in Pinellas the highest in the area which could have a chilling impact on new business relocation and some cost conscious tourists.
The County and PSTA should put together a specific first class plan in a very public forum and bring it forward to answer the question:  what will any sales tax revenue be used for?
Right now the attempt is to get the cart before the horse, and get all that money in place so we can fund a never ending  planning effort producing little or nothing while promoting light rail.
Oh, and before you take me to task about focusing on light rail, listen to the presentations and count the number of times words like light rail, rail and alternative transportation are used.
And we will know for sure, if there are little green tracks coming around the green light on those T-Shirts.
Don't be too mislead. There will be busses for a long time and they will need public funding support, but this referendum is all about getting the money in the bank to do light rail.
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Denying Business to a Potential Candidate - A Slippery Slope

The decision by a City staff member discontinuing case assignments to Dr. David McKalip while he is a candidate is troubling to say the least.
I am sure Council and staff are tired of being lectured by Dr. McKalip regarding their actions and procedures. The good doctor can be a bit over the top at times to say the least. But if you listen carefully there is usually a shred of logic in his statements.
It is a bit hard to believe that a medical doctor sworn to his oath would mix his politics with his practice, but only Dr. McKalip knows the answer to that question.
This really not about Dr. McKalip. It's about democracy. If the City starts the process of denying those who seek office access to City business, that will have a chilling effect on who may step up to run for office.
If you happen to be a business person in St. Pete who does some business with the City and would like to serve your community, you may think twice before you throw your hat into an election.
Most people don't have any idea how much effort and time goes into being a City Council member in St. Pete, but it's considerable. If a person is willing to make that sacrifice, it seems to be a bit unreasonable to penalize them personally or professionally for stepping up to be involved.
Once elected there are legitimate ways to deal with conflicts of interest.
Ever wonder why there are so many lawyers on City Council? One of the main reasons is its really good for business.
At first, this may seem a sensible thing to do given Dr. McKalip's positions, but it is the ultimate slippery slope. Where do you draw the line? Who makes the decision? Staff? City Council? The Mayor? Just think about this for a second.
The bigger issue is does this practice set a precedent whereby potential candidates may be eliminated based on their business relationship with the City?
That policy could well deny the City the leadership so currently lacking.
It's hard to tell if this is simply a way to muffle a critic, which is not likely to work, or just bad judgment on the part of City staff.
Rather than take a staff members questionable decision and legitimize it, Council might be much wiser to set a policy that says City staff will not make any business decisions based on providers politics or opinions.
If the City has a professional beef with Dr. McKalip they should take the necessary action through proper procedures, but to use politics as the method to deny access to his services  is just plain wrong.
It might also be a good idea to remind Council that the Administration deals with City staff and Council does not.
 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 

e-mail Doc at:, or send me a Facebook Friend request.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

LENS VS The PD Building

The question of priorities was certainly front and center at Thursdays St. Pete City Council meeting.

The new Police Building was on the agenda to approve going forward with the next design phase about $3.1 million. While happily approving without any question  the $5 million dollar LENS design phase with no concern about the project bottom line, the question of the cost of the Police facility, about $60 million, became an issue again.
Never mind the fact that this band of elected so called representatives has no qualms about throwing away $50 Million on the LENs plus the interest cost in financing the project, estimated by some at an additional $10 million in direct tax payer expenses. With the expected over runs this whole majestic piece of  mostly useless art could cost well over $80 million.
As one who worked in the current police facility for 5 years, let me tell you for a fact that the place must be replaced. I had to do mold mitigation twice in my group's area, plus have dead rats removed from the ceiling and that was almost 5 years ago.
The place is barely fit for human habitation.
Since I participated in the initial design phase, I can also attest to the fact that there was no attempt to "gold plate" the new design, in fact quite the opposite. Space and facility requests were consistently pared back by the design committee.
Instead of setting up on the dais and taking shots at the PD, Council members should go down to the PD and set with those planning the new facility and get some facts.
The inconsistency of wasting money on a piece of iconic art verses investing in the public safety, the one thing every citizen needs, is just simply unconscionable.
Fully realizing that the TIF money for the LENS and the Penny for Pinellas money for the Police Headquarters are two entirely different and unrelated sources of funding, the decision to take on indebtedness to complete either or both is not.
The cost of that indebtedness all taxpayers bare.
It is simply ironic that the same people who are willing to invest in a $50 Million plus jogging track, are not equally willing to support the public safety organization they all say is the first priority of local government.
You can read my previous posts about the PD and see I have my issues with PD management, but in this case, there is no willingness to take advantage, no desire to gold plate, no attempt to get more than they need, no desire to build a monument. They just need and want a modern, clean, functional facility to work from.
Public safety on the cheap will always come back and bite you.
This attempt by City Council and the Foster administration to  build a new police facility in some phased cheap approach is probably an even greater disservice to the public than the failure to let the people vote on the LENS.
It is time for some new faces at City Hall. Beginning with a new Mayor and City Council.
e-mail Doc at:, or send me a Facebook Friend request.  

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, March 8, 2013

The Deputy City Attorney and the Red Light Cameras

It is real easy to take some shots at Mark Winn regarding his two challenges to a couple of right on red light camera citations.
Could be that the reason he got both citations is because he IS the deputy City Attorney and giving him a pass, even though the circumstances are pretty clear, would have presented even more of an uproar.
On the surface it might seem that the Deputy City attorney has and inside track, that is unlikely, but this episode does begin to peel back the onion of the whole red light camera issue.
The first point is the simple fact that a City official sees the system of enforcement as flawed enough to actually mount a legal challenge.
Agreed that $158 bucks is not a small amount of money, but Mark Winn is pretty well paid, and even with two, he had to know that sooner or later the whole issue of him beating the rap  is going to go public.
It would have been simpler to just pay the money and move on. I doubt seriously that the issue would have even  made the news other than perhaps as a side note.
The question is why? and Only Mark Winn knows for sure. After working with Mark for over 20 years, including some pretty thorny issues, what I know is: he is one smart attorney.
What this whole issue has done is shine a very bright light on how arbitrary the red light camera citation process is and how easy it is to get the ticket over turned  if, (1) you know the system, and (2) have the time to make the court appearance.
The right on red citation is the biggest revenue generator.  Thursday's City council mini debate was more theater than substance.
The continued hyping of red light cameras as a great traffic safety tool continues to fall victim to the facts.
Most surprising vote to retain the cameras was by Karl Nurse. I was surprised Karl did not side with the public on this issue.
Dudley and Kennedy's reaction not too surprising, Kennedy has no concern about the public being ripped off and Dudley, who touts his experience in drivers education experience as providing some kind authoritative credentials, is clueless as usual.
Kennedy who is up for reelection in no way deserves to be returned to City Council.
Danner's insensitivity to the public's feelings about the issue is likely just the beginning of the sour grapes he will offer up as he term limits out and has to look for a real job. After all he really doesn't need your vote any more.
Gerdes continues to disappoint. For someone who has an eye on the Mayor's spot down the road he should be taking more of a leadership role instead of pandering to the status quo and tossing the ball to the Mayor.
And the Mayor, speaking of people who should not be reelected,  he gets some kudos for halting the tickets of those car owners who were allegedly not driving at the time of the infraction, but in the end the Mayor never met a revenue flow that picks your pocket he didn't like and he's not likely to kill the program as long as the checks keep coming.
As for Mark Winn, if I were the Mayor and my Deputy City attorney feels strongly enough about how the program is being administered to go to court twice to challenge the program, I would think seriously about making some changes, like dropping the right on red enforcement completely.
Not likely to happen, first ATS would strongly object (loss of revenue) and they might threaten to pull their cameras. After all this is all about the money. Second, eliminating right on red citations would also hit the City's cash flow and no matter how much they posture, it's still all about the money.
Remember to keep your foot on the brake when you go right on red, it may just be your pass on a $158 dollar ticket. 
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Williams Park - Critical to Continued Downtown Development

Stephen Nohlgren has a very interesting article, "Tropicana Field: The next big urban mixed use development?" in  Saturdays' Tampa Bay Times. Nohlgren puts forth some significant points regarding redevelopment of the Tropicana parcel.
Greg Sher, former CEO with the Sembler Company, is quoted in the article as suggesting putting together a group from the academic, scientific and medical community along with community leaders  to begin to develop a plan for the Tropicana parcel.
In a previous Post, Williams Park - Some Solutions to Think About , I suggested maybe it is time to consider redeveloping Williams Park and using it for the City's new Public Safety Headquarters. That would fit nicely with Nohlgren's idea by adding a couple of adjacent large parcels to the Tropicana site for commercial or residential development.
I can't think of anything that would shore up the concerns about the downtown core more than replacing Williams Park with the Public Safety Head Quarters.
Maybe one of the existing PD Parcels could become the transportation hub with a trolley feeder into downtown.
Granted, it may not be the best operational location for the PD, but the current proposed location is just about 10 blocks West and it is really not that great either.
It is not too late to have the Public Safety Complex architect take a look at Williams Park as a potential location, as long as his look is to find out IF it will work, not all the reasons why it won't.
I also like Sher's view of the Rays. "The Rays will probably move to Tampa at some point",  Sher said.  "Let's not cry over that." " Let's mourn for five seconds and figure out how to move forward."
It is way past time that City Hall got over baseball and started planning how to make ST. Pete a great place to live and work.  It just could be if we took our eye off the baseball and put it on what is working, a safe, clean, vibrant downtown area with lots of opportunity to grow, things would really start to happen in St. Pete.
Too many local politicians and especially this Mayor pay way to much homage to the Major League baseball God.
Baseball leaving could just be the best thing that ever happened to St. Pete.
Go Rays!   No really, GO!
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Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Casual Conversation with Ken Welch

County Commissioner Welch and I met at KAWA Coffee Shop South, for a brief conversation on Monday Feb 25, 2013.
Commissioner Welch was born in St. Petersburg and attended local public schools, graduating from Lakewood Senior High School. He holds a B.A. degree in Accounting from the University of South Florida, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Florida A&M University.
Commissioner Welch’s professional work experience includes 14 years in Accounting, Information Technology, and Financial Systems Administration with Florida Power Corporation (now Progress Energy).
If you have never had the opportunity to meet Ken Welch, he is a charming and articulate man. He comes from a St. Pete family that has long dedicated itself to public service. If you ever have the chance, be sure to step up and introduce yourself.
My first question: “How do you think things are going in St. Pete and the County?"
Ken replied, “there are a lot of issues in both St. Pete and the County, but my perception is we are doing pretty well." "We have weathered the economic downturn and things are looking better."
Ken Welch was on the final Jury that selected the LENS as the County representative. “Do you think the City should have held a referendum on the Pier,” I asked.
“The process virtually led us to the outcome,” Ken replied. "There were strong feelings about the various proposals, and the LENS was the most likely outcome from the beginning.” Ken continued, “I did recommend that a public hearing be held before the final decision.”
"Do you think things are better for people who live on the South side of St. Pete than they were under the Baker administration?” I asked.
"No, but not necessarily related to the Foster administration," Ken Replied. “Twelve percent of the County population is at or below the poverty level and 45% of those live in just 5 areas of the County, one of the major areas being South St. Pete." Ken continued, "I think the significant issues are lack of jobs, and education.” "Without an education, finding work is difficult and crime naturally grows in that environment."
"Are you comfortable with the way crime is addressed in South St. Pete?” I asked.
"I think we need a more holistic approach,” Ken replied. “We have to address the poverty and education issues before any substantial improvement will occur."
"What do you see as the number one problem facing ST. Pete and the County?” I asked.
Ken had a short but powerful list. "Homelessness, EMS, the Pier, the Rays and crime,” Ken continued, "it's imperative that the County and the City work on these issues together.”
"What would you consider the most important vote or issues you have addressed while a County Commissioner?” I asked.
"Housing, Juvenile Welfare Board, and homelessness,” Welch quickly replied.
"Now that you have withdrawn your name from consideration by the JWB, are you likely to consider running for St. Pete Mayor in the upcoming election?" I asked.
“No”, Ken replied. “For several reasons." "First, I said if I was reelected to the County Commission, I would serve out the term." " Second, if I were to resign and run for St. Pete Mayor, it would create a political appointment opportunity that might not be in the County’s best interest on several key issues.” "Finally, I have a lot of respect for Rick Kriseman and I think he is a good candidate."
"However,"  Ken continued, "I have long said that a St. Pete Mayor’s bid in 2017 is not out of the question."
I hope he follows through on that Mayors' bid. I likely won't be around to write about it, but should Ken Welch be successful in his 2017 Mayors' race, St. Pete will be the big winner.
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Friday, March 1, 2013

Has St. Pete Created a Red Light Camera Scam?

Mayor Foster's decision to exempt red light camera citations where the car owner submits an affidavit stating they were not the driver will likely create a significant number of such affidavits.
Since most people view the whole red light camera program as nothing but a government revenue scam, it is possible that they may opt for the affidavit as an easy out.
 This could make the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Ken Burke's job even more difficult.  
Watch for the red light camera companies, American Traffic Solutions in the City's instance, to begin utilizing those red light cameras to get a picture of the DRIVER.
Next question will be does this constitute and illegal search?
Bigger question is why not just put the whole program on  hold until the State and the County figure things out?
Why not treat everyone fairly and wait until the law is clear?
Answer MONEY. I was in some of the meetings with ATS when they sold the City this program. It was a money scam wrapped neatly in a cloak of traffic safety. You could tell by all the grins when the subject of money came up. Some of the most disgusting meetings I sat in my 25 plus years on City Staff. And that is saying a lot.
Enterprising attorneys will soon figure a way to write the affidavit and people are being forced to consider taking a potential  illegal action to avoid  paying for program of questionable legal status and limited public safety impact.
All of this makes great headlines during campaign season, but in reality the Mayor has simply made the whole issue even more distasteful.
Another example of timid leadership.
We can only hope something good regarding red light cameras might happen in the Legislature, but with  millions of dollars flowing through the doors of red light camera companies ever month they have a lot of money to spread around.
You know what they say about Tallahassee, it's the best government money can buy.
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