Monday, June 24, 2013

District 8 City Council Race

Candidates: Robert J. Davis, Alexander Duensing, Amy Foster, Steve Galvin, Bill Hurley
NOTE: Even though Mr. Hurley has announced his intention to withdraw from the primary, his comments are included in this Post.
In the Post It's Time To Go On the Record, I asked each registered St. Petersburg candidate  to answer seven 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?
As candidates responded to Comments section,  the Post has become long and a bit difficult to follow, so I have set up a Post for each race and copied, with no editing, each candidate's responses to date.
Candidates who have not responded,  may add them in the Comments section or e-mail them to me and I will add those comments with no editing  to the Body of the Post.

Robert J. Davis:
1. Should the LENS come to a referendum, will you support voting to stop the project?  
     I am pleased to see that the public may finally get to vote on the LENS referendum at the August 27 primary.  I have long advocated that the public deserves the right to weigh in on a $ 50 million project such as this, especially when there appears to be more than 20,000 people have deep concerns about the projects viability and sustainability, as I do.  However, I am concerned about the latest wording to the LENS referendum.  If the public gets to vote on the referendum and votes to terminate the current City contract with the California architect, does that mean it’s the end of the LENS, or does that just mean the City can find another firm to handle the completion of that project.
2. Do you support closing the Pier?
  I wish that the city had not closed the Pier.  I would hope that now that there is a referendum, that there is no further movement on  tearing down the structure.  However, my suspicion is that the mayor wants this area to look as ugly as possible and use that unsightliness to frighten voters into backing the Lens:  some campaign which would both emphasize how much money has already been spent on the Lens as well as the threat that the waterfront area will continue to be an eyesore.  They will blame these “few” disgruntled people for ruining the city and its beautiful waterfront.  Sadly, even with a vote, this issue will continue to be a distraction that takes focus away from larger concerns.
3. Will you move to end the red light camera program?
  I am in  favor of ending this program although I do not see it as the top of my list when I would be on the council.  I see this as one of the programs that was ill conceived and, as often happens, sounded good on  paper but was not thought out or implemented in a way which could benefit the city. I was motivated to run for city council by my own frustration at the  ineffectiveness of city council and the desire to “raise the bar” so that there are fewer programs which end up having to be fixed or eliminated.
4. Do you support the Rays talking to anyone in Pinellas County or Hillsborough County about a stadium site?
I want very much to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, if at all possible.  They have built a competitive team, play in  a difficult division, and they are fun to watch and talk about.  However, that said, I  understand that its current ownership has concerns about the team’s attendance at home in St. Pete.  If it comes to them considering a move elsewhere, than I would like them to be seen as and treated as a “Regional Asset,” and I would fight to keep them inside the Tampa Bay area.  I would make certain that as a regional asset, the City of St. Petersburg would get something of equal or greater value in return if,  worst case scenario, the team were to move to Tampa.  If that were to happen, and I hope it does not come to that, as a fan I would still go to the same 3 or 4 baseball games I attend annually at the Trop.
  One of my campaign platforms is to work on creating more jobs in St. Pete, the kind of better paying jobs that would allow people and families to have more disposable income so they can afford to do things as go to baseball games and support our reinvigorated downtown.  More better jobs being created would go more to achieving our community goals than fighting over where a baseball team plays, or building a stadium with public funds that this City can not afford to spend.  My focus is on continuing to improve our quality of life here, and to improve it for everyone who lives in St. Pete.
5. Do you support the neighborhood association concept and what will you do to specifically help rebuild this City asset?
     I have long been an active supporter of our Neighborhood Association concept and have been an active participant in these community organizations, from the time I moved with my family to St. Pete about 15 years ago.  I have served as a President of a Neighborhood Association with we lived in Crescent Heights, and I am a member of the Central Oak Parks Neighborhood Association, where we currently reside and own a home.
    I am a graduate of the CONA Leadership program, where I was exposed to the diversity of most of the Neighborhood Associations in St. Petersburg.
6. Do you support hiring a new Police Chief?
         Yes, I support the hiring of a new Police Chief.
     I first met Police Chief Chuck Harmon when I graduated from the C.O.N.A. Leadership program. As a past president of a neighborhood association, I am familiar with his work history.   He’s someone you want to have on your police force and I have respect for many of the things he has done for the community.
     That said, I don’t know if he’s always been up to the task of being a Police Chief.  I think he did a great job as Assistant Police Chief.  I know about our city’s history and past practices in its previous job search several years ago for new Police Chief and I think that we can improve upon that process.  As I understand it, the current Police Chief Chuck Harmon plans on retiring in 2016, so, in many ways, his past practices and accomplishments may be a moot point by the time I am elected to the City Council.
     In any event,  the City needs to work on a plan of succession for the Police Chief.  It’s a very important position in our community.  We most definitely can improve upon past City practices and my focus during the succession process will be two fold:  (1) I will be looking at ways of bringing our city together and; (2) Ending past practices in law enforcement that have in any way or some way have encouraged our City’s racial divide, North and South, East and West, or in any other regional division, real or imagined.
 In some ways, Chief Harmon has been good for St. Pete, while in other respects, he could have made better choices.  That said, the next Chief of Police, will have to be able to work cooperatively with whoever is elected Mayor in November 2013.  I would like to look at what other model cities (from Charlotte, NC to Seattle, Washington; from Detroit and Chicago and St. Louis) has or have done to increase the overall effectiveness of the Police Chief.
7. What specifically will you do to begin to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in South St. Pete?
    I support preservation of the Community Police Officer program.  As a past Neighborhood President and member of a Neighborhood Association’s Board, I have seen, first hand, how this program and the Community Police Officers in it have assisted neighborhood associations deal with crime on an up-close and personal level and have helped address related problems in the neighborhoods.
      Recent proposed budget cuts of even one or two percent threaten this program, since any proposed budget cut, I’ve been told, would result in CPOs being reassigned to other responsibilities.  As a City Councilman, I would fight to preserve the CPO program, and work on developing more Crime Watch programs.  Crime in the neighborhoods is a community issue, and our police officers in the streets deserve all the community support we can give them.
Alexander Duensing
1. Should the LENS come to a referendum, will you support voting to stop the project?
The Lens will likely come to a referendum, and I will support, if it is the people's will, cancelling the contract.
However, it is important that the public know that canceling the contract will not, in itself, save the current pier or cause another design to be built. For either of these two things to happen, we need to also elect leaders who will actively seek another vote about refurbishment, replacement, or demolition. I am such a leader. Not only will I listen to the public—I will heed its will.
Lastly, I would ask all parties on all sides of this issue to be civil and open-minded. There are a lot of good, smart, and concerned people on every side of this debate. Let's give all the respect that they deserve.
2. Do you support closing the Pier?
I believe that the Pier has been slated for closure prematurely. As it stands, the Pier will close at the beginning of the busy season. In my mind, especially with the fate of the whole project in the air, the closing date should have been set to the end of the busy season. That way workers and business-owners would have a bit more of a cushion to get them through.
That is I feel that date should have been set AT LEAST at the end of the season--if not beyond.
3. Will you move to end the red light camera program?
 Red-Light Cameras
People should not run red lights. Yet, the red-light camera system is flawed.
As it stands, the signals are not uniform: the lights are not all sequenced uniformly, green lights are only linked with pedestrian crossing signs at some intersections, and the yellow lights are of varying duration. These factors make it difficult to determine when a red light will occur.
Additionally, challenging a red-light camera ticket can be difficult. Tickets come in the mail often long after the incident, which make them hard to contest. Individuals who unsuccessfully appeal their tickets are assessed larger fines.
Moreover, the efficacy of red-light cameras in reducing fatalities and injuries is still unclear. Studies differ on their impact.
For these reasons (and insofar as I adamantly oppose any government's use of law to merely raise revenue), I would vote to cancel the red-light camera contract--unless new strong evidence in support of the current system became available or major improvements were made.
I would support, however, the use of longer yellow signals, uniform signaling, and other means to make our roadways safer.
4. Do you support the Rays talking to anyone in Pinellas County or Hillsborough County about a stadium site?
The Rays
Currently, I think we have an obligation to keep the Ray's to their contract. However, as time progresses and the contract nears its end, we need to consider our options.
Before the Rays came to town, there were churches, businesses, homes. True, it may not have been the fanciest part of town, but there was a community.
When the stadium was built, this community was torn down. A great sacrifice was made by many for the betterment of the city.
I personally believe we owe it to these people to honor their sacrifice; I my mind, the Rays should be kept to their contract.
However, we should not wait until the final days of the contract to decide the fate of the Rays. A fiscal impact study should be done to determine more precisely the Rays impact on St. Pete and the region. If it turns out that St. Pete would receive a net benefit from allowing the Rays to look at new locations in Hillsborough or Pinellas, the idea should be seriously considered--particularly toward the end of the contact.
Also, I would note, should there be a push to build a new stadium, I would not support building one without a referendum
5. Do you support the neighborhood association concept and what will you do to specifically help rebuild this City asset?
Neighborhood Associations
Neighborhood associations are an important way for neighbors to come together to express the needs of their community.
To strengthen them, I would support neighborhood association grants--particularly for outreach and social events. I would also, as a community-connector, strive to bring neighborhood associations together with other initiatives that benefit the community.
6. Do you support hiring a new Police Chief?
Crime Prevention.
Firstly, it is my firm belief that although we should concentrate on preventing crime in hotspots, everyone in St. Pete has a right to be protected and to feel safe.
That said, I strongly believe that strong communities should be the first line of defense against crime.
Neighbors who know each other and look out for each other need to be recognized and valued as first-responders: they often are the first to call in a crime or emergency--they regularly are the first people on the scene rendering aid.
Along this line, I think the police-force should be encouraged, as they were years ago, to forge relationships with communities. Contact with officers should occur as a part of day-to-day life -- not merely after a call, Should this transformation occur, officers would be able to prevent and deter crime in a more impactful way and more criminals would be caught.
I would like to mention, however, that the police-force does currently have some great community awareness programs that should be commended and further publicized.
By getting neighbors to work together better and by structuring the police force to work within the community, great strides can be made toward the prevention of crime.
We will need to hire a new police chief. Chief Harmon is enrolled in the DROP program.
7. What specifically what will you do to begin to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in South St. Pete?
The South Side
It is my sincerest hope that someday our city will no longer be divided into a "South Side" and a "North Side".
To nurture a seamless city I would begin by--
1. Advocating for better mass-transit so that residents of St. Pete anywhere can experience the richness of our city everywhere,
2. Acting as a community connector to let people all over the city know about the great things going on throughout St. Pete.
3. Supporting the 34th Street South Redevelopment Plan.
4. Promoting love and working to end all kinds of racism

 Amy Foster
1. Should the LENS come to a referendum, will you support voting to stop the project?
Amy Foster, Candidate for St. Pete City Council District 8
I will honor the will of the people and whatever the outcome of the referendum is.
2. Do you support closing the Pier?
Amy Foster, Candidate for St. Pete City Council District 8
The decision to close the pier is Mayor Foster’s decision alone. Major restaurants and retailers as well as the person in charge of marketing have already made other plans and will be departing on May 31. It is not fair to ask the taxpayers to foot an even larger subsidy to keep the pier open
3. Will you move to end the red light camera program?
Amy Foster, Candidate for St. Pete City Council District 8
I am not a fan of red light cameras and will vote to remove red light cameras. I believe safety is important but would like to explore programs that are genuinely focused on safety and not just revenue. There are issues with the timeframe it takes to deliver tickets and the inability to determine who is driving is troublesome. Red light cameras were also not installed at some of the intersections with the highest volume of traffic accidents. There are alternative programs we should consider to reduce red light running, including lengthening yellow lights or creating special pavement markings.

4. Do you support the Rays talking to anyone in Pinellas County or Hillsborough County about a stadium site?
Amy Foster, Candidate for St. Pete City Council District 8
I think the Rays are a great asset to our city and baseball is an integral part of our history. I think many residents of St. Pete made a lot of sacrifices to build the stadium and I hope we can find a way to keep the Rays in a facility in the current location. Their contract is through 2027 and they should honor this contract. While I am open to exploring other areas in the city, I understand we are weakening our legal position if we allow shopping for another site. However, at the end of the day, I believe the Rays are a regional asset and hope we find a way to retain them in this area. The upcoming transit referendum could also be a real game changer for attendance.

5. Do you support the neighborhood association concept and what will you do to specifically help rebuild this City asset?
Amy Foster, Candidate for St. Pete City Council District 8
Yes. I believe some of our city’s greatest strengths are the neighborhoods and the people who live here. I have seen first-hand how neighborhoods can tackle issues that government can’t address alone. I will continue to attend neighborhood association meetings to keep abreast of issues and concerns and work with neighborhood leaders and city officials to proactively address emerging issues. I support the return of neighborhood partnership grants, particularly in areas with the greatest need. I will encourage our stronger neighborhood organizations to mentor fledging or struggling associations to replicate success.
6. Do you support hiring a new Police Chief?
Amy Foster, Candidate for St. Pete City Council District 8
Chief Harmon is enrolled in the DROP program and hiring a new police chief in the near future is inevitable
7. What specifically what will you do to begin to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in South St. Pete?
Amy Foster, Candidate for St. Pete City Council District 8
We have to reduce crime and improve the quality of life for ALL residents. It’s unfair to pinpoint crime and quality of life issues to be a problem just in South St. Petersburg. With that said, I believe we have much work to do to ensure that residents in South St. Pete have access to quality schools, services, jobs, and safe neighborhoods.
Some of the things I would support are: more proactive policing, targeting hot spots, working with community stakeholders to determine their needs and find solutions, increasing transit options, addressing blight and beautifying areas, and most importantly ensuring youth have access to out of school time enrichment opportunities, internships and employment.
I also support the creation of a 34th Street South Redevelopment Plan which will drastically increase the quality of life for South St. Pete residents.

Steve Galvin
1. Should the LENS come to a referendum, will you support voting to stop the project?
yes. The public's voice needs to be heard
2. Do you support closing the Pier?
No, not until we have a publicly decided plan. It makes no sense to shutter the Pier for the summer, just wait for the referendum!
3. Will you move to end the red light camera program?
yes. They foster ill will towards the city and reek of greed. Not to mention that the technology just isn't there for the "right on red" tickets they have been quick to issue.
4. Do you support the Rays talking to anyone in Pinellas County or Hillsborough County about a stadium site?
no. A deal is a deal. St. Pete is the reason that that Rays even exist. They built the stadium on spec only to be turned down for a franchise by Major League Baseball. St. Pete then SUED Major League Baseball and finally got a franchise. IF the Rays want to buy out their contract to make St. Pete whole on their investment then they can shop for a new venue. The bottom line, play better ball and the fans will come. I volunteered at the Trop for 2 years and witnessed the empty bleachers first hand. Unless the Red Sox are in town. Then the place was packed! What does that tell you?
I will be a strong voice to move forward with Greenlight Pinellas. I believe that a robust public transit system would also increase attendance at the games. Hopefully we can implement their light rail designs and have a high speed connection to the Westshore District in Tampa. This will not only boost attendance, it will also enable Pinellas County citizens to travel to Tampa without driving! Imagine being able to take a train to the airport. This is long overdue.
5. Do you support the neighborhood association concept and what will you do to specifically help rebuild this City asset?
yes. I fully support the neighborhood Association concept. I think that Council members need to engage the neighborhood associations in their districts. Every District has unique needs and they need to be acknowledged and addressed by their Council member. I would schedule a meeting with each Neighborhood Assn. President bi-monthly and attend their regular meetings to hear first hand what is lacking and what they would like the City to do or help with on their behalf. I have been very engaged in my neighborhood, having restored several foreclosed or abandoned homes personally.
6. Do you support hiring a new Police Chief?
I have only recently been made aware that there has been some dissatisfaction with our Police Chief. I would endeavor to learn all the facts and how the rank and file feel about him as their leader. I believe that it is important for officers to respect and be confident in their Chief. However, the Mayor decides this issue
7. What specifically what will you do to begin to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in South St. Pete?
Reducing crime and improving the quality of life is something that is applicable to many parts of St. Petersburg. Jobs creation would go a long way towards achieving both of these goals and if we move forward with the Greenlight Pinellas project, the ability to seek employment from a greater radius should be helpful. Education. It's mighty hard to get a decent job without skills. I would encourage more adult learning opportunities and doing whatever we can to keep kids in school. Additionally I feel that the City could offer some assistance to help people stay in their homes and offer tax breaks and lien forgiveness to encourage homeowners and investors to rehabilitate the countless number of homes that need work. I have personally restored 4 homes in N. Kenwood, 3 of them foreclosures, in an effort to improve the neighborhood where I live and we now have a much safer and more beautiful place to live. I have been personally responsible for making sure that 2 individuals that were breaking into homes in my neighborhood went to JAIL. As citizens we all have to step up and not wait for someone else to do it.

Bill Hurley
1. Should the LENS come to a referendum, will you support voting to stop the project.
I have been actively involved in both Vote on the Pier and Stop the Lens. As a veteran one of the most important rights we have is our right to vote. It is everyone's waterfront. I am a super voter and vote in most of the elections I can
2. Do you support closing the Pier?
I do not support closing the pier until the people have been heard.
3. Will you move to end the red light camera program?
I would move to end the red light cameras and look at increasing yellow times.
4. Do you support the Rays talking to anyone in Pinellas County or Hillsborough County about a stadium site?
I feel the Rays should pay for the chance to look elsewhere. As a city we need to prepare for the day when they may leave. We have to be proactive not reactive.
5. Do you support the neighborhood association concept and what will you do to specifically help rebuild this City asset?
The people in the neighborhoods will make the most difference in their neighborhoods. We as a city need to get as many people into the association as we can. I graduated from the CONA Leadership today and look forward to working with them to accomplish. I will do this whether elected or not.
6. Do you support hiring a new Police Chief?
This is truly up to the Mayor. If the Mayor thought he needed to change I would like to know all the facts.
7. What specifically what will you do to begin to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in South St. Pete?
To reduce crime I would work to make the neighborhood associations grow by working with CONA. We need to remember we are more than just the downtown area. We need to invest in the whole city. I would look to the Miami area for a program where if we have first time non violent offenders we do not put them into the legal arena but use a city ordinance and community service to get them on the right track. Once they become part of the system we have lost them. Not all people are made for college so we need trade schools that will help the residents with a chance at a job with a living wage.
Please add your comments below. Be sure to include the name of the candidate you are addressing if you comment is candidate specific.
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Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Darden Rice Campaign
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