Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Council Member District 4 Candidates Answer Your Questions

A while back I asked you to submit some Questions for the Candidates in the general election  for Mayor and City Council. First let me thank those you who took the time to comment or send me an e-mail.

A word of caution: This is a long Post. The responding candidates have taken the time to provide in-depth answers to your questions.

Below are the  five questions from citizens, critical to St. Petersburg's future.

1. Specifically with details, what you  would do, throughout the entirety of St. Pete, to reduce crime and make the city safe for its citizens?

2. How will you work to bring neighborhoods back into the decision process? What would be your goals for neighborhood participation?

3. Should it turn out that the public's desire is to rehab the existing Inverted Pyramid, how will you support that effort and how will you proceed?

4. We have a number of problem schools in St. Petersburg. Specifically what will you do to help improve those schools?

5. Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?
 
Not all candidates have chosen to respond. Here are the response from the District 4 candidates Carolyn Fries and Darden Rice

The answers were Posted as I received them with NO editing.   

Carolyn Fries

1. Specifically with details, what would you do, throughout the entirety of St. Pete, to reduce crime and make the city safe for its citizens?

My expertise lies in engineering, business operations and execution, not crime prevention, detection or punishment. Successful leaders define and communicate a vision, build a team of experts to carry out that vision, ensure the team has the tools they need to be successful, establish metrics to measure success and, based on results, make adjustments as needed along the way. While many residents express concern about drug use and sales, UCR crime stats currently used to track St. Petersburg’s crime rates include only violent and property crime. At a minimum, I will insist the city’s crime metrics be expanded to track vice crime (drugs, prostitution, etc.). Allowed the opportunity, I will participate in the selection process for a new chief and ask that applicants share their views regarding and strategies for reducing crime in our city. Prior to approving the new chief’s hiring, I will also discuss applicants’ responses with current police department staff and officers. When presented with valid supporting data, I will take action to support crime reduction strategies, whether adjusting the number of officers and/or staff, investing in technology for crime prevention, detection and/or operational process improvements, communicating with residents regarding how they can positively impact crime or authoring and passing crime related ordinances (e.g.: spice ordinance). I will then follow up with the department on a regular basis, reviewing metrics to determine effectiveness of various crime reduction efforts and request revisions to strategy when & where necessary.
2. How will you work to bring neighborhoods back into the decision process? What would be your goals for neighborhood participation?

As President of an amicable and productive Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association during 2007 & 2008, I was a successful neighborhood leader. To this day, I still receive emails from residents asking neighborhood related questions. I always take time to respond with an answer or forward to someone who can respond, with the resident on courtesy copy. I was and still am available, approachable and responsive to the people I serve. I’ve been told I am a good listener and, as an engineer, I am a trained problem solver. I enjoy interacting and sharing information with others and look forward to being able to assist in sharing city business with the public, whether the budget, status of infrastructure projects, tax increment financing or the process/design for our new pier. All city council members today have direct email addresses, but not all use them and few residents know they exist. I will use and share my council-direct email address with residents and maintain copies as required by public records laws. Assuming they continue, I will attend citywide “Mayor’s Night Out” and “Breakfast With the Mayor” events. If there is enough interest, I will expand the concept to add a “Council’s (Carolyn’s?) Night Out” and “Breakfast with the Council” events in my district. My goal for neighborhood participation is 100% active associations and I look forward to working with dormant associations that want to get active again.

3. Should it turn out that the public's desire is to rehab the existing Inverted Pyramid, how will you support that effort and how will you proceed?

Rehab of the inverted pyramid is certainly an option for the new pier if it can be accomplished within budget constraints, but a vote regarding rehab of the inverted pyramid vs. designing a new structure is premature. I recommend a process similar to the one below.

a) Select Architectural Team

I support the city conducting a Request for Qualification to select an architectural team. As an engineer and technology entrepreneur, I have experience in this area through selection of both industrial (product) designers and custom part manufacturers for my companies. When selecting a supplier, product design requirements are not presented as part of the selection process, but instead the supplier’s qualifications are vetted. What type of work have they done before? Do they have a wide range of experience and capabilities? Have they completed other similar projects? What resources do they have to complete the job? What do references say about the quality of their work? Are project cost and construction time estimations typically accurate?

b) Community Input Regarding Pier Programming

Parallel to architectural team selection, I support an effort to obtain community input regarding program content for both the pier and upland areas. In order to eliminate or significantly reduce the need for subsidies, it is critical that cost be factored in when determining program content.

c) Develop Requirements Document

Based on community input, project cost and other constraints/requirements (code, environmental, etc.), city staff would create a requirements document to provide direction to the architectural team. Again, I have extensive experience in this area as an engineer, having worked with customers, marketing, manufacturing and engineering to develop design requirements for products. One requirement could be that the team must present at least one option for rehab of the inverted pyramid.

d) Architectural Team Conceptual Design

Once the requirements document is complete, the architectural team would be paid to prepare and present a number of conceptual designs for consideration.

e) City & Public Evaluation of Conceptual Designs

Conceptual designs would be reviewed by city leaders, staff and the public at large. A summary of public input would be provided to the architectural team to create a final design concept. The summary may recommend elements from different designs be incorporated into the final design (e.g.: Floor plan from one combined with architectural style from another)

f) Final Conceptual Design Selection

The final conceptual design would be put forward for approval by city council. While a referendum may be necessary at some point, extensive public input regarding pier programming and public review of the first round of conceptual designs could eliminate the need.

g) Design Details and Construction

City staff would complete the project by working with the architectural and construction team to finalize design details and move forward with demolition and construction.

4. We have a number of problem schools in St. Petersburg. Specifically what will you do to help improve those schools?

As I have said multiple times along the campaign train, I share former Mayor Rick Baker’s opinion that “Schools Belong to Everyone”.  Along those lines, I support programs utilized during (and since) the Baker administration such as Doorways Scholarship Program, Mayor’s Mentors, Business Partners for Schools, Top Apple and school visits by city leaders. In particular, I will assist in recruiting business partners and visiting schools. I have already met with Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Grego to share my background and experience and let him know I am ready and willing to support our schools in any way I can. As PTSA president of John Hopkins Middle School for two years, I brought in programs on bullying, career trends for the future and the Doorways Scholarship program. I also organized the school’s first (and only) STEM-focused career fair with an evening of hands-on activities by practicing scientists and engineers. Under my leadership, 150 JHOP students sold over $17,000 worth of cookie dough in the PTSA annual fundraiser, a 2X+ improvement over the previous year. The amazing thing is that the students accomplished this without a specific project to support. During my meeting with Dr. Grego, I presented a proposal for a school project where students would lead it from start-finish, including project definition, design, planning, purchasing, fundraising, execution and promotion. The open-ended proposal could be applied to a community enhancement project such as landscaping or the establishment and ongoing maintenance of a school garden. The educational experience and sense of accomplishment for students at the end of this project would be incredible.

5. Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?

As an engineer and technology entrepreneur with real-life work experience in the majority of industries targeted for high wage job growth in St. Petersburg (manufacturing, medical devices & life sciences, marine science & environmental technologies and information technology), I am uniquely qualified to assist with economic development and job creation. However, Dr. Webb’s question asks what ELSE I would do to improve quality of life – and for south side residents in particular. During this campaign and in my own district, I was able to get an alleyway paved by the city in less than 4 weeks for a resident who had fallen into 22nd Ave N multiple times due to poor footing in a sand alleyway between her home and a nearby bus stop. It was a matter of alerting city staff to a safety issue (in writing via email, with description, location and supporting photograph) and following up to ensure the job had been properly prioritized and completed. I must note that city staff was extremely responsive and professional during this effort - a pleasure to work with. I will (continue to) work with residents, city staff, the mayor and fellow council members to clearly define and set priority for infrastructure projects impacting quality of life by taking into account safety, severity, time in project queue and citywide distribution of effort/attention. I will communicate with residents on a regular basis regarding these projects. I will also work with code enforcement and property owners to ensure proper maintenance of land and buildings, improving the appearance of south St. Petersburg. In cases of financial distress for the owner, volunteer organizations may be recruited to assist with minor repairs or upkeep such as painting. I also support the establishment and active use of a database to tracking down owners of foreclosed properties to ensure these properties are being maintained to code standards.

Darden Rice
1.   Specifically with details, what you would do, throughout the entirety of St. Pete, to reduce crime and make the city safe for its citizens?

I will focus on three areas: police department reform, education, and city economic development. 

1.   Specific police reforms:

a.   Community policing: I support traditional community policing approaches.  Community policing is a return to neighborhood-based patrolling that fosters relationship building, community involvement, and crime prevention. We can learn from our previous experience to come up with a better program.

b.   Management Review- I will ask City Council to use its powers to vote for a management review to be conducted by a (truly) independent auditor. That will be our baseline to measure progress and to identify areas for improvement.

c.   Transparency- I will call for greater transparency in police department management. The police department is the department that operates in greatest isolation from the rest of the City departments. The first critical step in this direction is to conduct a managerial review.

d.   End high speed pursuits for suspects involved with non violent crimes such as property offenses, traffic offenses, or stolen autos.

e.   Tackle gang activity as a priority. Work with schools and recreation centers to provide meaningful after school activities for target students most vulnerable to gang recruitment.

f.     Meaningfully address issues that divide the department and impact morale. 

2.   Education – Education is the great equalizer. We have to get more kids graduating from high school who are able to enter the workforce or go on to higher education.

a.   Specifically, in the K-5 grades, we should emphasize hands-on, experiential learning and a greater focus on math and science.

b.   For grades 6-9, get kids off the street, offer programs after school, teach critical thinking and decision making skills, and get kids connected to city–sponsored robust mentorship programs.

c.   For grades 10-12, get students more involved with trades, crafts, apprenticeships, and/or college prep to get the ready for what comes after high school. 

The City certainly plays a role in education. We have to work with the school system and residents to help offer safe, supportive, and nutritional environments so that children can focus on school. We also have a lot to learn from private schools’ unique approaches to learning and high success rates.  

3.   Economic Development-   Access to good jobs and a dedication to the local economy is a critical antidote to crime because lack of opportunity is at least one undeniable factor for those who are drawn into criminal activity. I am on record for supporting strategic vocational training that will help people enter the growing medical service, marine science, finance, and IT economic sectors. My specific work background in health care, environmental resource protection, and transportation makes me uniquely qualified to look for ways for the city to grow in these cluster areas. I particularly want to focus on how the City will develop its health care services sector, which is the sector that will offer the greatest quantity of jobs and ranges of employment, from lab technicians to rehabilitation to medical device manufacturing to elder acre to medical doctors and research.  

I am the most committed and knowledgeable candidate on mass transit in this race, and I support an improved mass transit system that will connect people to jobs more easily and make our area more competitive to attract businesses and events.

The business community knows I’m the best leader in this race. That’s why key influential business organizations such as the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce and Pinellas Realtors that have scrutinized my background, vision, and plans have endorsed me in this race.  I have a proven record of setting goals and getting results.

2.   How will you work to bring neighborhoods back into the decision process? What would be your goals for neighborhood participation? 

St. Pete is a city of neighborhoods and business districts and everything we do to strengthen them will promote the uniqueness and stability of our city.  I served as VP of CONA in 2007-8 and have volunteered with numerous neighborhood groups over the last 16 years: Old Southeast, Historic Uptown, Allendale Crime Watch, and the Mirror Lake annual clean-up. I helped the Bartlett Park community garden in its first days getting started. 

I have built my career on the principles of equity, accountability, courage, public service, and engagement. I have experience bringing people together, working on issues, and inspiring people to action. My work includes starting the Green Cities campaign, co-founding Pinellas Living Green Expo, leading the League of Women Voters as President, and serving as a core participant and founder of the People’s Budget Review. I know what it takes to start, rebuild, and help grow our neighborhood associations and community coalitions.  

I support restoring funding for Neighborhood Partnerships in the budget, as well as looking outside for grants to help neighborhood organizational development. I have experience in grant writing and knowing how to leverage resources. 

The City is not doing a robust job pursuing outside grants and our current funding of Neighborhood Partnerships is zero. The codes department is a shell of its former self. There is not much activity or imagination being applied to the ways the City can better support neighborhood associations. I have a strong background in getting results for improvements in strategic leadership and organizational development for organizations. I do not think the strategies to work with our various neighborhoods are very elusive, we just have to make improving neighborhoods a priority and put some meaningful resources and staff time into it and get results via a transparent process. St. Pete at one time did this decently and we need to do it again.

As the next City Council representative for District 4, I will meet regularly with neighborhood association leaders and attend neighborhood meetings.  I will work with City staff to provide neighborhood leaders with access to a better toolbox so that they know where to find information and resources to build their neighborhoods and foster collaborative relationships with City Hall. 

 3.   Should it turn out that the public's desire is to rehab the existing Inverted Pyramid, how will you support that effort and how will you proceed?

It is so clear we have to involve the public in a much more meaningful way as we continue this process.

Based on what I have read so far, rehabbing the Pier does not seem to be a sustainable option for the long term. We cannot continue to provide subsidies to support businesses for whatever iteration of the Pier we will create. If studies show the caissons have an ability to last another 50+ years with a lighter load, then I’d be open to seeing what designs we could possibly work with and put everything on the table for the sake of fair and open discussion.   

I support City Hall envisioning its role in this process in a completely different way and working toward a new model for public engagement. We need City Hall to be a better convener, facilitator, enabler, and partner in the process, and thus be willing to move away from the traditional consultation role. By engaging in a more deliberative form of engaging the public, we can start to move away from narrow, confrontational styles that have crippled us. 

 4.   We have a number of problem schools in St. Petersburg. Specifically what will you do to help improve those schools? 

Please see where I addressed education issues previously in Question 1 and specifically how I suggest the city should play a role to support programs to help students at all levels. 

 I am very concerned about the disparate resources accorded to St. Pete compared to north County schools. The numbers alone tell the story that we do not get the same resources. The achievement gap was the basis for a successful federal lawsuit, and rightly so, yet it is not clear how the mandated monitoring of the school system is getting us any results when the demand for overdue and urgent change is staring us in the face.  

I support Mayoral and/or City Council liaisons (both elected and staff designees) who specifically work with the Pinellas County School Board on a strategic plan to address problem schools. 

I support the City helping teachers by continuing and strengthening public housing assistance programs for teachers who work in St. Pete. This type of assistance would include low interest or deferred interest home buying assistance programs.

I also strongly support the solutions put forth by the Agenda 2020 coalition to address the social and economic inequities in education.

5.   Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?

I support:

a.   The creation of a Youth Advisory Council and Task Force.

b.   Creation of the Midtown CRA/ TIF district.

c.   Bringing in another Community Health Center to support community health care needs.

d.   Historical preservation efforts in Midtown.

e.   City support for south side cultural amenities on par with support with other cultural institutions.

f.     Promoting easy access to and participation in voting, including advocating for ex-felon civil rights restoration. Continue my fight against voter suppression.

g.   Support minority business development.

 Be sure to comment below or you can e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Kathleen Ford Campaign, Darden Rice Campaign, Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman for Mayor, District 2 Lorraine Margeson
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