Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Your Candidates Speak About Neighborhoods

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

Each candidate was asked five questions taken from submissions from PATCH readers.

Here I bring each candidates answer to a specific question.

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

Mayoral Candidates
Bill Foster:
Repeated e-mails to the Foster campaign and a telephone call resulted in NO RESPONSE from the Mayor.

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

This is important. St. Pete is strongest when CONA (Council of Neighborhood Associations) is strong. Neighborhood leaders will have a seat at the table when I’m mayor.

District 2
James R. "Jim" Kennedy, Jr.:
Following repeated e-mails there was NO RESPONSE

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

Restoring the Neighborhood Partnership staff and programs would go a LONG way to aid more neighborhood associations in attracting and supporting volunteers, more volunteers need to come back into the process.  Also, folks like myself might need to speak with, REMIND neighborhood leadership of what can be done when a strong team develops and comes together between government and the people

District 4
Carolyn Fries
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.

Darden Rice
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.

District 6
Karl Nurse
How will you work to bring neighborhoods back into the decision process? What would be your goals for neighborhood participation?
Neighborhoods – I was a neighborhood President under Mayor David Fischer and CONA President during Rick Baker’s term as Mayor.  I believe the co-operation between neighborhoods and city administration was best during David Fischer’s tenure.  A high level city employee who is clearly responsible to lead the turnaround of neighborhoods is critical along with additional funds to leverage private investment.  The steady cuts in codes, neighborhoods, public service reps and housing, all contribute to the lessening impact that the city is having to turn neighborhoods around.   I will work to help recreate a model similar to the Fischer years.

Sharon Russ:
Repeated e-mails and a phone call produced  No Response

District 8
Amy Foster
How will you work to bring neighborhoods back into the decision process? What would be your goals for neighborhood participation?

St. Petersburg has a rich history with many active and engaged people, neighborhoods, and communities. Residents deserve responsive city services and my vision for moving St. Petersburg forward includes open, accessible communication with city government, businesses, neighborhood associations, and residents to identify and solve problems collectively. Neighborhoods and engaged citizens have traditionally been able to solve problems that government can’t solve alone. I think we need to build upon this asset and also help develop neighborhood associations where they are fledging or no leadership is available.

My job is all about scaling success and I see a rich opportunity in our neighborhoods to share best practices, build community, and help each other in the process. One example locally includes Historic Kenwood working with Central Oak Park and North Kenwood as their neighborhood associations reformed. The presidents all communicate regularly, have shared speakers and ideas for forming crime watches, and even hosted a joint meeting for Greenlight Pinellas. I’d like to see the city and CONA take a more active role in facilitating this type of collaboration, as well as an active role in recruiting leadership for neighborhoods when it is non-existent.

I’m a big believer in cross agency collaboration. We need someone within the city that helps coordinate neighborhoods, that also works with codes, nuisance abatement, the police officers, etc. Former neighborhood association leaders have asked for a return of Neighborhood Planning Teams and I can see where this cross agency approach is deeply needed-especially if you are a new association.

I would build on the city’s neighborhood revitalization efforts by increasing the use of N-Team Assistance and increase funding for neighborhood partnership grants. Both programs leverage resources by utilizing volunteers and the sweat equity of residents and other caring committed individuals. I would find additional funding for the neighborhood partnership grants through the use of Weeki Wachee funds or by streamlining of other processes like billing and collections. I will prioritize funding based on the biggest need and the best return on investment to have the biggest impact. I have expertise in federal grant writing and will use this experience to solicit funds for projects as needed. I am also really excited by new crowd funding platforms like Citizenvestor which can help fund projects cities don’t have funding for.

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

I support the methods employed by the Pier Task Force and the People’s Budget Review.  Even the multiple meetings about the Lens moderated by different council members was helpful, particularly the one with Charlie Gerdes because he made an effort to be unbiased.     While holding multiple meetings on the same topic is certainly not the most efficient way to get something done, it is the only way in a city our size with a  busy population to get as many  different neighborhoods as possible participating in the decision process.  The meetings must be brought to the people and the City administration must well publicize them and far in advance.  Our local clergy can be invaluable and should be asked by City staff to assist in publicizing meetings and encouraging people to get involved.  They are respected members of their communities and reach a lot of people each week. Publication in church bulletins and an announcement from the pulpit about issues and projects  affecting the neighborhood should be requested by City administration.  For too long it has seemed that the mayor and council members prefer not to have the “interference” of the people in their decision making that impacts us all.   I was in favor of, and am  encouraged by Council’s recent approval of, the Citizen Voting Platform offered by St. Pete Polls in which citizens can call in and express their opinion on city projects in a multiple choice format.

Unfortunately, not all neighborhoods have particularly well attended association meetings.  The CONA website provides space for all the neighborhoods to post their meetings and events, but no one bothers to update many of them.  I would like to see the City post each neighborhood association’s regular meeting dates and places on its website.    My wife and I belong to our neighborhood association and we attend the meetings.  As a councilman, my goal is to attend the meetings of each neighborhood association in my district every month so that my constituents will know that they can speak with me personally on the issues that concern them.

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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