Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday February 9, 2014 The Battle for the South Side

It had already begun in the previous City Council meeting with the discussion about funding the Skyway Marina District Plan, it continued into the Council Workshop where the funding, already more or less agreed too underwent more scrutiny and culminated with a sometimes elevated discussion at Thursday's City Council Meeting.

You can read more in a article in Creative Loafing by Ellen Kirkland, St. Pete City Council moves confirms a shift in direction at City Hall.

Under the guise of being the City's fiscal guardian, Jim Kennedy complained about the Grant and grilled Gypsy Gallardo, and Watson Haynes President of the Pinellas County Urban League.

Kennedy complained the funding request had changed from meeting to meeting and he didn't know what he was voting for and what the Grant was expected to accomplish.

After a long pause in the role call Kennedy voted yes to as he said "show" unified support.

This is not the first time Mr. Kennedy has expressed reluctance at funding south side endeavors.

Karl Nurse, working hard to contain his emotions, said "I just don't know why it is so hard to get help to the south side".  

Mayor Kriseman left the job of defending the administrations south side position to Deputy Mayor Tomalin, who did an outstanding job of articulating where the grant was going.

All of this was an early volley in what will certainly become an escalating battle. This money was already dedicated and so no one's ox was really gored. But as the administration moves to focus on South St. Pete and moves resources in place to accomplish that goal, the money will have to come from somewhere.

Once these changes begin to impact downtown, Beach Drive and old Northeast look for the fire to fly.

Right now Kennedy is basically alone in his outward opposition, but Dudley is not far behind and Gerdes may begin to feel some pressure out West if some of the Administration's campaign promises to look past 34th street are not also in the mix.

The real view will emerge as the Kriseman Administration puts together its 2015 budget.

The supporters of the 2020 Plan, and other Southside efforts should take a lesson from Thursday's meeting. The Administrations heart is in the right place. They want to move forward with a strong Southside initiative that deals with the real problems. But this is not a slam dunk.

There are very powerful forces that will oppose those moves and everyone working on south side issues needs to come to every meeting, every committee, well prepared with facts.

Grants requests, program plans, reports and audits must be rock solid. Leaving Council members confused is an open invitation for them to back away.

I believe the Kriseman Administration will do everything they can to make the Southside initiative work, but they also need all the help they can get.

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