Wednesday, April 30, 2014

THE GREENLIGHT Interlocal Agreements

Here is a link to a good discussion of the talks on the undefined Interlocal Agreements that are part of the Sales Tax Ordinance:  County and PSTA hash out interlocal

Be sure to read this link.

Here are some notable quotes:

"The tax has no duration unlike Penny for Pinellas,” Bennett said. “The project, especially rail, is very ambitious. It has many moving parts.” Bennett is the Pinellas County attorney

While the PSTA in its political campaign says the sales tax will replace the Property tax:

"One point specifies that the County can withhold distribution of transit surtax proceeds and/or reduce the levy if PSTA ever decides to levy ad valorem taxes. The Greenlight plan calls for a “tax swap” – a transit surtax in place of the ad valorem tax – not double taxation."

Know this: voting yes for the Sale Tax referendum DOES NOT end the Property Tax. Only the State Legislature can do that.

Follow this: Here we have the PSTA Board who wrote the Sales Tax Ordinance, many of whose members are also on the Pinellas County Commission which will approve and enforce any interlocal agreement regarding the funds.

In other words, the people who will be responsible for collecting the funds from the State and setting the rules for their distribution, the Pinellas County Commission, these same people set on the PSTA Board of Directors and they are the people who want to get their hands on the money mostly to build a train to nowhere.

I know... go back and read it again.

The article above goes on to say "Municipalities would need to work out their own agreement for reimbursement."

Once the PSTA has what will likely be an interlocal agreement with the County that looks like Swiss cheese and $130 million dollars in annual revenue, just how well do you think those negotiations with the "other municipalities' will go?

The PSTA and the County Commissioners who are on the PSTA Board are now in a panic to get an interlocal agreement, since the issue has been raised.

They want something in place before the election so they can point to something they will call "agreements", but remember these agreements are NOT part of the Ordinance, they will not be law, and they can and will be manipulated to the benefit of those who would build a train at any cost.

If the PSTA and the County wanted these controls they should have been built into the Ordinance so they would have the force of law.

The Pinellas County Commission and the PSTA and its Board are now trying to put lipstick on the pig, and I for one am not buying it.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet, WATCHDOGWIRE-FLORIDA and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks
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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Deputy Mayor and the PD

St. Petersburg's new deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin is getting an up close and personal introduction to the politics at the St. Petersburg Police Department.

In an article in the Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg deputy mayor reveals what led her to halt police promotions, Kameel Stanley reports on a conversation with the new Deputy Mayor about the widely reported meeting at the Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Church where Assistant Policed Chief Luke Williams and several other officers were in attendance and concerns were expressed about the recent promotional process.

I think Mayor Kriseman needs to get the Deputy Mayor and her side kick Ms. Gaskin-Capehart's fingers out of the Police Department right now. Neither has any significant experience in law enforcement or the politics of the St. Pete PD.

Ms. Tomalin was not elected by the people Mayor Kriseman was, I understand the concept of Deputy Mayor, but the PD, it's polices and decisions should be the purview of the elected Mayor.

The issues of Policing and the Police Chief were a central concern in the election and the Mayor should not punt the responsibility for this most critical issue to a Deputy Mayor with limited experience.

"There is an undercurrent that just seems to be simmering," Tomalin said.

"The cultural concerns had been around for a while," Gaskin-Caperhart said. "This isn't new."

The under current that Deputy Mayor Tomalin is sensing is more than about internal political posturing in the management ranks at the PD and external agitation by former PD members than in the rank and file.

In a recent in depth conversation with Mark Marland, the PBA (Police Union) President we spoke at length about the racial issue at the St. Pete PD. Marland's position is there is no simmering racial undercurrent in the patrol officer ranks at the PD.

Perhaps the Deputy Mayor should do some independent research encompassing a broader base and get a fuller picture of the playing field.

To set the context, I was the IT Manager at the ST. Petersburg PD for five years, I retired in 2011.

I agree with the PBA President's view. Personally I saw a lot more racial tension at the management level than I did in the patrol ranks.

The selection of a new Police Chief should not be influenced by a small group of retired Police officials who would like to continue to have a say in how the PD operates. Further, the new Police Chief needs to be a Police Chief for all of St. Petersburg not for any specific section or group.

Mayor Kriseman needs to be solely in charge of  the Police Chief selection process and remove anyone from that process has any ties to the PD be they family, friend, relative or retiree and conduct an open, impartial search and evaluation to select the best candidate for a new chief. 

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks
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Friday, April 25, 2014

How Do You Redevelop a County With a Train?

The Greenlight Pinellas plan and the upcoming tax referendum to support it is more about redevelopment than it is about public transportation.

The front piece of the marketing effort to get voters to pass this $130 million a year tax is the proposed expansion of the existing bus system. That's the wrapper on the package but it is not the content. Inside the package is a 2 plus billion dollar commuter train.

Interestingly there is no mandate in the Ordinance you are being asked to approve that the bus system actually be expanded. Only a vague promise to expand bus service..

Pinellas County is one of the most densely populated counties in Florida. Development was relatively uncontrolled due to the existence of 24 municipalities with differing goals and zoning codes. Generally the County is built low 1 to 2 stories, retail is sprawled out all over the County and there are widely dispersed areas of office, manufacturing and educational centers.

The real problem is given the large number of municipalities and  the density of the population, large scale redevelopment is almost impossible unless you have some form of over arching governmental authority.

Enter PSTA.

What better way to start a major redevelopment effort in Pinellas County than to create a tax payer funded project that will hack a major corridor from downtown St. Pete to downtown Clearwater passing through a number of jurisdictions and some pretty valuable real estate.

This disruption, the construction of a light rail line using tax payer money to buy and eminent domain to take private property, would cause a major shift in everything from retail and commercial development to housing.

It really doesn't matter if no one rides the train, the real money will be made during the construction as speculators, realtors and developers buy and sell land around the project and to PSTA. And it is your tax money they will be playing with.

That is the real goal of the Greenlight Yes supporters. They don't put up the kind of money they're investing in this effort just so poor people can get a ride to work.

 In fact, it is somewhat obvious that "public transportation" is not the real goal or the train would run down to south St. Pete and run up to Tarpon springs so it could be close to the people who actually need and use public transportation.

Do your home work, read the Greenlight Pinellas Tax Ordinance .

 Look at the list of high powered supporters of this tax increase and then ask yourself this question.

Do I really want to hand $130 million a year over to this group to fund the borrowing of 2 Billion dollars in bonds so they can tie up the sales tax for decades to come, build a train few will likely ride, while many of them make a fortune from the project?

If you like that concept vote YES.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Is Greenlight Pinellas the New LENS?

One of my Post readers recently commented "Thanks, Doc! You are the most reliable source of info on this subject. Kind of reminds me of the Pier debacle the way they're going about this."

I appreciate the compliment but more importantly the comparison of the Greenlight effort to the Pier started me thinking.

While the projects differ greatly in scope, in both cases we have a large scale project where a lot of the power players rounded up a lot of politicians and put together a project which fails to support the needs and desires of the public.

The LENS was a product of careful manipulation of public meetings, an ignored report of citizen suggestions and a small group of power players and politicians, some of whom stood to benefit greatly, pushing a project that became increasingly unpopular.

LENS opponents were denigrated and ignored, by politicians, the Chamber of Commerce and then St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster. Their statistics were questioned, their petitions ignored until a group of almost
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Disappointing

It was widely reported last week that the Tiger Bay Meeting featuring PSTA Board Chairman Ken Welch and No Tax for Tracks leader Barbara Haselden turned less than civil.

Read here:
In the St. Petersburg Tribune: Accusations abound at Greenlight gathering by Kate Bradshaw
In the Blog Saintpetersblog: Greenlight Pinellas spending officially under state investigation by William Patrick

I don't know Ken Welch really well; I have always found him to be a very personable and civil individual, typical of the Welch family that has a long history of public service to St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

Welch's quote “In the ranking of misinformation, there are lies, darn lies and statistics, and I would add to that statistics in the hands of No Tax for Tracks,” Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch said, seemed a bit out of context for a person who usually stays on point and on message. Particularly interesting given that most of the No Tax for Tracks statistics are taken from PSTA's own presentations.

Perhaps the PSTA Board Chairman is starting to have some second thoughts about the whole Sales Tax
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Through a Donkey's Eyes

The day started normally the keeper of the flock singled out a few goats and a couple of us donkeys to take to the market place in a small village just outside of Jerusalem.

I had made this trip before. I was often put up for sale but I have never been ridden and a little hostile action sent most would be buyers looking elsewhere for a donkey.

The trip from the fields to the village was uneventful, but there did seem to more people than normal on the road and they were carrying palm fronds and seemed very excited, all very upsetting to me.
Once at the market things went pretty much as usual, a lot of lookers but no one seemed particularly interested in buying me.

As the day wore on, activity at the market dropped off as people headed back to the road to see a new King that was coming to Jerusalem.

My owners packed up and lead me to a small inn where I was tied to a hitch rack outside while they had something to eat and drink.

Suddenly two men arrived and began to untie my line. The owners shouted, "Hey what are you doing with our donkey?" The men replied, "The Master has need of your donkey". The owners bowed as the men unhitched my line. I felt no need to buck or pull away; there was a strange feeling in my soul to go where I was needed.

In a short time we arrived at a throng of people, in their midst a man like no man I had ever seen. His eyes met mine and I knew that this was no mortal human.

As they threw their cloaks on my back, at first I shivered and wanted to throw them off, but then the man, this King, was at my side and laid his hand on me. All fear left me.

As they sat him on my back warmth filled my being and we headed toward the great City.
The trip was not long the cloaks and palm fronds made stepping a bit treacherous, but there was always the steady hand leading me to the final destination.

The crowd was cheering, as the man climbed off my back. Our eyes once again met. This time he looked sad and deeply concerned. His eyes moved to the City for a moment then for some reason back to mine.
There was a loving smile, I could only close my eyes in response, and when I opened them he was gone.
The two who had found me returned me to the village where surprisingly my owners still waited.

We returned to the fields but I was never again taken to the market for sale. Sometimes in the cool of the evening my owners would come to my place in the field and sit and tell stories to their children about the day the King road me to Jerusalem.

The children would often come and pet me gently, and the warmth of that day would once again fill my body.

May the blessing of Easter be yours.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sunday April 13, 2014 Nibbling at the Edges - Funding the Vision

This week St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman set out the results of his first 100 days in office and the Vision that he will pursue for the City. You can read some of my observations at Kriseman First 100 Days - 5 Questions

The trust of my 5 questions in the Post is where the money to make the Vision appear will come from?

The Kriseman administration would have us believe that they will simply shift some funds around and all will be well. The implication may even be that most of the shifting will come from comparable programs and so it would be kind of a tit for tat from the funding perspective.

However in my Post Casual Conversation With Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, The Deputy Mayor said this: "A lot of the shift that we are exploring and will probably make has to do with boxes we have been able to check. As we continue to evolve as a City, there will be things and infrastructure that require significant investment at one point, we do that, we build that house, and then we are able to move on. Ideally we won't have 'losers,' necessarily. We will be able to shift our priorities to reflect those things we have not been able to attend to before."

The problem here is the City's infrastructure. Some of those "houses" the Deputy Mayor mentions are in a pretty poor state of repair. Drive around and note the streets. Go to a park look at the landscaping. The water system and the sanitary sewer and storm water systems are all in need of serious work.

Here's the point. If the Kriseman administration takes funding from the social support programs the arts, the homeless, or anything that affects Beach Drive or the Chamber they will scream like a cat dropped in hot water and the media will be all over it.

On the other hand if the administration through the Budget process starts taking funding from IT, Public Works which includes Storm Water, Pavement and Traffic Operations, Sanitation, Water Resources,  and  Leisure Services which includes Golf Courses, Libraries, Parks and Recreation  and maybe a small nibble from Police and Fire those directors have no megaphone, no safe public stage to set forth the real impact of any "shift" they will just do what you do when you have fewer resources, they will do less.

The whole budget process needs to be very transparent, and the actual impacts of these moves need to be disclosed and not sugar coated so both the public and City Council can review them and make serious recommendations.

The Vision is commendable and the Goals for South St. Pete are absolutely on target, but care must be taken to not quietly strip out needed resources and end up leaving all of St. Pete worse off than when the Vision effort began.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
Disclosures: Contributor to
No Tax for Tracks



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Friday, April 11, 2014

PSTA and Greenlight Moving to the Defensive

Some late polling shows PSTA and their billion dollar GreenLight tax grab may be in trouble. You can see the results of the Saintpetersblog sanctioned Poll by St. Pete Polls at New Poll shows Greenlight Pinellas in grave trouble.

Summary 48% opposed, 23% unsure, 29% approve.

In the Saintpetersblog Post, Brad Miller is quoted: “I, and dozens of Pinellas elected officials including the PSTA Board are traveling the county to educate our residents on this plan. We continually are told by seniors, veterans and families that they want and need this plan. People like the idea of removing the PSTA property tax and sharing the costs with our visitors.”

First the sales tax referendum does NOT eliminate the property tax, only the state legislature can do that and so far they have not shown much inclination to move forward. Typical PSTA Administration and Board double speak.

Second, I don't share Mr. Miller's enthusiasm for our visitor's contribution to his sales tax effort. It doesn't take many tourists deciding to go up to Pasco or down to Manatee County to avoid the high bed taxes and highest sales tax in the state to have a substantial economic impact.

Finally, note the band of traveling supporters; PSTA staff and local politicians. Notably missing, anyone from the general public. In fact you might want to note who these "elected officials" are that are willing to stick you with a 14% increase in your sales tax, and take that into account when they come up for reelection. You can see a list of the elected officials on the PSTA Board here PSTA Board of Directors.

No doubt, given the amount of your tax dollars PSTA is willing to spend to sell you this boondoggle, they will shop around and find a pollster who will gladly provide them a contra poll. Look for those results to be highly touted in the supporting local media.

This Referendum item is not about public transportation, it's all about the biggest uncontrolled money grab in recent history. You can read the actual Ordinance (Law) you will be approving if you vote yes at Greenlight Pinellas Tax Ordinance.

 Click this link and read it. Where are the controls, where is the requirement in the Ordinance that the bus system be expanded, what are those "to be determined interlocal agreements"?

This is your money we are talking about.

This sales tax referendum is the most poorly conceived, poorly thought out, misleading ballot initiative to be put forth in Pinellas County in the last decade including the questionable ethics and tactics being used by PSTA to promote it.

Some elected officials like Jeff Brandes are starting to ask the right questions.

The only way to GO on GreenLight is to vote NO.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet, WATCHDOGWIRE-FLORIDA and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kriseman First 100 Days - 5 Questions

People seem to make a lot of new Mayors first 100 days.  The Kriseman administration has put forth a bewildering series of statements detailing the Mayor's first 100 days in office. You can see a Video of the New Vision at New Vision Values and Strategic Pathways.

Interested in Former Mayor Bill Foster's first 100 days? Check out Peter Schorsch on Bill Fosters first 100 days .

There is not a lot written about the first 100 days of the Baker Administration. The primary reason being; we were all too busy trying to keep up with the new Mayor and what he wanted done - NOW.

Kriseman and his senior staff have laid out an impressive Vision, and one that I quite frankly think the City staff can buy into. But this new Vision will require the new Mayor and his senior staff to take some strong and unpopular positions.

Case in point in my post A Casual Conversation with St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin the new Deputy Mayor touched very lightly on what will soon become a major issue when she said, "I think the most significant thing we can accomplish is aligning resources with our priorities in a way that sustains beyond our time here. We have a Budget that isn't necessarily completely aligned with where the City would like to go." It's all about the value proposition in my mind," Dr Tomalin continued. "And it translating the work we're doing in the realignment of the Budget, in a way the community understands how their investment is best serving them."

Translation: We are going to move some money around to make all of this happen. Somebody's ox is going to get gored.

If you read through the links, watch the video, and read the 100 day accomplishments they look pretty impressive and to some degree they are, but a lot of the things on those long lists are just the City staff doing
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Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Peoples Budget Review and Greenlight Pinellas - Strange Bedfellows

When The Peoples Budget Review (PBR) was launched, William Mansell reported in PATCH:  The Peoples Budget Review Launches "This is a grassroots campaign to give those who live and work in St. Pete a voice in the city’s budgeting process," said USF St. Pete student and People's Budget review organizer Christian Haas. 

From Their website Peoples Budget Review they say "At the local level, the budget is one of the most important policy decisions that impacts our quality of life. It’s the process through which we prioritize our shared resources for basic services that keep clean water in our homes, police on our streets, and books in our libraries. Unfortunately, every year the overwhelming majority of residents have little, if any, say-so in these local budget decisions. The groups who typically speak the loudest are special interests, while tens of thousands of everyday people remain on the sidelines. The People’s Budget review seeks to give those silent thousands a way to speak out. We believe that you don’t need to be an economist or an accountant to know what matters most in your community. That’s why we’ve been going door-to-door, into public spaces, and using social media to bring the people’s most pressing priorities directly to elected officials. We invite you to be one of them."

The question becomes why would a group that purports itself to be about the people and fiscal responsibility support a Sales Tax increase that conforms to none of their stated objectives?

In the Greenlight Pinellas Tax Ordinance that voters are being asked to approve, there are no fiscal controls, no commitment to expanding the bus system and only vague references to interlocal agreements for something undefined and a lot of talk about bonds.
 
When you boil it all down this Tax referendum is just that a tax referendum. It is NOT about public transportation, it is about putting $130 million dollars annually in the hands of those who have already proven they don't manage public funds very well and that are overly influenced by the same power brokers in this County that will benefit most from a train that goes nowhere near where public transportation is needed.

There is nothing wrong with supporting public transportation and a tax that provides for it, but this tax proposal does not work for anybody but the special interests.

Perhaps the folks leading the PBR are simply trying to move themselves back onto the center stage of the local media. Perhaps they are trying to curry some favor with the local establishment. Whatever the case their support for GreenLight Pinellas defies understanding.

The PBR needs to forget about the train and the buses and follow the money. That's what they said they are all about. If the PBR is really about the money its control and responsible use for the public good, there is no way this Ordinance will pass a careful inspection.

The folks at the Peoples Budget review need to put down their press clippings and do their home work.

 e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet, WATCHDOGWIRE-FLORIDA and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks


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Friday, April 4, 2014

Greenlight Pinellas are They Following the Rules?

The Pinellas Suncoast transit Authority, PSTA continues to come under scrutiny for its direct campaigning to pass a 14% sales tax increase and raise its revenue by almost 300%

If there was ever a case of misusing public funds to feather their own nest this is it.

State Senator Jeff Brandes R. St. Petersburg has requested the Florida Department of Transportation's inspector general conduct a review of the PSTA GreenLight publicity campaign. You can read more in Christopher O'Donnell's Tampa Bay Tribune article: Pinellas agency Greenlight spending questioned.

There is more detail on the Brandes request at Saintpetersblog: Sen. Jeff Brandes calls for audit of Greenlight Pinellas.

The inquiry should probably be referred to the Florida Ethics Commission and some questions asked about the propriety of PSTA board appointed public officials being part of this effort and also PSTA's successful effort to eliminate any dissenting voices from its Board.

In any case the whole Greenlight effort is starting to smell like two day old Florida road kill in July.

The sales tax referendum is not about an expanded bus system it is all about passing a poorly written Ordinance that immediately triples PSTA's revenue with no controls included in the Ordinance. You can read the Ordinance here Greenlight Pinellas Tax Ordinance.

There are no commitments in the Ordinance to actually expand the bus system, only PSTA's vague promises, and there is more in the Ordinance about bonds than buses.

The objective of the PSTA and its high profile supporters is to get the sales tax passed; spin off a bond issue to build the train that does not go where it should and no one will ride, and tie up this sales tax and the revenue it generates for decades to come.

That's the story that needs to reach the residents of Pinellas County.

Either the Florida department of Transportation or the Ethics Commission needs to step in, do a full scale investigation and while they are at it strongly suggest that some of the YES people on the board be replaced with some dissenting voices.

Given the efforts of the PSTA Administration, the Board and YES-GreenLight and the lengths to which they have already gone, no voter in Pinellas County in their right mind should even consider voting yes on this referendum and turning over and additional $100 Million annually for these people to mismanage.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb)Friend request. See More of Doc at Bay Post Internet and St.Pete Patch, Gulfport Patch, Clearwater Patch, Palm Harbor Patch, Largo Patch.
Disclosures: Contributor to No Tax for Tracks
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Casual Conversation with St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin Part II

Dr. Tomalin is an engaging person. She focuses in and makes great eye contact. When you talk to her it would be a good idea to be ready to really listen. The thoughts and words come quickly.

As you can see in Part I of A Casual Conversation with St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, she is rapidly developing a good grasp of the challenges that are before the Kriseman Administration.

Our conversation continued as I asked this question, "Other than the Budget; what are some of the other challenges you see over the next four years?"

"I think it is being effective communicators," Dr. Tomalin continued, "So the 250,000 people we come to serve every day understand just how much we are doing towards their best interests."

"What is your overall view of St. Petersburg," I asked?

"St. Petersburg is an unbelievable City that is just on the cusp of its greatness." "Defined by a visionary, progressive population, that is ready to be about its potential." "It's all about the people." "It is a City that is
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Casual Conversation with St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin Part I

The Deputy Mayor is a busy person, so it took some time to clear a spot on her calendar, but we finally managed to set down last week for casual conversation around noon at City Hall. As I quickly discovered, the conversation may be casual but the subject matter with the new Deputy Mayor is intense. 

Dr. Tomalin was born and raised here in St. Petersburg and is the 5th generation of her family to live here. 

Dr. Tomalin's undergraduate degree is in Journalism and her post graduate degree is in Business.

She began her professional career at Bayfront Health Systems and was there for about 14 years. 

Her responsibilities included communications and strategic planning.

As we settled in, I asked Dr. Tomalin, "What led you to public service?"

Dr. Tomalin replied, "From a very young age I was fortunate to grow up in a family where public service and giving back is really not optional; it is a way of life."

"What do you see as your primary role here as Deputy Mayor", I asked?

"Serving as an extension of the Mayor's reach", Dr. Tomalin replied. "The Mayor has a significant commitment to making some transcendent changes here in our community and his vision extends far beyond
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