Friday, January 30, 2015

Two of the faces of South St. Petersburg



Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

This past Tuesday, Police Chief Tony Holloway and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman held the third of a series of community town hall meetings. 

The objective of these meetings is to meet with residents of the south side neighborhoods and get insight as to how to improve the relationship with south side residents, City Hall and the Police Department. This meeting was held at Gibbs high school.

South side residents were there, the Mayor was there, the Police Chief was there, Council member Steve Kornell was there as was Council member Karl nurse. All the rest of City Council was notably absent.

The issues with south St. Pete are not going too resolved until all of the City Council stays engaged.

A short time into the meeting, which is essentially a table top meeting where small groups give input to the City staff, a young man began yelling his grievances in a loud voice from the back of the room. He was angry and frustrated his face, as in the picture above, showed both the anger and the fear that exists in South St. Pete. Most of those in attendance stopped to listen, many just kept on talking at their table.

Across the room another young man also pictured above spent his time talking about the issues and his experiences with the police department in a calm and at times tearful way. Focused on the opportunity, he tried to give meaningful input.

It would be easy to write off the frustrated, yelling and angry young man, but that would be a big mistake. I think these two young men represent the breadth of the problems in south St. Pete and define the scope of the problem at hand.

There are many who find themselves between these ends of this spectrum. Many who long for a solution to a problem decades in the making.

These faces are the faces that must find those solutions.

 I am not sure what the answers are, but a few meetings, some cops getting out of their patrol cars and walking around, while a good start cannot overcome the range of these emotions.

Finding the solutions will take everyone.

Be sure to scroll through my Gallery of photos at St. Pete Town Hall Meeting.  The faces really tell the story.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hillsborough County a bipolar problem with public education



Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

The recent firing of the Hillsborough County Superintendent of schools showcases what I think is a major shortcoming in Florida’s educational system.

The highly political elected school board seems to be failing the students and parents it purports to represent.

The scenario is all too common. A school district like Hillsborough or Pinellas for that matter gets into serious trouble, usually due to the bumbling of an incompetent and overly political School Board.

Enough new Board members get elected that want to effect a change and they go out and hire a new Superintendent that has a reputation as a change agent. The new superintendent shows up, does what change agents do, they start to change things.

Teachers bitch and complain, parents complain, coaches complain, and sooner or later, most often sooner than later, the Superintendent gets crossways with one or more Board members and the pettiness of the political process takes hold.

Such it appears was the case in Hillsborough with the firing of MaryEllen Elia.

MaryEllen Elia was appointed Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools in 2005. Earlier this month, Elia was honored as a candidate for Florida's Superintendent of the Year.

Board member April Griffin has a long history of clashes with Elia since taking office in 2009. She has lead the charge against Elia.

Sally Harris, one the recently elected School Board members, who cast the swing vote to can the superintendent and who is too new to have a real record with Elia said in an interview with Tampa Bay Times columnist Sue Carlton, Harris: she voted for the firing because she felt the relationship between Elia and the board was irretrievably broken.

Really!

You can take that as political speak for making sure you don’t get on the wrong side of the Board power brokers and a classic example of why the school board system fails to work.

With all of the positive comments from politicians, business and the public about Elia, the School Board as a body has to be feeling a little stupid.

The issue of Elia’s contract and salary came up a number of times and one has to wonder if there wasn’t some petty jealousy regarding Elia’s compensation package. Apparently the Board isn’t too fiscally conservative since they feel justified in spending a Million dollars of the public’s money just to get their petty way.

I suspect that money could have been put too much better use.

The question now is, who will be willing to step up and take on the Superintendent’s role? Will it be another change agent, or will the Board be looking for someone they can walk all over?

More appropriately who in their right mind would want to work for this School Board as a Superintendent.

My guess is given this School Board, its make up and character, public schools in Hillsborough County are going to get a lot worse, before they get any better.



E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday January 25, 2015 Is Kriseman Moving to an Imperial City Hall?

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb

Being Mayor of any large City is not really a fun job. Oh, if you ask them they will all smile and tell you how wonderful it is to be Mayor, but in reality it is constant stream of unending problems they can’t solve, issues they can’t resolve and requests they can’t grant.  The hours are long and the rewards are few. The job takes a real toll on families and careers.

It’s not uncommon after a while in office, mayors’ start looking for some relief from all of the problems, issues and exposures that come with the job. Most common approach is to build a staff wall to filter access.

The recent moves by Mayor Kriseman to restructure access to the Mayors office have a familiar ring.
               
 You can read the details in Janelle Irwin’s Post in saintpetersblog, In new guidelines, Rick Kriseman narrows City Council’s access to Mayor’s Office.

Kriseman is the first Mayor in St. Pete history to bring in an entire top staff immediately upon taking office. Now the Mayor seems to be isolating himself inside that circle, while restricting access to the top team. By isolating the Chief of staff (Kevin King) and the deputy Mayor (Kanika Tomalin) Kriseman appears to be putting in place a hierarchy between himself, the Mayors’ office, staff and the rest of the elected City Council members.

On the surface it may seem plausible to restrict some access to the Mayor’s top team since some council members can be a bit pesky The problem is once this type of structure gets in place it’s not long before it will start being applied to the public in general.

Kriseman campaigned on a platform of openness and this seems to be a step in the other direction. The Mayor needs to be careful about putting to many barriers between him and the people outside the inner circle.

Open, unfettered and unfiltered communication between the Mayor, his staff, administrators, directors, managers, City Council members and the public in general is the key to his continued success. Once that input is filtered through, the Chief of staff, deputy Mayor or Communication Director the Mayor looses touch, and that can lead to real problems.

We certainly haven’t moved to a royal court yet, be it appears we may have taken a small step in that direction.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
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Friday, January 23, 2015

A Conversation with Rob Davidson and his Staff, of Davidson Fine Art Gallery about the St. Pete Arts Scene Part 5



To get some perspective about the St. Pete Arts scene, earlier in the month I sat down with Rob
Davidson and his staff of Davidson's Fine Art Gallery to get the view of a long time member of the St. Petersburg Arts scene.

This is the last of a 5 Post series where Rob Davidson talks about his Gallery, the Arts in St. Pete and how he sees the future of the arts in St. Petersburg. 

My Questions are in Bold

"What do you think is the biggest value the arts community provides to the City and its citizens," I asked
I think what it provides is a unique character to the City that's going to draw people here," Rob began."

"I see St. Pete in its heyday as a place where people are actually going because of the arts. To keep the unique flavor of the City, to not try to be Tampa and work with what's already here.

"In addition the arts community serves to preserve the City's historical past. "We used tear down older buildings but now can't just do that"

Amada added, "It is interesting that people are ordering historical prints from us".

"We work with the History museum and they have historical shots, we cleaned them up for McNulty Station printed them on canvas and had a lot of people ask us about them as we were printing them up."

Rob added, "So if we can build projects with communal studios and maybe living space, where people can immerse themselves in their art and not have to work three jobs just to meet their daily household expenses."

What do you think about the Arts Warehouse project?
"That's a good project. It's the kind of thing that needs to happen," Rob began.

"We needed to make space for art and make space for artists and make affordable space with maybe living quarters within where people can immerse themselves in their art and not have to work three jobs just to make the rent."

If you get into communal situations like that, you are building neighborhoods and kind of pulling the community in so that you use the arts to reach out to the community. Once you start fixing neighborhoods up, that kind of stuff is contagious. 

"Get arts projects into the community, reach out to the community, and build with the community to get a lot of these public art things going and that to me is the future of St. Petersburg.  So people can come down here to St. Pete and enjoy not only the environment but the arts and the arts community." Rob concluded.

The Davidson Fine Art Gallery us located at 2036 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712, the Phone Number is 727-827-1888. Right across the Street from Haslems Book Store.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Conversation with Rob Davidson, of Davidson Fine Art Gallery about the St. Pete Arts Scene Part 4



To get some perspective about the St. Pete Arts scene, earlier in the month I sat down with Rob
Davidson and his staff of Davidson's Fine Art Gallery to get the view of a long time member of the St. Petersburg Arts scene.

This is the fourth of a 5 Post series where Rob Davidson talks about his Gallery, the Arts in St. Pete and how he sees the future of the arts in St. Petersburg. 

My Questions are in Bold

"Have the "art walks" been successful for you?" I began.
"You know, we used to be on the Trolley stop and it never really did anything for us. We had nights where there would be two or three people all night long so we dropped off of that. I am considering getting back into it since it looks like they are putting a little more effort into the program."

What do you think it will take to move the St. Pete arts district to the next level?
"I think you have got to stay with the grass roots thing," Rob replied.

 "I don't think we should try to become Miami or something. I think what the City needs to do is to do more projects with artists, taking buildings that the City owns and turning them into communal artist spaces. I know there is already doing something like this but they need to do more of that."

"Then instead of gentrifying a neighborhood by moving the art scene in and then jacking the rents up like they did in the 600 block. That place is going to get hollowed out because they jacked up the
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Conversation with Rob Davidson, of Davidson Fine Art Gallery about St. Pete Arts Scene Part 3


To get some perspective about the St. Pete Arts scene, earlier in the month I sat down with Rob Davidson and his staff of Davidson's Fine Art Gallery to get the view of a long time member of the St. Petersburg Arts scene.

This is the third of a 5 Post series where Rob Davidson talks about his Gallery, the Arts in St. Pete and how he sees the future of the arts in St. Petersburg. 

My Questions are in Bold

"Let's talk about the St. Pete art scene. From your perspective, how are things going in the arts district." I asked?
Rob begins, "I think it's great. I think it is a real grass roots kind of thing it's happening on its own. It's not like the City is saying, let's start a bunch of galleries up and down Central Avenue, it's just kind of happening."

"I think the City kind of likes to attach to that, but it's happening on its own. I don't think the City is driving the arts scene, the arts scene is driving the City."

"I am getting people through the doors that come in for the art supplies that say I was living in California and I just like St. Pete and I moved here for the art."

Rob continues, "I think there is this kind of grass roots thing that is happening with all of these artists coming together combined with a low cost of living and nice weather, along with everything else this area has going for it.  So you can be a new artist and come here and it's not like going to Manhattan or something and stepping off the bus and saying ok whose going to show my work?"

"Here you will find someone to show your work. There are enough small galleries here that if you want to take the time and work your career up this is a terrific town to do it.  There are plenty of places to display your work."

Rob continued, "There is kind of a gorilla aspect to it with all the murals and art that you can't sell. There is art done for art. For me, that's giving new color to the City and its attracting artists who want to work in this way. It seems like the whole City is open to art."

"The City sees art is the future. It's not the base ball team. Art is the thing that's going to bring people here and you also have the baby boom generation who are retiring and moving down here and they are not your typical retirees. They want things to do, they want to go out to art shows and concerts and they want to create art themselves. There are a lot of frustrated artists who have had to pursue their working career an now they are retired and they can actually start"

"You got this young kind of hipster crowd, the graffiti artists and older artists. We have one who just turned a hundred and he can barely see but he's still painting."

How is the tourist foot traffic in the arts district during the weekday and on the weekends?
"Yes this block is blossoming. This whole block was empty when Marina moved in to Art Pool, she used to be down a block away from us on first north. She does a great job of promoting her Gallery; it brings a lot of people. We have Haslem's Bookstore right across the street and they are a St. Pete icon."

"People want to be able to live here and walk to entertainment and stores. It's like the malls killed the downtown and now downtown is killing the malls. People are coming back downtown where they can walk around and find exciting things to do."

In the next Post Rob talks about the Art walks, and what it will take to move the St. Pete Arts District to the next level.

The Davidson Fine Art Gallery us located at 2036 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712, the Phone Number is 727-827-1888. Right across the Street from Haslems Book Store.

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