Now, I know what comes to mind: Sunshine Laws, right? Wrong! I researched this, and it appears that there may be a loophole that lets Mayor Baker off the hook. And whats worse than that is the actual punishment for committing the highest crime against democracy is, a fine not to exceed $500. Not to exceed $500? Are you kidding me? And to make it worse still, it may be only considered a second degree misdemeanor or even an infraction!
So, if you are driving in a hurry, you might speed past the limit. Youre okay with it because its only a speeding ticket, right? Well, if Bakers deal for a council member is greater than a $500 fine, then you can see why the US Constitution can be damned and public sidewalks can be handed over to multi-million dollar corporations.
Are you getting the same image that I do? Clandestine[image-1] meetings, air thick with rank cigar smoke, red eyes burning to make out the silhouettes in the room. Can you hear the ice clanging in the glasses of brown liquid, as they drink a toast to their new found enterprise? Well apparently, it is much more forthright than that. A recent example is the Baywalk sidewalk issue: city council member Wengay Newton(the only holdout vote) said that, not only the mayors staff had met with him, but they brought in the Baywalk property manager as well to promote the deal.
This type of back door politics leaves the people without representation. Why do they even bother having a public meeting at all, if its a done deal? Is it total political theater? Are the citizens of St. Pete being shafted every time the Mayor has an agenda?
Once again, problems have been presented to you. Now lets quickly move to some solutions: First, we need to draft a new ballot initiative that will make it a felony for any Sunshine Law violations. The punishment must exceed the potential bribe. Next we must gather the signatures necessary to get the new proposal on the ballot. Then we must vote overwhelmingly to pass this new State Constitutional Amendment restoring the check and creating a better balance. Next, the Strong Mayor loophole needs to be closed. It is more than obvious that they are disobeying the spirit of the law. A lawyer would be best at drafting some bulletproof lingo that holds them accountable to public only meetings. And finally, demand that the remaining candidates for Mayor and City Council, state for the record that they will not engage in this despicable behavior.
Lets help bring Lady Liberty and her Sunshine back to St. Petersburg, and in doing so the rest of the State may also be cleansed. And, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know she can stay!