Back door meetings par for the course at City Hall in St. Pete?

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 what’s 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. You’re okay with it because it’s only a speeding ticket, right? Well, if Baker’s 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 mayor’s 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 it’s 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 let’s 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.

Let‘s 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!

Lady Liberty, ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone - only darkness every day. Our St. Pete house just ain’t a home when she goes away. You can forget about solar panels in St. Petersburg, Florida. Mayor Rick Baker has completely robbed the city of all sunshine. And as for Lady Liberty, I wonder if she’s gone to stay. (Click here to hear the song that’s already playing in your head)

The St. Pete times recently reported that agenda items that come before the St. Petersburg City Council are a “done deal” before they are brought to a public forum, according to Councilman Jim Kennedy. This means that any time you or any member of the public speak at a city hearing, your testimony and evidence will not be considered by the board because they have already made up their mind in a meeting with the mayor days before. “It may be a done deal because it has been analyzed and its been massaged” said Kennedy, who openly admits that the Mayor regularly conducts private meetings with council members to ensure his ideas will get a majority vote.


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