- St. Pete City Council candidates Jim Kennedy, Lorraine Margeson, Darden Rice, Carolyn Fries, Karl Nurse, Sharon Russ, Steve Galvin & Amy Foster
At Wednesday night's city council candidates forum sponsored by the Broadwater League of Women Voters, a question was posed to the District 8 candidates regarding a proposed development along the wetlands near the Sunshine Skyway that could include a hotel, offices, shops, homes, and a multidock pier for cruise ships.
Mayor Bill Foster has waxed enthusiastically about the idea in some candidate forums, but the reaction was decidedly mixed amongst the three candidates who field the question.
Amy Foster referred to living in New Orleans and the specter of Hurricane Katrina, where the storm devastated the historic city because of a failure to protect wetlands and barrier islands."I definitely approve of commerce, but I think there's a real concern if it's being developed along our wetlands."
"Frankly I think that putting a cruise terminal down there would be an environmental disaster," quipped Steve Galvin, her opponent in November. "I think it's a really bad idea. I wouldn't mind seeing a Key West shuttle off of our existing pier," adding that "the natural balance there is too delicate, as it is. And I think it would put a severe strain on the local ecology."
On another note, Sharon Russ, competing against incumbent Karl Nurse in the District 6 contest, struck a discordant note amongst the activists (and Nurse) who are working to create a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) in Midtown and Childs Park. "I've been going door-to-door talking to people who live there, and the majority of people who live there, I've discussed with them the CRA. And I'm here to tell you the majority of people there are not in favor of that." Russ said she had done some "investigation" of such tax increment financing districts (TIF's), and said it should be up to the citizens decide if they want to go that route.
Such a program reserves property taxes from an area to spur economic development in that same area.
Nurse said that the CRA would include a Tax Increment Finance district for the 34th District corridor down to 30th Avenue South.
When answering a question about preserving wetlands, District 2 candidate Lorraine Margeson introduced on her own the issue about potential development near Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, a 245-acre city park located on the South side. She said the city should use funds generated from the sale of Weeki Watchee to purchase land that might go to developers near the St. Petersburg Country Club golf course "If we wanted to do something for preservation and conservation of natural lands in this city, that is an absolutely awesome thing that we could do with Weeki Watchee money. By that acreage, don't develop it, improve the buffer for Boyd Hill, and keep out lands growing, not shrinking when it comes to conservation."
Incumbent District 2 councilman Jim Kennedy boasted about his innovative ways to deal with code enforcement problems by referring to the city's use of making robocalls to people who put snipe sides up in the city. "It has been effective," he said, because some of those proprietors own cell phones with only a certain amount of minutes available on them. "So you either run up all the minutes or you keep calling them every hour, on the hour, until their number does not show up on the snipe sign."
The candidates debate followed an earlier one with the mayoral candidate at the Allstate Center off of 34th Street South.