Wengay Newton serenades his wife

And other moments from the St. Pete City Council candidates' forum at Tiger Bay.

"My opponent has..shown an inability to work well with others. 7-1 votes show that. He's proud of his 7-1 votes. That is nothing to be proud of," Faulkner said. He added that a city council member needs to bring some solutions to the table, and be able to work "not only with your colleagues on city council, network with the mayor's office, you need to have a relationship there. You need to have a relationship with other elected officials," which Faulkner said he has, referring to his previous work as outreach director for Kathy Castor, and the connections he was able to make then.

One of those votes where Newton was the lone ranger was on Mayor Bill Foster's budget. When asked to respond, Newton said he was proud about that vote, because he said it contained $250,000 allocated for car allowances for some of the city's top 140 administrators (The St. Pete Times reported back in July it was costing the city $201,852).

Meanwhile, Bob Kersteen, who at 75 is the eldest candidate and previously served on the council in the 1990s, said if elected he would be able to devote all his energies towards the job, because, unlike the other candidates, he currently is retired. That wouldn't seem to be a controversial statement, but one person in the audience challenged him, asking if he meant that only retirees should run for office (the job is considered part-time and pays $38,000 plus). Kersteen said he didn't, simply that he's got the time to devote to the job.

The Bill Dudley-Brent Hatley race in District 3 has been one the nicest you'll ever see in a political race, and thus one of the more unusual. That's in part because Hatley was a student of both Dudley and his wife (for drivers ed and history, respectively), and never fails to show his utmost respect for them.

That's nice, but at some point Hatley needs to indicate to voters why they should believe in his vision more than that of the current office occupant - Dudley - other than the fact that Hatley's not a career politician.

For his part, Dudley attempted to make the sale today, informing the Tiger Bay audience that there is a difference between himself and Hatley - his experience as a public servant. Dudley also emphasized that his votes are based on "the information," not politics. He also said he would give his cell phone number to anyone who wants it.

At every Tiger Bay club event, someone in the audience is singled out for best question. On Friday it was Linda Osmundson, executive director with CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), which works on domestic violence issues. She asked point blank what the candidates thought about statistics that show that such abuse is rising.

Wengay Newton said he wanted to apologize to Osmundson, "for the way you had to squirm for $45,000"(the amount her organization was funded by St. Pete in the current budget). "I thought it was wrong," he said. Newton added that he thought that the city should set aside $100,000 for social programs that aren't for the homeless (which has its own budget line).

Bob Kersteen said one way to educate men about the issue is through faith-based groups.

And Gershom Faulkner? His response was another opportunity to bash Newton, saying that though his opponent has been in office for four years, his effectiveness was obviously in question, since he somehow couldn't rally his colleagues to vote for more funding.

  • CASA's Linda Osmundson surrounded by the candidates for St. Pete City Council

The seven men running for seats on the St. Petersburg City Council met once again today for a candidates' forum hosted by the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.

The highlight? Undoubtedly the always original Wengay Newton, who, before giving his opening statement, serenaded his wife on her birthday as she sat surprised in the middle of the throng. That prompted State Representative Darryl Rouson moments later to say, "You can't make something like this up."

Also, Bob Kersteen is the only man on the November 8 ballot who believes the jury is still out regarding global warming.

Other than that, nothing too original was said during the event at the St. Pete Yacht Club.

District 7 challenger Gershom Faulkner was even more pronounced in trying to cast doubt about voters supporting his opponent, Wengay Newton, because of Newton being the lone vote in several 7-1 votes on the council during his first term in office.


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