More clarity on St.Pete candidates, plus video of Baywalk sidewalk furor

It is interesting to note, how Council Chair Danner refused to move the item up the agenda at the first hearing, in order for the people who came to speak on the issue to get their 3 minutes without having to wait all day. This is a tactic I have seen used in my City of Tarpon Springs from time to time, where they would hope that the public would not be able to stay until the item comes up (dozens of people often left frustrated). We have since corrected that problem by replacing the City Manager and a few Commissioners, so now they usually vote to have the items heard earlier in the meetings when it is obvious that the masses have turned out, so the public can speak and then make it home before midnight.

It is important to mention that District 8 Candidate Leonard Schmiege has been on the right side of this issue from the start. He is the only candidate that has spoken publicly on this issue, since its first appearance on the City Council agenda, as well as the Development Review Commission. Since then, several other Candidates have come around, and have finally chosen to speak up. Some candidates didn’t even bother to speak at all about this important issue. This is rather puzzling to me. This act of ignoring big issues like this one, speaks volumes about a candidate (unless of course they honestly could not make it, due to other obligations. In that case however, they could have drafted a letter). Do they not realize that this is what they are going to have to do if they get elected? It is more likely that they are afraid of upsetting someone during the election, and potentially losing votes.

Wengay Newton voted correctly on the Baywalk side walk issue from the start, even after the Mayor pressured him to change his vote. And he read his oath to the Constitution just before he voted again to keep the sidewalk public.

Herbert Polson switched his vote to match Newton’s, and like Newt, does not have to be concerned about his term until Nov. 2011.

Leslie Curran also changed her vote, and was quite vocal about her support for the demonstrators. Curran’s opponent Pamela Settlegoode spoke against giving the sidewalk away, so once again there may have been pressure on Curran to do the right thing.

Karl Nurse, who is usually votes for the people said, “Anyone who is not torn in two directions by this has not been listening”. But then Karl continued to vote with the Mayor to give the sidewalk away, and said to move the “free speech” across the street. Keep in mind, his political opponent did not speak out publicly at the meeting, and therefore we do not know what kind of impact that would have made.

Jim “done deal” Kennedy, voted to give the sidewalk away, after admitting he had previously met with the Mayor about this and many other issues, in order to “massage” the issues and committing to vote with the Mayor before hearing from the public. Jim Kennedy’s opponent spoke, but waffled back and forth ultimately saying the item should be deferred until a later date. Jim’s opponent Stephen Corsetti left the door wide open for Kennedy to vote his already made up mind. One has to wonder just what Jim would have done if his opponent had a backbone and had called him out?

Jamie Bennett had it quite easy, because he resigned his seat in order to run for Mayor and neither of the other two district 5 candidates bothered to show up and take a stand either way, thus allowing him to keep in line with the Mayor.

Mayoral Candidate Kathleen Ford, filled out a card, but left early and did not speak; although I am told she spoke in favor of the demonstrators and against giving away the sidewalk, at a prior public event. And her opponent did not write nor appear to speak.

So which is it? Did three Council Members wake up and realize they are supposed to serve the people and obey the Constitution like Newton was doing from the start? Did two wake up and realize there was an election around the corner and they might want to listen to the people at least this once? We can speculate how much of a financial risk it is to a candidate, to take a position against the Chamber of Commerce and the rest of the big money representatives in the audience vs. the potential risk of losing the grass roots activists, whose word of mouth may outweigh any monetary advertising? There were many pro-development/big money types who spoke for the giveaway, and almost an equal number of pro-first amendment activists who spoke against. This may help you to sort out what was going through the Council Members heads. And the unusual turnout big money speakers might help explain why some Council Members continued to vote with the Mayor. Of course at the end of the day, the voter will have to decide why each candidate did what they did.

I will add this: The importance of public input at City meetings is imperative. You must begin to notice what is going on in your own City Hall. Please begin to watch the meetings online or on cable, and then go in person. Eventually you will find something to speak about.

And if you glean nothing else, please get this: The public input from non-incumbent candidates is also extremely important! It may be just enough pressure to set their incumbent opponents on the right path. When you are supporting a candidate running for office, please encourage them to speak up. And when you run for office, remember the same.

Check out some more highlights:

Mike Fox: 

Chris Ernesto with St. Pete for Peace.  His speech was amazing, but I lack the video clip.  Please check out his groups website for more.

Mark Kamleiter:

Candidate issues aside, I think we must reflect upon something Mr. Schmiege mentioned in the above video. When a hotdog vendor came to the City for help, they only wanted the City to allow them to operate during later hours. The vendor was essentially saying that they wanted to work harder to earn more money. Keep an eye on how the City treats this businessman.

The City has had a precedent of handing out millions of your dollars to multi-million dollar corporations to help them with their failed businesses, instead of helping the struggling local businessman who asks for so much less. There is something fundamentally wrong with this, and the public must demand a change. It is your money. Why not require a Citywide vote whenever monies that exceed half a million are to be expended on another corporate bailout? If you agree, then make it happen. Start your own PAC, and get the signatures to put it on the ballot. Change your City Charter. Make your Charter reflect what you truly believe your City should be.

After finally viewing the entire October 1st 2009 St. Petersburg City Council meeting regarding the now infamous Baywalk sidewalk issue, I have noticed many interesting details that are worthy of mention. With just over a month to go until the City election, I found some interesting dynamics displayed. I must admit, the results did not follow my original expectations.

Jeff Danner, voted during the first hearing to give the sidewalk away. Then Danner  flip-flopped and voted against the idea at the last meeting. Could this be because his opponent in the District 8 race, Leonard Schmiege has been speaking out against giving the sidewalk away since the beginning?

Video after the break


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