Occupy St. Pete goes about their business out of the headlines

"Our position is, they broke it, they're a privately owned Fortune 500 company, they should pay for it," says Lenny Flank, who led a working group discussion with about 15 other members on the grass at Straub Park.

"Our organization wants to gather as many people as possible and focus their anger where it could do good. So the target right now is the Public Services Commission. We're going to put as much pressure on them as possible...as well as every representative and state Senator."

Flank said he wants to organize all of the Occupy groups around Florida to focus on the issue.

The Crystal Plant is expected to be out of commission for another two years, while concurrently, Progress is also charging its million and a half plus customers right now for the proposed construction of another nuclear power plant in Levy County.

Flank says the issue is an easy one to gather public attention on, since "we don't have to convince people that we're right. As soon as they hear about it, they're on our side," he said laughing.

Occupy St. Pete member Maria Jose said it's important that the group start to focus on actions that they can have some influence over. She said the group recently met up with Tom Lambdon, who has single-handedly (and unsuccessfully) tried to stop the proposed razing of The Pier by getting enough signatures to allow St. Pete citizens to weigh in on the topic.

"We're supporting the idea that the people should decide on the issue," Jose said, though the group might be late on stopping that action, as the City Council will receive design concepts for a new Pier on November 29, and will hear those presentations in mid-December.

Occupy St. Pete will pick up their discussion on the Progress Energy issue this coming Wednesday night back in South Straub Park.

While the Occupy Tampa movement has been focused on trying to get access to a park they can occupy full time, and other encampments are being broken up by local officials (as in Oakland and Portland), the Occupy St. Pete movement has evolved at a much lower intensity.

Unlike the Tampa movement, activists in St. Petersburg are not occupying a park full time. Instead, they're meeting up every Saturday in South Straub Park, with organizational meetings held throughout the weekend at local cafes.

Members of the group say they're beginning to get focused on putting their energies towards trying to affect change at a local and state level, and late Saturday afternoon members gathered to hear about a
specific strategy - to deny a bid by local energy provider Progress Energy to make ratepayers pay for the costs to repair their Crystal River plant, which has been shut down since 2009.

Since 2006, consumer groups have objected to energy customers being charged for nuclear power plants that the utilities themselves have not even made final decisions to go forward with. It's called Nuclear Cost Recovery.

But if that wasn't controversial enough, Progress is now hoping to get a favorable decision by the Public Service Commission to help pay for their current problem, which is that they had to shut down the plant after the company itself botched replacing aging steam generators, and the bill to fix that for taxpayers is $670 million.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.