St. Petersburg’s new city council was seated for the first time on Thursday. The new chairman is Bill Dudley and Amy Foster and Darden Rice are its new editions. The hot button issues, however, were familiar and opinions were as entrenched as ever.
Tempers of St. Petersburg residents ran hot as they addressed council on a range of issues, including demands to see the resumes and qualifications of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s new hires, postponement of a vote on funding for the Skyway Marina District and demands for red-light camera violation refunds.
Discussion of Kriseman’s new hires was not on the agenda, but several residents took the opportunity to use their three minutes of public hearing time to express concerns about the fitness and qualifications of Kriseman’s new appointees and demanded access to the appointees’ applications and personnel files.
Jodi Davis, President of the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association and her associate Beth Connor each spoke passionately about the need for council to provide the previously promised funds for the Skyway Marina District Plan but despite their pleas the council voted to workshop the issue later in the month.
Councilman Wengay Newton said, “[We’ve] spent countless meetings…funding is already approved. The money was allocated for that reason and needs to be used for its intended purpose.”
Amy Foster stated, apparently in support of funding the Skyway Marina District plan that, “In downtown, what I see happening is a mix of economic strata that is unbelievably successful.”
Rice said, “[I am] not opposed to the $60,000 (allocated for the plan). We are arguing about the crumbs that are left on the table — I don’t like it to be pitted against other plans like 2020.” (It was not clear whether Rice was referring to the Agenda 2020 or Vision 2020).
In the end both Foster and Rice voted with the majority to delay a decision on the funding until after a workshop later in the month.
With news cameras rolling, the next order of business was Newton’s request to refund fees collected for red light camera citations.
The city's transportation and parking director, Joe Kubicki adamantly stated that, "There has been no malfunction. There is no problem with the traffic controllers… no short cycling of the yellow time."
Afterwards Newton told council, “[Potentially] thousands of law-abiding citizens [received] red light camera violations, ordinance violations beyond any of their control."
Ultimately Council voted to postpone their decision on refunding red-light camera violators until after a workshop, the date of which is not known at this time.