Sunday, December 31, 2006

Wish List Version 2.007

When I ascend to my rightful place as Queen of the Universe, I will return to the year 2007 and make these wishes come true (or not):

Gershom Faulkner announces his candidacy for the St. Petersburg City Council seat to be vacated by term limited Council Member Rene Flowers. Ed Helm moves into Flowers' district and announces his candidacy as well. Jamie Bennet decries the move saying "Helm promised to run against me."

The Florida Gators thrash Ohio State University 65-3 in what Brent Musberger describes as the most exciting BCS Championship Game ever. Florida coach Urban Meyer says he will be relieved when the Gators finally learn to execute his spread offense.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is arrested for assaulting Council Member Leslie Curran for telling Baker "That might not be a good idea." St. Petersburg City Council Chair John Bryan ascends to Mayor after Governor Charlie Crist suspends Baker. Crist reinstates Baker one hour later after receiving a complaint from Bakers' mother. Before Bryan leaves the Mayors' office he issues an executive order banning the hiring of consultants by the City.

At her first regular meeting of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee, Chair Toni Molinaro announces the appointment of Bill Bucolo as chair of the newly created Kumbaya Committee. Jack Smack immediately stalks out of the meeting followed by, well, nobody.

The St. Petersburg Grand Prix is won by Danica Patrick, who announces from the winners circle that she is moving to St. Petersburg. All 5 people in attendance cheer wildly.

Ronda Storms complains that the state insurance crisis is all the fault of gay insurance agents. Governor Charlie Crist appoints a rainbow ribbon committee headed by Katherine Harris to investigate the allegations. This comes on heels of the the special legislative session where legislators aproved a 350% rate increase for insurance companies as the best possible solution to the crisis.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is arrested again. This time it is for distrubing the peace. Seems Baker was playing his guitar again at the Saturday Morning Market. The crowd cheers when Baker smacks his head while being put in the back seat of the new hybrid police cruiser. Charlie Crist announces he would suspend Baker, but Bakers' mother would only complain and he'd have to reverse himself.

The Florida Legislature adjourns its 2007 session after three days. On the first day, the legislature passed a bill banning property taxes in the state of Florida. On the second day, the legislature passes a resolution proclaiming the 350% rate increase passed in the special session has, in fact, solved the insurance crisis. And on the third day, the legislature passed a budget outsourcing the entire state government to the new company formed by Jeb Bush, Haliburton Florida.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is convicted of disturbing the peace. He is sentenced to 300 hours of community service telling Charlie Crist what not to do.

The Hillsborough Expressway Authority announces it is moving to St. Petersburg where it plans to convert the Pinellas Trail to a barge canal. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio immediately announces plans to expand the trolley system from Channelside and Ybor City to Brandon, citing the increased need after the elevated section of the Selmon Expressway collapses crushing both cars under it at the time.

Bill Young announces he is dead and he is not running for re-election in 2008. George Critikos immediately endorses Karen Seel as the Republican candidate in the special election to succeed Young. Seel says, "I'll probably only serve 45 years, since I'm kind old already."

Developer Grady Pridgen announces he is buying Progress Energy Florida in a leveraged buyout. All of Prgress Energy Florida's generation capacity will be turned into wholesale production. Retail production will be generated from the new green urban village that Pridgen has planned for the Pinellas County Solid Waste Disposal site.

Rod Smith wins the Academy Award for the worst political ad ever. Smith confesses his main disappointment is coming in second to Donald Trump in the worst hair category.

Jeb Bush announces that Haliburton Florida is taking the state of Florida private in a private equity deal underwritten by the Carlyle Group. Bush 41 breaks down in tears at his favorite son's accomplishments.

Hillary Clinton announces she is not attending the Florida Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson gala. Her spokeswoman says Hillary has already taken the last remaining Democratic dollar in Florida. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's keynote speech is delivered to all three Florida Democrats attending the event. The other 7 million Florida Democrats are all accross the street listening to Steven Colbert's announcement that he is running for President. Rush Limbaugh donates $2 billion to the Colbert for President PAC.

Ed Helm fails to receive a single vote in the St. Petersburg City Council primary elections. Extensive reviews of the voting machines and the computer source code prove conclusively that Helm forgot to vote and the his wife voted for Gershom Faulkner.

The Republican Party of Florida unanimously proclaims Jeb Bush as their favorite for the 2008 nomination. Katherine Harris files an immediate protest, clainming the election was rigged.

Surprise candidate Peter Wallace wins election to the St. Petersburg City Council seat vacated by the term limited Bill Foster. The St. Petersburg Gay Straight Alliance announces the appointment of Foster as special counsel.

Barack Obama wins the Florida Democratic Party Conventions' straw poll after announcing he will name Bob Graham as his running mate when he wins the nomination. Graham is not in attendance because he is in Gainesville watching the Florida Gators demolish the FSU Seminoles 96-3. Florida Coach Urban Meyer rubs his crew cut and says his team has a chance to be pretty good if they ever learn to execute his spread offense.

Arrested again upon a sealed indictment, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker announces from the Pinellas County jail that it is another great day in St. Petersburg. Reminded by a reporter that the jail is not in St. Petersburg, Baker responds, "That's the second part of my announcement. The City of St. Petersburg has just struck a deal to acquire Pinellas County in a private equity deal financed by Haliburton Florida.

If you can figure out which, if any, of these wishes I would make come true, I'll buy a damned tractor.

Florida Kossacks Rock

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2007 Predictions - Local Politcs

OK, over on Florida Kossacks, I posted national predictions for the first quarter of 2007. I then cross posted to DailyKos. That's where the fun started.

OtisisHungry posted this comment predicting, anongst other things:
  1. Mary Mulhern wins her race for Tampa City Council and kumbaya breaks out all over Tampa.
  2. Joe Redner is named Arts and Cultural Czar of Tampa.
  3. Brian Blair is exposed in a gay pay for play meth scandal.
  4. And a great snark about Janee Murhpy and the Hillsborough DEC that you just have to read for yourselves.

So when I stopped rolling around on the floor laughing my a** off, I thought, self, let's have some more fun with Local Politics Predictions.

OK, here are some of mine:

  • St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker takes the job as State Director in Charge of Cleaning up Charlie Crist's screw ups. He gets paid 4 times the Governor's salary and says, "This is the greatest job in the world, and its another great day in the State of Florida".
  • Pinellas County Commisioner Bob Stewart gets snowed in in his real home out west and misses 6 months of County Commission meetings. No one notices.
  • The City of St. Petersburg recognizes that the Opus South 400 Beach Drive building is 20 feet closer to the street than is allowed. The building is blown up as the opening scene of Lethal Weapon XXV.
  • Bill Foster beats Renee Flowers in a close election to replace Baker as mayor of St. Petersburg. The GLBT community endorses Foster, who promises to lead the Gay Pride Parade in July.
  • The City of St. Pete Beach approves charter ammendments that require every beach front building to be 50 stories tall.
  • St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster signs a peace treaty with County Commission Charman Ken Welch that ends the bloody war between the County and the City. As part of the treaty Susan Latvala has to stay north of Ulmerton Road, but St. Petersburg gets to keep Karen Seel who was captured near the end of the conflict in a daring raid led by new St. Petersburg Police Chief Rudy Guiliani.

So there's my silly six. Let's hear yours. Got game?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Save O'Neill's Marina

St. Petersburg Mayor, Rick Baker, is a "free market" guy. We know this because he told us, several times. Baker kept repeating that he was a "free market" guy while he was engineering a communist style coup. What was this free market vs communistic clash all about?

It seems the City of St. Petersburg has land er, uh, water grabs on their minds. There has been a lot of talk lately about the lack of marina slips and boat ramp access in Florida. Seems marina owners are selling out to developers who are building, you guessed it, condos on the former marina sites. The City has just discovered that they, in fact, are the owners of a couple of marinas in St. Petersburg that they don't already operate. The City is leasing the two marinas to private operators and receiving well in excess of $200,000 per year from the two marinas combined. This isn't good enough for the City. No, the City does not want to renew the leases on these marinas for any appreciable length of time. They want to take over operations of the marinas themselves. The Harborage Marina on the Bayboro Harbor waterfront deserves a diary all of its own. This diary is going to concentrate on O'Neill's Marina.

O'Neills website has this to say on their home page:

For more than 50 years O’Neill’s Marina has given boaters and fisherman
what they’ve asked for. Good products, fair prices and great service. O’Neill’s
Marina is a family owned and operated business that takes pride in the facility
and the people it serves.

Our facility is nestled along the coastline in St. Petersburg near the
mouth of Tampa Bay, easily located by land or water. By land, we are just off
Interstate 275 on the west side of exit 16, just North of the Sunshine Skyway

O'Neill's Marina moved to its current location in 1954, at the urging of the City, who wanted O'Neill's to move from the old ferry landing to the approach to the brand new Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It has been operating at its current location for more than 52 years. O'Neill's has been leasing the land from the City all this time. Their current lease expires around the middle of 2007. The city has suddenly discovered that they actually are the owners of the marina, and they want to look into the possiblity of operating it themselves. City staff proposed to renew the O'Neills' lease for only one more year. This would give the city time to pursue the permitting process necessary for the City to "modernize" O'Neill's.

The City Council decided to give O'Neill's a two year lease with the possibility of extensions if the City can not get their permitting done in that time. The member of the O'Neill family who is now operating the marina is 60 years old. All he wants to do is operate the marina for 5 more years and then retire. At that time, he will be more than willing to just let the City have the marina. After all this family has meant to this City, this is an extremely shabby way to treat this man.

So what is up with this self- avowed "free market guy" Rick Baker. His buddy Jeb Bush has just spent 8 years turning every govenrment function he could think of over to the private sector. Baker wants to take marina operations away from the private sector and give it to the government. What kind of "free market" conservatism is that?

Sounds more like that Castro guy than that Bush feller.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker In Your Face - Again

The St. Petersburg Times reported on December 16, 2006 that:
Police Chief Chuck Harmon is ending the city's 15-year-old community policing program

Twelve paragraphs into the story the Times reports:
Mayor Rick Baker said Friday he supported Harmon's decision. "The system we're putting in place is more common than the one we had," Baker said.

Since the Mayor has the first and last word in everything that happens in the Police and every other Department in the City of St. Petersburg, why does the Times wait untill 12 paragraphs into the story to give us Hizz Honor's take on this idiotic plan? And why is this really happening?

The Times alludes to the real reason:
The move, which received a mixed response from neighborhood leaders and was criticized by the police union, comes as the department struggles to retain officers and faces an outside review of its management practices.

Is this the review that Mayor Baker:

Fought tooth and nail to keep from happening?

When he was forced to accede to the review, fought tooth and nail to have the review performed by the consultant of his choosing?

Now that Mayor Baker has been forced to endure a management review of the Police Department conducted by a consultant he doesn't control, all of a sudden he's in favor of ending community policing? That dog just won't hunt.

Mayor Baker has pulled the Mayoral equivalent of taking his ball and going home. His polce department is being forced to undergo this management review that he didn't want and that he can't control. So what does the Mayor do? He authorizes the end of the most popular (from the citizens standpoint) policing program going. The polite way of describing the Mayor's attitude toward City Council and the citizens of St. Petersburg is:

In Your Face

the not so polite way is, well, something else.

Here are some excerpts from the Community Policing Philosphy on the St. Petersburg Police Department web site:

The CPO (Community Police Officer) fosters a partnership with the community in order to mutually identify and resolve neighborhood problems and concerns. They identify repeat calls for service and implement problem-solving strategies to resolve them. They review problem-solving progress with coworkers, supervisors and the community. CPOs also develop mutual respect and trust between coworkers and the community. They interact with residents and merchants, enhance partnerships, and encourage teamwork.

... zone officers are encouraged to partner with the CPO for their assigned area, as well as offer "directed patrols" during uncommitted time. These "directed patrols" are a means for the zone officer to be a part of the problem-solving process, such as providing additional patrols at a problem location or by assisting with a traffic enforcement detail. A "team" is formed consisting of a CPO and at least one zone officer for each of the shifts (days, evenings, and midnights). Furthermore, most of the detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigative Division are also given geographical responsibilities, thus allowing them to become part of the "team" to address emerging crime patterns.

Furthermore, here is the core statement of that philosophy:

The St. Petersburg Police Department is committed to establishing and maintaining a meaningful and productive partnership with the community. The goal is to achieve excellence by facilitating a partnership between members and the citizens in order to mutually identify and resolve community problems. This partnership will ultimately enhance the safety and quality of life for the citizens of our community.

So, what is Chief Harmons' stated reason for scrapping Community Policing?
Harmon said tensions exist between community officers and patrol officers, who feel overworked and think community officers had too much freedom.

Should the potential for this tension have been a surprise to Harmon? Not if he had read this report prepared the U.S. Department of Justice about commuinity policing in St. Petersburg in 1997:
There were a number of distinctions between the behavior of CPOs and that of 911 officers. This suggests that considerable care is warranted concerning how officer responsibilities are constructed if departments are to promote community policing attitudes and behavior.

St. Petersburg has had this report in hand for nearly 10 years. If the Police Department did not take "considerable care ... to promote community policing attitudes and behavior" , that is a management failure. The managers are Police Chief Chuck Harmon and Mayor Rick Baker, and they have failed us.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pinellas DEC Election Results

Last night, before heading off to the the Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee's biennial elections, I unleashed a little rant. The question at issue was whether Ed Helm, the erstwhile Chair of the Pinellas Democratic Party should be given a new, full two year term, or whether four months was more than enough for Mr. Ed.

For those of you who did not see the front page of the Metro section in the St. Petersburg Times on December 14th, here's a news flash:

Democrats oust Helm as leader

When it was announced that Toni Molinaro of St. Petersburg, who teaches English as a second language in the Hillsborough County school system, had bested Helm 142 votes to 72, her supporters cheered and chanted her name.
Here's a great big shout out to the following Democratic elected officials who showed up to support Toni Molinaro:

State Sen. Charlie Justice, State Rep. Bill Heller, State Rep. Janet Long, Pinellas County School Board Member Linda Lerner, and Pinellas County Commissioners Calvin Harris and Ken Welch. State Rep. Rick Kriseman couldn't attend, but he had already signed the letter also signed by these other Democratic elected officials as well in support of Toni Molinaro.

This was an unprecedented show of support by Democratic elected officials in Pinellas County for a Party Chair candidate. Every Democrat in Pinellas County should thank these elected officials for getting behind Toni Molinaro and the need for a change. These officials supported us in our time of need. We now need to make sure that we support them. We also need to make sure that we stay in close contact and consultation with these elected officials. We will all benefit from that.

To Toni and her team of Vice Chair Arlin Briley, Secretary Chris Piccone, Treasurer Norma Roberts and Sergeant at Arms Ed Fink, Congratulations.

To all you Democrats who helped bring this change about, THANK YOU and congratulations to you as well.

OK, so celebrate for a day or two. When that is over, let's get going to make the changes that we need to make. Let's get more Democrats involved in the Party. Let's get ready to elect a Democratic President in 2008, to increase the number of Democratic Members of Congress in Florida, to increase the number of Democrats in our Counties' State legislative delegation, to get more Democrats on the County Commission and to finally get a Democrat elected to a County Constitutional Office.

If we want to accomplish all of this, the time to start is now.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pinellas DEC Elections Preview

Well, tonight's the night. Do we get rid of Ed Helm tonight as DEC Chair or don't we? Toni Molinaro is primed and ready to go. In a few hours from now we should know.

This should not even be a close question. Ed Helm has done nothing but divide this party and lose elections since he has become Chair. He became involved in Democratic Primaries (against Party rules), and lost every one of those elections. He was soundly outvoted about giving the Pinellas County YD's the money that was budgeted for them, and he has still refused to disburse the funds.

Oh, wait, I was wrong. Ed Helm has done something other than be divisive. He has brought the Party into disrepute. One need only look at the St. Pete Times editorial page to see that.

And to top it all off, we now have Ed Helm, the Mayoral candidate who could not win a single precinct as our Party Chair.

Oh, please, oh please. If there is a God, please spare us from this madman.

Down below is something I wrote in an earlier post about the Pinellas Democratic Party under Helm. Pray for us.

The Pinellas Democratic Party, well, what can you really say about them? The local Dems have been a complete horror show since July when Chair Carrie Wadlinger resigned. She was succeeded by Ed Helm. That's when the fun really began. To say that Helm has been divisive is a massive understatement. In a year that Democrats seemed to have everything going for them, Helm has made the local Democratic Party more fun than a three ring circus. For everybody but members of the Pinellas Democratic Party, that is. Helm decided to violate Florida Democratic Party rules by endorsing his own slate of candidates in the September 5th Primary. Showing what an adept politician Helm really is, every one of his candidates lost in the primary. Helm stirred things up during the primary by suggesting that the winning candidates were not "real" Democrats, whatever those are.There will be an election of officers for the Pinellas Democratic Party on December 13th. Former Party Webmaster Tony Molinaro, who Helm unceremoniously fired in the middle of the general election campaign, will be running for Chair against Ed Helm. The Pinellas Party meetings since Helm took over as Chair have been real donnybrooks. The election meeting on December 13th should be no different. Look for a Credentials fight before the voting begins. I say it is even money whether or not a vote will even be held on the 13th. Stay tuned. We'll be sure to have more on that later.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Friday Morning Group

There was an interesting meeting this morning in Downtown St. Petersburg. A rather eclectic group gathered at 8 ish to talk about artists and the arts in St. Petersburg. Included in this group:

Former Director of a theatre foundation
An attorney who is also a singer and actor
A gallery owner
A volunteer public art docent
A poet and promoter
An art gallery marketing director
A travel writer
An executive from the Pinellas County Cultural Council
A Political and governmental relations consultant (guess who)

These were all members of a group that had met regularly for about 2 years until it sort of dwindled away. The group is fairly loosely organized, as befits the varied nature of its participants. There is no formal agenda. There is no chair person. People come and go as necessary. Nonetheless, the group has had a measurable impact on many things in St. Petersburg in the past few years.

The Manhattan Casino restoration was one of the first projects the group took on. The groups' efforts helped set the tone and feel for how the old ballroom upstairs was refurbished. If only we could get the soul food restaurant on the ground floor that we supported. Oh, well. Maybe someday in the not too distant future.

Also, the idea and practice of artists being able to live and work in the same location was spearheaded by the Friday Morning Group. A pair of very well known artists had moved to town and wanted to have their studio on the ground floor and live upstairs in an abandoned garment factory in the Old South East, Well, the city codes inspectors were really scratching their heads over that one. After much effort and consultation, the city finally figured it out and our artist couple is now well ensconced in the old bra factory. (They hate it when I call it that.)

The Studio@620 is something that came directly out of the Friday Morning Group. The co-art directors were both charter members of the group. The group also put a lot of time in discussing the Florida Orchestra. The new, more casual look of the Orchestra's catalog is a direct result of the groups' conversation with the Orchestra. The Florida Orchestra is moving its headquarters to St.Pete due in no small measure to the efforts of the group.

A couple of years ago, a reporter from Creative Loafing sat in on one of the meetings of the group. We were discussing the Chamber of commerce brochure that proclaimed on its cover that St. Petersburg was the "City of the Arts". Well, our artists particularly thought that was just pretentious as hell and were pretty contemptible of the whole idea. Yes St. Petersburg is a good place for artists. It could be better. But to proclaim St. Pete as The City of the Arts? Hello.

So we were discussing this foolishness and kicking around ideas. One of our members came up with this:

St. Petersburg is not the City of the Arts, the city is the art.

That comment wound up in print. I think that's a pretty good explanation of the Friday Morning Group. The beautiful City of St. Petersburg is the canvas that is our art work in progress. We continue to put more creative touches on it all the time.

It is a never ending project of love.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saturday Morning Market

There is nothing I like better than going to the Saturday Morning Market in downtown St. Pete. Every Saturday morning from October through May, the city closes off Central Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets and transforms Central into an old time market place from days long gone by.

Just like Alice's Restaurant, you can get anything you want at the Saturday Morning Market. There is food of every description. There is art, there is kitsch, there are chairs and clothing and massages. There is coffee.

There is music. For the last couple of years, there are two live music venues. When one takes a break, the other one starts right up. Yesterday we had a blues band in the main music area and a Caribbean steel drum band in the other.

But hands down, the best thing about the Saturday Morning Market is the people. There are of course the musicians who are working far from their normal working hours. The market opens at 9 AM. I defy you to get hold of any working musician you know before noon. There are the vendors, who must arrive at 0 Dark 30 to get set up. And then there are us other folks.

I have to admit that people watching is one of my all time favorite pastimes, and the Saturday Morning Market certainly does not disappoint in that regard. But what is really, really great about the Saturday Morning Market is how it takes the place of the Town Square.

I like to sit at one of the tables in front of the main music venue. There is terrific people watching from there. I particularly like the parents who get their kids to dancing to the music. They are sooo cute. Eventually someone will come along and ask if one of the seats at the table is available. Of course I always say yes. Unless of course when it isn't. But if it is, and I get really lucky, the person will join me at the table. That's where the real fun begins.

Two weeks ago, I had been sitting down at the table for some time and was beginning to feel the urge to move around some. Just about that time, an elderly gentleman wearing a Korean War Vet ball cap asked if he could join me at the table. I replied that he was certainly welcome, but that I was just getting up to leave. As he was black and I am white, I felt uncomfortable at the idea of getting up just as the gentleman was sitting down. I tried to make it clear that I was not leaving on his account.

Much to my good fortune, when I went to sit down at the Market yesterday morning, my elderly gentleman with the Korean Vet ball cap was back, pretty much where I had left him the week before. I sat down, we struck up an inconsequential discussion, and the blues band began to play. That's when I saw my friend Linda pushing her bicycle. Now Linda had just completed a cross country (yes that's not a typo, a cross country bike ride). So me being the smart mouth that I often am, asked her what she was doing so close to a bike so soon after her excellent adventure.

Thus began a brief but very interesting conversation. Linda is also executive director of the local domestic violence shelter, and she reported back to the St. Pete Times periodically on her bike trip progress. I introduced her to my new friend with the Korean War Vet hat. He gave her his full name (he had only given me his first name). Linda said, oh yeah, I know who you are. It seems my new friend Charles is an active neighborhood activist. (Is that redundant?) Charles lives in a neighborhood that has been largely neglected by the City. As often happens in such neighborhoods, it has seen more than its share of crime. Charles has been very active in attempts to clean the neighborhood up. Who knew?

So, of course the topic of Charles and my conversation shifted immediately to his neighborhood. The neighborhood contains the once world famous City Tennis Center. In the good old days, it hosted one of those must attend tournaments on the woman's tour. I have seen Chris Everett as a 16 year old on those courts. Billy Jean King, Yvonne Goolalgong, Margaret Court Smith and a host of others. A dear, dear friend of mine, who passed away just a few years ago, taught many a tennis lesson on those courts. My friend Dan Sullivan was a very fine tennis player in his own right, in the days of Pancho Gonzalez and Bobby Riggs. Yes Bobby Riggs was a legit tennis player once. One of the main courts at the Tennis Center is now named for my friend Dan Sullivan.

One of the best programs going on in the City right now is the after school tennis program for neighborhood kids at the Tennis Center. Supported by local tennis fans, as well as the likes of Jim Courier, who has given a lot of his time to this effort. The program is hugely successful, giving hundreds of kids every week a chance to learn how to play tennis and how to compete within the rules. Youngsters who are learning to play tennis are not out stealing cars, or dealing drugs. (At least not while they are playing tennis).

This has gotten me to thinking of my misspent youth. Those days, kids were pretty much left to look to themselves for recreation. but there were always other kids around and places to play baseball or football. There were basketball courts and tennis courts, pretty much everything we needed. All of this was provided by the City Parks and Recreation Department. My parents could shove me out the door in the morning confident that I would find some non criminal activity to keep my mind and body occupied and that they wouldn't have to worry about me until supper time.

Now the City has more parks than ever before. What don't they have that is working so well at the Tennis Center? They don't have anyone around to help the kids get organized around one event or the other. We always at least had the older kids who'd already been around the block and knew how to get things going. This is pretty much a skill that can be learned, but it does not come naturally to a lot of kids.

Maybe if our City would put a little more effort into seeing that our kids are entertained or are entertaining themselves in sporting contests or otherwise recreating, we wouldn't be wondering why we can't hire and retain enough cops to deal with the crime problem in this City?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Things I Don't Like About St. Pete

I was going to write a Thanksgiving Diary about St. Pete. Lord knows, there is a lot to be thankful for amongst those of us fortunate enough to live here. But now it is the day after, and I'm sort of over it. Maybe it's because I participated in one of the best Thanksgiving traditions in St. Petersburg, Harvey's Thanksgiving Night Party. Used to be there was absolutely no other place to go on Thanksgiving evening. Last night, someone told me that even Pepins was open. What's up with that?

But, the one thing natives and even a lot of visitors know for sure is that Harvey's will be open and you will see people you never see any place else and only maybe at the same place on Christmas night.

Dan Harvey has opened up his 4th Street Grille on Thanksgiving and Christmas nights since I can't remember when. Everybody who went to school here, used to work there, or who knows anybody who knows, knows that Harvey's is the place to see and be seen on The big holiday nights. After a day cooped up with family, even if it's all good, folks just need a break. And they know just where to get it.

That's a pretty long introduction to what was supposed to be the shorter of my diary options. Chalk it up to staying up almost past my bedtime for tonight, let alone last night. But , here goes:

I don't like that Harvey's on Thanksgiving and Christmas is the only time and place I see so many old, young and good friends. We should stay in better touch.

I don't like that so many of my friends kids are now buying me drinks at Harvey's. But, hey, that's my problem.

I don't like that the Saturday Morning Market is so successful that is having to consider moving. My suggestion - go West young people. Expand across 2nd Street to the same block that Get Downtown is at on the first Friday of the Month.

I don't like that I have such a hard time finding places to park in Downtown St. Pete. Grrrrr. And those Meter Maids - don't get me going on them.

Speaking of downtown, why can't folks building condos here learn to build them on their own property and quit using our city streets for storage and office space? I mean that is something I seriously don't like about downtown. I'm not kidding Leslie, Bill, John, Renee, Earnest, Jamie, Jeff and Herb(?).

I don't like Mayor Rick Baker. OK, actually I do like Rick Baker. That's what I don't like.

I like Bill Young and I like Samm Simpson. So, just like the 18,300 folks in Sarasota, I decided not to vote in that race. Right. (Oh wait, that's not St. Pete.)

I don't like that there is no place to get breakfast in the late night early morning hours in downtown St. Pete. Does anybody besides me miss the Owl?

I like Charlie Crist. I really like that the Governor-elect is from St. Petersburg. I don't like that Jim Davis is not going to be the Governor for the next 4 years. (I like having cocktails with Charlie. Opportunities to do that are going to be a little harder to come by.) And, oh BTW, Jim would make a great Governor.

I like having Bill Heller as my new State Representative. I can quit being embarrassed by Frankly. Can't think of anything not to like there. Damn.

I like the fact that my friend Gershom Faulkner is going to run for Renee Flowers Council seat when it opens up next year. I don't like the fact that we don't have a good candidate for Bill Fosters' seat yet. I'm open to any and all suggestions?

I don't like the fact that Laura is not state Representative Charlie Justice's LA. anymore. I like the fact that Laura is now in charge of Governmental Affairs for the City. I don't like the fact that she got it because Herb Polson retired. I like the fact that Charlie Justice is now Senator Justice. And I'll like all of this a lot better when the Council appoints Herb to fill the seat vacated by newly elected Representative Rick Kriseman.

I don't like the fact that there's too many places I can walk to downtown where I can get great stuff to eat. Wait, yes I do. Never mind.

Speaking of food, I'm going to grab lunch now. I really won't like it if you don't tell me what you don't like about St. Pete.

I don't like that I haven't heard Tommy Wareham singing You'll never Beat St. Pete at Ten Beach Drive in way too many years.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Local Politics is All Where All Politics is Local

Tip O'neil's famous line, "All Politics is Local", has never been more appropriate. Here in Pinellas County, Florida, we have just gone through an election of historic significance. Local Democrats picked up two open seats in the Florida House of Representatives, and one open seat in the Florida Senate.

Pinellas used to be the most Republican county in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. The irony is that now that the State of Florida leans Republican, Pinellas County is now leaning Democratic. That doesn't mean that the local Republicans have rolled over and played dead. Governor-Elect Charlie Crist hails from St. Petersburg, and he carried Pinellas County handily. All but two of the County Commissioners are Republicans, as are all of the county's Constitutional Officers. Of the three Congressional Districts representing all or parts of Pinellas, only the portion of FL-11 in south St. Petersburg is represented by a Democrat.

Pinellas is beginning to become a tale of two counties. Southern Pinellas is starting to look pretty blue, while Northern Pinellas is still bright red. However, one of the biggest surprises this cycle is how close Carl Zimmerman came to victory in House District 48 in Northern Pinellas. The two State House seats picked up by Democrats this cycle are both in South Pinellas. When added to the Dist. 55 seat held by Frank Peterman, and Dist. 53 held by Rick Kriseman that was formerly the seat of newly elected Democratic State Senator Charlie Justice, the South Pinellas County House district map is almost entirely blue. The only red parts of this map below Ulmerton Road are the parts of House District 54 now held by newly elected Republican Jim Frishe.

St. Petersburg's Mayor, Rick Baker, is a Republican. However, 5 of the 8 city council seats were held by Democrats. The City Council will select a new Council Member to replace Rick Kriseman who resigned to take up his new seat in the state House. The best bet is Kriseman's replacement will also be a Democrat, Herb Polson. Two St. Petersburg Council seats will be open for the city election in November 2007. Bill Foster and Renee Flowers will be leaving due to term limits. Flowers seat is likely to remain in Democratic hands, with Gershom Faulkner the likely winner. The interesting race will be for Bill Fosters' seat. Foster is a Republican, but his Council District resides within State House District 52 which was just picked up for the Democrats by Bill Heller. Stay tuned. We'll be talking a lot more about both of these seats in later issues.

While St. Petersburg is the most Democratic of the cities in Pinellas, the other larger cities are not bereft of Democratic office holders. Three of the seven Commissioners in Largo are Dems, including Mayor Pat Gerard. Pinellas Park Democrats hold 2 of the 5 Council seats. Even Clearwater has Democratic Council Member Carlen Petersen.

One could not set the stage for local politics in Pinellas without a discussion of the local Republican and Democratic Parties. Each of these parties will soon be getting their own story told in more detail. However, we must talk a little about both here.

The Pinellas Democratic Party, well, what can you really say about them? The local Dems have been a complete horror show since July when Chair Carrie Wadlinger resigned. She was succeeded by Ed Helm. That's when the fun really began. To say that Helm has been divisive is a massive understatement. In a year that Democrats seemed to have everything going for them, Helm has made the local Democratic Party more fun than a three ring circus. For everybody but members of the Pinellas Democratic Party, that is. Helm decided to violate Florida Democratic Party rules by endorsing his own slate of candidates in the September 5th Primary. Showing what an adept politician Helm really is, every one of his candidates lost in the primary. Helm stirred things up during the primary by suggesting that the winning candidates were not "real" Democrats, whatever those are.

There will be an election of officers for the Pinellas Democratic Party on December 13th. Former Party Webmaster Tony Molinaro, who Helm unceremoniously fired in the middle of the general election campaign, will be running for Chair against Ed Helm. The Pinellas Party meetings since Helm took over as Chair have been real donnybrooks. The election meeting on December 13th should be no different. Look for a Credentials fight before the voting begins. I say it is even money whether or not a vote will even be held on the 13th. Stay tuned. We'll be sure to have more on that later.

Meanwhile, Pinellas Republicans have had no bed of roses to lie in either. While devoid of the histrionics that have characterized the Dems under Helm, The GOP has had its own trials and tribulations. Chair Tony DiMateo has drawn more than his share of criticism lately. Losing the two State House seats and the State Senate seat formerly held by Republicans hasn't helped him any. He has not appeared to have drawn any opposition for re-election so far, however. Neil Brickfield, a former local elected official and County Commission candidate is slated to become Vice Chair this cycle. Rumor is Brickfield will replace DiMateo after the 2008 presidential election.

Well, Pinellas is not Peyton Place, but sometimes it comes close. There will be the Party elections in December. There are municipal elections in March, and St. Petersburg will hold Council elections in November. Plenty of politics and local governance issues to talk about in between elections. Come back and see what's been happening lately.