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.