Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stop the Presses

Last Friday morning we talked about a subject that keeps coming up again and again - coverage of the arts in the local media - or lack thereof. This has been a subject that we have been talking about at the Friday Morning Group for about as long as there has been a Friday Morning Group.

Meeting in St. Petersburg, most of the attention was focused on the efforts of the Times to cover the burgeoning art scene in St. Pete and Pinellas County over the years. Nice things were said about John Fleming, the Times performing arts critic. Fleming had just written a piece on the effects of the upcoming budget cuts as a result of the property tax reform. On the whole, not a pretty picture. Perhaps more pieces on the economic impact of the arts in the community would have kept us from getting to this point?

We were also joined by photographer Richard Stewart. Richard has been involved in the effort to start the St. Petersburg Photographic Gallery. The gallery, a more or less cooperative effort, has been stalled by lease issues. However, the idea lives on.

Patrice Pucci filled us in on the successful City Players run of Hello Dolly at Ruth Eckerd Hall. They sold the place out for the Sunday Matinee. Way to go!

We also talked again about the success of Herb Snitzer's "informal" talk to over 50 people during the first weekend of his show at the Museum of Fine Arts. The show is celebrating Herb's 50 years in photography. Pretty remarkable considering photography is only about 150 years old. Herb will give his "formal" talk about his work on Sunday, August 12th at 3 PM.

For more informal art talk, we hope to see you Friday Morning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

City Council Money Race

Now that the match ups have been settled for the St. Petersburg City Council elections this year, it is time to take a look at how the fund raising race is going. Money does not always equate success in local elections (see John McQueen in 2003, or Darden Rice in 2005), but it can provide some clues.

Leading the money race at this point is Gershom Faulkner running for Renee Flowers seat, District 7. Faulkner has raised an astounding $9,933 in the reporting period ending June 30th. Faulkner started raising money in earnest in April when he garnered over $2,000. Much of this money was raised from connections he had made in Tallahassee during his tenure as legislative assistant to State Rep. Frank Peterman. This money can also be viewed as the high regard Faulkner is held in by his Tallahassee contacts.

In May and June, Faulkner turned to his fund raising ability in St. Petersburg. Supporters such as State Senator Charlie Justice, and State Reps. Bill Heller and Rick Kriseman helped him raise the balance of the $ 9,900. The good news for Faulkner, he has yet to tap the fundraising assistance from many more of his high profile supporters including County Commissioners Ken Welch and Calvin Harris. Also, Rep. Frank Peterman has yet to tap his fundraising base for Faulkner.

The bad news for Gershom Faulkner? He spent $8,700 this past quarter. Much of this money went to his high profile Campaign Manager, Mitch Kates. However, a substantial portion also went into campaign literature most of which is still in inventory.

Wengay Newton, Faulkners' opponent in the general election in November has raised only $2,300 to date. Like Faulkner, he has already spent most of it. Newton has spent over $1,600 to date. This doesn't leave him with a lot of cash on hand either.

The other big money raiser is Ed Montanari. Montanari will be facing a September primary in the race for the Distrcit 3 seat being vacated by Bill Foster. Montanari raised $6,400, the vast majority of it in June alone. Unlike his counterparts in District 7, Montanari has spent only a paltry $743 to date. Most of that ($500) went for consulting fees to the Mallard Group in Clearwater. Montanari better hope Mallard will break out of the losing streak they went on in 2006.

In contrast, Montanaris' opponents have raised only $2,300 combined. Bill Dudley, who lost this race to Bill Foster in 2003 has raised only $819 to date. This despite the fact that he has been running for this seat for the past 4 years. Cathy Harrelson contributed the $500 that her campaign reported raising this period. She did not officially get into the race until June. The fourth person in this race, Cliff Gephart, has yet to file a campaign finance report.

In the District 1 race, Herb Poslon, appointed to the Council to replace Rick Kriseman, raised $2,625 this period. $1,000 came from the Polson family. Herb's wife wrote a $500 check to the campaign and Herb loaned $500. Polson spent a considerable amount already on campaign start up costs, but still had $1,300 cash remaining at the end of the reporting period. Polson's opponent, former Council Member Bob Kersteen, loaned his campaign $100. This is the total extent of Kersteen's fundraising so far.

In District 5, incumbent Jamie Bennett was waiting to see if he was going to draw an opponent. He has only loaned his campaign $500 so far. He wound up drawing two last minute opponents, Chris Kelly and Debra Woodard. Neither of the challengers have had to file a finance report as of yet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sociology of Art

I guess you are getting somewhere when a social scientist is interested enough in what you are doing to want to study you. We were joined last Friday morning by a sociologist from Eckerd College who also happens to be a potter. Unfortunately for him, he joined us about half way through, so here's what he missed.

We started off talking about the Music of the Harlem Renaissance show at The Studio@620 the previous night. All who attended gave it rave reviews. Thanks to sponsorships from the Florida Humanities Council, The Studio@620 and the Al Downing / Tampa Bay Jazz Association, the event was free to the public. Way to go guys!

Herb Snitzer informed us that seven of his photographs have been hung in the Mayors outer office in City Hall. Also, Herb's show went up Friday at the Museum of Fine Art. Herb gave an informal talk Saturday afternoon on his fifty years in photography. Interestingly enough, he gave it to about 50 people.

We again talked about the idea of getting community art programming on WEDU. We kept coming back to the funding stumbling block. It costs about $250,000 to produce 12 1/2 hour episodes. Maybe the Pinellas Convention and Visitors Bureau would have an interest in underwriting something like that?

And speaking of money, we got a report from the St. Pete City Council. It seems the City Council has not yet decided how to allocate the $500 thousand that it has put back in the budget for arts and social service agencies. One proposal floated by a Council Member is to give all $500 thousand to the homeless. That would be none to the arts and none to any other social service agency. Stay tuned on this one.

See y'all on Friday.

St. Pete Council Races Set

Yesterday was the close of qualifying for St. Pete City Council races. There will be two primaries in September. In District 3 where Bill Foster is term limited out and in District 5, where Jamie Bennett is running for reelection.

District 3 is the only seat up this cycle that is currently held by a Republican. The Democrats only chance to pick up this seat rests on the shoulders of Cathy Harrelson. Harrelson is an investment advisor and financial professional. She is also a past President of the Sierra Club, although that is not prominently featured on her web site. Also, her campaign is being run by Darden Rice, another Sierra Club leader. Rice ran and lost against Ernest Williams in 2005. This despite raising $50,000.

There are two Republicans running to keep this seat on their side of the ledger. Bill Dudley, a retired high school wrestling coach is running again after losing to Bill Foster in the general election in 2003. Ed Montanari is the remaining candidate. He ran Bill Foster's campaign in 2003. Ed is a commerical airline pilot and was Chair of the Albert Whitted Advisory Task Force. This is going to be the toughest race in the City this cycle.

Jamie Bennett has drawn 2 opponents in his bid to retain the City Council seat he first won in 2001. Bennett was unopposed in 2003 and was hoping to get a campaign this time. Bennett has aspirations to run for Mayor in 2009 and wants a platform to start that campaign. Well, he certainly got one. Chris Kelly, another Democrat has filed to run. Kelly is co-founder of Pinellas Heritage and is a former President of the Historic Roser Park Neighborhood Association. Also running is Debra Woodard. Woodard is a 55 year old African American Democrat. Unfortunately not much else is know about Ms. Woodard at this point. The Republicans apparently were unable to come up with a challenger despite the rantings of Dave the Appraiser. Well, better luck next time Dave (not). One would have to give the early edge to Jamie Bennett right now. However, one would also be careful about what you ask for. Jamie may have gotten more than he bargained for.

In District 1 Herb Polson, who was newly appointed to fill the seat vacated by State Rep. Rick Kriseman, will face off against former City Council Member Bob Kersteen. Kersteen is a 70 year old Republican who last served on the City Council in 2000. Polson is one of the most qualified people ever to run for a City Council seat. He retired from the City of St. Petersburg last year in hopes of being appointed to fill Krisemans seat as Rick ran for the state House. Herb's hope was fulfilled when the Council appointed him over, you guessed it, Bob Kersteen. Because elections are about the future and Herb is superbly qualified, I'd have to say that this will be a laugher.

That brings us to District 7 where Rene Flowers can not run again due to term limits. There will be no primary here as only 2 candidates qualified. In November Wengay Newton will square off against Gershom Faulkner. Wengay Newton is president of the Westminster Heights Neighborhood Association. His brother Winnie also happens to be president of the local fire fighters union. Faulkner was the long term aide to state Rep. Frank Peterman and is currently Outreach Director for Congresswoman Kathy Castor. Faulkner certainly has the inside track on endorsements from elected officials. This starts with the Dems in the Pinellas legislative delegation, runs through the Dems on the County Commission, includes Mary Brown on the School board and several other local elected officials. Faulkner was also Deputy campaign manager for Kathy Castor's successful primary election for the Congressional seat vacated by Jim Davis. He knows what it takes to win elections and seems to be doing most things right. This should be a big win for Faulkner who is a real up and comer in the Democratic Party.

Turnout is likely to be extremely low in the primary elections. It will be only slightly better for the general election in November. It is pretty safe to say the Dems will at least hold on to their 5-3 majority on the council. It is also possible that they might gain a 6th seat, although that is looking like a pretty tough proposition right now.

We'll have something on 2nd quarter fund raising soon. So stay tuned. This could be interesting.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Interesting Meeting & Big Weekend

It was an interesting meeting of the Friday Morning Group last Friday. Topics ranged from Nina Simone to the decline of the newspaper industry. And for early summer, or almost any time for that matter, this is a big weekend for some of our community based artists.

First, Herb Snitzer's show goes up this Friday, July 20th at the Museum of Fine Arts. Herb will be at the Museum on Saturday, July 21st at 4 PM. On Sunday, August 12th at 3 PM Herb will give a lecture at the Museum. There will be a dinner in Herb's honor in September at Redwoods. Cost will be $35. The dinner will be sponsored by the Museum's Friends of Photography.

Speaking of friends of photography, there was a discussion about the recent auction price of photographic art. Seems an Edward Weston piece was recently auctioned in New York for $824,000!

Also opening on Friday, July 21, the City Players, ably represented at the Friday Morning Group by Patrice Pucci, will present Hello, Dolly at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8 PM with a 2 PM Matinee on Sunday.

Last Friday, at The Studio@620, the Artist's Trading Card show opened. Sounds like a very interesting show, and it runs to Saturday, July 21. Learn more about ATC's here. Bob Devin Jones also let us know that in September he will be bringing in a doppelganger of Herb Snitzer's friend Nina Simone. I, for one, will be looking forward to that.

And we'll look forward to seeing you on Friday morning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Quiet Week

It may have been the 4th of July hangover effect, but last Friday Morning was a quick, quiet meeting at the Friday Morning Group. It was an interesting one nonetehless.

The talk on Friday centered around the looming budget cuts for local governments. But this one had a twist. Almost all local governments are saying that they have to cut social service and arts funding to protect law enforcement functions. That includes the City of St. Petersburg. But it turns out that there is one law enforcement function that St. Pete has no qualms about cutting.

So, which function is this you ask? St. Petersburg is eliminating its Human Rights Office. This function is going to be handed off to Pinellas County. There is one slight problem with this, however. Pinellas County does not have the authority to enforce St. Petersburg's Human Right Ordinance. That little factoid has the practical effect of killing off the Human Rights ordinance that the Mayor didn't support in the first place. That's because no one will be around to enforce it. So, in effect, the Mayor is cutting law enforcement.

There was also some discussion that the City Council was likely to restore some funding to Arts and Social Service organizations. The question was, how much. The number $500,000 was floated previously by Council Member Leslie Curran. It turns out that was the number that was restored in yesterday's City Council Budget workshop. That's still an 80% cut from last years levels. At least it is not a 100% cut. Stand by now for the scramble as organizations make a mad dash to get some of that money.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Whole Lot of Art Going On

Last Firday morning there was a lot of information sharing going on. That's because there is a a whole lot of art going on in our area now and in the coming months.

The first item to report is that Herb Snitzer's show at the Museum of Fine Art is set to open July 20th. The show will run to September 11th. Herb will be giving an informal talk on July 21st and a gallery talk on August 12th. There will also be a dinner in Herb's honor in September. Stay tuned for more details.

Patrice Pucci reported that the City Players will be performing Hello Dolly at Ruth Eckerd Hall on July 20-21. All the players are volunteers. Through a deal with the City of Clearwater, the City Players get free use of Ruth Eckerd Hall. The net proceeds from the show go back to supporting City Players.

Tom Taggart reported that as of this past Tuesday, WEDU is broadcasting its entire program stream in Spanish. Part of this comes from PBS and part has to be locally produced. This brings the number of channels broadcast by WEDU to 5.

And our old and dear friend Dave Ellis stopped by. Dave is co artistic director of the Studio@620. Dave told us about an exciting program he is working on for a mid November to mid December run. The show is titled The Water is Wide - the Art of Boat Building. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

And we are looking forward to seeing you this Friday.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tampa Bay Week That Was

It was another interesting week in St. Petersburg, my hometown. It started off with an interesting and effective procedural move at the Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee meeting. And it ended with the mother of all Florida Pride Festivals in St. Petersburg. Then there was all kinds of other interesting things going on in between.

Tuesday night, Acting Pinellas DEC Chair Arlin Briley knew how to solve a knotty problem. Between the summertime doldrums and people showing up for meetings but refusing to sign in and be counted, the Pinellas DEC had been having trouble getting a quorum. This was holding up the election of new and appointed DEC members. Mr. Briley was acting in the place of DEC Chair, yes she had the baby, Toni Molinaro. Arlin was not going to let this situation go unchallenged. When told that the meeting was four members short of a quorum Briley knew just what to do. he called a special meeting of the DEC Board of directors right there and confirmed the new appointed and elected members present. All legal within the By Laws of the DEC. And it was all done before those not officially present knew what was going on. Good for you, Arlin.

Also at the DEC meeting Tuesday night, most Pinellas Democrats got to hear Reverend Charles Mackenzie for the first time. The former FL-13 Congressional primary candidate showed that hew will clearly be the best speech giver in the expected to be crowded HD-55 primary for the term limited Reverend Representative Frank Peterman's seat.

Wednesday was marked by John Edwards House Parties. Uber One Corps leader Liz France graciously made her Pass a Grille home available for the South Pinellas party. As a reward for her efforts, Liz got to ask Senator Edwards a question during the Q&A portion of the conference call. She gave him a real hot potato, asking his stance on Israeli - Palestinian issues. Senator Edwards handled it as flawlessly as if he had been playing softball with little Jack. We got the extra added bonus of speaking with Elizabeth Edwards before Senator Edwards got on the call. Thanks to Liz and all her hard work to make the house party a smashing success.

Friday was all about John Edwards again. This time Edwards was holding a Small Change for Big Change low dollar fund raiser at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. Remind me again why anybody would want to put their candidate in a zoo? Actually the Saunders Pavillion at the Zoo is a terrific venue for this kind of thing. And the staff of the Lowry park Zoo treated us great. A real pleasure to work with.

Despite the heat and humidity and the fact that weather delayed Senator Edwards take off from Washington for two hours, the event was a smashing success. The Edwards advance team was a well oiled machine and the Lowry Park staff could not have been more helpful. Round that out with a terrific volunteer contingent headed up by the aforementioned Liz France, and you have the full recipe for success.

After getting wheels up in DC, Senator Edwards closed the time gap down as much as humanly possible. He took the stage at about 8:45 and had the crowd rocking for the next 20 minutes. As reported in all the news accounts, Senator Edwards led off with praise for his wife standing up to that vile hate monger, Ann Coulter. The Edwards campaign has taken a page right out of the Bill Clinton playbook. When the other guys hit you, you hit back harder.

Senator and Mrs. Edwards are doing just that. Edwards talked about his signature issues of fighting poverty and providing universal health care coverage. He did not waste the chance to tell the crowd of 300 plus that on his first day as President he would close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and that he would be getting our troops out of Iraq. Edwards closed his speech with a heartfelt plea for support from everyone in attendance.

Saturday was the 5th Annual St. Petersburg Pride Festival. The Festival began with the Promenade led by Grand Marshall Susan Stanton. Democratic Presidential Candidate, Congressman Dennis Kucinich was seen touring the Promenade assembly area. He had the oh so successful (not) political wannabe Ed Helm sniffing up his elbow the entire time. BTW, Helm was seen craning his neck for a better view of John Edwards on Friday night.

State Representative Bill Heller and St. Petersburg City Council Vice Chair Jamie Bennett participated in the Promenade, dispensing beads along the way. State Representative Rick Kiseman (he of the leg broken in the legislative softball game) had a table a the event. Bennet and fellow Council member Jeff Danner read the Festival Proclamation for the St. Petersburg City Council. This occurred immediately after the St. Petersburg Police arrested four pretend religious people from Georgia who violated the Festival's permit's sign requirements and would not comply with police requests to lose the offending signs.

Most of the estimated 70,000 who attended the Festival did not appear to be bothered by the imported hate mongers. I must say when we had to march past the bullhorns that were permitted during the promenade, my ears hurt when there were bullhorns blaring on both sides of our entrance onto the parade route. Turns out the Pinellas Stonewall Democrats have tougher ears than I do. Maybe mine are just older than most of theirs? Following the Pinellas Stonewalls were the Suncoast Stonewalls from south of the Skyway. Their banner holders came all the way from Venice for the event.

Perhaps the largest crowd in the Dem group were the green shirted supporters of Hillsborough County Commission candidate Brian Beckner. Beckner will be running county wide against incumbent Brian Blair in November of 2008. Beckner's campaign manager, Mitch Kates is also handling the race this November of Gershom Faulkner who is running for the St. Petersburg City Council seat being vacated by the termed out Rene Flowers.

Next week will be dominated by the Fourth of July celebrations throughout the Tampa Bay area. Hard to see how we could get more fireworks on Wednesday than we had this past week.