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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

BayWalk vote almost passed



ST. PETERSBURG -- Soon after Mayor Rick Baker announced his plan to privatize the sidewalk fronting BayWalk, a majority of council members said they would likely support the measure, including council members Jeff Danner and Leslie Curran.

But when it came time for the vote Thursday, Danner and Curran joined two other council members who voted against moving the measure forward.

What happened?

Curran wasn’t convinced closing the sidewalk would solve the entertainment complex’s problems and urged BayWalk’s owners to come up with a solution that would address the concerns of free speech advocates.

Danner said he was worried the measure would establish a precedent, prompting other business owners to demand the city give them authority over the sidewalks fronting their restaurants or shops.

But others suspect their votes were purely political.

Leonard Schmiege, Danner’s opponent in the November election, spoke out against the measure at city meetings for weeks, as did Pamella Settlegoode, Curran’s challenger.

Council member Wengay Newton said he suspected Curran and Danner feared Schmiege and Settlegoode might ride their positions on BayWalk to victory.

“They gave them one less thing to hit them over the head with before the election,” he said.

Danner, however, said his reelection bid had nothing to do with his vote.

Meanwhile, Newton gave himself a pat on the back after the vote via Facebook.

"Your 'sidewalk' is safe and the Constitution is sill intact, God Bless America," read his status update Thursday night.

Yes, that's how he wrote "still."

Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:09pm]


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