Bill Foster details ideas
ST. PETERSBURG -- City workers responsible for spending millions of taxpayer dollars should have to justify every expenditure, mayoral candidate Bill Foster said Monday at a public event to kick off his campaign.
As city leaders brace for as much as a $20 million reduction in property tax revenue, Foster pledged to transform St. Petersburg’s budgetary process and work toward reducing the city’s tax rate. His rally at Pioneer Park drew more than 100 business owners, friends, family and city leaders.
“City government can no longer afford to be everything to everyone,” said Foster, a lawyer and former council member.
Foster said he would favor a form of zero-based budgeting, a line-by-line review system embraced by government watchdogs.
The city currently bases its budget on prior expenditures, which critics say discourages belt-tightening.
Under Foster’s plan, a budget’s starting point would not be zero, but a percentage of the previous year’s budget. Foster said as mayor he would determine that percentage each year, based on the city’s needs.
For instance, if the city faced a difficult financial year and needed a cut, he might use 70 percent of the current budget as his starting point. Each department would have to justify each dollar above that number. Anything deemed ineffective or low priority would be cut, Foster said.
Former council member Bob Kersteen, a longtime proponent of zero-based budgets, said Foster’s budget plan is the primary reason he is supporting him.
Some other local community leaders came out to support Foster during his event, including Jon LaBudde, a founder of the Downtown Bloc business group, former council member Virginia Littrell, Midtown activist Theresa Lassiter and Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill.
Foster became a candidate last month, but like most of his opponents had shied away from providing details on what his administration would look like.
But on Monday he provided a 15-page report he dubbed the Foster Formula that spoke to his ideas on education, public safety, economic development and open government. He also unveiled his Web site, which has a copy of the report.
Foster said he would differentiate between government wants and needs and tap into community volunteers to help make up for eliminated programs or services.
He also called for security cameras in city streets and parks.
Continue after the jump to read his press release.
Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer
Bill Foster to Publically (sic) Announce Candidacy for Mayor of St. Petersburg this Monday, March 2nd at Pioneer Park
St. Petersburg - Bill Foster, a former St. Petersburg City Councilman with a rich history of civic involvement, will publically (sic) announce his candidacy for Mayor of St. Petersburg Monday, March 2nd at 12:00 noon at Pioneer Park in downtown St. Petersburg ( 98 Beach Drive , across the street south of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, east of Bayfront Tower ). At the event Mr. Foster will give a brief speech, unveil his campaign slogan, website and “Foster Formula” platform, and then take questions from the crowd. “These are challenging times in St. Petersburg ,” said Foster. “People don’t want any more political rhetoric, they want solutions. We need a serious, thought-out plan on how we are going to move St. Petersburg and its citizens forward during these tough economic times. My “Foster Formula” is just that, and I am very excited to share it with my fellow St. Petersburg citizens.” A fourth generation St. Petersburg resident, Bill Foster was first elected to the St. Petersburg City Council in 1999, where he served two terms before leaving the council in 2008. He was twice Chairman, in 2004 and 2006. Foster is an attorney and small business owner. He has practiced law with his father since 1988 in the Foster and Foster law firm. Bill and his wife Wendy have two teenage children: Christine and Will.