District 4 candidate Pamella Settlegoode: Council is out of touch
ST. PETERSBURG- District 4 candidate Pamella Settlegoode is not too happy with the City Council.
She faces City Council member Leslie Curran and printer Jason Diviki in the September primary. Diviki also opposes the BayWalk plan. Curran supports it.
Here's Settlegoode's take on Thursday's vote to move forward with a plan to vacate the sidewalk fronting BayWalk:
I attended today's council meeting, specifically to observe what the current leaders there had to say about the proposed BayWalk Revitalization Plan, which appeared on the agenda. Part of the plan was to privatize the public sidewalk (actually it's the entire street) in front of the BayWalk shopping center, meaning to give public property away, thereby limiting access and speech. I was interested in if council would actually vote on it before hearing pubic testimony. Testimony was allowed, at length, however only from the new owners and associates of BayWalk. What I observed, again, on council was a group of individuals who have so elevated their lecturns, where from their lofty pedestals, they no longer can hear the peoples concerns, nor do they seem at all interested. The lone exception was council member Mr. Newton. It was troubling to observe on a number of levels.
The first being the Constitution, of the United States of America. It may indeed be pesky to their agenda, still, each city council member knew about this document when they took the oath for office they now serve. The state of Florida also recognized this when it agreed to join the Union. At each council meeting, the members can be seen saluting the flag and reciting The Pledge of Allegiance. Seemingly it has become rather a rote exercise for them. They have forgotten, really what the American flag stands for. Constitutionally and democratically these stewards are not prudent, inspiring or even encouraging. Conversely, BayWalk, to me, is a flimsy version of a public square, yet this is how the developers and city leaders promoted it. Well, the public did indeed come, the operators there were not prepared, concurrently the city was not paying attention.
I have been to BayWalk, many, many times; with friends, family, my 82 year old mums and eating there with my Newfoundland, Caddy. Sure, the public has, at times, been out in force. I have reluctantly crossed the demonstrators picket lines, walked through crowds of very loud and rowdy teenagers and had to passby the noisy drinking crowds at the "martini bars" and then there's always the panhandler greeters. Honestly, none of these persons ever bothered me, but the gun fire did. The BayWalk establishment doesn't much appreciate Caddy's visits either, so we stopped walking there. On my Listening Tour, as a candidate for city council, most of the problems reported encountered seem to be associated with the rowdy groups of teens who made BayWalk their own. I observed them to be there late at night, unsupervised. That is the problem, but so is the concept of BayWalk.
Altogether, conceptually, BayWalk is at odds with its public, but it's not the problem. The real problem is our current leadership at City Hall; their agendas and priorities are questionable, further, they don't like to be questioned. It concerns me that Mayor Baker and council finds little trouble in dispatching $700,000 of the public's money to reviitalized BayWalk, yet offered only $250,000, last budget, for Pinellas Hope (that is the program for the "homeless" the mayor and council often boast about, located in Pinellas Park, run by Catholic Charities, where currently 85% of the residents are from St. Petersburg). Sadly, just a few blocks from BayWalk, is the authenic, historic public commons, known as Williams Park. I have been there quite often too, including late at night with the police. It's where I used to play as a child and teen. It has become a public cesspool, left festering right in the middle of our downtown. The council knows it. Council member Leslie Curran's solution was fashioning Art in the Park. Bravo! Another failed attempt by placing a bandaid on a very serious hemorrhage. No resident, or person, no matter what their circumstance, should have the right to destroy a public park. The police are frustrated while the council passes more criminalizing ordinances, reaping more lawsuits. I think our city of St. Petersburg can do better, much better.
Cristina Silva, Times staff writer