Jim Kennedy: Public process not so public
ST. PETERSBURG -- City Council member Jim Kennedy said Mayor Rick Baker or his staff regularly conduct private meetings with City Council members to discuss upcoming business items before public meetings.
Baker is "smart enough" to ensure his ideas will likely receive a majority of the City Council's votes before they come up for vote, Kennedy said. If council members have concerns about policy proposals, compromises are usually hammered out during these private matters.
"I feel as if you've had impact all along on the finished product," said Kennedy during a meeting with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board Tuesday.
However, this process does not undermine the City Council's duty to check and balance the administration's authority, Kennedy said.
"I don't think there is any abrogation whatsoever," he said.
Are council agenda items done deals by the time they come up for vote, then?
"It may be a done deal because it's been analyzed and it's been massaged," he said.
Kennedy said he supports televising the council's committee meetings, during which many policy decisions are created, but he has concerns that the cameras could, "discourage brainstorming."
A tentative policy suggestion, "could be misinterpreted as someone trying to run with something," he said.
Kennedy also said he has concerns about Baker's plan to privatize the sidewalk fronting BayWalk.
"I don't know if I really buy the concept that protesters and free speech demonstrators are responsible for the demise of BayWalk," he said.