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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Kathleen Ford runs again for St. Petersburg mayor



ST. PETERSBURG-- Former city council member Kathleen Ford today formally announced her bid for mayor.

"I'm running for mayor of St. Petersburg because I love this city," she told a crowd of business owners and neighborhood leaders gathered in front of City Hall.

Ford, a lawyer, served on the City Council for four years before running for mayor in 2001. She placed second behind Rick Baker.

Ford said her administration would be transparent and her hirings would reflect the community's diversity. Ford said she would require government documents related to the city's budget and council votes to be available on the city's Web site and she said would hire more police officers.

"Crime is an issue," Ford said. "No matter how you slice or dice it, you can't hide the bodies."

When asked about the city's growing homeless problem, Ford said her administration would strike a balance. Veterans returning from overseas will likely need more social services, she said. But she said her staff would also take a tough look at vagrants downtown.

"It's not fair to folks who live here and work here to be pestered by panhandlers," she said.

Ford also filed her campaign paperwork this morning. Gaelynn Mosley Thurman is her campaign treasurer. The Parsons-Wilson political media firm is Ford's consultant.

Ford, 51, is known as a fierce critic of Baker who demanded greater accountability from city workers as a council member. Her critics paint her as rude and unprofessional, while her supporters applaud her pluck and honesty.

Ford has mostly stayed out of politics since her failed mayoral bid. Most recently, she was an officer for the political action committee Preserve our Wallets and Waterfront, which rallied against the Tampa Bay Rays' downtown stadium plan. She cut ties with the group last month to run for mayor.

It's unclear how well voters remember Ford. She said she thinks she still enjoys some name recognition.

Ford's biggest catch?

Peter R. Wallace, a lawyer who served as Florida's Speaker of the House from 1994 to 1996, was there.

Ford is the second mayoral candidate to make her announcement at City Hall. Council member Jamie Bennett held a similar event in January.

Bennett was in City Hall during Ford's announcement. Right before the news conference started, he peaked out a City Hall window to check on the growing crowd of Ford supporters.

"I work here," he said when asked what he was doing.

UPDATE: Was someone trying to spoil Ford's press conference? Read more after the jump.

--Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer

Ford said she found a flyer that looks as if someone was trying to get the homeless at City Hall for her press conference. 

"Come see candidate speech at City Hall," the flyer reads.

The flyers promise free T-shirts, food and drinks for everyone and bus passes for the first 25 spectators.

"Present flyer at end of speech for $1!" it reads.

There were at least four people at the press conference who might have been homeless based on their personal appearance. No one passed out any of the promised items and no one appeared disappointed.

The only disruption came when one homeless man yelled at Ford, "You sure are a lot prettier than the mayor."

Check out the flyer here: Download ford.pdf

UPDATE: Carl Williams, a homeless man, said someone handed him the flyer at Williams Park at about 11:20 p.m.

Not wanting to be late, he and a friend rushed over to City Hall. He said he wasn't disappointed when he didn't get any of the freebies.

"I have a bus pass," he said. "I could probably use an extra one, though."

Williams said the man passing out the flyers was at Williams Park a few weeks ago handing out flyers that advertised a new auto shop on U.S. 19. Williams said the man was black with a large beard.

Ford and some of her mayoral opponents said they had nothing to do with the flyer. Jamie Bennett, Bill Foster, a spokesman for Scott Wagman and a spokesman for Deveron Gibbons said they didn't produce it. Candidates Sharon Russ and Paul Congemi could not immediately be reached for comment.

-Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:45am]


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