More from the St. Petersburg mayoral forum
LARA CERRI | Times
First, here's the recap we published in today's paper.
And a couple of more observations:
- The format wasn't great. Candidates answered all of the questions in alphabetical order, then in reverse. That meant it was always either Jamie Bennett, above, or Larry Williams going first. It also meant that Deveron Gibbons, Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster always had a chance to prepare their answers when Williams and Bennett did not.
- The turnout was amazing. I think Bob Devin Jones at the Studio@620 put the number somewhere around 300. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch was there, as were City Council members Karl Nurse, Jeff Danner, Bill Dudley and Leslie Curran. The turnout is more impressive considering we're still more than four months from the primary.
- There were a couple of gaffes, or at least perceived gaffes. Bennett at one time used the phrase mentally retarded. He immediately apologized for the using the word. For what it's worth, the Times' style guide does say mentally retarded is an acceptable phrase. While some organizations have found the word retarded offensive, it is still widely used in the medical profession and some support groups still use the word.
- The other moment was generated by Ford, who during a question about the arts offerings in Midtown, said some people are afraid to go to Midtown because of the crime problem. The remark set off a subsequent questioner, who asked for statistics showing that the Carter G. Woodson Museum or the Royal Theater in Midtown had higher crime rates than, say, the Museum of Fine Arts. The questioner, looking at Ford, also said politicians had to come to Midtown more than just at election time. Ford tried to respond by saying her goal is to make all parts of the city safe, and that she wasn't speaking negatively about Midtown's arts offerings. But the message never really got through to some in the audience. The moment was accentuated when host Jones pointed out that the Studio@620 - the site of the forum - is in Midtown.
Aaron Sharockman, Times staff writer