Red light camera critic becomes pollster
ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Florell may not have persuaded Mayor Bill Foster and council members to scrap plans for red light cameras, but he may yet influence city politics.
Since November, Florell has conducted three polls on various city issues, from Foster's approval ratings (which have ranged from 50 percent to 56 percent) to hypothetical match-ups in the 2013 mayoral race (February's results -- Foster 48.5 percentm, Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran 22.4 percent, council member Steve Kornell 16.9 percent, state Rep. Rick Kriseman 12.2 percent).
Why is Florell becoming the George Gallup of St. Petersburg? Well, for one thing, it's easier for him than most.
He owns Fextel, Inc. (http://fextel.net/), a company on Fourth Street North that offers business phone systems and services based on open-source technologies. His company has done polling surveys for several clients.
"We can place these survey calls with very little expense, which we pay for," Florell said in an e-mail to Bay Buzz.
He said that only one survey is allowed per phone number, and he keeps logs to ensure accountability. Robocalls are made only to registered city voters.
He said he plans to conduct polls every 45 days. The survey questions will be limited to those pertaining to St. Petersburg and those issues that are in the news. During elections, he'll broaden the survey to include Florida issues. Florell said the effort is non-partisan and that he'll strive to avoid any appearance of bias in the survey questions.
Florell said he's pleased with results, which he calls interesting.
Indeed, if poll numbers are as accurate as Florell says they are, Michael Maltzan and his architectural team better take note. In a February poll where 1,620 registered voters were surveyed, 72 percent favor options other than his reimagining of the Pier with the "Lens" design. The city is split on whether the property tax rate should be increased (49.4 percent yes, 50.6 percent no) to avoid further budget cuts. And that $60 million police station? About 62 percent don't support it.
How unbiased are the poll results? In February, Florell found his pet cause unaided by responses to this question: "Do you think installing red light cameras was a good thing?"
A majority, 53.5 percent, said ... yes it was.
For a complete rundown of his polls, go to www.stpetepolls.org.
-- Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer