Residents rail about budget cuts, but St. Petersburg City Council won't fight them
ST. PETERSBURG -- After Mayor Bill Foster announced last week he was eliminating five full-time ranger positions at the popular Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, neighborhood leaders launched an aggressive e-mail campaign opposing the move.
They routed missives to the city's eight City Council members, pleading with them to intervene. As of today, the council has received 65 e-mails objecting to the cuts, which are projected to save the city $175,000 next year. No one has sent any e-mails in support of the move.
"Steve Kornell, please don't let our newly elected mayor tear the heart out of city," begged Michael Alexander, who lives on 55th Ave., in a Feb. 5 e-mail.
But if residents were expecting council members to change Foster's mind, or even put up much of a fight, they should check the video tape of the council's meeting last Thursday.
"Just say it's the mayor's decision," said City Attorney John Wolfe to council members about what to tell constituents angry with the cuts. "You have no control over personnel."
Council Member Wengay Newton said that may not fly with those who put him in office.
"It's hard to say the mayor did it when you're talking to people in your district," Newton said.
True, but the council should know its place when it comes to budget cuts, said Council Member Jim Kennedy.
"We don't have the authority to tell the mayor what he can cut," Kennedy said. "We shouldn't try to restrict the mayor."
Council Member Karl Nurse went to bat for Foster in an e-mail response this week, telling one upset resident that she should consider the big picture.
"I understand the service will be worse and the expertise lost and regret that," Nurse said. "However, I don't think it is realistic to think we can protect any area from cuts in this environment."
- Michael Van Sickler, Times staff writer