St. Petersburg Council Chair Leslie Curran said she will fill leadership void left by Foster
ST. PETERSBURG -- Council Chair Leslie Curran objected to the characterization that she wasn't providing leadership on the issue of finding new revenue for next year's budget, which has an estimated shortfall of $13 million.
While Mayor Bill Foster has yet to endorse a new source, Curran said she will support either an increase in the property tax rate or a flat fee of between $5 and $10 month on properties in the city to pay for fire service.
"We can't afford to go another year without doing it," Curran said Wednesday. "We need to step up and do the right thing."
The budget was just another example where Foster has ceded the issue of what to do to the council, Curran said.
"Foster is almost a non-entity," Curran said, who says she is undecided on whether she will challenge him for reelection next year. "But I think it's obvious that council will have to decide what to do because he won't."
She said Foster followed the council's lead on the major issues that have confronted the city since he took office in 2010. She named the panhandling ordinance, the homeless issue, and extending bar hours until 3 a.m. as examples of how Foster defers to council.
"Like every other major decision that has been made, his comment on it is 'Whatever council wants,'" Curran said. "So if he wants council to run this city, we'll run this city."
Foster has opposed a proprety tax rate increase and fire fee in the past. This year, he has conceded that the city does need a new revenue source, but has yet to identify which one he would support. In March, he told the council that if they want a new funding source, it's up to them to identify it.
But at a budget workshop last week, Foster said he would make a recommendation. He said he didn't want to do it before today's budget summitt at J.W. Cate Center on 22nd Ave. N at 6 p.m., which he said is meant as an opportunity to listen to residents.
-- Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer