St. Petersburg council member Wengay Newton fights for free parking for early voters
Persistence paid off for council member Wengay Newton during Thursday’s City Council meeting.
During the public comment period, neighborhood activist Vince Cocks asked why the city didn’t publicize that parking is free at the Supervisor of Elections across from City Hall.
Voters were scrambling for change to feed parking meters before standing in line to vote. Cocks feared that voters would not vote if they didn’t have change or if they wanted to avoid a parking ticket.
Newton immediately made a motion to have the meters covered with bags to publicize the free parking. He compared the feeding of parking meters to a poll tax. Council member Karl Nurse supported Newton. Both men represent the poorest parts of the city.
Like any typical St. Petersburg City Council meeting, a debate ensued.
Mayor Bill Foster and council member Jim Kennedy both agreed that office workers would park in the spots and not leave any for voters. Newton wasn’t satisfied and said the problem didn’t exist in 2008 because the city didn’t have meters in that area.
Newton again brought up the issue after glancing out the window at voters standing in line at the polls. Foster reiterated his position.
But 30 minutes later, bags appeared over the parking meters on Fifth Street.