St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster joins growing chorus of boos on USF cuts
ST. PETERSBURG -- Not to be outdone by Tampa Bay officials who have shown support for the University of South Florida in its budget showdown with state Sen. JD Alexander, Mayor Bill Foster has weighed in with his own tough talk.
"I want to express the city's strong opposition to the current Senate proposal to cut funding to our universities by $400 million, and particularly to slashing the University of South Florida's....budget allocation by nearly 60 percent," Foster wrote in a letter that he had hand-delivered to Senate President Mike Haridopolos. "These cuts will have far-reaching, adverse impacts on the economies of St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay region, and the state of Florida."
USF has a St. Petersburg campus that Foster, not known for using the bully pulpit the mayor's office provides him, stressed was vital to the economic vitality of the region.
"The senate proposal would gut the College of Marine Science, one of USF's most prestigious and respected departments and located in St. Petersburg," Foster wrote. "This premier consortium is responsible for creating over 3,400 jobs through its operations and expenditures, and contributes approximately $251 million to Pinellas County's economy.
"The threat these proposed cuts pose to the long-term educational prospects of USF's students and USF's hard-won recognition as one of the top research institutions in the country will be imperiled, the region will suffer the loss of intellectual talent, and the education and employment opportunities of Florida's future working professionals will be diminished. I strongly urge the Senate vote against these cuts."
The St. Petersburg City Council joined the fray as well, voting 7-1 to approve a resolution urging lawmakers to reconsider the USF cuts. Only Council Chair Leslie Curran opposed the measure, saying she preferred a more positive approach, such as encouring delegation lawmakers to oppose the cuts.
-- Michael Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer