Pinellas Democrats switch course on TIF grant
It wasn't very much money. $531 to be exact. But a city grant to the Pinellas County Democratic Party to spruce up its St. Petersburg headquarters won't be accepted, the county chairwoman said in a news release Thursday.
Susan McGrath charged that City Council member Ed Montanari, who criticized the grant, was just trying to score political points.
City attorneys said the Democratic Party was entitled to the tax-increment financing grant from the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area as the headquarters on 2250 1st Ave N was within the CRA boundaries. The grant is designed to help property owners improve their properties' exteriors with signage, paint jobs, roof repairs and other fixes.
McGrath also appeared to implicitly compare Montanari, a first-term council member and the lone Republican, to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
"Donald Trump isn’t the only bully within the Republican Party and certainly isn’t the only one pushing crazy ideas, but we believe that it is important to address these neighborhoods - that have been so neglected by previous Mayors - so, we are withdrawing our grant application in order to show our support for this very important program," McGrath wrote.
Montanari, who was attending a Florida League of Cities conference in Hollywood, Fla. Thursday, said he had never met McGrath.
He said he doesn't "know what crazy ideas that she is referring to."
At an Aug. 11 City Council meeting, Montanari voted against the grants, but in favor of a $170,000 allocation to renovate the Merriwether building on 22nd St. He said he would oppose grants for the Republican Party or any other political party from taxpayer funds.
McGrath's full news release is below. Check back to Bay Buzz for more on this developing story.
Democratic Chair Responds to Political Attack
After years of neglect by the previous administrations, we are proud that Mayor Kriseman is working on community betterment. We believe that this is an important program and we wanted to be part of it. We agreed to put up some our money to be matched by the city in an effort to enhance the community in which we own property.
The Pinellas Democratic Party pays thousands of dollars in local property taxes each year to the city of St. Petersburg and simply applied for a grant; getting back a few hundred of our tax dollars to pay for this neighborhood betterment program.
Republican Ed Montanari has no objections with giving these grants to religious organizations and other community groups but believe that we should not be eligible. That seems like a double standard.
He never bothered to reach out to myself or anyone associated with the Pinellas Democratic Party to express his concerns but instead staged a political stunt to try to score political points.
We were simply asking to be treated the same as any other taxpayer - but Ed Montanari believes that we should be treated differently.
He disagrees with our efforts to improve the lives of working families in St. Petersburg and across Pinellas County. He may not like that fact that we support a higher the minimum wage, improved public education, marriage equality, equal pay for women and improved civil rights. And certainly, he is upset by our opposition to Donald Trump and the extreme positions of the Republican Party.
The Pinellas Democratic Party is a taxpayer in the City of St. Petersburg, we deserve to be treated fairly – just like every other taxpayer. What other City Services and programs does Ed Montanari think we should be denied – fire, police, code enforcement?
Donald Trump isn’t the only bully within the Republican Party and certainly isn’t the only one pushing crazy ideas, but we believe that it is important to address these neighborhoods - that have been so neglected by previous Mayors - so, we are withdrawing our grant application in order to show our support for this very important program.
We continue to pay our local property taxes and continue to be a good community partner in St. Petersburg. And most importantly, we will continue to fight for the people of St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County.