St. Petersburg: Council chairman Karl Nurse unloads on the mayor, the police chief and missed opportunities
ST. PETERSBURG – When City Council chairman Karl Nurse speaks of his achievements, he points to efforts toward energy efficiency and plodding work to improve rundown neighborhoods in his district.
Nurse, who is running for reelection in District 6, appeared before the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Tuesday. He said he has worked to cut energy costs in the city, and mentioned the adaptation of traffic signals and street lights to LED technology. He also spoke of his efforts to encourage investors in the Midtown area to take on substantial rehabs on the houses they’ve snapped up, instead of “paint and carpet” jobs. Incentives include the city’s Rebates for Residential Rehabs program, which gives a 20 percent rebate for significant renovations, a new foreclosure registry and a lien release program.
Nurse also spoke on other issues:
On Mayor Bill Foster: “The disappointment with the mayor” in the black community is real, he said.
Nurse also criticized the city’s redevelopment, codes enforcement and police departments.
“The mayor has never really managed people before,” he said, adding that Foster has not taken the opportunity to look outside to replace departing staff with qualified people.
On police: Crime is up 10 percent citywide this year over 2012 and more in Midtown, Nurse said. “I think a lot of it is not reported.” He blamed poor police-resident relations in Midtown on the erosion of community policing, a setback that began under former Mayor Rick Baker. Nurse said that most residents in Midtown only come into contact with police during emergencies and called Police Chief Chuck Harmon “a reactive guy.”
Mandatory curbside recycling: Nurse is convinced that it will become a reality and said the policy is being pushed “from the bottom up” by groups like the League of Women Voters. He is not sure what method will be used, but said the program will not be cost neutral. “We don’t let people push their raw sewage out their back door,” he said.
On the Lens: Nurse, who opposes the proposed $50 million replacement to the 1973 Pier, advocates polling residents online and through utility bills about what they’d like to see at any new Pier. “If you get the function down, then that would affect what you design,” he said. “I don’t think very many architects will turn down the opportunity for work,” he said when asked which architect would want to get involved with the city after the experience of Lens’ designer Michael Maltzan Architecture.
On a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays: “I thought I had helped facilitate the core of a deal,” he said, mentioning the proposal to build a stadium in the Gateway area. He blamed city attorneys for throwing a wrench in St. Petersburg’s ability to use that in its negotiations to keep the Rays in town.
“I am not afraid of Tampa,” he said, adding that light rail would be an incentive to keep the baseball team in Pinellas County.
“Meanwhile, we need to redevelop the area around the Trop,” he said. Nurse discussed the opportunities of Johns Hopkins and Jabil Circuit expanding in the area, but said there will be a need for housing for future employees. “We need to stop pretending that St. Petersburg is built out,” he said.