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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Three women on St. Pete City Council might be diverse, but it's not historic



Put down the party horn, Darden Rice. Don't pop that champagne, Amy Foster. And Lisa Wheeler-Brown, you said it was great making history as one of three women to sit at the same time on St. Petersburg's City Council.

Turns out, no history is being made.

But a good lesson in short memories, slapdash research and the necessity for newspaper reporters to double check official records---even custodians of records---has been embarassingly delivered.

Here's a relatively concise version of how the history-making moment -that- wasn't went down.

After Wheeler-Brown's election, Rice asked City Clerk Chan Srinivasa to determine if three women had ever served together on city council. 

He responded Thursday that his research indicated that it had never happened. Rice alerted the Tampa Bay Times, which after reviewing Srinivasa's email to Rice, posted an item on this very blog trumpeting history being made.

Later Thursday, council member Karl Nurse contacted the Times, pointing out his memory of three women on council in 1977.

When asked, Srinivasa confirmed that Mayor Corinne Freeman served with council members Betty Ray Finley and Sally Wallace that year.

But Srinivasa hadn't counted Freeman because Rice had asked about council members. Although a weak mayor when the city had been run by a city manager, Freeman wasn't technically a council member. 

The Times dutifully noted the asterisk.

Then on Friday, a caller added a new twist that shattered any pretense of history being made.

Turns out that at the turn of this century, Rene Flowers, Kathleen Ford and Bea Griswold all served together on city council at the very least during 1999 and 2000.

Srinivasa's office had closed when the newest women's cohort was, ahem, rediscovered (?), and couldn't be reached for comment about how they had been overlooked.

Meanwhile, the original Bay Buzz posts touting a gender milestone has gone their merry viral way on social media. Those posts will be removed.  

The St. Petersburg city council does count three women among its eight members. That's diverse. Just not historic.


[Last modified: Friday, November 6, 2015 6:47pm]


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