Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For Bill Foster, being the mayor of status quo ain't bad

These are supposed to be polarizing times.

You versus me, or us versus them. You hear it on the radio, read it on the Internet, even see it on the bumpers of cars. Either agree, or risk being called a lousy so-and-so.

So how does that explain the smiling man with the microphone at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting Wednesday afternoon at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club?

Turns out, a lot of people like Bill Foster.

Even people who question his vision as a leader, or his effectiveness as a politician. Even people who aren't quite sure what he's accomplished the past three years.

You see, he is the polite mayor. The status quo mayor.

And, if you believe several polls, the soon-to-be-re-elected mayor.

Don't get me wrong, there are pockets of people out there who are unhappy with St. Petersburg's mayor regarding this issue or that issue. Maybe a neighborhood or two who will vote for whichever opponent shows up on the ballot come November.

But polls consistently show that Foster has high favorability ratings among St. Pete residents. A lot of the same residents who apparently don't like red-light cameras (Foster loves them). Or residents who aren't thrilled with the Lens design (Foster has pushed it). Or residents who worry about baseball's long-term future here (Foster ignores it).

For 40 minutes Wednesday afternoon, Foster gave a state-of-the-city address and answered questions from Tiger Bay members and managed to say nothing of consequence. No new insights on baseball. Or the Pier. Or his vision for a second term.

And yet hardly anyone seemed to walk away either surprised or disappointed.

This is what we have come to expect. Not the bold or the innovative, but the safe and the familiar. He is the chicken soup of St. Petersburg politics.

To many residents, Foster is the guy next door. The guy you grew up with. His appeal is that most of you trust him, even if some of you may not be overly impressed by him.

When he talked about his job performance on Wednesday, Foster often referred to customer service. As if he were a department store manager, and he was going to get those potholes in the parking lot fixed before you knew it.

So what issues can Foster campaign on during his run for a second term?

Moving the homeless out of St. Petersburg has been his signature accomplishment, and that type of issue goes a long way with voters. He should also get more credit for effectively trimming the city's budget during a recession.

But the big-ticket items simply do not exist. The Pier debate has become a fiasco. Scaled-down plans for a new police headquarters feel like a letdown. The hard-line stance with the Rays has some immediate appeal, and yet it could turn into a long-term disaster.

During a recent interview, Foster cited a meaningless international baseball tournament at Al Lang Field as one of his coups. When that's the bold type on a resume, you've got a lot of filler on the page.

Still, in the end, Foster has the polls on his side.

And that means this election is his to lose.

No matter what you think about the waterfront, the lack of progress in Midtown or the absence of a grand vision for the city, Foster has connected with the residents of St. Pete.

Decide for yourself whether it's because of his record, or in spite of it.

For Bill Foster, being the mayor of status quo ain't bad 01/09/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 8:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: No more VinikVille as Water Street Tampa finally arrives


    Adios, VinikVille! Hello Water Street Tampa.

    An aerial rendering of the $3 billion redevelopment project that Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners plan on 50-plus acres around Amalie Arena.
[Rendering courtesy of Strategic Property Partners]
  2. Finally, Jeff Vinik's vision has a name: Water Street Tampa


    TAMPA — For years, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and the real estate executives he employs have been dreaming how to transform 53 acres of downtown Tampa into a major hub of living, working and entertaining in the city's core.

    Strategic Property Partners announced the name of its new development: Water Street Tampa. This rendering shows the Tampa skyline with SPP's future buildings in place. [Photos courtesy of SPP]
  3. Future, Ruff Ryders reunion tour coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa


    Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre is in the midst of a killer summer of rock (Green Day, Muse, Linkin Park) and country (Sam Hunt, Lady Antebelleum, Dierks Bentley).

  4. Rubio remains noncommital on Obamacare replacement but a likely yes vote


    Sen. Marco Rubio has been bombarded with phone calls, emails and on Monday, protests took place outside his offices in Doral and Palm Beach Gardens. But while the effort is most unlikely to dissuade the Florida Republican from voting for the Obamacare replacement -- if it even comes up for a vote this week -- he remains …

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at an event in Miami, Friday, June 16, 2017, where President Donald Trump announced a revised Cuba policy aimed at stopping the flow of U.S. cash to the country's military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations.
  5. James Wilder Jr. back at running Canada


    Remember when former Plant High star and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. announced he was switching to linebacker?

    That was short-lived, apparently.