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Access to St. Petersburg's mayor draws a breakfast crowd to Shirley's Soul Food Diner

Walter Randolph, 60, of Childs Park asks St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster to take a hard look at local recreational offerings. 

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Walter Randolph, 60, of Childs Park asks St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster to take a hard look at local recreational offerings. 

ST. PETERSBURG — The woman leaned from her stool toward the mayor, poised to tick off five questions scrawled in a spiral notebook.

"My name is Rosalyn Falana, and I come from a high-crime area," she began.

Falana, 56, prodded Mayor Bill Foster at his first public breakfast meeting Wednesday, which drew about three dozen people just like her. She told him sketchy activity around the neighborhood has kept her off the patio for three years.

She asked what he could do about landlords who don't do background checks on tenants or about increasing police patrols in dangerous areas.

And what about putting a turn arrow on 34th Street and Central Avenue to ease traffic?

"Never thought about that," Foster said later.

Foster plans to make "breakfast with the mayor" a monthly event. He chose Shirley's Soul Food Diner, 1789 34th St. S,, for the inaugural gathering after the owner said business had slowed.

He was "pretty stern" in asking those who showed up to help Shirley's and buy breakfast. He did the same, but it took awhile.

Shirley Tigg, the 70-year-old owner, said she had never seen it so packed. "If they're satisfied with the breakfast, maybe they'll come back," she said.

Foster chatted with people from behind the counter and in booths. He listened to their concerns, offered explanations when possible and handed out business cards until he ran out of them. An aide followed along, taking notes, jotting down names.

It would be about 90 minutes before he dug into his own platter of bacon, eggs and grits.

People largely asked about public safety, though some had concerns about their businesses, the budget and aggressive panhandling downtown.

Most, including Falana, left satisfied with their answers. She wants more police patrols and surveillance cameras to monitor her area around Emerson Avenue S and 29th Street S.

Foster said he would look into it and see if it is a "hot spot" of crime before adding cameras, a practice he proposed last week at a police-community meeting.

"It's always nice to have the cooperation of the neighborhood," Foster said.

Access to St. Petersburg's mayor draws a breakfast crowd to Shirley's Soul Food Diner 02/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 9:48pm]
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