Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bill Foster's Midtown plan has good ideas, poor execution

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster listens to Gov. Rick Scott talk about the Biggert-Waters Act at a press conference held by Scott and several area leaders on Oct. 1 outside the Pinellas Association of Realtors.


St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster listens to Gov. Rick Scott talk about the Biggert-Waters Act at a press conference held by Scott and several area leaders on Oct. 1 outside the Pinellas Association of Realtors.

So the mayor of St. Petersburg recently made big news.

He declared he was creating a high-level position in city government to concentrate on economic development in Midtown, and he vowed to form a citizen panel to look into police policies in surrounding neighborhoods.

This led to a couple of interesting reactions:

1. People seemed to enthusiastically agree with the mayor's proposals.

2. Some of those same people seemed very annoyed with how he did it.

And this, in a nutshell, is St. Pete's mayor.

Even when you agree with Bill Foster, he makes it difficult for you to like him.

"It does epitomize his struggles in building a coalition, building a majority of voices on issues," said City Council Chairman Karl Nurse. "Thirty days ago, four council members proposed amendments to do something like this in one fashion or another, and they were completely dismissed. And then he comes up with this out of thin air.

"Unfortunately, this is typical of how things are done."

Look, it's fair to say no politician is perfect. No matter how well-intentioned a person might be, there will always be mistakes when it comes to big decisions.

So it's okay to occasionally cut them slack on actual policies. What cannot be so easily forgiven is the absence of trust or transparency.

And, too often, that seems to be a problem around here.

Nurse's council district incorporates much of the Midtown area, and he spends a good deal of his time looking for developers and plotting strategies to invigorate the area.

Yet the mayor's office didn't seek his input. Even worse, Nurse wasn't even informed that the mayor was making an announcement. After getting calls from a reporter about it Tuesday morning, he had to go to the city's website to read the news release.

The story was similar with the citizen panel. Police Chief Chuck Harmon was not consulted about his thoughts for creating a new committee, and he got a heads-up only a couple of hours ahead of the news release.

The timing of the mayor's epiphany is another issue.

For several months, he has stood next to Rick Kriseman at debates and listened to his opponent criticize him for never hiring anyone to concentrate on Midtown issues. The mayor also finished a city budget and never made a push to allocate money for Midtown.

Yet now, three weeks after the budget kicked in and two weeks before the election, he suddenly has a plan? Not to mention a new Midtown campaign office opened this week.

"It is so transparent, I wouldn't think it would fool many people,'' said Nurse, who is supporting Kriseman. "I'm baffled by the shallowness of it all."

The crazy thing is, if he handled it the right way, this could have been a shining moment for the mayor. He could have sought the help of the same council members he has bumped heads with, and presented a united front.

He could have stood up at his news conference and acknowledged it was his mistake to have gone so long without a point person for Midtown economic development, but he would do everything possible to correct that miscalculation going forward.

Unfortunately, the mayor did none of that.

He took an issue that is critical to the lives of too many people in need in Midtown, and he made it look like a self-serving stunt.

In the end, he had an opportunity to look like a real leader and instead chose to behave like a true politician.

Bill Foster's Midtown plan has good ideas, poor execution 10/23/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 8:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What to watch this weekend: 'GLOW,' second season of 'Preacher'


    Ready to rumble: GLOW

    Four words: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Yes, the fluorescent, body-slamming soap opera GLOW starring a cast of exaggerated characters is back, this time as a fictionalized Netflix series. Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) stars as Ruth, a down-on-her-luck actor …

    Alison Brie, left, and Betty Gilpin in GLOW on Netflix.
  2. Exploratory Lab Boot Camp provides real-life technology training to students


    CLEARWATER — At this graduation ceremony featuring some of the brightest local minds in tech, it was the youngsters who stood out.

    Laszo Leedy, 17, a senior at Shorecrest Prep, presents part of his team's project for SPC's Exploratory Lab Boot Camp. Students presented their ideas at the end of the SPC Exploratory Lab Boot Camp. The program provides real-time business training to students. This year's graduation celebrated 15 students that finished the program. 
[JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. Editorial: Trump, not military, should set troop levels in Afghanistan


    There is no task more solemn for any American president than the decision to send troops off to war. In delegating authority over troops levels in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, President Donald Trump has shirked his obligation to own and defend his Afghan policy, while further divorcing America's military strategy there …

  4. North Korea says it's 'biggest victim' in U.S. student's death (w/video)


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Friday called itself the "biggest victim" in the death of an American student who was detained for more than a year and died days after being released in a coma.

    Mourners line the street after the funeral of Otto Warmbier, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Wyoming, Ohio. Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student who was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea, died this week, days after returning to the United States. [Associated Press]
  5. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft


    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]