ST. PETERSBURG — In trying to stake out ground as the most progressive candidate running for mayor, Scott Wagman recently accused fellow Democrat Kathleen Ford of being opposed to curbside recycling.
"Kathleen is on the record against curbside recycling," Wagman said in a June 1 interview. "It's all over my Web site that we'll have curbside recycling in St. Petersburg within one year of my election."
Anyone who follows St. Petersburg politics knows curbside recycling is a hot button issue.
St. Petersburg is the biggest city in the state without curbside recycling pickup, in large part because Mayor Rick Baker questions the financial and environmental benefits of such programs. Baker, instead, encourages people to take their recyclables to drop-off sites as part of their normal routine.
Wagman says a city cannot truly be environmentally conscious until a citywide curbside program is in place.
But what about Ford?
Wagman is right that Ford isn't tripping over herself to implement a citywide curbside program.
At public events, the second-time mayoral candidate has struck a tone closer to Baker than Wagman when it comes to curbside recycling. Ford says that as mayor she would study the effectiveness of a citywide program before committing to implement it.
"I like the concept of curbside recycling but I want to understand all of the costs to go about it in the most fiscally responsible and environmentally conscious way," Ford said.
On her Web site, www.kathleen ford.com, Ford offers a slightly different position. There, she says, "The City can restart and expand the curbside recycling."
Ford goes on to tell a story of helping launch a neighborhood curbside recycling program in the 1990s.
"I worked with Marjorie Ruth when I was a neighborhood association president to bring curbside recycling into the Old Northeast," Ford writes. "Residents actively participated. There simply is not enough landfill to waste it on recyclable materials."
Ruth, who still lives in St. Petersburg, confirmed Ford's version of events to the Times.
The pilot eventually was dismantled by the city, but not because of Ford's doing, Ruth said.
Wagman's statement, that Ford is "on the record against curbside recycling," is based on the fact that she's yet unwilling to endorse a program citywide.
But there is no evidence to suggest Ford opposes curbside programs. In fact, Ford helped bring limited curbside recycling to a neighborhood in the Old Northeast more than 15 years ago. She simply says she has to be convinced it makes the most economic and environmental sense before launching a citywide endeavor. Wagman significantly overstates Ford's cautious view of curbside recycling, which leads us to rate his claim Barely True.
Aaron Sharockman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2273. Follow the mayor's race online at www.tampabay.com/mayor.