Offshore drilling is point against firm in bidding process
Southern Strategy Group, the influential lobbying firm based in Tallahassee, has lost a bid to be Pinellas County's consultant for its latest charter review.
One reason has nothing to do with the charter. It's offshore drilling.
The charter review commission voted 8-4 late Tuesday to hire veteran consulting hand Kurt Spitzer over Southern Strategy for the contract, which will pay up to $50,000.
Southern Strategy's Amy Maguire ran into trouble from County Commissioner Ken Welch not just over the differences over experience, but most pointedly oil drilling, attendees said. Most Pinellas cities and the county oppose allowing drilling off the coast. Southern Strategy's Tallahassee office has lobbyists working for Florida Energy Associates LLC, the group pushing oil.
Maguire tried to explain that the Tampa Bay office didn't represent the drilling supporters, according to county officials and commission members. However, Welch remembered a November forum in Gulfport where Maguire stepped up for drilling.
"You can't tell me as she attempted to do last night, that there are two different Southern Strategies and that she's not been involved in near-shore oil drilling," Welch said.
You can hear the changes at City Hall
Used to be you called City Hall and a recorded message of former Mayor Rick Baker's booming voice would begin telling you about all the "great" things happening in the city.
Don't expect such marketing from new Mayor Bill Foster.
City spokeswoman Beth Herendeen said Foster, who took office Monday, declined to record the messages that greet callers on hold for City Hall.
Instead, Mike Ramsey, the city's television station manager, is now the voice of St. Petersburg.
Rep. Rick Kriseman pokes fun at Rick Baker
Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, offered an impersonation of Rick Baker during a recent ceremony honoring Baker's service to the city.
Kriseman, a former City Council member, stood in front of the council during Baker's last meeting and pretended to ape the longtime strong mayor.
"I'm afraid the renaissance is over," Kriseman as Baker jested.
To Foster, Kriseman said, "Remember, you're a strong mayor. You can do whatever you want, and council will always go along with it."
Kriseman then praised Baker, adding he had made the city a better place during his two terms.
Leslie Curran named new City Council chair
Leslie Curran, the city's longest-serving City Council member, was elected chairwoman recently.
Council member Herb Polson is now vice chairman.
Curran praised outgoing chairman Jeff Danner just before she was sworn in.
"He really did a fine job as chair," she said. "He kept things calm, collected. He kept people from getting into fights, but when that did happen, he made sure we made national news."
Curran was alluding to a recent brawl that broke out in the council chambers after the council's decision to cede part of a public sidewalk to the owners of downtown's BayWalk complex.
Curran and Danner were re-elected in November.
Snack Shack reopening in commission's hands
A plan to reopen the Snack Shack at Archibald Park is expected to be approved at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.
The commission deadlocked on two competing proposals last week — one from Paradise Sweets supported by Mayor Pat Shontz and Commissioner Steve Kochick, and the other from the Conch Republic supported by Vice Mayor Nancy Oakley and Commissioner Carol Reynolds.
Both proposals call for providing a variety of snack foods, ice cream and beverages to the public, as well as such beach items as T-shirts, towels sunscreen and souvenirs.
Commissioner Terry Lister, who did not attend last week's commission workshop, probably will cast the deciding vote.
Dearth of candidates calls off March election
The city had an election last week, but no one voted.
Two commission seats were scheduled to be on the March ballot, but when the qualifying period closed on Jan. 4, there was only one candidate in each of the races.
As a result, there will be no March election.
Alan Bildz will serve a second term as the District 4 Commissioner.
A political newcomer, Gail Caldwell, 65, will replace the retiring Ed Gayton Jr. as the District 2 Commissioner.
Caldwell, a 14-year city resident, has never served on any city boards but has been an active volunteer with the local Red Cross. She studied finance at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., and is retired after working more than 20 years for Fed Ex.
She views budget and growth issues as most important in her new role as a city commissioner, but she stresses she has no "agenda" and wants to listen to residents' concerns and "be a reflection of the community."
Petition for alcohol ban referendum falls short
An effort to force a ballot referendum to ban alcohol on Treasure Island beaches has failed.
The referendum petition needed the signatures of about 1,200 residents to force a ballot election. Instead, petition organizer Dennis Velasco said after nearly three months of effort, they only got about 200 signatures.
Problems with drunken beachgoers last spring and summer led to the referendum effort. The proposed ban would have affected all city beaches between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Residents who liked to drink a beer or glass of wine while watching the sunset would not have been affected.
"It is a dead issue as far as I am concerned. We didn't get much groundswell support," Velasco said Friday.
Times reporters David DeCamp and Cristina Silva and Times contributor Sheila Mullane Estrada contributed to this report.