Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

A look at Foster and Kriseman during their City Council days

ST. PETERSBURG — Before they spent tens of thousands of dollars and much of 2013 campaigning against each other, Mayor Bill Foster and former state Rep. Rick Kriseman overlapped for six years on the City Council.

That period, from 2000 to 2006 — all of Kriseman's tenure and most of Foster's — would later be seen as the years of plenty. The real estate market was flourishing, home values were rising, and council members could afford to both lower tax rates and increase or maintain spending levels.

"That was a boom time," said former council member Jay Lasita, who served on the council with both mayoral candidates. Still, "we had pointed disagreements at times."

During those years, the council debated how to retain more police officers, whether to sell 450 acres of wetlands in Hernando County, and whether to cut taxes to their lowest level since 1986, which the council did unanimously in 2006.

As voters prepare to go to the polls on Tuesday, here's a look at some of those moments and the positions that Foster and Kriseman took.

Weeki Wachee Springs

Since 1940, St. Petersburg had owned this wetland in Hernando County with the thought that, one day, it could be used as a water source. But by 1998, for political and financial reasons, pumping groundwater out of Hernando began to look unrealistic.

The stated offered to buy the land for $6.3 million and from the start of discussions, Foster was for the sale, though he thought the state's offer was too low.

"We don't need to own land in Weeki Wachee," he said at the time. "That money could best be spent here."

But with the region's water wars still a recent memory, other council members disagreed, and so Foster backed another approach: asking residents to vote on the sale, the proceeds of which would go to parks and city improvements.

Voters supported the idea, but the question of whether to sell Weeki Wachee sat around until 2001, when the Southwest Florida Water Management District offered to pay the city $14.4 million for it.

Mayor Rick Baker liked the deal, and so did Foster, but Kriseman wasn't sure. He was the swing vote and he seemed to keep swinging. At first he indicated he'd support it, but on the day of the vote, he was one of three to say no.

Then Baker took him aside for a whispered conversation. Kriseman later said the mayor assured him that the land would be deed restricted, barring development. It was the promise he needed to back the sale, which he did, immediately changing his vote.

The mimosa moment

In 2003, the City Council voted to lift a ban on alcohol sales on Sunday morning, a move that met with little public opposition or debate, though it made St. Petersburg the first city in the Tampa Bay area to lift a law of its kind. Known as a "blue law," it was one of many put in place across the country to enforce good (sober) behavior on Sunday.

Kriseman supported the change, which allowed businesses to begin selling alcohol at 11 a.m. instead of 1 p.m. and was seen by its supporters as a modern step in a city where tourists might want to have a mimosa with Sunday brunch.

Foster opposed the measure, one of two council members to do so.

"I can't imagine the Vinoy starting a marketing campaign saying, 'Oh, you should stay here instead of the beaches because you can buy beer before 1 p.m.,' " he said at the time.

Police car perks

In this instance in 2003, Foster and Kriseman agreed: The city's Police Department had been struggling to retain officers and needed to do something to make itself a more attractive place to work. Police Chief Chuck Harmon proposed several ideas, including relaxing the take-home car policy so that officers who lived out of the city, but within Pinellas County, could be given cruisers.

At first, the council appeared to be split 4-4. Some thought that the new squad cars were a waste of money; others thought it was necessary to keep up with other departments that already offered take-home cars. Both mayoral candidates took the latter position.

"The council has steadfastly maintained that we will always find the money to ensure our police and our fire are the best trained and the best equipped," Kriseman said.

Said Foster: "Public safety is the No. 1 priority when you consider overall quality of life."

Human rights ordinance

St. Petersburg became one of only six cities in the state in 2002 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a move the council passed 6-2.

Foster and Kriseman stood on opposite sides of the issue. Foster, whose socially conservative and religious views are well known, vocally opposed the measure, which protected gay men and lesbians from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations because of their sexual orientation.

At the time, Foster said he thought homosexuality was a lifestyle choice that didn't require legal protection from the city.

Kriseman supported the measure.

Researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.

Comments

High school scoreboard for Feb. 23

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 2, Crystal River 0BaseballCalvary Christian 9, Countryside 2Northeast 15, Tarpon Springs 1
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

Florida Capitol Republicans promise ‘complete investigation’ of what went wrong

TALLAHASSEE — A bombshell that South Florida police ignored tips that a teenager was planning an assault on a school and then failed to stop him when he attacked seems destined to complicate the election-year discussion around mass shootings.Even in ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushner’s security clearance

WASHINGTON — A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, three people fami...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — Arthur D. Showley, 75, went fishing early Friday morning, something he did two or three times a week, friends said. When they saw his car and trailer still parked near a community boat ramp at 2 p.m., they thought that was strange."He never ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Here are the GOP’s responses to the Parkland massacre. Would any have worked?

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature have rolled out their ideas for change in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But would these measures have made a difference in the worst mass...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

TAMPA — A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s an...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

This is the sad new math in the age of school slaughter.If one student comes to school with a firearm and 10 ammunition magazines filled with 30 bullets each, and another comes with a firearm and 30 magazines filled with 10 bullets each, who can crea...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

TAMPA — Friends and family have a saying about Lee Thornton Davis Jr. Once you met him, even for just a moment, you knew him forever."He was the most outgoing person I’d ever met," Dick Greco said, which is something coming from Tampa’s gregarious, 8...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Updated: 9 hours ago
She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

PARKLAND — She was afraid of what it would feel like, but she needed to know, so Melissa Falkowski pulled into the faculty parking lot. She took a deep breath in through her nose and climbed out of her car. She was back, in front of Marjory Stoneman ...
Updated: 9 hours ago