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St. Petersburg City Council members face limits on length of discourse

Zip it!

Muzzles are headed to the St. Petersburg City Council.

Newly elected chair Karl Nurse plans to end the rambling debates that occur during many meetings. Some topics frequently take hours to discuss as members exceed their allotted speaking times.

Not anymore. Nurse said he expects "bumps in the road" when he reins members in for breaking the time limits. He said some lengthy debates are needed — but not on every issue.

Payback time?

Instead of putting extra pay in the council members' pockets, the chair has a perk. The chair assigns members to various committees such as the Public Safety and Infrastructure, Budget, Finance and Taxation and another for housing issues.

Many ideas that Nurse promoted never made it out of committees to the full council because of his relationship with previous chair Leslie Curran. Nurse wouldn't reveal his assignments last week, but smiled when saying the members will learn Thursday.

New boundaries

A nine-member Redistricting Commission in St. Petersburg has been appointed by Mayor Bill Foster and the eight council members. The commission meets weekly to consider redrawing the council boundaries. Recommendations are due by Feb. 15. The process must be completed by May 12.

With the city losing 4,000 residents in the 2010 census, every council boundary will be redrawn to have between 29,984 and 31,208 residents. Council members used to adjust the boundaries, but voters in 2011 approved a charter amendment for a commission.

The commission chair is Linda Lucas; Brian Ligon is vice chair. Other members include Dan Kunitzer, David Herzik, Theresa McEachern, Paul Dickens, Laurel Macdonald, Greg Holden and Ann Sherman-White.

2014 … just around the corner

Don't think for a second that losing the Fluoride Wars of 2012 has deterred Pinellas Commissioner Norm Roche from seeking re-election. It hasn't. Neither has watching two of his Republican colleagues who opposed fluoridation be defeated in November.

"Suffice it to say that I will run again," he wrote in an email last week.

Roche told the Times that campaigning is far from his mind, but it is not a distant prospect for his potential challengers. The election for his District 2 at-large seat is about two years away, but already Roche's critics are trying to persuade local politicos to run against him. State Rep. Ed Hooper, recently elected to his last term in the House, is among those being courted.

Already one of the furthest-rightward leaning commissioners on the board, Roche is moving even further right in 2013, at least physically. Thanks to a change in the seating arrangement, designed by newly elected board Chairman Ken Welch, Roche is seated near the end of the dais next to the county attorney.

"Good Lord, could we be more 'obvious,' " he wrote, in response to the changes.

Feeling slighted, sir?

"It's more of an inside joke on office politics/games," he explained. In an earlier meeting, "I was promoted over one seat. Now it seems I've been demoted back to the CA's (county attorney) side."

Rail fight restarts

Critics of a proposal to build light rail in Pinellas County plan to turn out en masse on Jan. 23, when the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board meets to vote on whether to put a transit tax referendum on the 2014 ballot. Ultimately this decision rests with the County Commission, but hey, why not start protesting early?

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779.

St. Petersburg City Council members face limits on length of discourse 01/05/13 [Last modified: Saturday, January 5, 2013 3:31am]
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