The St. Petersburg City Council meets in City Hall in a large rectangular room flanked by giant paintings of inshore coastal settings. The ceiling is decorated with ornate beams. There are four rows of seats for the public.
The council's eight members sit behind a raised, curved desk that takes up half the room. The right side (from the point of view of the audience) is occupied by the mayor and his deputies, the left by the city attorneys.
As I got to Thursday morning's meeting, the council was commiserating with Don Mastry, a land use lawyer. Every city has a Don Mastry, the go-to fellow for getting your zoning or site-plan approval.
In this case, the state Department of Transportation was not letting one of Mastry's clients, Grady Pridgen, have a left-turn lane to put traffic across Roosevelt Boulevard. Instead, Pridgen's traffic would have to turn right on Roosevelt, then make a U-turn later to go northwest.
The room dripped with disdain at this. "DOT is very fond of U-turns," Mastry sneered.
Council member Bill Dudley was in dudgeon: "These guys obviously don't travel that road. Unbelievable."
Secretly, I did not think it was such a nutty idea to keep hundreds of cars from making left-hand turns onto Roosevelt Boulevard each day. But I am no expert.
Presently they got around to the passage of ordinances dealing with the regulation of soothsayers and community gardens in the city.
Soothsayers. Everybody was a little sensitive, and wanted to make it clear that the city was not regulating soothsayers anew, but merely modernizing an old ordinance on the books. From now on, taxi drivers, peddlers and fortune-tellers will have identical regulations. This satisfied everybody.
Two members of the Astrology Association of St. Petersburg were present. One objected to being associated with terms such as "soothsayer" and "fortune teller." We're talking about a discipline with a scientific approach, he said.
He proposed the term metaphysical practitioner. Although the council passed the ordinance, it graciously agreed to consider his request down the road. A second member objected to the ordinance's fingerprinting requirement.
Everyone also was quite happy with the progress made on the community gardening front. Apparently it had been illegal to operate a community garden in the city at all, so the passage of regulations and the creation of a fee structure is considered an improvement.
One does have to pay both a $50 application fee and a $50 permit fee on the front end, in addition to notifying all the neighbors of any proposed garden, and being responsible for annual renewal of the permit. Fortunately, the city does not also charge a fee to apply for the application.
Here council member Dudley offered a mild protest: "A hundred bucks out of pocket, you could buy a lot of vegetables for that." But he did not go any further.
Another speaker, Gail Eggeman, asked the council to reconsider the ban in the ordinance on selling garden produce on-site: "Don't make vegetables contraband!" But you cannot turn on a dime in mid-ordinance passage.
Council member Leslie Curran asked whether community gardens might feature public art. Everybody laughed. She gamely hung in, but she too got nowhere. I suppose there had been enough strides made for the day.