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St. Petersburg mayoral forum focuses on black issues

Eight of the nine candidates for mayor gathered for a forum at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum Thursday night. Here's a snapshot.

NEW IDEAS: Lawyer Kathleen Ford, 51, said the city should become the national leader on solar energy use. Former executive Scott Wagman, 56, suggested renting the vacant Manhattan Casino to local African-American investors at no cost until the venue is established. Ford and City Council member Jamie Bennett, 56, said they would tap the city's savings to protect public employees from wage cuts.

TAKING A STAND: Candidates were asked if they trusted police crime statistics. Ford and Paul Congemi, 52, an advocate for the homeless, said no. Wagman, business owner Larry Williams, 64, lawyer Bill Foster, 46, and executive Deveron Gibbons, 36, said yes. Bennett and political activist Alex Haak, 77, didn't say yes or no. They were asked whether they would keep Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis, a black community leader. Williams, Bennett, Gibbons, Ford and Foster said he could stay in some capacity. Wagman, Haak and Congemi didn't say yes or no.

ONE-LINER: Gibbons on Ford, Foster, Williams and Bennett, who have all served as City Council members in St. Petersburg: "If they were really getting things accomplished … would there be the crime issue we are having in our city right now?"

BEST MOMENT: Congemi discussed being banned from a KFC for yelling at the staff. "It was one of those things that could have happened to anyone," he said. Congemi told the police officer who gave him a trespassing warning that he would fire him if elected. Congemi said he would act on his promise if he became mayor, but doing so would not be an abuse of power: "It's justice."

FAUX PAS: The candidates were asked what they had done for the black community. Haak said he helped register voters and supported Barack Obama for president. He then addressed black audience members as, "you all." Congemi's reply also got grumbles. "I want to free you from the chains you are still in," he said, saying he wants to shut drug houses.

NO SHOW: Candidate Sharon Russ, a 48-year-old minister, did not attend.

St. Petersburg mayoral forum focuses on black issues 05/29/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 1:32pm]
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