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The Buzz: Political news of Pinellas

Hundreds of residents were moved out of Graham-Rogall after a sale was planned. But it fizzled, as has the county’s interest.

Times files (2006)

Hundreds of residents were moved out of Graham-Rogall after a sale was planned. But it fizzled, as has the county’s interest.

ST. PETERSBURG

Ford, Baker butt heads on union contracts

Mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford urged city officials to tap into budget reserves and honor its union contracts during a budget forum Thursday. Mayor Rick Baker has proposed a wage freeze for all city workers that will save $4 million in the 2010 budget.

Ford, a former City Council member, said Baker has millions of dollars in various reserve funds he could tap. Baker, however, said it would be irresponsible to raid city reserves and later rebutted Ford's claims, although he didn't identify her by name. He said he heard "someone" comment about reaching into utility funds. "Those are separate enterprise funds," he said. "You can't do that." Most City Council members said the city should honor its union contracts, even if it means dipping into the reserves. Mayoral hopeful and City Council member Jamie Bennett also supports tapping into the reserves to honor the contracts.

TREASURE ISLAND

Mayor: 'Bed tax' should be local pillar of strength

Treasure Island joined a rising furor Tuesday among beach communities over taxes levied on residents and tourists by Pinellas County. "We are sending (the county) a heck of a lot more than we are getting back," Mayor Bob Minning said during a recent workshop. Over the past three years, tourists staying in Treasure Island paid $4.5 million in "bed taxes," according to Commissioner Alan Bildz. Some of that money is returned to the city for beach renourishment, but most is spent for tourism advertising. Minning called for more of the bed tax to be spent for other projects on the beaches.

ST. PETERSBURG

Foster: Burger stop wasn't campaigning

The Suncoast Police Benevolent Association held a Fourth of July barbecue for the men and women of the St. Petersburg Police Department stuck working the holiday. Mayoral candidate Bill Foster stopped by to flip burgers — while wearing a campaign shirt.

Can anyone say "Burgergate"?

That's because internal affairs has launched an "inquiry" into whether there needs to be a formal investigation into the breaking of any city rules governing employees and political campaigning.

What rules could have possibly been broken? Rule No. 1 states that "no city employee shall take active part in political campaigns or other political activities while on active pay status."

Now the union is fired up. Executive director Michael Krohn said it was just three off-duty officers grilling burgers and delivering them to on-duty officers. They were doing it off city property, and he said there were no active-duty officers around when Foster arrived.

The three officers have since been, um, grilled.

Foster's response: "I hope they're not spending a lot of taxpayer money on this inquiry."

He emphasized that "it wasn't a campaign stop. I say thank you to the police all the time."

Did he get to eat anything? "I ate a lonely charred burger," he said.

KENNETH CITY

Council member hijacks golf cart at parade

Parades are known for fun and spectacle, but sometimes the more interesting show is the one behind the scenes. That was true of Kenneth City's Fourth of July parade, where preparade mischief prompted two Kenneth City council members to apologize for the high jinks.

At the center was Pinellas Park's golf cart, which was shipped to Kenneth City for Pinellas Park Mayor Bill Mischler and council members. But when Mischler arrived, the cart was gone. Kenneth City Council member Al Carrier used it to pick up former Mayor Muriel Whitman, who lost the March election to Teresa Zemaitis. Carrier supported Whitman in the race. Mischler hitched a ride to the parade's start and found Carrier and Whitman in the cart. Mischler was offered a ride with them, but he declined and watched the parade from the sidelines.

ST. pETERSBURG

Gibbons: Details of platform to come

You might have seen the topics highlighted in Deveron Gibbons' television spot: public safety, no new taxes, new jobs, open government. The St. Petersburg mayoral candidate's campaign released a summary of his plan Thursday. The campaign said it will release more detailed information on each point in the coming weeks, starting with public safety on Monday.

St. PETERSBURG

Nurse says he won't bankroll his campaign

City Council member Karl Nurse, who is running to keep his District 6 seat, is the second wealthiest St. Petersburg candidate overall, with a net worth of $4.1 million.

He trails behind mayoral hopeful Scott Wagman, whose net worth is $4.7 million.

More than half of Nurse's wealth can be traced to his family's print shop, Bay Tech Label, valued at $2.75 million. His only liabilities were three Bank of America loans on three properties totaling $189,000.

Nurse said he would not bankroll his campaign with his personal cash. "That's not the plan," he said.

He faces former city employee Vel Thompson, whose net worth is $327,624.

Student Derrick Frohne, who has a negative net worth of $33,425 is also running for the seat.

Times staff writers Cristina Silva, Anne Lindberg, Jamal Thalji, David DeCamp, Aaron Sharockman and correspondent Sheila Mullane Estrada contributed to this report.

The Buzz | Political news of Pinellas

ST. PETERSBURG

County ends interest in Graham-Rogall public housing complex near Tropicana Field

The Pinellas County Housing Authority's fleeting interest in buying the Graham-Rogall public housing complex has fluttered away.

The agency expressed interest last month in buying the site and retaining it as low-income housing after a private developer ended plans to redevelop it as affordable housing. Adding to the microdrama: The city housing authority is headed by Darrell Irions, who left the county authority in a huff this summer as some board members questioned his actions and strategies.

But the county agency is no longer interested in Graham-Rogall, noting in a letter to Irions that the city's plan to renovate part of the 486-unit low-income complex at 325 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S makes a county purchase unnecessary.

The Buzz: Political news of Pinellas 07/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 11, 2009 4:30am]
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