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John Romano: Time for Kathleen Ford to show up for the St. Pete mayor's race

Pardon me for saying, but the jokes are chicken shtick.

Instead of three solid candidates engaging in an issue-oriented mayoral debate, we get two candidates and some guy in a fowl costume suggesting Kathleen Ford is a chicken.

It was mildly amusing the first time the chicken showed up Tuesday night. So was one of the (too many) jokes by a moderator at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club on Wednesday. And I suppose it's fair to say a point has been made.

But it's also time to move on.

And it's probably time for Ford to demonstrate she's running for mayor of St. Petersburg as opposed to mayor of the anti-Lens lobby.

Ford has provided reasons for missing a handful of mayoral forums in recent days, but some event organizers have suggested she didn't seem interested in working out schedule conflicts.

If that's the case, it's certainly her right.

The polls say she has a comfortable lead on Mayor Bill Foster and former state Rep. Rick Kriseman, and she can choose to sit on that lead if she wishes.

But if you're running for mayor, wouldn't you want every opportunity to talk about your vision for Midtown with your chief competitors? To talk about education and tax issues? To discuss a baseball stadium and Foster's first term?

"We have a candidate running on one, single issue,'' Foster said Tuesday night at an LGBT-sponsored mayoral debate at Metro Wellness.

The issue, Foster did not need to say, is the fate of the Pier. And to her credit, Ford staked out her position long ago, and a sizable number of residents have rallied behind her.

Maybe, in the end, it will be enough to hand her City Hall.

But based on the questions at the debates Tuesday and Wednesday, there are plenty of other issues that interest people in St. Pete. This would include policing, green initiatives, homeless problems and the fate of Midtown. The Pier never came up at Tiger Bay.

For Foster, that's a good thing. While he is fond of pointing out that he was in favor of a ballot issue on the Pier a year ago, the bickering and lack of direction on the project does not scream leadership from the mayor's office.

Kriseman got off one of his better lines Wednesday when he said the Pier and the Rays baseball stadium were the biggest decisions facing Foster when he became mayor and, three years later, neither is solved. He also pointed out that Foster has been putting together all sorts of committees and plans to address other problems in recent months.

"Every year should be an election year,'' Kriseman said wryly.

Foster scored points Tuesday night by explaining his reasoning behind efforts to court Jabil in downtown St. Petersburg and for allowing police officers to drive their squad cars to their homes outside of the city. On Wednesday, Foster talked about his success in dealing with the homeless in downtown and emphasized that he is the only candidate with executive experience.

"Now is not the time for on-the-job training,'' he said. "Now is not the time to change course. It's not the time for a new captain.''

With less than seven weeks to go before the primary, this is starting to turn into a fascinating race with intriguing implications.

Kathleen Ford should consider joining it.

John Romano: Time for Kathleen Ford to show up for the St. Pete mayor's race 07/10/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 8:04pm]
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