Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg City Council | District 7

Wengay Newton takes on Gershom Faulkner in District 7 race

The first time they ran against each other in the 2007 race for City Council District 7, Gershom Faulkner was the favorite. He was the one with the endorsements and the political connections. Wengay Newton was the underdog who walked away with victory.

This time around, Newton is the incumbent, and the favorite.

While Faulkner said it's definitely tougher this time to run against Newton, he won't concede. He highlights the endorsement from the Police Benevolent Association and the Pinellas Realtors and his tight connections to the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce to paint Newton as an outsider.

"He's had a number of 7-1 votes where's he on the losing end," Faulkner said. "There's nothing wrong with doing that. But if you're known as being that person, you're not going to be known for bringing people together."

Newton prides himself on his dissents and says he's one of the few who, in a position of power, is willing to fight for his beliefs.

"The people put me there so I'm trying to represent them," said Newton, who picked up endorsements from the St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters (which was helmed by his brother, Win, through mid October), the West Central Florida Federation of Labor and the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County.

Through Sept. 16, Newton raised more than twice as much as Faulkner in campaign contributions, $10,152 to $4,805. Now it's a matter of whether Newton can turn that advantage into another win.

"My biggest worry is to get my supporters to vote," Newton said. "My biggest fear, the one that keeps me up at night, is they'll tell themselves I have nothing to worry about."

Will red-light cameras make city streets safer?

Newton: That's hard to determine. I don't think they'll stop any accidents. The city will make money, and the camera company will make money. But what we could do to make the streets safer is increase the yellow light interval so it's longer, and that would save lives. The cameras are to make money, and most of the tickets will be for right-hand turns.

Faulkner: Some believe they make streets safer, some believe they don't. I'd like to try them out in high-traffic or high-incident areas. I think they're a mixed bag. I don't think cameras will catch things a police officer would. But let's put them up to see if they will save lives, but I'm not positive they will. Even if we can save one life with a camera, I think it's worth it.

The city faces yet another deficit in the 2013 budget. The city's property tax rate hasn't increased since 2007 (giving residents a total tax decrease of nearly $100 million as property value has declined). Is it time to increase the rate or, absent that, ponder a new revenue source?

Newton: Before we raise taxes on anyone, we should look at all options. We can look at (wireless) infrastructure for data transmission. We have an opportunity to have a company come in to put in infrastructure. All the City Council would have to do is to allow it to be installed on city property. The company would pay the city over a long period of time for the use of that network.

Faulkner: I'd look at new revenue, but I don't have anything in particular to recommend now. That's more of a general statement. So let's look at options. But the other thing I'd say is let's support small business. If we support small business, we can create jobs and help people buy homes. Right now we have a large number of foreclosed homes, and we can collect more money if that happens. I hear small-business owners tell me that we should cut out the bureaucracy and develop a better working relationship between the (St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce) and the city's business assistance center and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg's business center.

Is Mayor Bill Foster doing a good or bad job? Please explain.

Newton: I guess he's doing the best he can do. But he does cause people some grief when he makes decisions without doing the proper due diligence, like floating that he'd close Jennie Hall Pool. That caused a lot of angst. I'm not sure increasing parking meter rates is a good thing, and that's something he did without (the council's) input. People want to enjoy downtown, but they can't without a pocketful of quarters. He should have eliminated car allowances (about $200,000 for the city's top administrators). This has been going on for some 22 years, and it amounts to a pay raise. If you rate (Foster) next to Baker, I'd rate him a "C." He doesn't communicate as well as Baker did.

Faulkner: I've been hearing from the community, and most say they don't know what his vision is. I know he has a vision, I've talked with him about it, but I think he needs to do a better job communicating it. I won't say what his vision is because I don't want to misquote his vision. Overall, I think he's doing a fair job. A lot of people are comparing him to Rick Baker, who did a great job. I think he has a different vision than Baker, so it's not apples to apples.

What will you do to address the stalemate between the Tampa Bay Rays and the city on the team's lease agreement binding it to Tropicana Field through the 2027 season?

Newton: I'd get with the owners. I won't agree to opening the contract, but I would ask them that if they wanted a downtown waterfront then (in 2008), why can't downtown work now? Tropicana Field was built to lure baseball, but it wasn't built for baseball. We have the infrastructure built for a new stadium. We have the highway ramps. I think a new stadium could work where it's at now.

Faulkner: The communication needs to improve. I work well with people. I'm good at getting people to the table and getting them to agree. On the council, I'd be part of a team that will help move the situation forward.

Are tax breaks good incentives for companies, or does that just erode the tax base? Please explain what the city could do to spur economic development.

Newton: They're good in the sense that they help create jobs. Hopefully, they help people get jobs, and then they buy houses. It's an incentive to get businesses there. Cities have to offer something. Companies aren't going to come just because you're in St. Pete. I want performance measures tied to whatever incentives we offer. Just handing it to them isn't good. You have to make sure you have a return.

Faulkner: It's a good tool to have in the toolbox. But it's a case-by-case scenario. You have to look at each case differently and see what they bring to the community.

. fast facts

Gershom Faulkner

Age: 40

Experience: former outreach director for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's office, 2006-07; sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps; political, business and governmental consultant

Education: Pinellas Park Senior High School, attended Chaminade University; attended Hawaii Pacific University

Assets: Income as consultant, $26,000; home, just market value of $69,000

Liabilities: Home Eq mortgage of $118,000

Website: faulknernow.com

E-mail: gershom@FaulknerNow.com

Wengay Newton

Age: 48

Experience: Elected to the City Council in 2007, photo studio owner; radio host, Community News With Newt on Praise 1590 AM, WRXB; volunteer for Obama-Biden 2008 campaign

Education: Northeast High School, ITT Technical Institute

Assets: City salary of $38,914; $8,500 from photo studio; home with just market value of $71,333, five vehicles worth $60,000

Liabilities: Regions mortgage of $155,706; Capitol One credit card with $13,000 balance

Website: newt7.com

E-mail: newt@newt7.com

Wengay Newton takes on Gershom Faulkner in District 7 race 10/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 3:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  2. Fennelly: About time Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    It's Andy's time.

    And it's about time.

    Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had been eligible since 2009, a ridiculously long wait for someone who scored 640 goals, including a record 274 on the power play.

    LEFT: Dave Andreychuk talks at the podium as he is honored with a statue in front of the now-Amalie Arena.
  3. British government says 75 out of 75 buildings failed fire safety tests

    World

    LONDON — Britain on Monday confronted a rapidly growing fire safety crisis after tests of the exterior cladding on dozens of public housing towers revealed a 100 percent failure rate, raising fears that this month's deadly inferno in London could be repeated elsewhere.

    Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, presents his first Chrono-Hologram in Paris, France, in 1973. A Spanish judge on Monday June 26, 2017, has ordered the remains of artist Salvador Dali to be exhumed following a paternity suit by a woman named by Europa Press agency as Pilar Abel, 61 from the nearby city of Girona. Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealism in art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres. [Associated Press]
  4. Man convicted of second-degree murder in killing of Baby Doe, his girlfriend's daughter

    Nation

    BOSTON — A man was convicted Monday of murder in the death of a 2-year-old girl who became known as Baby Doe after her remains washed up on the shore of a Boston Harbor island.

    Michael McCarthy’s friend Michael Sprinsky, far left, gets a hug from sister Laura Sprinsky after McCarthy is found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Bella Bond, who became known as Baby Doe.
  5. Rays make Hechavarria trade official

    Blogs

    Here is the release from the team ...