ST. PETERSBURG — Mayoral candidates Kathleen Ford and Bill Foster take the stage again at 7 tonight for an hourlong forum televised live on Bay News 9.
The event, sponsored by the cable network and the St. Petersburg Times, will be at least the fifth forum the two have attended since advancing from the Sept. 1 primary.
In recent days, the two lawyers and former City Council members have squabbled over whether to use city reserves to cut property tax rates and worked to distinguish themselves with their crime-prevention plans. More and more, Foster is backing current police Chief Chuck Harmon while Ford has yet to endorse the current chief.
But that is not all you will hear tonight.
Here are some other positions they have made popular on the campaign trail. And, more important, the points they're attempting to get across when they make them.
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What Ford says: Property tax revenue from 2001 to 2007 "nearly doubled," but the city never reached full police manpower until recently.
Reading between the lines: Ford, a 52-year-old attorney, left the City Council after four years in 2001. But Foster, a 46-year-old attorney, served on the council until January 2008.
In that time, property tax revenues skyrocketed.
Ford is making the subtle suggestion that she was a better steward with city resources than Foster.
What Foster says: Shrugs and says he is "one of the good ol' boys."
Reading between the lines: Foster has been endorsed by 19 former and current elected city leaders — including Mayor Rick Baker and four former mayors. He is happy to build on what he thinks are the successes of previous administrations.
Ford, who herself is lacking a cadre of City Hall endorsement (the only elected city leader to announce support for Ford is former Mayor Charles Schuh, who left office in 1977), tried to paint Foster as part of the "good ol' boys."
Foster, in turn, says he has 40 years worth of city knowledge and experience at his side, ready to aid his administration.
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What Ford says: "We need to be looking to the future. I have a bachelor's of science. Science and technology is where the future is. I commit to you to bring those businesses to our city."
Reading between the lines: If you've been following the campaign, you probably know that Foster does not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution. Instead, Foster — a practicing Baptist — says the world was created in six literal days. It's a sentiment Ford is all too eager to dance around, without actually bringing it up.
At recent campaign stops, Ford is talking more and more about the importance of science and math in building a new economy for St. Petersburg.
She doesn't say it outwardly, but the inference is clear: How can Foster promote the growth of high-tech, high-paying science and math jobs if he doesn't believe in theory advocated by the overwhelming majority of scientists?
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What Foster says: "Temperament" in the next mayor is key.
Reading between the lines: Foster counters with a play from Rick Baker's 2001 successful campaign against Ford.
And again, this message relies on inference.
Foster says that temperament is important in the city's next mayor. Without saying it, his message is as clear as Ford's: He wants voters to remember the Ford of old, who lost council votes 7-1 and was chided by her council colleagues for being divisive.
For more on tonight's debate, and the mayoral election, visit elections.tampabay.com.