Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Politics

At St. Petersburg City Council session, the eyes didn't have it

Lullabies

St. Petersburg City Council members must need to rest their eyes when they can — even when being paid to represent residents.

A camera caught Jim Kennedy rocking in his chair with his eyes closed for one minute during a recent council meeting. Someone posted the video on YouTube, titled "Jim Kennedy Pondering Difficult Topics."

It's common for residents to blast the council for not paying attention during meetings.

Kennedy opened his eyes after Mayor Bill Foster and council Chairman Karl Nurse discussed housing issues. You can watch the video at bit.ly/times-jimkennedy.

Stunned

Many of St. Petersburg's highest-paid staffers looked shocked as they left Thursday's agenda review after 10 minutes. How come?

Council member Wengay Newton was absent.

Two weeks ago, Newton held staffers captive for two hours as he bombarded the administration with questions. Before the recent meeting, Nurse took a dig at Newton.

"Does anybody want to remove six items from the consent agenda?" Nurse asked in reference to what Newton typically does. The meeting ended in 40 minutes.

Dropped out

The list of contenders for Jeff Danner's District 8 City Council seat has fallen from five to four with the news that Bill Hurley has exited the race.

In late May, he wrote on his candidate Facebook page that he was doing some "serious soul searching" about the race and followed that up last week saying he would not run.

Hurley, 52, is a student at St. Petersburg College. He was a little-known candidate who entered the race out of frustration over the Lens — he strongly opposes the design for a new pier. His Facebook post did not say why he's decided not to run.

Greenlight Pinellas

Pinellas County's transit agency is planning to drop another $95,000 on its public awareness campaign for expanded bus service and light rail.

Called Greenlight Pinellas, the campaign was designed by Tampa-based public relations firm Tucker Hall for $300,000, and is just beginning to get off the ground. The campaign's website (greenlightpinellas.com) already offers everything from Greenlight T-shirts to iPhone cases.

But the three public input committees for government, civic and business leaders haven't started meeting and there's little public visibility for the campaign.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority chief executive officer Brad Miller wrote in an agenda item to the agency's board that Tucker Hall has completed the "original scope of work" in its contract. To pay for this, Miller has authorized a $95,000 contract extension.

After the campaign is over, the Pinellas County Commission will likely take a final vote to place the transit tax referendum on the November 2014 ballot, and approve ballot language. At that point, many expect a private group will take over the campaign, funding it themselves and giving it a decidedly pro-referendum position.

Critics, many of whom oppose a sales tax increase to pay for light rail, say Greenlight is little more than a publicly funded attempt to persuade voters to support the referendum. In February, Tom Rask, a Seminole resident who has filed to run for the District 6 seat on the County Commission, sued the agency over the campaign.

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @markpuente on Twitter. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @annamphillips on Twitter.

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