Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bay Buzz: Union waiting on raises amid new budget woes

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster stressed in January that he needed to find a way to give raises to city workers, the majority of whom have not had a raise in four years.

The move could translate into goodwill at the polls for Foster, who faces a re-election bid later this year. During negotiations with a city union last week, Rick Smith, chief of staff for Florida Public Services, was upset that a newly revealed $3 million deficit this year made raises impossible. This deficit is on top of a $10 million shortfall that city leaders covered with a property tax hike last year.

The union supported Foster in raising property taxes last fall, Smith said, but the mayor now "has a lot of problems talking about vision." The union, he continued, could declare an impasse and take the issue to the City Council for a vote.

"If you have the political muscle to make something happy, good for you," said Chris Guella, the city's labor relations and compensation manager.

Tiger bites

One of the sharpest questions at Thursday's Tiger Bay meeting — where attendants supposedly "carve up" politicians over lunch, but usually leave them a bit ruffled — came from Largo Mayor Pat Gerard.

While introducing the two newly elected Pinellas County commissioners, Gerard wondered: "Now they've filled their campaign promise to restore fluoride to the water, do they have anything else to say?"

It's a really good question. Throughout last summer and into the fall, Democrats Charlie Justice and Janet Long campaigned on fluoride, castigating their Republican opponents for voting to stop adding it to the water. During those months, they mentioned the need for job growth and a fix for the county's expensive emergency medical services system, but restoring fluoride was the one thing they said they'd do.

Or as Justice joked on Thursday: "Politicians are trained not to make a lot of promises on the trail. Fluoride was a promise I made, the only promise I made, so we're done."

After they had recovered from Gerard's grilling speech, in which she compared Justice to "dripping water," and Long to "a jackhammer, noisy, and hard to ignore," the commissioners said very little to suggest which issues they might champion in the coming years.

Asked whether they would support paying for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, or a revamped Clearwater aquarium, both said they would wait and see. Asked about consolidation, both acknowledged that Pinellas has 24 cities and that's a problem, but those municipal boundaries aren't going to dissolve anytime soon.

On EMS, they do differ. Long defended her decision to vote in favor of directing low-priority calls to Sunstar, a private ambulance company. Justice said he'd voted against it because he was waiting for the results of a study.

And to one question, they both said no and moved on as quickly as possible.

Political consultant and blogger Peter Schorsch: "Both of you were elected in Democratic wave years in 2006 and 2012 and you lost in a Republican wave year in 2010. Don't you both owe your political careers to the fickle ebb and flow of the voters?"

Janet: "No." (sits down)

Charlie: "Well, I think uh, no."

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @markpuente on Twitter. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779.

Bay Buzz: Union waiting on raises amid new budget woes 03/16/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 8:15am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  2. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]
  3. Florida inspired new group focused on improving how elections are run

    Blogs

    A new group run by two lawyers and veteran Democratic operatives specializing in voter protection efforts is launching a pilot program in Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to work with local elections officials to improve the voting process. Access Democracy, run by …

    Access Democracy wants to improve voter participation and how elections are run
  4. Super Nintendo is coming back to stores, and there's even a new (old) game

    Blogs

    If the overwhelming success of last year's NES Classic is any indication, you may want to get your hands on Nintendo's newly-announced Super NES Classic as soon as it becomes available this fall.

    Super Nintendo plans to release the Super NES Classic Edition.
  5. Dave Andreychuk going into Hall of Fame (w/photo gallery)

    Blogs

    Dave Andreychuk said Monday began "business as usual."

    Dave Andreychuk captained the only Lightning team to win the Stanley Cup.