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Distracted mayor, council scolded in St. Petersburg

Can I have your undivided attention?

As a parade of residents spoke at Thursday's City Council meeting, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and many council members scrolled through their phones or computers or flipped through paperwork.

That is until Carol Gray spoke.

The owner of Crystal Mirage Gallery at the Pier blasted Foster and the council for not looking at residents while they each spoke for two minutes.

"As a matter of fact, we think you're deaf," Gray said. "The mayor doesn't even look up. I have no idea what you're working on. You don't even pay attention."

Foster and the group suddenly found time to look at residents.

A new day?

Former council member Kathleen Ford is known for lobbing verbal assaults at opponents on the campaign trail. But is she changing tactics on her third run for the city's top job?

After declaring her candidacy last week to battle Foster and Rick Kriseman in the Aug. 27 primary, Ford wouldn't say why she is a better candidate.

"You want me to criticize my opponents?" she asked.

Council's crazy man

The city held a workshop with officials from other agencies on Thursday to discuss funding issues for public transportation.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said Europeans ride bicycles, trains and buses because gas prices are much higher. He wants higher gas prices in the United States in order to force the expansion of public transportation.

"I happen to be a crazy left-wing nut," he said.

Unintended fireflies

Pinellas County officials like to begin each budget meeting with a list of all the things they've done to reduce costs.

There's the 1,700 positions they cut. There's the claim that current staffing levels are what they were in 1985. And there's the mention of stressed-out employees doing the jobs of two or three people.

But the latest indicator of their budget-slashing success is not a number. It's a bug.

According to Assistant County Administrator Mark Woodard, the county has stopped mowing certain areas of its parks in order to save money. And because this is Florida, nature immediately reclaimed those bits of real estate.

For the first time in years, Woodard said, there are fireflies (for Southerners, read: lightning bugs) in the county's parks.

2014's beginnings

State Rep. Ed Hooper declared his intention to run for Commissioner Norm Roche’s at-large seat early. He's the only candidate who has filed to run against Roche and that makes him the only candidate to post serious fundraising figures.

With 18 months to go until the election, Hooper has raised more than $9,450 — much of it from Tallahassee.

It's unclear whether Roche will run for that seat again or move to another district and run there. If the two do end up fighting over a commission slot, it will be an odd matchup. Hooper, who has been in the state Legislature for years, is likely accustomed to fueling campaigns with big checks. Roche is just the opposite. At the end of his 2010 campaign, his total contribution tally came to $11,325.

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

Distracted mayor, council scolded in St. Petersburg 04/20/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 12:24pm]
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