Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Foster defends list of accomplishments in African-American community

Some say St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster shouldn’t tout projects where former Mayor Rick Baker and City Council members laid the groundwork years ago.


Some say St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster shouldn’t tout projects where former Mayor Rick Baker and City Council members laid the groundwork years ago.

ST. PETERSBURG — A list of accomplishments circulating in an email doesn't typically raise eyebrows on the campaign trail.

That is until the list mixes politics with the city's African-American community.

A list detailing Mayor Bill Foster's 25 accomplishments in the black community is being scrutinized by some of his biggest critics. It even provoked anger at last week's mayoral debate.

Some say Foster shouldn't tout projects where former Mayor Rick Baker and City Council members laid the groundwork years ago.

"He can't take credit for their beginning," said Goliath Davis, who headed economic development in Midtown until Foster fired him 2011. "The operative question is what initiative has he done citywide or in Midtown?"

Foster pointed to the list.

"These things don't get done without the mayor directing staff to support them," he said. "They took place on my watch. I stand behind every one of them."

The accomplishments include:

• Teaming with county officials to start a Community Redevelopment Area in the Midtown neighborhood and negotiating a lease with St. Petersburg College to build a 45,000 square-feet campus in Midtown.

• Budgeting $250,000 every year for youth employment.

• Finding a tenant for the historic Manhattan Casino.

• Working with activists to develop an ordinance so disadvantaged residents can be hired on public projects.

Foster acknowledged the team effort between staff and the council in approving the projects.

"I'm not saying I waved a magic wand and did all this by myself," he added.

Council member Wengay Newton said Foster should instead tell people how he expanded the Police Department's controversial pursuit policy and raised many fees since 2010.

As for money for youth jobs, Newton said, "I was fighting for that ever since I got on council. I've requested $1 million every year."

A restaurant is opening this year in the Manhattan Casino, but council member Leslie Curran notes she and Newton pushed years ago for a tenant.

"When you're mayor, you get to take credit for a lot of things," she said. "Much of these started before him."

Not so fast, Foster says.

The city solicited proposals from developers and signed a deal under his helm, Foster said, adding: "Without the proposal, you don't have anything."

The restaurant is expected to trigger more development in Midtown, a region with the some of the poorest residents in Pinellas County.

The Community Redevelopment Area under way is the first step in creating a tax increment financing district. That would allow the city to use area property tax for capital projects there.

Davis called that a "hoax because it could take at least 10 years before tax dollars flow back into the area. Foster agreed there could be a time lag. But he said he's working with county officials to secure state and federal grants that could push money into the area within a few years.

He offered advice to critics about how they interpret the list of accomplishments: "Don't read facts that aren't there."

The list provoked questions last week at a mayoral debate among Foster, Kathleen Ford and Rick Kriseman.

Davis, also a former police chief and an influential community leader, said he isn't a "one-man vendetta" against Foster. Davis praised Ford in May but he didn't call it an endorsement.

"I still hold that Kathleen Ford is a viable candidate," Davis said this week. "I will make my endorsement at the appropriate time."

Foster defends list of accomplishments in African-American community 07/05/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 11, 2013 11:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84


    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General


    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest


    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.