Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bay Buzz | Political news of Pinellas

St. Petersburg leader not stimulated to send wish list to pork-phobic feds

ST. PETERSBURG — Unlike hundreds of U.S. cities, this one did not submit a stimulus wish list to federal officials because officials said they worried that the information would be used as ammunition as Congress debated the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Internal services administrator Mike Connors said he had a list prepared but that when some members of the U.S. Senate began to paint local projects as unnecessary pork, he decided it would do more harm than good to send it.

"As soon as it started to get debated on the Senate floor, it was evident that the Senate did not have interest in spending on projects that were shovel ready," he said. "It didn't seem appropriate to submit a list of St. Pete projects when the lists they had already received were cause for them to change what ultimately came out of the Senate."

Connors said he did not think the policy debate would shift back in favor of local governments.

"We didn't see any benefit of submitting the list," he said.

But Mayor Rick Baker, who heralded the stimulus bill alongside Gov. Charlie Crist in a news conference this month, said that decision wasn't run by him.

"I would have submitted it," Baker said.

Congress and federal officials didn't ask cities to submit wish lists, but many communities did just that in hopes they might influence Congress to support the bill.

St. Petersburg has sent its wish list to the state Department of Transportation and the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization. These groups will administer or weigh in on how Florida's stimulus dollars are allocated.

The city's priorities are repairing the Pinellas Bayway Bridge and building the proposed 118th Avenue N connector, according to the list.

The connector is one of Baker's pet projects. It would link U.S. 19 to Interstate 275 and create an uninterrupted flow of traffic from the Sunshine Skyway to State Road 580 in the Dunedin-Safety Harbor area.

Election laws unclear

ST. PETERSBURG — Kathleen Ford and Jamie Bennett might have already violated state election laws.

Both mayoral candidates held press conferences complete with campaign signs in recent weeks to announce their intent to run. Ford and Bennett both filed within minutes of their press events.

State statute states, "No person shall accept any contribution or make any expenditure with a view to bringing about his or her nomination, election or retention in public office, or authorize another to accept such contributions or make such expenditure on the person's behalf, unless such person has appointed a campaign treasurer and designated a primary campaign depository."

What's unclear is whether Ford and Bennett can claim they had met those requirements before they filed or if the act of appointing a campaign treasurer is only valid once the proper documents have been filed, said Jennifer Krell Davis, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Elections.

"Someone would have to file a complaint with the Florida elections commission. They would determine whether there was a violation," she said.

Bennett's supporters carried a large campaign sign at his press conference at City Hall in January. At the time, his wife said his family had purchased the sign.

Bennett said he doesn't think he did anything illegal, "unless someone tells me otherwise."

Campaign signs were attached to the cars of several Ford supporters who rallied at City Hall during her press conference this month.

Ford said the signs were from her 2001 mayoral bid. She added that her campaign hasn't spent any money on signs. "Those lovely supporters recycled their signs," Ford said. "I've seen some in yards."

But even if the signs were purchased during Ford's 2001 mayoral campaign, Krell Davis said state statute is vague about whether old signs can be recycled.

Cristina Silva contributed to this week's Bay Buzz. She can be reached at or (727) 893-8846. You can visit us at

St. Petersburg leader not stimulated to send wish list to pork-phobic feds 02/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention


    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
  2. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault


    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  3. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]
  4. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy


    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.