Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg mayoral debate: winners, losers, yawners, also-rans

Here is a totally biased take on the St. Petersburg mayoral candidate forum held Wednesday by the Suncoast Tiger Bay club.

Thumbs up: James Bennett, Kathleen Ford.

Bennett, a sitting City Council member, is rehabilitating himself from his scandal involving the use of city-controlled baseball tickets as a campaign goodie.

He came across Wednesday as equally or more knowledgeable on specific issues than other council veterans. More compassionate and nuanced, too; a guy who knows how to work the process.

So my debate winner, graded on a curve, is the Grownup Bennett. The other version that can still pop up at any time is Dagwood Bumstead Bennett, unable to rein in either the city bureaucracy or his own campaign, helplessly flummoxed by things blowing up around him: the ticket scandal, secret City Council agendas, surprise baseball stadium deals.

As for Ford, a former council member, she shows not a trace of the Wicked-Witch, Loose-Cannon Kathleen that her critics portray. Her criticisms of City Hall and city spending sounded precise, level-headed and credible.

Ford was the most specific: She would cut property taxes a half-mill, yet increase police and fire budgets by $500,000 each by reorganizing the bureaucracy and tapping too-generous city cash reserves.

Thumbs down: Bill Foster, Scott Wagman.

Nothing personal, I like both guys, honest, just offering some style advice. Has Foster, also a former council member, got a case of front-runner-itis? His opening and closing statements and most answers were platitudes.

"We are in control of our own destiny." "The customer is you." "Quality is Job One." I think somebody told Foster that he is going to win and it has messed him up.

As for Wagman — did you know that he was in business? Scott Paints, I hear. Business, business, business! He is more businesslike than any other candidate. And he is just busting to tell you all about it, using your first name in fine Dale Carnegie fashion.

Sideways thumbs: Deveron Gibbons, Larry Williams.

Gibbons, freshly endorsed by Gov. Charlie Crist this week (is that a good thing?) is running for senior class president on a platform of, "I'm a nice guy, and here's a list of people who are for me." Like Foster, he spoke generally, promising to unveil a "Gibbons plan" for the city. Me, I am thinking: plan first, run second.

Williams, one more former council member, sometimes seems the most independent-minded and sober of the bunch, and the least desperate to cater to the audience. But his style is about as compelling as a dead man's. It matters at least a little.

Give the hook to: Paul Congemi, Alex Haak, Richard Eldridge, and the absent Ed Helm.

Congemi raved about secrets on "police corruption" that could get him killed. Haak is a long-ago mayor of some New Jersey burg who fumbles and fulminates. Eldridge is self-effacing, funny and genuine, an erstwhile Marine sergeant who quotes Victor Hugo on his Web site, but he's in over his head.

A friendly note to: the Tiger Bay Club. Congratulations on the event. But next time try brutally quick openings and closings, more time for good questions — that's your bread and butter, ain't it?

Totally biased. Complaint line forms to the right.

St. Petersburg mayoral debate: winners, losers, yawners, also-rans 06/17/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 5:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Wrestling to return to old Tampa armory — but just for one night

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the first time in decades, wrestling will return to the old Ft. Homer W. Hesterly Armory with a reunion show scheduled for late September.

    For the first time in decades, wrestling will return to the old Ft. Homer W. Hesterly Armory with a reunion show scheduled for late September.
Now named the Bryan Glazer Family JCC, the armory regularly featured stars such as Dusty Rhodes and Jack Brisco. On September 26, it will host a one-time only reunion night. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times file photo (2016)]
  2. Wanted: New businesses on Safety Harbor's Main Street

    Local Government

    SAFETY HARBOR — A green grocery store, a hardware store, restaurants, boutiques and multi-use buildings are all wanted downtown, according to discussion at a community redevelopment workshop held last week. And to bring them to the Main Street district, city commissioners, led by Mayor Joe Ayoub, gave City Manager …

    Whistle Stop Bar & Grill is one of the main stops on Main Street in Safety Harbor. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  3. John Morgan intends to pressure every Florida politician to fund wage initiative

    Blogs

    John Morgan, the publicity-loving personal injury lawyer/entrepreneur who spearheaded the successful medical marijuana initiative, soon plans to start collecting signatures for a 2020 ballot initiative raising Florida minimum wage. He plans to "spend millions of my own money" on the effort, but he also intends to …

  4. Westbound traffic on Courtney Campbell blocked after crash

    Accidents

    Westbound traffic on the Courtney Campbell Causeway is being diverted following a crash early Thursday morning.

  5. Q&A: A business leader and historian jointly delve into Tampa's waterfront

    Business

    TAMPA — As a native of Tampa, Arthur Savage has always had a passion for his hometown's history. And as a third-generation owner and operator of A.R. Savage & Son, a Tampa-based shipping agency, his affinity for his hometown also extends to its local waterways.

    Arthur Savage (left) and Rodney Kite-Powell, co-authors of "Tampa Bay's Waterfront: Its History and Development," stand for a portrait with the bust of James McKay Sr. in downtown Tampa on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. McKay, who passed away in 1876, was a prominent businessman, among other things, in the Tampa area. He was Arthur Savage's great great grandfather. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]