Saturday, June 23, 2018
Politics

Ford absent again, St. Petersburg mayoral candidates Kriseman and Foster trade jabs

ST. PETERSBURG — The Suncoast Tiger Bay Club mayoral forum started Wednesday with something that felt a lot like a roast of missing candidate Kathleen Ford.

An unknown person in a chicken suit interrupted moderator Greg Wilson's introduction in what is becoming a staple sideshow designed to taunt Ford for her absences. Wilson then pretended to take several calls from Ford, who has missed four debates.

When the chicken left the room and the candidates took the floor, the discussion shifted to a wide swath of issues affecting the city.

Mayor Bill Foster and Rick Kriseman, a former state representative and a former City Council member, traded jabs as their political differences began to emerge.

Foster, 50, is using the recession as an excuse for not moving the city forward, said Kriseman, also 50.

"If every year were an election year, I think we'd be in a lot better shape than we are," he said, taking aim at the new ideas the mayor has rolled out recently.

Foster retaliated, defending initiatives he has carried out during his administration.

"It's real easy to have perfect hindsight when you haven't been there," Foster said.

About 150 people packed the St. Petersburg Yacht Club ballroom, asking questions about everything from Midtown development and taxes to education and climate change.

On mass transit, Foster said he supports ongoing discussion about what shape it should take — whether it's light rail, a trolley or a revamped bus system. But he warned that the city has to be confident in its resources before taking on such a major project. He said he supports the Greenlight Pinellas campaign and the public's right to vote on a proposed 1-cent tax hike to overhaul public transit.

Kriseman's support was stronger.

"I'm going to take it a step further and ask all of you to please vote for this initiative," said Kriseman, adding that mass transit was key to a city's economic health.

He also said he believed the lack of transit downtown was a factor in the Tampa Bay Rays' struggle for attendance.

When the topic of Midtown and Foster's relationship with the black community came up, Foster defended his record but noted that the recession made it difficult to get the funds needed to fully revitalize the area.

Kriseman said the mayor dropped the ball.

"We haven't seen that growth in Midtown that Midtown deserves," he said. "We haven't seen the city spend its resources equally."

The debate was largely void of talk about one of the city's most hot-button issues, the proposed new Pier known as the Lens.

Pinellas School Board member Linda Lerner asked the candidates about Bill Edwards, whose mortgage company was hit with a $7.5 million fine for violating the "Do Not Call" telemarketing rule.

Edwards' other company, Big 3 Entertainment, manages the city-owned Mahaffey Theater.

Kriseman said it is the city's job to question the ethics of businesses that receive taxpayer money.

Foster defended Edwards, praising him for his philanthropy, as well as his commitment to the Mahaffey and his ongoing renovations to BayWalk. "I'm not going to stand here and bash someone who has given so much to the community," he said.

Lauren Carroll can be reached at (727) 893-8913 or [email protected]

Comments
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18