Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Most of the St. Petersburg City Council prefers a new person in the mayor's chair

Harmony does not come easily or often to members of the St. Petersburg City Council. While others have lunch breaks, they have cease-fires.

Yet for all the bickering and bellyaching of the past year, a majority of council members have discovered common ground on one interesting issue:

They would rather have a new mayor.

That became official on Monday when chairman Karl Nurse endorsed mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman, meaning that five of the eight council members have publicly thrown their support behind someone other than Mayor Bill Foster.

For the record, Kriseman has picked up four endorsements, Kathleen Ford has one, and Foster has yet to have a current council member step forward on his behalf.

Fair to say, endorsements are not typically headline-grabbing news, nor should they be. But it is hard not to raise an eyebrow when an incumbent gets so roundly snubbed.

"It's pretty unusual,'' said Nurse. "Council members are typically pretty reluctant to endorse anyone in a mayor's race, particularly a challenger. Mostly it's because you have to continue working with that person, and if you're on the losing side, it's going to make for an awkward relationship.

"I think Bill is a decent, honorable and hardworking guy, but he's either uncomfortable or he doesn't appreciate the value of his position the way (Rick) Baker did or (Tampa Mayor Bob) Buckhorn does. I don't want to speak for anyone else. I just think there is a need for stronger leadership in the mayor's office.''

Some of this was to be expected. Wengay Newton often plays the role of renegade on the council, and so his endorsement of Ford makes sense. Leslie Curran and Foster have had a chilly relationship for quite some time, so her support of Kriseman was not shocking.

The idea that Nurse, Charlie Gerdes and Steve Kornell were all willing to endorse a challenger is a little more intriguing. And it has to sting Foster a little bit to know that Bill Dudley and Jim Kennedy, who often side with the mayor on contentious issues, have essentially declined to embrace his first term as mayor.

Of course, Foster can frame it as a badge of honor. As in, he wasn't afraid to make enemies while standing up for the citizens of St. Pete. Considering that his favorability ratings have typically been higher than council members', it's not a bad way to go.

The flaw in that argument is that the mayor is supposed to rise above petty squabbles. He, more than anyone else in the city, needs to build a consensus and a direction.

A mayor may not have the power of a CEO, but he or she should have enough of a voice to get others to fall in line.

"You used to hear that the council would rubber-stamp whatever Baker wanted when he was mayor,'' said Curran. "The difference is Baker could count to five. He would walk the halls and talk to people and make sure he had enough support for an idea. If he didn't have the votes, then he wasn't going to bring it up.''

Right now, there's at least one idea that five council members do seem to agree on.

 
Comments
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Published: 12/13/17
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Published: 12/13/17
Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

Elections chief: Automatic recount unlikely in Alabama race

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore...
Published: 12/13/17
Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

Democrats jubilant, and newly confident about 2018, as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ...
Published: 12/13/17
Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

Tax package would lower top tax rate for wealthy Americans

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Tuesday rushed toward a deal on a massive tax package that would reduce the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the corporate rate to a level slightly higher than what businesses and co...
Published: 12/12/17
Trump signs $700 billion military budget into law

Trump signs $700 billion military budget into law

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a sweeping defense policy bill that authorizes a $700 billion budget for the military, including additional spending on missile defense programs to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear w...
Published: 12/12/17
Donald Trump Jr. demands inquiry of House Intelligence Committee leak

Donald Trump Jr. demands inquiry of House Intelligence Committee leak

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, has asked the House Intelligence Committee to open an investigation into leaked information related to his closed interview with the committee last week."To maintain the credibility of the in...
Published: 12/12/17
Original Watergate lock that burglars picked open is going to auction

Original Watergate lock that burglars picked open is going to auction

WASHINGTON -— It’s the lock that launched a two-year investigation and took down a president. And now more than four decades later — and for a starting bid of $50,000 — it can be a really wonky conversation piece.Nate D. Sanders Auctions will auction...
Published: 12/12/17
Democrats say Trump’s tweets about Gillibrand sexist, unsavory

Democrats say Trump’s tweets about Gillibrand sexist, unsavory

WASHINGTON — Plowing into the sexual harassment debate in a big way, President Donald Trump laced into Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday, tweeting that the New York Democrat would come to his office "begging" for campaign contributions and "do anyth...
Published: 12/12/17
Obama, Biden and Trump make late pushes in Alabama Senate race

Obama, Biden and Trump make late pushes in Alabama Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — National political leaders, a Hollywood actress and a retired basketball star made last-ditch efforts to woo voters in the Alabama Senate race Monday, as the candidates gave their final arguments in a pivotal special election that ...
Published: 12/12/17