Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

The Buzz: St. Petersburg council had plenty of reading on flight to Boston

Memory loss

St. Petersburg's City Council has amnesia.

After six members returned last week from a hobnobbing trip to Boston, the group approved a $4.7 million contract to move forward with replacing the Pier.

The entire project is estimated at $50 million. Cue the memory loss.

Only a day before leaving for Boston, six council members each received about 900 pages of documents loaded with technical terms on the project.

The same group lambasted city staffers in October for giving them reams of documents days before voting voted on costly projects.

Nothing was said about the data dump before the vote.

St. Petersburg's number of the week

With the city's primary 260 days away, a pack of mayoral and council candidates are quietly laying the groundwork to battle Mayor Bill Foster and four council members. The primary falls on Aug. 27; the general election, Nov. 5.

Foster is expected to again seek the job he fantasized about while walking the halls of Northeast High School in the early '80s.

With four council seats up for grabs, competition is expected to be fierce. At least two new faces will be added to the eight-member group.

Incumbents Karl Nurse (District 6) and Jim Kennedy (District 2) will seek re-election. Term limits have Leslie Curran (District 4) and Jeff Danner (District 8) contemplating challenging Foster. Both are in the "undecided" stage.

A primary could test Curran and Danner's long friendship.

Expect a wave of candidates to announce their campaigns after New Year's. The qualifying period runs June 11 through 24.

Party politics

After the beating that Republicans took in Pinellas County in November, it should come as no surprise that there's about to be some turnover in local party leadership. But Pinellas GOP chairman Jay Beyrouti says he was planning to move on anyway. It's been four years and "I just believe you don't monopolize leadership," he said.

Beyrouti will not seek re-election Monday, when the executive committee meets to vote on its new board. In line to replace him is Michael Guju, right, a Palm Harbor real estate lawyer who has been the local vice chairman for the past four years.

But simply because others have not announced their intentions doesn't mean he'll go unchallenged. Any executive committee member can be nominated from the floor, introducing the potential for some Monday night drama.

Guju, 53, said he wants to bring updated technology and outreach approaches to the Grand Old Party.

He'd also like to take back those four seats — two on the Pinellas County Commission, two in the state Legislature — that Republicans lost in November.

Two "bright spots," he said: state Rep. Kathleen Peters and state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

"And we have a majority of the County Commission seats." (That's hardly new. Republicans have had a majority on the County Commission for decades.)

Pinellas Democrats re-elected chairman Mark Hanisee on Wednesday night, probably on the condition that he not sing Happy Birthday to anyone ever again after that election-night sing-along in honor of Commissioner Janet Long's birthday.

Take your time …

Former Pinellas Commissioner Neil Brickfield lost his re-election bid a month ago and he has already found a new job. Just don't ask him what it is.

"I'm going to put out a press release," he said last week. "It'll explain the whole thing."

In the meantime, he's steadily progressing through the stages of grief.

"Step one: Accept reality," he said. "Check."

"Step two: Figure out how to go out and support my family."

Check?

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.

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