What's going on with the Big Easy, the casino boat that has been parked at the Port of St. Petersburg since 2006?
In November, officials from the city and the gambling ship's owner said it might soon depart the port at 250 Eighth Ave. SE for another home. But six months later, it's still here.
Since I wrote about the vessel back then, I have gotten several inquiries about the 238-foot New Orleans-themed ship, which features a 30,000-square-foot casino with 23 gaming tables.
On Thursday, I got another call, this one from Joe Mall, a representative for a group of investors that "lost one of its casino boats going out to Cape Canaveral."
Mall said his investors had heard about the Big Easy and were interested in making a purchase.
Walt Miller, the city's marina and port manager, said the boat — which pays the city about $6,000 a month in port fees — is paid up through June 30. Its owners "have indicated a desire to stay longer, but I haven't approved that," he said.
Salary cut idea vexes; mayor says he took one
At times, St. Petersburg City Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran appeared to be the lone voice of reason during Tuesday morning's fiscal 2011 budget workshop at City Hall.
Some of her council colleagues bristled at suggestions that they trim their $40,117 salaries and consider giving up their city pensions.
While they understand the daunting challenge of a deficit of $12 million to $14 million, they dug in their heels in defending their salaries and pension.
"If we did not participate in the pension, how much would it save?" asked Karl Nurse.
"I just want us to take a stand," said Curran after listening to her colleagues. "We have 39 people who are being terminated, and I just think that we should show some solidarity and leadership to take a cut this year."
Council member Herb Polson said it's important for council members to get city funds to attend out-of-town conferences. But he sounded open to the idea of a small pay cut. "Three percent is $1,200 and is symbolic, but it's not going to ruin anyone," he said. "It doesn't matter to me. This is the most divisive conversation an elected official can have."
For his part, Mayor Bill Foster said he declined to renew the $13,000 annual membership fee for the U.S. Council of Mayors.
In a phone conversation Friday afternoon, Foster said he "voted against every pay raise for the council when I was on the council. I was the only council member ever to not accept the pension."
The pension benefit "was not a part of the salary or benefit package when I ran" for a council seat in 1998, he added.
Since becoming mayor, which pays $158,355 a year, he said he has taken a 25 percent cut in salary from his previous job as a lawyer.
"My cut in salary is to the extent that my wife's gone back to work," he said.
Agenda 2010 event set to generate policy ideas
A number of groups pay attention to policies at City Hall. Now, one of them is having a convention to solicit ideas.
Agenda 2010, a group created last year to shed light on issues in the black community, will hold a City Policy Convention from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the PTEC Campus at 901 34th St. S in St. Petersburg.
About 60 activists from throughout Pinellas County will work in five breakout sessions to develop proposals to Foster and the City Council for new approaches in minority business development, health, youth development, economic development/job creation/housing, and public safety. For more information, visit online at agenda2010.ning.com.
Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor/community news. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at twitter.com/StPeteSandi.