The economy may be brightening, but the St. Petersburg City Council still faces tight budgets and tough issues. Among the challenges: breaking the stalemate over the Tampa Bay Rays' quest for a new stadium; building a new police headquarters; reducing the costs of the countywide emergency medical system; pursuing curbside recycling; and potentially revisiting the future of the Pier. Other regional issues, such as providing for the homeless and improving public transit, also require attention.
Four of the eight council seats are on the ballot this year, and three of those seats are on the Aug. 27 primary ballot. The top two finishers in each district primary advance to the citywide election on Nov. 5.
Darden Rice | District 4
Voters in this district north of downtown have clear choices to choose from to succeed Leslie Curran, who is term-limited. Darden Rice, a communications consultant with a track record of public involvement, is the strongest candidate.
Rice, 43, ran credible but unsuccessful campaigns for the City Council in 2005 and the County Commission in 2008, losing both times to better-known candidates. She has remained engaged in civic life and has had a positive impact. Rice helped launch the People's Budget Review group that has provided a welcome venue for discussing the city's fiscal priorities, and she has served as president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the League of Women Voters, which has been a driving force behind City Hall's renewed consideration of curbside recycling. She was also a member of the city's recent Charter Review Commission.
Rice has been the citizen representative for St. Petersburg on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board and strongly supports the proposed November 2014 referendum on a countywide transit plan. She is open-minded as to what comes next for the Rays stadium, supports universal curbside recycling and wants a renewed commitment from City Hall to improving Midtown.
Carolyn Fries, 46, is a promising candidate. She is an engineer, technology entrepreneur and former Crescent Lake neighborhood president. Fries would bring a business owner's sensibilities to the job and is interested in more investment in public safety. But she does not have Rice's depth of knowledge about city issues.
David McKalip, 48, is a neurosurgeon whose fiscal conservatism and support of limited government are popular with tea party followers. He wants deep cuts in city spending that would be unworkable, and he would phase out defined-benefit plans for city workers. He opposes the transit referendum and would ask voters to lease the Pier to a private developer. McKalip supports extreme changes at City Hall that would strangle St. Petersburg's ability to provide public services, and he would not be a consensus builder.
Richard Eldridge, 51, is a former Marine who now drives a taxi.
For St. Petersburg City Council District 4, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Darden Rice.
Karl Nurse | District 6
Karl Nurse, 58, has proven himself a dedicated leader over the five years he has represented this diverse southeast district on the council. A small business owner, his push to rehabilitate abandoned properties and force financial institutions to take care of foreclosed properties has made a difference. He also successfully promoted energy efficiency efforts to save the city money.
Nurse has a realistic view of the city's economic development shortcomings and a plan to address them. And he is right on regional issues — including talking to the Rays and supporting the 2014 transit referendum.
Nurse's retreat from his vote to both demolish the inverted pyramid and build the Lens is a disappointment, and he initially backed Mayor Bill Foster's failed plan for a regressive fire fee. His impatience in council meetings is understandable but is rarely helpful. But no other candidate in this race matches Nurse's expertise or track record.
Trevor Mallory, 41, a former city employee who manages a nightclub, shows a commitment to his hometown and honest concerns about the direction of his district. But he can't make a case for replacing Nurse. Sharon Russ, 52, has run for office before but has not responded to interview requests.
For St. Petersburg City Council District 6, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Karl Nurse.
Amy Foster | District 8
For eight years, this district west of downtown, with the Historic Kenwood neighborhood at its core, has been represented by Jeff Danner, who is term-limited. Amy Foster, a nonprofit executive with fresh ideas, is the best choice to replace him.
Foster, 35, is a Louisiana native who has lived in St. Petersburg for a decade and worked until 2010 for the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. She now works for a nonprofit based in Seattle focused on connecting girls to science, math and technology. Foster has a holistic approach to improving the community, and she recognizes how the transient motels on 34th Street impact her district's property values and the lives of children living in those situations. She has well-researched ideas about encouraging lawful behavior at those establishments and in downtown's Williams Park, which has become a magnet for vagrants.
Foster supports the transit referendum, seeks more solutions for addressing homelessness and wants more focus on neighborhoods.
Steve Galvin, 55, a music engineer, offers enthusiasm and creative ideas for improving St. Petersburg. But the candidate's failure to disclose a child support situation in California raises questions about his judgment.
Robert Davis, 53, a library assistant at the main library, has worked with neighborhood associations and wants to work on job creation. Alex Duensing, 39, a former educator, is not well versed in city issues.
For St. Petersburg City Council District 8, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Amy Foster.