For decades, it's been nyet to foreign investment in the Soviet Union. On Wednesday, Anatoli Sobchak was here to say da _ yes to foreign investment. Yes, as soon as possible and as much as possible. The Leningrad City Council chairman said his city is suffering from years of structural and economic decay that only can be remedied with the help of foreign investors. He hopes Tampa Bay area businesses will heed his call for help.
In return, Sobchak promised Americans breaks on taxes and customs duties as well as years of trade.
Sobchak, nearly as popular in his country as Russian Republic President Boris Yeltsin, is on a brief visit to the United States that began in Washington, where he met with officials including Secretary of State James Baker.
Sobchak and Leningrad University Rector Stanislav Merkuriev arrived in Pinellas Wednesday evening. They are guests of St. Petersburg Junior College.
Their visit is a result of the recent friendship of SPJC President Carl Kuttler and a Leningrad University law professor. Kuttler went to Leningrad in September and was named honorary rector of the university. He also met Sobchak, leader of the reformist City Council.
During Sobchak's 48 hours in town and Merkuriev's nine days, the Soviets hope to establish business ties, learn more about free-market economics and the role of community colleges.
Sobchak, equivalent to an American mayor in his city of roughly 5-million, aims to make Leningrad the first city in the Soviet Union to adopt a free market system.
Sobchak said his city is in dire need of building materials for business redevelopment projects and housing. The region needs machinery to process agricultural products as well, he said.
He also dreams of returning Leningrad to its original name: St. Petersburg.
"Before we change the name of the city," he said, "we should feed the citizens and solve the economic problems."
_ PATTY CURTIN
Accusations fly over air samples
Greenpeace and the company that manages the Pinellas County garbage incinerator sparred again Wednesday, this time over air samples taken by Greenpeace members when they scaled the incinerator's smokestacks Oct. 16.
Greenpeace, an activist environmental organization, called a news conference Wednesday in Tampa to say that attorneys for Wheelabrator, the company that manages the incinerator, tampered with samples taken by Greenpeace climbers, invalidating them.
Wheelabrator countered by releasing a statement attacking Greenpeace for "inciting unnecessary public fear."
Said Brian Hunt of Greenpeace: "Our position is very straightforward _ the public has a right to know" how much mercury is coming from the stacks.
Greenpeace members took the air samples from the incinerator's stacks during the organization's nationwide anti-mercury protest.
When the five ended their protest after 36 hours, they were charged with trespassing and deputies confiscated the air samples, backpacks and testing and climbing equipment.
Last week, Wheelabrator reviewed the evidence in the sheriff's property room and filed a motion asking the court not to release the samples to Greenpeace.
"The samples were not taken by established protocol," said Bill Ferguson, southern regional manager for Wheelabrator. "We were concerned (Greenpeace) would generate numbers that would not be valid."
However, when Greenpeace learned Wheelabrator attorneys had handled the samples, the issue became moot, because the organization believes the samples could have been tampered with.
Greenpeace members say they believes that mercury emissions from garbage incinerators are contributing to high levels of mercury in Florida waters, particularly the Everglades. The group concedes that the levels of mercury from the incinerator are within state and federal guidelines, but thinks any level is too much, Hunt said.
_ KATHLEEN OVACK