If you're looking for hard-elbow politics, you won't find it here.
In fact, the courtesy with which Bea Griswold and Ronnie Beck have competed for the job of representing District 2 on City Council could be a textbook civics lesson. Beyond a few modest advertisements for themselves, all they want to talk about is the issues.
Even at that, they agree on a lot.
Both would like to give the police department more resources.
Griswold opposed the city's recent bail-out of the Florida International Museum. Beck says he would have voted that way, too.
Both take a moderate view of the city's recent efforts in neighborhood code enforcements. They say strong codes are important, but both say now is a good time to rethink how the codes might best suit neighborhood needs.
Both are strong proponents of measures that help racial minorities. In frequent defenses of the city's set-aside program for minority contracts, for example, Griswold remarks that the dollar amount is less than what the city spends on art in public buildings. Beck, too, believes in affirmative action as necessary to overcome lingering racism.
If there is a difference between the two candidates, it may boil down to their approach to the job.
Griswold, a generation older than Beck, is one of the sticklers on City Council. She asks lots of questions and takes seriously her role as a watchdog over the details of city government. Besides her completion of a Veterans Memorial project begun by her husband, she says she is proudest of the attention she has brought in weekly council discussions to the concerns of everyday people _ people often forgotten.
Beck also believes in a strong watchdog role, but he thinks the council would be more effective if it paid less attention to small management details and more to setting and evaluating the city government's goals.
The current council has not quite grasped the meaning of the strong-mayor form of government approved by voters four years ago, he says. People want less bureaucracy, quicker and more accountable decisions. The council could help by focusing on regular evaluations of every city department's results, instead of trying to participate in every decision, he says.
And yet, when pressed, Beck acknowledges that his decision to challenge Griswold for her council seat has more to do with his own sense of timing than with any real dissatisfaction with her performance. After more than a decade of community volunteer work, and with his business thriving, he thought it was about time to offer himself for broader public responsibility.
Griswold takes her responsibilities seriously as well. She says the council needs experienced leaders like her who are familiar with a host of issues, not all of them originating in St. Petersburg. She said she is avidly interested in a number of them, ranging from utilities deregulation to the environment.
In the race for financial campaign support, the incumbent has come out ahead.
As of Feb. 28, Griswold had raised $4,374.60 in cash and in-kind contributions. Almost $1,160 of that came from her family or herself, but she also received donations from former council members Martha Maddux, Dean Staples and J.
W. Cate Jr., as well as from Kansas attorney Robert L. Jackson, one-time president of the Bay Plaza Cos., the city's partner in an ill-fated downtown development.
Griswold also received $500 from attorney Roy G. Harrell Jr., who has represented a new set of local developers trying to pick up where Bay Plaza left off. Harrell's law firm, Carlton Fields, gave another $500.
Beck, meanwhile, had collected $1,390 by March 6 _ mostly from neighbors, although $500 of that is a loan from himself.