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Hey mayor, the voters' mood is different this time. Are you listening?

The election for mayor of St. Petersburg may again depend on which candidate wins among black voters. Last time, Fischer had a lock, but conversations with black voters I run into says that story may be different this time.

If the prevailing mood could be given a voice and spoke to Fischer, the soliloquy would sound a lot like this:

I haven't seen much of you in the last four years. I understand you can't come visit as often as you'd like, with museums to keep open and trees to plant and other important stuff like that. Mayoring can keep you pretty busy.

I don't want to see my neighborhood burn again, so, well, I may not vote for you this time the way I did four years ago when you ran against that Curtsinger fellow.

Let me explain before you get the idea I'm threatening you or trying to extort something from you.

Four years ago, I voted for you because, frankly, Curt scared me. Any police chief who would allow one of his officers to be promoted then turn right around and tell the world that it was an affirmative action thing, not his idea, as Curtsinger did, makes you a little leery of what makes him tick. Seems to me a stronger man, an honorable one, acting on his convictions would have just taken a stand against the promotion.

I couldn't take a chance on that man getting into office. So my neighbors and I rallied behind you. It was that push that got you over the top.

I didn't expect miracles from you. To tell the truth, my expectations were pretty low. I expected you not to loosen all restraints and let police terrorize my neighborhood, the way I feared Curtsinger would. Mostly, though, I expected you to just not mess up too badly, and in a couple of little ways, show some appreciation for the boost my vote gave you.

But I've been sitting around with some of my friends and neighbors at barber shops and restaurants, and every time we try to think of the appreciation you've shown, we get kind of quiet. We know money has been spent here, but that's not the point.

You see, Dave, we hardly knew you. Not until those two nights my neighborhood burned. Before that, you thought everything was okay; I knew it wasn't. But you wouldn't give me a chance to tell you. When I tried, you didn't believe me. I guess you thought all those women and children and old people who testified before a task force on police brutality a few years ago were just making up stuff to cause trouble.

I guess you thought all those people were just acting when they came pleading that the only thing of material value they had _ their home _ was being threatened by a ruthless code enforcement board. I tried to tell you that some of those policies that sound peachy for Snell Isle are death knells where poor people live.

You seem to be listening now, but I don't know how long I'll have your attention. We're afraid things will settle back to the way they were before the disturbances grabbed you by the shoulder.

I'm afraid you'll again be content with just putting makeup on our suffering neighborhoods.

By the way, mayor, did you catch the survey of registered voters the newspaper reported on this week, the part where they asked if things had gotten better, worse, or stayed the same in the four years you've been in office?

Forty percent of black voters said things were better; 20 percent said worse, and 36 percent said things have stayed the same. The percentages were about the same for all voters.

Now, mayor, I understand that in Snell Isle, you might say that's pretty good. Over there, you can combine the people who said it stayed the same (pretty good) with the ones who said it got better. They're happy and doing well.

But where I live, the numbers look pretty bleak. "The same" (bad) goes with "worse" here.

So, mayor, I can't guarantee you my vote this time. I'm afraid of more of the same, and that was too little too late _ and after my neighborhood burned.

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