Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Challengers, residents target Bill Foster in first mayoral debate

Mayor Bill Foster, left, Rick Kriseman and Kathleen Ford get started on the first St. Petersburg mayoral debate of the election season Thursday at Suncoast Hospice.
Published Jul. 11, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — In the opening minutes of the city's first mayoral debate Thursday night, candidates Kathleen Ford and Rick Kriseman wasted no time attacking Mayor Bill Foster.

And when residents got their chance to ask questions, several of them — including former deputy mayor Goliath Davis — laid into Foster, too.

The exchanges — two months to the day before the primary election on Aug. 27 — provide a glimpse of what Foster faces in trying to keep his job: potentially feisty voters and two politically tested challengers willing to throw some jabs.

Largely missing from the debate: the future of the Lens, a controversy that has divided the city over the last several months.

Instead, residents and the candidates focused on issues of public safety and economic development, particularly in the African-American community.

About 150 people attended the forum at Suncoast Hospice on First Avenue S. The event was sponsored by The Weekly Challenger, the local NAACP chapter and a firm owned by council chairman Karl Nurse.

Ford on several occasions ripped Foster for loosening the police department's pursuit policy shortly after he took office and also noted several recent cases in which officers jumped in front of moving cars and shot at suspects.

"We need to get rid of that policy," Ford said of the pursuit policy. "The chase policy has caused injuries of innocent people."

Kriseman vowed to tighten the policy if he is elected.

"Being mayor is about listening, learning and leading," he said.

Foster sat with his head cocked and a smile on his face. With the microphone in his hand, he touted a reduction in the homeless population.

"You know what, we did pretty good," Foster said about taking office in a recession. "We're not perfect. We hit a few singles. We struck out a few times."

Throughout the two-hour forum, Foster, Ford and Kriseman — all lawyers and former City Council members — agreed about the importance of education, jobs and making neighborhoods better.

Attorney Michelle Ligon moderated the forum, asking several questions about the candidates' visions for the future and what they would do in their first 100 days in office.

Kriseman discussed forming a task force to create a new Pier in case voters reject the Lens in the referendum on the primary ballot. Ford said she would evaluate city staff and make sure top administrators shared her ideas. Foster promised to work like he has done since January 2010.

Tensions grew when residents asked questions. For the most part, it was an attack on Foster.

Ray Tampa, a Ford supporter and former president of the NAACP, questioned Foster about projects he has initiated and completed in the African-American community.

Then Davis, who was fired by Foster in 2011, asked the mayor about a list he is circulating detailing 25 accomplishments in Midtown and neighborhoods south of Central Avenue.

Davis told the mayor that many of the projects started under former Mayor Rick Baker. Davis urged Foster to tell the truth.

"Is it true you did all of this, or were you in the seat when it came to fruition?" Davis asked.

Foster replied: "Yeah, there's a lot of things I do in the chair that you know nothing about."

Minutes later, community activist Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter asked Kriseman and Ford to explain what they have done for minorities. She is one of Foster's biggest advocates in the African-American community.

"What bills did you pass?" she asked Kriseman about his years in the Florida House. "I never saw you move anything forward."

After Lassiter spoke for more than two minutes, Ligon asked her to stop. Lassiter pointed her finger and sniped as she walked away.

The Rev. Manuel Sykes, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, took over.

"This is a forum," Sykes said. "This is not a candidate bashing. Whether you like them or not, be respectful."

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Michele Arceneaux, former president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, speaks during a press conference against three proposed toll roads in the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. LAWRENCE MOWER  |  Lawrence Mower
    The announcement came as the Florida Chamber of Commerce touted the proposed roads.
  2. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to a speech by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in the Florida House during a joint session of the Florida Legislature. Left to Right are: Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, Barbara Lagoa, and Robert J. Luck.  SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Fights over abortion, Amendment 4 and new congressional maps are all on a crash course with the high court.
  3. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.
  4. Kevin J. Thibault, left, Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    The report found a lack of oversight and controls by the department.
  5. Agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried speaks at pre-legislative news conference on Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants his state to set up a system that will require employers to verify the immigration status of job applicants. But it's unclear if that effort will get any traction among lawmakers, especially since a similar effort failed during the most recent legislative session earlier this year. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    It was the second unusual decision Fried has made to refrain from voting on the Office of Financial Regulation.
  6. George Buck, left, a Republican running for Congress in St. Petersburg, signed a fundraising letter that suggested U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, right, a Somali-born Democrat representing Minnesota, and other Democrats should be executed. Buck is challenging U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. Times | Associated Press
    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy removed Buck from the party’s Young Guns program.
  7. FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2018 file photo, people gather around the Ben & Jerry's "Yes on 4" truck as they learn about Amendment 4 and eat free ice cream at Charles Hadley Park in Miami. A federal judge has temporarily set aside a Florida law that barred some felons from voting because of their inability to pay fines and other legal debts. The ruling handed down Friday, Oct. 18, 2019 by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle means thousands of felons who were denied the right to vote will be able to cast ballots unless the state gets a higher court to intervene or if Hinkle later upholds the constitutionality of the state law. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    The 2018 ballot measure passed by voters allowing most non-violent felons to register to vote would be void if an earlier judicial ruling is upheld, an attorney representing DeSantis’ administration...
  8. In this Aug. 28, 2014, photo, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes a statement, at Boryspil airport in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Mikhail Palinchak)
    Taking a closer look at what the story does — and doesn’t — show about Ukraine’s involvement in 2016.
  9. Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee speaks at an October news conference in Tallahassee. STEVE CANNON  |  Associated Press
    Hackers don’t need to break into elections systems to cause chaos. They could just change the results on every county’s website.
  10. Members of the Florida Supreme Court listen to Gov. Ron DeSantis' speech during a joint session of the Florida Legislature in March. Left to Right are: Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, Barbara Lagoa, and Robert J. Luck. There are now five members of the court after Lagoa and Luck were appointed to the 11th District Court of Appeal by President Trump. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    There are 3.6 million unaffiliated voters who cannot vote in Florida’s closed primary system. Will that change in 2020?
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement