1. Florida Politics

Sharp words from Mayor Foster could portend re-election run

Mayor Foster and mojo?

An unusual display of public swagger could mean St. Petersburg's mayor is warming up for his re-election campaign in 2013.

At Thursday's City Council meeting, two critics urged ending the contract with the private vendor who operates the red-light camera program.

David McKalip, a neurosurgeon and activist, accused the city of gouging residents' wallets. Matt Florell, a camera critic, talked about flaws he found in a city report on cameras.

In response, Foster said he takes advice from traffic professionals, "not a neurosurgeon and hobbyist statistician looking for his 15 minutes" of fame.

The personal attack baffled Florell. "I was confused . . . especially since the mayor and staff have thanked me more than once for independently evaluating their statements and reports in the past."

New council boss

Karl Nurse will be the 2013 St. Petersburg council chairman.

Oh Thursday, the members picked Nurse over Wengay Newton in a 6-2 vote. The group elected Bill Dudley as the vice chairman.

Nurse was in line for the post this year, but the group kept Leslie Curran after she missed part of her 2010 term when a bicycle accident left her in an induced coma. Charlie Gerdes nominated Nurse; Newton nominated himself.

Members don't get extra cash on top of their $38,913 salary to serve as chairmen. But they do get to shape the debate by setting the agenda before meetings. The chairman can also cut off other members if they run over their speaking times in meetings.

That's something Curran hasn't done much of in the last six months.

Newton looking for support

With the mayor and four council seats facing election next year, Wengay Newton is asking Santa to take people to the polls.

To combat red-light cameras, parking meters and voter suppression, Newton urged residents to vote in 2013. He posted this on his Facebook page: "So please don't forget to VOTE. All I want for Christmas, send me some HELP."

Vacation request denied

Democracy doesn't stop when public schools go on vacation.

While setting the City Council's 2013 agenda last week, Steve Kornell requested that a week in March be left open when Pinellas schools go on vacation. The school employee wanted the week off from the council, too.

Council chairwoman Leslie Curran's response: "Well, I'd like to not have a council meeting today."

The group ignored Kornell's request.

Mark Puente can be reached at or (727) 893-8459. Follow @markpuente on Twitter.