St. Petersburg council and mayor an example of dysfunction junction

Published Oct. 9, 2012

Hey, kids, we have a special treat for today's government class.

We're going to watch actual politicians and civil servants in action. An honest-to-goodness video of a recent City Council meeting involving St. Petersburg's brightest lights.

We're going to hear sarcasm and whining. We'll look for vague accusations and occasional misrepresentations. If there's time, we may even watch them pout.

And, yes, I know, it sounds just like last week's episode of Glee.

But this is even better. Instead of adult actors pretending to be high school students on TV, this is like a bunch of juveniles trying to act like adults in real life.

So take your seats and wait for the education to begin.

That first unhappy man is council member Jeff Danner. He wants to know why the city is expanding its red-light camera program so quickly. He was under the impression that the city was going to spend a year studying the data before continuing the program.

This is what is known as a legitimate line of inquiry.

He's going to hear that city workers did not yet have all of the data to provide a comprehensive report to the council. And he's also going to hear that the program was being expanded because of all the great data the city already had.

This is what is known as a load of …

Ooooh, hold on.

Leslie Curran is talking now. She's the council chair. This means she's in charge of these meetings. It also means she has her eye on the mayor's job.

So in this complicated dual role, she does her best to run these meetings as efficiently as possible while also trying to make the current mayor look like a doofus. A lot of times, she seems happy to settle for one out of two.

Right now, she's complaining about how Mayor Bill Foster routinely keeps council members in the dark about city business. This would include baseball stadium matters. And Republican National Convention costs. And red-light cameras.

She's feigning indignation just long enough to get council members Wengay Newton and Steve Kornell stirred up. Now Kornell is threatening the mayor with retaliation. Except he doesn't sound convincing, almost like the whole idea makes him nervous.

Meanwhile, council member Jim Kennedy is saying he agrees with the mayor. This is the council's version of comic relief. No matter what the issue is, Kennedy will agree with the mayor. The Pier? Kennedy agrees. Fire fees? Kennedy agrees.

The mayor sneezes? Kennedy agrees.

I know you guys are getting restless, but this is the best part. The mayor is finally responding. And the amazing thing is you don't even see City Attorney John Wolfe's lips move while Foster is talking.

The mayor is doing the hurt routine. He says he only keeps secrets because certain council members are so mean. And then he throws in a jab about council members being kept in the dark only because they don't do their homework.

Spend your days with Hayes

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Okay, that's all we have time for now.

Hopefully, you learned a little more about good government. About putting personal differences aside to do the work you were elected to do. About thinking of the public's best interests instead of your own agenda.

Hopefully, after watching this City Council, you learned what to avoid.