St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster faced the Tiger’s Den this afternoon as he opened the first Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting of the year. Foster’s opening remarks were positive, if not predictable — fitting for a Mayor who also announced that he plans to formally run for re-election by completing his candidacy paperwork around 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
Foster brought up many positive, sunny subjects for the city: growth in construction, housing sales, property values and decreases in crime and unemployment. He described his vision for continued growth into 2013: more building and development, job creation, focus on building up midtown, celebrating the city’s African American Heritage and the creating or expansion of new parks.
What was equally clear today, also, were the points that Foster left out. Foster noticeably did not mention his most recent high-profile contentious dispute regarding Councilmember Wengay Newton’s allegation that the city administration illegally forced him to leave a closed attorney-client session regarding the pier. To which Foster is quoted in the Tampa Bay Times as saying, “That assertion is simply not true. It’s a lie.”
Foster also did not bring up the city’s intention to delay the lawsuit aimed to force a citywide vote on the future of the St. Petersburg Pier, brought forth by attorney Kathleen Ford and VoteOnThePier.com. The hearing on this requested delay is scheduled for Monday.
Not only did Foster omit these heated subjects in his opening remarks, but so too did his interrogators. Yes, while the St. Petersburg Mayor did face the Tiger’s Den, it appears that the Tigers were prepared with mostly softball questions.
Baseball topped the Q and A segment, in a question aimed at suggesting that Tampa and St. Petersburg should work together to save the team for the Tampa Bay region. Foster was quick to say that he and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn would like to work together to keep the team in Tampa Bay, yet Foster was firm in his position that we need Hillsborough County to support this team here, in St. Petersburg, because it is the people of St. Petersburg who fought for years to have this team, have paid to have and keep this team and therefore deserve to have the team stay here.
The St. Pete Pier
The St. Petersburg Pier certainly came up in questions — twice in fact. The first question asked what is the percentage of St. Pete voters needed to get a new Pier design. After rambling through a brief history of the previous Pier petition and his positions on it, Foster simply stated, “If the new group gets the [right number of] signatures, it will be on the ballot.”
The second question had to do with the Lens, and particularly why the city has done such a poor job educating the public. Foster came out strongly defending the process, calling it outstanding. Though he admitted that at first it may have appeared that the city was not educating the public, he said, “We didn’t have a good understanding of the programming until the last several months, and it’s still evolving.”
Yet, Foster maintains that today he believes the city is doing an outstanding job of educating the public, answering questions and getting input. He said, “[The Lens] is programmed for locals to want to go out there at least once a month. At least once a moth everyone should find something they enjoy doing out there. The tourists will come anyway.”
Other Q & A:
Other questions and answers had Foster giving his position on a variety of topics:
Crime Prevention—Mayor Foster spoke mostly of the power of crime watch programs and focusing on education as the city’s strongest prevention measures.
Gun control—Foster does not support confiscating legal firearms, yet he does not believe that you should be allowed to purchase a firearm without a background check, that there should be a statewide closure in the gun show loopholes and there should be a conversation about assault weapons.
Budget—Foster proclaiming 2013 as the most challenging budget year he had seen.
Funding the Pier, new police HQ, etc.—Yes, says Foster, the money for the Pier could have been allocated towards general operations for the city at maybe $2 million per year, but Foster explained that he would not be the first mayor in St. Pete without an operational pier.
Light Rail—He made his position on light rail clear: he is all for it as long as it not only improves the transportation infrastructure within Pinellas but also bridges the transportation gap between Pinellas and Hillsborough and especially Tampa International Airport.
Water Taxies and other water-based transportation—Foster says that the city is not in the water transportation industry, but that he does support this, and would be pleased to encourage the city to work with private businesses who might wish to do this to possibly provide incentives, space, etc.
Via Daphne Street, SaintPetersBlog correspondent.