Bill Foster hosts public forum
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02/12/10 Jamie Kidder
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St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster (Sept. 2009)


photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Last night, the Mayor of St. Petersburg held the first Mayor’s Night Out, where the Mayor and representatives from more than ten municipal departments gather to hear the voice of residents. Promising to stay as long as necessary, the mayor and others answered questions ranging from speeding complaints to stop signs. But the one issue that most people wanted to discuss was the proposed firing of Boyd Hill Nature Preserve’s small staff of park rangers.

The small nature preserve abutting Lake Maggiore was a point of controversy at last night’s forum. Newly elected mayor Bill Foster proposed that the city terminate five full-time ranger jobs at Boyd Hill. So many people came to the event to protest the firings that the mayor had to hold a special meeting with them in a separate room.

Karl Nurse is the councilman serving district six, where Boyd Hill is. He wasn’t happy about how the whole thing was handled.

Citizens proposed alternate plans themselves, such as increasing the admission fee or applying for stimulus money. He was also asked to make a commitment to re-think the terminations.

Later, in an interview, he was asked if he would re-visit the issue of employee termination.

Boyd Hill didn’t take up the entire evening. Rhonda Abbot is the manager of Veteran, Social and Homeless Services for the City of St. Petersburg. She’s the one who coordinates the city-run shelters.

Chuck Harmon spoke about changes made in terms of Community Policing

Bill Foster spoke about the upcoming budget proposal. During his campaign, he pledged that he would not use reserves to pay for recurring expenses.

This is the first in a series of seven Mayor’s Night Out events, one for each city council district. The next one is scheduled for March 11, at Sawgrass Lake Elementary in District 2.

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