Faith-based group's efforts to reduce unemployment among people with records delayed again by St. Pete City Council

01/10/13 Janelle Irwin
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St. Pete City Council members deferred a vote on an ordinance today that would require city contractors to hire Florida residents for certain jobs. The plan presented Thursday was met with opposition from people on both sides of the local hiring argument.

The politically-motivated coalition of religious groups, called Faith in Action for Strength Together, or FAST, wants a local hiring ordinance. But they want it to include a provision that would make contractors hire people with criminal records. Proponents including Gwendolyn Williams say that would not only help the local unemployment rate, but would also reduce recidivism.

The idea of putting something on the books to boost the number of people hired locally has been kicked around at St. Pete City Hall for more than a year. They finally have a draft ordinance that would require contractors hired by the city to fill a quarter of their labor hours on jobs totaling $2 million or more with unemployed or under-employed workers from Florida. Steve Cona III, president of Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter said the ordinance has too many holes. He suggested dropping the quota and allowing contractors to work on a good-faith basis.

But that argument was met with sarcasm by proponents of imposing a hiring rule including FAST’s Bill Dudley. Dudley is the nephew of city council member Bill Dudley.

Mike Connors, the city’s administrator said imposing the ordinance would create an unfunded mandate for the city.

And Mayor Bill Foster threatened to veto the measure if it passes as is.

City Council members voted to defer a vote until after a workshop they plan to have within 20 days where they will work out all the kinks in the ordinance. Council member Wengay Newton made a motion to include what he called a “hard to hire” provision in the ordinance that fell in line with what FAST members were requesting.

His motion was seconded by council member Steve Kornell, but did not pass. The matter will likely be discussed when council meets to work out a new draft ordinance. After the vote to defer the issue, members of FAST gathered outside City Hall said they were disgusted with the decision to delay a decision again.

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