St. Pete City Council candidates stress social reform in front of a crowd of 300

10/14/11 Janelle Irwin
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Voters in St. Petersburg are gearing up for the November 8th city council general election. Last night five of the candidates squared off in a forum in the city’s mid-town area where they fielded questions about boosting opportunities for youth and African-American people.

The 4-district city council race brought 300 residents to Mt. Zion Progressive Church. It was a larger turnout than previous forums where only about a quarter of that has. But this crowd had expectations of their elected officials outside the popular Pier and Rays debates. District 7 candidate Gershom Faulkner wants to see some improvements to benefit kids by creating role models in the community.

“I believe in supporting small businesses. The way that we’ll address those issues – we know that crime is tied to the lack of jobs, we know that if we help small businesses to grow they’ll be able to hire individuals or hire more people so you’re creating jobs, our youth do as we do not what we say, so in doing that we create an environment where business owners are typically more involved in the community, business owners are typically homeowners, all these things I think our youth will be able to see and look to do something different than in life than what they currently see in the community.”

And his opponent, incumbent Wengay Newton is worried about kids too. He said a lot of kids are finding themselves with nothing to do and that gets them in trouble.

“We had 27 drug-related murders by young black people that look like me killing people that look like me. Also that year we arrested and locked up 1500 juveniles. We have a problem of epic proportions going on as we speak. Ask yourself, had that money been available with that young man that was alleged to have killed our police officer, Officer Crawford, would that have happened if he had opportunities to work and do stuff? You know, it is very important that we look at the core mission of saving our youth. Now the city stuff will take care of itself. I’m still going to go and bring back innovative ideas like 4G networks that will create revenue that will help us balance budget and keep people working.”

District 3 candidate Brent Hatley is the producer of the controversial Bubba the Love Sponge show. But he said the show doesn’t represent who he is for the community. He showed similar concerns for economically struggling communities, but he said his first priority is bringing more green buildings to the area, including the possibility of a green stadium for the Rays. His second priority is getting rid of red light cameras.

“Red light cameras are unconstitutional. They’re a motorist tax. They circumvent the legal system. They circumvent the due process. They circumvent the 6th amendment which is the right to cross-examine any accuser. And they also circumvent the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment because if you get a ticket from a police officer it costs more than if you get a red light ticket. So, in the 14th Amendment which is equal protection under the law, they all have to be uniformed. So, it’s been ruled unconstitutional by two judges on those grounds and also a Los Angeles superior court judge has ruled them unconstitutional. So, the St. Pete City Council has a million dollars set aside for fiscal year 2012 from red light cameras. So if they’re telling you they’re there to make you safe, but yet they’re going to garner a million dollars, that doesn’t jive, that doesn’t go together.”

Hatley’s opponent, incumbent Bill Dudley, didn’t attend the forum; nor did district 1 candidate and former council member Bob Kersteen.

Charlie Gerdes, who is running against Kersteen, and unopposed district 5 incumbent Steve Kornell also fielded audience questions.

All of the candidates emphasized their commitment to providing better social programs for economically struggling families.

Previous WMNF coverage of St. Pete City Council race here and here.

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