St. Pete City Counsel votes 5-3 to approve Bill Foster's fiscal budget
A divided St. Petersburg City Council voted late last night 5-3 to adopt Mayor Bill Foster's tentative fiscal year budget. The City Council Chamber filled up quickly, prompting the city to open two additional rooms with close circuit television. Regular citizens and members of grassroots organizations appealed to the City Council to tax less and spend more.
One organization, the People's Budget Review, had several members in attendance. It's a grassroots organization with heavy hitting partners like the League of Women Voters and the NAACP. Rick Smith has been an active member of the People's Budget Review since its beginning. He said there are 3 modest proposals.
"..to deal with youth unemployment, particularly in the African-American community; economic development on the South Side of Saint Pete; and the revitalization of neighborhoods. That total, 'ASK', is about $450,000. Though the benefits would be remarkably; pay off many times that amount of investment."
A reoccurring theme of more than 4 hours of public debate was jobs. Robin Wynn, a member of the SEIU Florida Public Services Union, is concerned about city lay-offs. She said she has seen first hand the need to invest in the youth of all areas of St.Pete.
"I keep hearing things 'just for the South Side; no all over. And I keep hearing things about Mid-town; no all over. If you're going to build a better city, (then) it's all sections of the city that need to be worked on. I'm a city worker of 19 years; I know. I ride around the city every day."
Mayoral candidate, Rick Kriseman, criticized the proposed budget. He advocates setting aside nearly $400,000 for youth jobs, poverty roll-back and neighborhood revitalization. Kriseman said the current budget from Bill Foster falls short of those goals.
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"Well, the only nod I get from the Mayor was $30,000 for neighborhood partnership grant program. Which, historically, is funded at $250,000 and the People's Budget Review is funded at $250,000. If we're going to revitalize our neighborhoods we're not going to be able to do it with $30,000. It's going to take more than that."