St. Petersburg voters keep a close watch on a mater plan for downtown's waterfront
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11/08/11 Sarah Curran
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

Today, St. Petersburg residents are voting on City Council positions and several amendments. Some voters are keeping a close eye on City Council spots but many want to make sure Downtown waterfront parks stay public, and private contractors stay out. Four city council seats and 8 amendments make up this years ballot in the St. Petersburg general elections. Many residents like Lynette Fry and her husband David have a keen eye on charter amendment three, involving the city’s plans for the downtown waterfront area.

“We were suspicious of a lot of the city charter amendments and what the city council wanted to do with those we are against the development of the downtown waterfront property we are against the development of that property for a new stadium…I don’t thin tax payers should be paying for something like that when there is budget cuts for other more important needs within the city budget we shouldn’t be doing that it’s a waste of tax payer dollars and its not a good spot, they want to radically modify the waterfront down there I think they want to take a lot of the waterfront away from access by the public and give it away to corporation by development.”

Longtime St. Petersburg resident Susan Ugan says downtown St. Pete has changed for the better in recent years. She adds modifying the waterfront area would be a relapse.

“I think its one of our wonderful gifts here in Florida, that we are in this beautiful city surrounded by, on three sides literally, by water. And if we don’t preserve then the next generation will have a tough time revisiting and rebuilding, or whatever, making over what we’ve done correctly. We are like a little jewel here in Florida. And people are getting to know us better an better, of course for the sports and so forth, but the waterfront is truly our gift. So I think we have to be very careful and preserve what we have that way. It’s hard to go backwards.”

Other amendments include tax exemptions for small businesses as well as requiring the Mayor to submit a balanced budget to city council. The city is also asking about increasing port properties leases for up to 25 years and creating a committee to evaluate city council district boundaries. But amendments didn’t make up today’s entire ballot. Resident Tammy Moore wouldn’t say who she voted for, but emphasized the importance to put the right people on City Council, especially with the current economy.

“This is not an elections where we can afford to elect people that are gonna need on the job training. They need to come with a skill set of being very analytical, understanding the data and how to drill it down and make it relevant to the decision that need to be made. Also we can’t afford to keep people that have been on the job and still haven’t developed business savvy, to know when to negotiate or when not to negotiate and not take it so personal but professionally and make the right decisions for the citizens.”

Positions up for grabs are council districts one, three, five and seven. Current Council member Steve Kornell is hoping for re-election and is running unopposed. Kornell says he is always surprised with low voter turnout. A Pinellas County Elections office spokesperson anticipates a voter turnout of between 10 and 12 percent. Kornell says residents underestimate the large impact of small elections.

“When I was first campaigning two years ago I was in a neighborhood and they said knock on the ladies door she had a break in at her house. And so she tells me this horrific break in people came in while they were sleeping and stole there car…,and I looked at her and I said ‘but you know what mama I got to say this to you, you don’t vote’ and she said ‘Yes, I do’. When we walk door to door we walk to voters, we don’t go to people who don’t vote, because there’s no sense, you want people who vote, because you want people to actually go out and vote. And she said ‘I do’ and I said ‘well every four years for president?’…and she goes ‘Yea.’. And you know what the presidents has nothing to do with the St. Pete police department, but the mayor and city council do, police, fire, recreation. We have issues with our EMS system they are going to completely change that, the county wants to completely change that. That’s a big issue that will have direct impact on every single person in our city at some point.”

Even residents like Lynette and David Fry were shocked at the lack of hype surrounding the issue of development plans for the downtown area.

Lynette: “We walk everyday in the park and we were talking to a lady today about the elections today and she really wasn’t aware of what was going on.”

David: “Uh, where did we get that.”

Lynette: “There was a brochure that was mailed to us about the charter amendments. I’m not sure if it came from the city or you know a political group or whatnot…”

David: “It came with the water bill.”

Lynette: “Oh, yea. That’s right, it came with the water bill.”

St. Petersburg Voter Mary MaCary had harsh but realistic words for the almost 90 percent of voters who don’t take part in small local elections.

“Keep your mouth shut, you can’t complain about anything because you didn’t take part in it, you know. It’s our responsibility as a citizen.”

The city of Largo is also holding local general elections today. They only have one position up for grabs: city commission seat one with Micheal Smith running against Mary Black. Polls will be open until 7 across Largo and St. Petersburg. To find out more about polling locations or ballot issues you can go online to votepinellas.com.

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