Four of St. Petersburg’s eight city council seats are up for grabs Nov. 5. Although voters in the primary were restricted to voting for candidates representing their district, the general election races will be decided by a citywide vote for each district.
That means every voter will have a chance to decide the outcome in each of the four council races.
The future of The Pier, the uncertainty of the Rays’ stadium lease, the debate over red-light cameras, and mass transit are just a few of the issues council members will face after the election.
In a race between an incumbent and a challenger to represent the city’s far northern reaches, we think the incumbent, James R. “Jim” Kennedy, deserves re-election.
Kennedy is an attorney appointed to the council in 2007 to fill an unexpired term. He was elected in 2009 to a four-year term. He has an economics degree that gives him a command of budget issues, he understands that mass transit is vital to the city’s future, and he supports red-light cameras. A Rays season-ticket holder, he is aware of the implications of the team’s departure but won’t stand in the way if ownership wants to look in Tampa, provided the city is compensated. He wants to move quickly to gather public opinion about the future of the city’s pier. An advocate for neighborhoods, his persistence helped turn the former Rio Vista Elementary School property into a 9-acre park in this district.
His opponent, Lorraine Margeson, has built a reputation as an environmental activist over a number of years. Most recently, she helped lead the fight to save The Pier. She thinks the city can refurbish the inverted pyramid and change the approach for far less than the $50 million budgeted for a replacement. She is against red-light cameras, and wants to find a way to mitigate the sudden increases in flood insurance rates many homeowners now face. She has a firm grasp of the issues, but we disagree with her position on red-light cameras and are not convinced her desire to refurbish the existing pier is the right way to proceed.
The Tribune recommends James R. “Jim” Kennedy Jr. in District 2.
In the race to replace term-limited Leslie Curran and represent the neighborhoods north of downtown, we think Darden Rice stands out as a candidate ready to take office.
Rice is a communications consultant with a solid understanding of the transportation issues looming on the horizon. She has served on the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and will be a proponent for a mass transit system with a rail component. She talks about bringing transparency to city budgeting and growing jobs within the city’s existing employment base. She thinks The Pier’s replacement might be something on a smaller scale and more affordable, a reasonable option. We disagree with her stand against red-light cameras, but support her overall candidacy.
Her opponent, Carolyn Fries, is a technology entrepreneur with a business background who has been president of her neighborhood association. She is an appealing candidate, but needs more political seasoning.
The Tribune recommends Darden Rice in District 4.
The clear choice in the race to represent downtown and the neighborhoods in the southeast part of the city is incumbent Karl Nurse.
Nurse has distinguished himself as someone who attacks problems thoughtfully and offers pragmatic solutions. He is an advocate for mass transit, thinks red-light cameras make intersections safer, and wants the city to define what it wants in a pier before committing to a design. His ideas for getting foreclosed properties cleaned up or off the market are getting results. He has a realistic view of working to keep the Rays in the region without leaving the city on the hook financially.
His opponent, Sharon Russ, is a community organizer with a narrow focus.
The Tribune recommends Karl Nurse in District 6.
In this race to replace term-limited Jeff Danner and represent neighborhoods west of downtown, we think Amy Foster is the best choice.
Foster, no relation to Mayor Bill Foster, works for a nonprofit that steers girls into technology and science careers, is vice president of St. Pete Pride and serves on the STEM advisory board of Girls Inc.
She wants to increase transit options, and keep the Rays in St. Petersburg but will consider alternatives if it means keeping the team in the region. She supported The Lens but will work to build a consensus on what to do next. We disagree with her stand against red-light cameras, but believe she is the better candidate.
Her opponent, Steve Galvin, is a business owner with a good grasp of the issues and interesting ideas. But his failure to disclose a past child support claim is troubling.
The Tribune recommends Amy Foster in District 8 in the St. Petersburg municipal election on Nov. 5.