Let’s be honest, most of the races and ballot issues at stake in St. Petersburg’s municipal elections already are decided. Certain candidates are going to win, no matter what happens. Certain ballot initiatives will pass, no matter their logic.
But that doesn’t mean you cannot send a message to City Hall.
Just assume for a moment that most of the elections are a foregone conclusion. Incumbent Bill Dudley will beat Brent Hatley. Steve Kornell will get more votes than “New Election.” The eight proposed amendments to the City Charter will be adopted.
This is all going to happen, no matter what happens between now and Election Day. Dudley, Kornell, etc., are the favorites. They are the establishment.
The only question is the margin of victory.
So why not help the underdogs beat the chalk? Here’s how to cast your ballot if you really want to send a message to City Hall:
- District 1 – Charlie Gerdes vs. Bob Kersteen: Actually, Charlie Gerdes is the favorite in this race, having won the primary handily. At least until news broke of his personal financial problems. Still, Gerdes will likely hang on to defeat Kersteen. So how will Gerdes winning send a message to City Hall? Because Kersteen is nothing less than a disciple of Mayor Bill Foster, so a vote for Gerdes is a vote against Kersteen, which is a vote against Foster. Get it?
- District 3 – Bill Dudley vs. Brent Hatley: Because too many city voters confuse a candidate showing up at every ribbon-cutting for leadership, Bill Dudley was perceived to be too strong of a candidate for a traditional candidate, i.e, Ed Montanari, to enter the race to challenge him. Brent Hatley, producer of the Bubba the Love Sponge show, manned up, filed to run against Dudley and at least is keeping him honest. Unfortunately, Hatley hasn’t made a compelling enough of a case to upset Dudley, but a vote for Hatley is a vote against the political lethargy embodied by Dudley.
- District 5 – Steve Kornell vs. “New Election”: Kornell’s opponent dropped out in August. Still, to win he must get more votes than the “New Election” option voters will have. Of course, Kornell deserves to be re-elected, but what fun would that be? In fact, if someone wanted to have some real fun, they could have taken up the cause of “New Election” and had some fun with it. Hopefully, Steve Kornell defeats “New Election” but only by a point or two. That’ll help keep him honest.
- District 7 – Wengay Newton vs. Gershom Faulkner: This is another situation where the incumbent is the favorite, but also the best vehicle to send a message to City Hall. Wengay is consistently on the losing end of 7-to-1 votes and is a thorn-in-the-side to most of his colleagues on City Council. What better reasons do you need then to return him for another four years of mischief. Faulkner, by the way, is endorsed by Bill Foster, so this race represents another chance for voters to stick it to him.
1.) Charter Amendment 1 would amend the City Charter to allow private entities to obtain up to 25-year leases at the Port of St. Petersburg upon approval of six of the eight members of the council. The council currently can only offer 10-year leases at the port. The city needs to revitalize the port, but it should bring voters a specific plan, such as happened with the relocation of the Dalí Museum in 2004. And why make it easier for the Port officials to attract new business? Vote No.
2.) Charter Amendment 2 would authorize the City Council to grant, on a case-by-case basis, property tax breaks to businesses that expand or relocate in St. Petersburg and add full-time jobs. As the St. Petersburg editorial board opined, such tax breaks can be a slippery slope and should only be proffered after significant scrutiny. Vote No.
3.) Charter Amendment 3 would require the City Council to develop a master plan for the downtown waterfront no later than July 1, 2015. Nothing causes the Chamber of Commerce crowd more heartache than having to go through the ordeal of developing a waterfront master plan — which will probably be ignored anyway. Still, why not make the interests vested in the downtown waterfront jump through a few extra hoops? Vote Yes.
4.) Charter Amendment 4 would transfer authority for drawing the City Council’s districts from the council to a citizens panel made up of appointees by the mayor and each council member. Critics of this amendment suggest removing the process will make the process less transparent as elected officials would have plausible deniability when their appointee to the committee is the one pushing a change that benefits re-election chances. I say having another committee to appoint political allies to is always a good thing. Vote Yes.
5.) Vote against Charter Amendment 5 because it would make city management evaluations optional instead of mandatory. No. No. No. Every one in a management position at City Hall should be dragged before the City Council even if it is pro forma.
6.) Vote for Charter Amendment 6 because it would require the City Council to hold public hearings any time the city budget is amended to transfer money between accounts or at the end of the year when the bottom line is reconciled. This is just the kind of good open-government proposal that drives City Hall bureaucrats batty.
7.) Vote against Charter Amendment 7 because it ridiculously requires the mayor to propose a balanced budget to the City Council where expenditures match receipts. Why the hell should the city not be able to spend more than it taxes? What were municipal bonds created for, if not to let the city spend more than it takes in?
8.) And, last but not least, vote against Charter Amendment 8, because it wants to fix typos and other glitches in the City Charter. Sorry folks, but the world is not perfect. And neither is government.
Again, this is not how I recommend you vote by mail or at the polls in November, it’s simply how I recommend you vote if you want to stick it to City Hall.