Wednesday’s forum for city council district 4 and 8 candidates marked the end to a busy forum season before the Aug. 27 primary.
District 4 city council candidates are Richard Eldridge, Carolyn Fries, David McKalip and Darden Rice. Rice was not present at the forum. District 8 council candidates are Robert Davis, Alex Duensing, Amy Foster and Steve Galvin.
Candidates discussed city pensions, funding for neighborhoods, the use of reserves and many other topics.
One topic, the St. Petersburg redistricting process, was the only issue where all seven candidates in attendance chose to address.
“(District) lines were changed less than 12 months prior to the election,” Fries said. “Two of my opponents do not live in District 4. I thought they should drop out of the race and they did not.”
Every 10 years the city is legally required to undergo a redistricting process. Redistricting maps were approved by city council in March.
The change of district lines caused headaches and raised residency questions for candidates in District 4.
Both Rice, who was not present Wednesday, and McKalip have defended their residencies arguing they own properties in the district and did prior to the lines being changed.
McKalip defended his residency Wednesday night saying he has been a continuous resident of District 4 for 10 years.
He said the process needs to change so as to not “protect the incumbents.”
“We should have a third party to draw the maps, not the staff members of the city,” McKalip said. “(Redistricting) should be done earlier.”
The timing of St. Petersburg redistricting is something all candidates agreed on Wednesday.
It needs to not be too close to the election, Davis said.
“Next time we have this 10 years form now, if somebody lives in a district they should have that clarified that you are a part of that new district,” Davis said.
Universal Curbside Recycling
- I’m a believer in universal curbside recycling, not mandatory however,” Galvin said. “An idea that may work would be to cut back our twice weekly (trash) pickup to once weekly of regular trash and once weekly of recyclable materials.”
- Foster said for many St. Pete seniors, adding extra trips and buckets to take to the curb would not be wise. She supports, “universal access, not mandatory,” recycling.
- “I’m not for having little blue pickup (bins) at everyone’s curb,” Duensing said. “
- “People call it universal recycling, but it’s really forced recycling,” McKalip said.
What to do with Millions in Cash Reserves
- “What I would like to see that money used for is infrastructure, which includes the people that make it safe and make it run,” Duensing said.
- “Use them for capital improvements that would drive down costs over time,” Foster said.
- Galvin said the city should leverage a bank to use the reserves to offer loans to local small businesses. “Work with our citizens to provide funds for any number of projects or businesses to move our city forward,” he said.
The top two vote getters for each council district will be placed on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
St. Pete Patch and the Council of Neighborhood Associations hosted Wednesday’s forum. The League of Women Voters moderated.