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St. Pete Bar Hopping Chronicle. NYE 2013

The evening kicked off with me politely declining all of the normal and traditional invitations from my friends—food, frolic and frivolity, doused with plenty of libations to keep the night fully-lubricated and in motion. I had a plan—something that’s been tugging at me to do, and last night was the right time to do it. I robed myself in festive attire and committed to bar hopping down Central Ave, just what was in an easy walking distance from my downtown apartment, stopping short of slithering around on the high ticket Beach Drive locale.

Early in the evening, I stopped for a small bite at Ricky P’s before I embarked on my adventure, where the bartender is always friendly, cheeky and warm. But, the crowd around the bar was not the usual set of eclectic masses whom I have come to expect, haphazardly sitting in the round, trading stories of bad plays and worse lovers. Instead, a group of young men crowded there, flexing their wisdom of “life experiences,” because they, of course, know it all at the ripe age of 26. Funny how we knew so much more then than we will ever know again. The good news is that if you ever need the answer to a daunting life question—you can always resort to hypnosis, because certainly, your 26-year-old self knows the score!

Photo: Nye emerald barSo, I ate, and then I prepared to take on the night. I knew that I would be writing, and I contemplated which tools I was going to bring along: my trusty notebook and pen? My small tablet computer? No—just my phone. I decided to chronicle the occasion via Facebook status updates, just taking note of observations and winding thoughts and how those all tangled up in my brain. Then, off I went to the first stop on my list—The Emerald Bar.

At the Emerald, I knew I’d be visiting the seedier side of St. Pete drinkeries, and I was looking forward to it. This is where professional drunks, the restaurant crowd and all those who just like a good sip of alcohol without frills and pretense settle in. Here people watching was elevated to an art last night, and the tunes melded with the scene in a disturbing but alluring amnesiac scattered recollection. Salt n’ Peppa was resurrected through the Juke Box in its nostalgic glory: “Don’t know how you do the voo doo that you do… Shoop.”

Between what was securely planted in place, followed by what poured in the door was a garden of regulars, drunkards and escapees from the Beach Drive scene—a mixture of weeds in a lot. A single stand of multicolored holiday lights and a fat guy in a cardboard Happy New Year hat sparkled in the dark landscape… “Oh baby you got what I need…” blared in the background.

A brief stumble next door, and I felt like Alice going through the looking glass. Things could not have been more different if these bars were on other ends of the globe. I found myself in a techy, not-quite trendy, trying to be a concept but not committed to it, Photo: Nye saki bombbecause that would be lame, so we’re just here… vibe. I’m at the Sake Bomb. There’s no liquor here to adorn their shelves, so they’ve displayed beer bottles in an underwhelming fashion.

A smaller, younger set of loiterers have congregated here, jamming to 80s new wave, which is oh so Not New. Collectively, they are decidedly much more sober than the hanger-outers next door. And far less entertaining. I intended to blow the joint as soon as possible, and possible occurred right after I finished my beverage. The youngish, horny mid-rent crowd didn’t intrigue me at all, possibly because that sort-of described me. So, I chugged my tasty Stella Cidre and bounced. But, wait! Just before I roam along to the next watering hole down the street, it happened! Seated at a table outside the Sake Bomb is an older man preaching the 12 steps of sobriety to four younger people, fully engaged in the topic over a bucket of beer! Noteworthy people-watching—score!

Oh, Cycle Brewing… you are everything I’ve come to expect from St. Pete’s string of craft beer joints. While I am partial to The Ale and the Witch, I stopped there last night, so tonight, you’re on the map. At Cycle Brewing there was a livelier, more animated, younish crowd. A very cool thing about the atmosphere created by the people here is that each grouping of beer drinkers is fully engaged in energetic conversation. Eves dropping tells tales of traveling plans and experiences, strange loves, troubled relationships and goals for the New Year, whilst somewhat cranky about the one soon to pass.

Photo: Nye cycle brewThe groupings were a cultural construct of couples, friends and small crowds. Like tended to be with like, representing minimal age diversity—lots of 30-somethings with a few older and younger mixed in. One would do well to go quantity surveying here—it wouldn’t be challenging, and it might be a bit dull, but so is the concept of quantity surveying. It was heartwarming to see  familiar face, though–here’s to a brilliant New Year, Frank Wells!

While strolling down Central Ave to my next watering hole I made a startling auditory observation—really bad live music! May I insert a plea to local eateries to please use a little discretion when choosing live entertainment: scaring your customers with off key tunes, featuring weird playlists is not good for anyone. Please stop it and hire wisely. We have very talented musicians in town. Book the best talent early, and don’t hand the mic and the amp over to your special niece.

“Take me away from here. Tell me about someplace else,” she said.

He said, “We’re always someplace else. Wherever you want to be.”

That gorgeous conversation I passed by was soon interrupted by St. Pete’s finest waking up a homeless man on a bench. The guy was a little combative, and his smart-assed mouth nearly got him arrested. I was hoping he wouldn’t end up bringing in the New Year at the 49th Street Hilton. Quickly the guy got ahold of himself and moved along as instructed without incident. Be cool, St. Pete!

Photo: Big crowd, cover charge, low key performance. First show I saw here was Betty Fox and she killed the venue, people dancing, blues rocking, and I became a groupie of sorts. Ethers Betty rocking tonight, I wonder.I wandered off of Central Ave. just for a minute to check out a spot that has great personal meaning to me: Ruby’s Elixir. When I quit my job and went freelance full time, it took me a while to realize how free I really was from the tyranny of nonprofit grant writing. Unless you’ve been there, don’t mock me. It can be life-consuming, and yes, my particular brand of pathology made it much worse than it needed to be. Anyway, that’s not the point… when I finally claimed my freedom and took ownership of it, I was here, drinking gin at Ruby’s. Here I was again at Ruby’s Elixir on NYE to find a big crowd, cover charge and a low key performance. The first show I saw at Ruby’s was Betty Fox and the Dirty Bastards (AKA The Betty Fox Band), and she stormed the tiny venue! I was lured there by the powerful sound of her meticulously tuned voice, rocking blues like nothing I’d ever heard! People dancing spellbound by the music and her presence, and I became a groupie of sorts. Where’s Betty rocking tonight, I wondered? Anyway, I strolled back onto Central.

Crowley’s Downtown seems to have been brought to you by a GAP commercial. Clean-cut, or rather an antiseptic version of a downtown dive (read: The Emerald). The patrons donned a higher-rent, near hipsters appearance tossing in a casual older affluent congestion of bodies, squeezing by one another in the doorway. Outside its doors, the street shots down Central are far more colorful than what’s on the inside of the joints. Early intoxication has made several pedestrians directionally challenged while Suite Six neighbors quickly shuffle their trendy clientele past the roped entry. There’s usually more affect than fun found behind those doors, I’ve learned through experience, so I didn’t bother to enter.

The sidewalk was so thick with people at one point, I decided that I’d either have to wait patiently for a clearing to be on my way our just charge through NYC style. Since I’m not usually fond of touching strangers, I waited for a clearing. I passed by the Oyster Bar, which does indeed have fabulous oysters and featured a cool guy with a guitar playing familiar tunes, and I decided then that I wanted to end my night there. I passed it up and would circle back as I had more bar hopping to do!

Photo: The breakfast bar! Bar hopping #5The breakfast bar! Mastry’s… A walk by Mastery’s in the a.m. will delight you with scenes of early morning drunkenness. If you care to imbibe yourself, you’ll find a quiet, mumbling welcome. By night, breakfast drinkers are forced to mingle with loud younger people who claim the space as their watering hole. Imposters! It belongs to the breakfast drinkers. You are merely visitors who lay out heavy change. As for NYE, I sat at the very crowded bar where a frantic bartender poured then spilled my Diet Coke all over the counter—the good news is that I got a free Diet Coke (which would have cost me the same as a beer), but the bad news is I had to drink it crammed next to a good looking fellow who reeked of rotten salami and stale wine. I drank my soda quickly!

Once I emerge from Mastry’s our hero appears from the streets. Thank goodness!! I have been instructed by a man in an SUV and a bull horn to: “Repent sinners! This is your wake up call! Time to get right with God.” Gladly, sir. Let me just finish my bar hopping first mmmmkay?

Next stop: The Pelican Pub—a momentous occasion for me. “This is not the Pelican Pub I knew from my childhood!” I exclaimed with sadness in my head. Yes, my childhood. Okay, let me explain…

My dad, he drank. A lot. He also was a prolific visual artist—a painter. Murals and commissioned works from designers, mostly. Some of his work can still be seen around town such as the lobby in the Bayfront Tower, but this story isn’t about art. It’s about the Pelican Pub. Back in the day (early 80s), The Pelican Pub defined dive bar, but with a twist. Occasionally, you’d find the Yacht Club set slumming at there, and my dad was no exception. In fact, I think he actually started the trend, bringing his fellow Club members over for a drink or many. Anyway, where dad went, I went. As a child, I vividly recall the smells of stale beer and piss from the back of the pub, wafting in from the alley. It had this wood bar with photos of regulars polyurethaned into the surface. There even was a photo of me sitting on Santa’s lap there… maybe at age eight. Thankfully for my dad, my mom’s sense of humor was twisted enough to find it amusing… Following about 6 months from her initial rage-filled eruption, touting one of many soliloquies she presented to my father on his irresponsibility, their standing in the community, what it means to raise a child, and whatnot. I think she had the script carefully blocked and memorized, fully prepared for an impromptu performance anywhere any time. No matter, I always had fun there, knew the bartenders and owners through Dad, along with several of the regulars such as “Tom the sail maker.”

And now… I found that it wasn’t the same place at all. The Pelican Pub has not even a fraction of the character that it had. It’s been cleaned, and it appears so have its guests. It’s good for a walk-through, a drink and to jolt some old memories, like the time I was hungry, so dad took me across the street for a Slim Jim at a convenience store, because it was protein and perhaps healthier than bar pretzels. Oh don’t worry… he wasn’t malnourishing me. Later that night we had dinner at the Yacht Club. We had to eat there often because he never had any money. True story. Oh, the irony of my childhood…

Then it was time to start heading back to the Oyster Bar for me to bring in the New Year. I wanted a plate of oysters and hoped to meet a few cool folks and engage in a bit of lively conversation, which I almost always do sitting at the bar there. I guess if there was a bar that attracts people I most gravitate towards—it’s the Oyster Bar. Casual but headed towards the upper-scale without the pretense and social-climbing urchins too often clamoring around the Beach Drive spots. At the Oyster Bar, I usually find intelligent, engaging, delightful company there along with tasty food and good drinks.

What I experienced there was more perfect than I had hoped for. I planted myself on the only stool left vacant at the bar, and I was seated between two friendly chaps. On the left side was John, and on the right, well, we’ll just call him smiley, because he had this cool beaming smile. Smiley had a date with him, who also was a friendly lass, but they had other plans to bring in the New Year, so they were just finishing up their drink and soon left for their final event. John and I talked a while. He told me about his kids, his condo, where he’s lived, how he should be dead after being run over by a tractor… look you can’t make this stuff up. We talked about art, the changing St. Pete, culture and dreams. Eventually we were invited to dance with a small group—played with balloons and such, then started chatting with a whole other small crowd nearby that were Coast Guard families and a really fun couple on the other side of me. Eventually I ended up bathed in spilled Champaign… twice! While talking about art, goals and dreams. We toasted to the New Year, made lots of noise and smiled, kissed and laughed together as we welcomed in 2014.

That’s my city, and I love her. Thank you, St. Petersburg. Here’s to a magical, dream-making 2014!

Gloria Steinem: Transcript of her speech in St. Petersburg, FL 10/20/2012

Transcript of Gloria Steinem’s speech

Saturday, October 20, 2012 at Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, Florida

I Am Choice presents “GOTV Unplugged: Rally Our Way Forward with Gloria Steinem

Do what Democracy demands. And, that is to make change from the bottom up. It is a lie that it comes from the top down. No. That’s what they want us to think—to dis-empower us. No, it comes from us. Like a tree, it comes from the bottom up.

Mitt Romey is the most undemocratic, anti-equality, authoritarian, extremist candidate I have ever seen, and there is the most distance between what he says and what he does.

He has the nerve to say he is for job creation. His entire career has been job elimination. He is not even willing to say he is for equal pay. And it happens that equal pay for women of all races is the greatest economic stimulus this country could ever have.

Equal pay, and I mean for equal work, would put $200 billion more into the economy every year. That means about $137 for every white woman per pay check—something like $300 for every woman of color who are doubly discriminated against. And you know that those women are not going to put that money into a Cayman Islands bank account—they are going to spend that money, and that is going to create jobs.

And he has the nerve, the nerve, and I have never seen anything like it, even in the Eisenhower era, anybody who refused to say they were for equal pay. Even if they didn’t do anything about it, they at least said they were for equal pay, and [Romney] refuses to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is crucial to gaining equal pay.

[Romney] has pledged, on the Republic Party platform, to go around the Supreme Court, and achieve the human life Amendment to the Constitution, which would declare the fertilized egg to be a person.

I would like to say that neither the corporation nor the fertilized egg is a person. Pregnant women do not have two votes.

By declaring the fertilized egg to be a person, he would effectively nationalize women’s bodies throughout our child-bearing years. We would be legally restrained for all nine months of our pregnancy if there were reasonable cause to believe we might damage the fertilized egg. And indeed this is already going on with women who are drug addicted. Who really have no options, and yet there is more concern about their pregnancy than there is about them and getting free from drugs on their own.

It would give the government the right to legally search our wombs. To see if we were pregnant or not and if you think that’s impossible, think about the trans-vaginal probe that is legalized rape.

This is the most extreme, anti-equality candidate that has ever existed.

I hope and believe in my heart and in my knowledge that there are many, many, many Republicans that want to free the Republican Party from these crazed extremists that Romney represents.

The great centrist Republican Party needs to come back. In fact Nixon supported the Equal Rights Amendment. Goldwater supported reproductive freedom and Planned Parenthood. Bush supported and Reagan supported immigrant rights. None of them could get nominated by this extremist party now. The fact that we have so many independent is mainly because people have fled the Republican Party.

So I just want to say to all, and I hope you will say to your Republican friends, first of all, I apologize for all the old Democrats who came and took over your party. When the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed it began, because the old racist Democrats left the Democratic Party and started taking over the Republican Party. Think about Jesse Helms, right? Think about all the racist Democrats. They left and started to take over the Republican Party. And this trend has continued with fundamentalist churches that used to be either a-political or Democratic in the south, they have taken over the levers of power of the Republican Party so that there is almost nothing in its platform that most Republicans support.

It is so dangerous to have one of our two great Parties controlled by extremists. It is incredibly dangerous, because when we naturally are not 100 percent happy with one group, we just vote for the other one without understanding that we are voting against ourselves.

So if there are any Republicans here, I personally apologize for the authoritarian crazy Democrats that took your party over.

And the only way to get rid of them is to not only to win this election but to win it big… winning it big is incredibly important in Florida. So it cannot be “fudged” around the edges. In 2000, the morning after the presidential election between Bush and Gore, I was accidentally speaking at Palm Beach County Community College—it was just a college lecture that had been booked, you know, I don’t know how long before. There were 706 people in that auditorium. All we knew was that there needed to be a recount, that the result hadn’t been announced yet.

And as people stood up to say what had happened to them, one by one they were saying, ‘Oh that happened to me too; I didn’t know that I voted for Buchannan… ‘ Out of 706 people, about 100 had either been unable to vote at all, though they went to the polls, or they were unable to vote for the people they wanted to vote for. In one auditorium. You know, statewide, what did that mean? And if it had not been for one vote on the Supreme Court, you would have had a recount, and [Al] Gore would have been President of the United States.

There would have been much better environmental policies. There wouldn’t have been a war in Iraq. There wouldn’t have been an abstinence-only, government-enforced sex education policy that has given us the highest rate of unwanted pregnancies in the whole world. There wouldn’t have been a transfer of wealth from government to private hands that has never been matched in human history. There wouldn’t have been a move from a CEO that eared about 30 times the average to a CEO that earned 1,000 times the average. I mean, if you ever think that your vote doesn’t count, just think what happened all because of a theoretical 536 votes in Florida.

This voting day is the one day of our lives and on Earth and I have to say we owe this to people in the world whose lives are dictated by US policy, too, but this is the one day on Earth where the least powerful equal the most powerful.

I hope that however you can, you will make sure that from now until voting day, you make sure people are not only going to vote, take 10 people with you, take 100 people with you—make it a party. Sit with people’s kids so they can vote. And they are not only going to vote, they are going to fight to vote. If we can’t vote, we are going to sit there until we can vote. We are not going to take no for an answer. We are going to get rid of these crazed extremists who do not represent the majority even of their own party.

So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here today. I know you don’t need any outsiders to tell you this, us outsiders are just like excuses for you to come together and discover you didn’t need us in the first place. But… be sure that you make your own lives better today. Look around, see people you don’t know, introduce yourself, say what you care about. If you’re here, you share values, you share interests, you’ll meet a new friend a new colleague, you’ll get a new job a new love affair, who knows.

And remember that when you make other people’s lives better, you make your own better.

First Pier public input meeting to be held this evening at the Coliseum 7:00 p.m.

The Lens, pier design

The City of St. Petersburg is moving forward with the Lens design for the new St. Petersburg Pier, although Mayor Foster has set a deadline for organizers of voteonthepier.com. They must collect nearly 16,000 petitions by June 11th for the issue to go on the November ballot for a public vote. Recently the group reported that they had upwards of 14,000 petitions and climbing. 

Meanwhile, city officials are forging ahead with their plans for a new Pier. This includes hosting four meetings in June to gather input to refine the Lens concept. The first meeting will be held Thursday, June 7 at 6 p.m. at The Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.

City Council voted on May 17 to enter into an agreement with Michael Maltzan Architecture, Inc. for design and construction of the new St. Petersburg Pier. Other meeting dates/locations include June 12 at Enoch Davis Center, June 14 at J.W. Cate Recreation Center, and June 19 at Lake Vista Recreation Center. All meetings begin at 6 p.m.

St. Pete’s GREEN tint

Do you know all about the GREEN efforts in St. Petersburg, Florida?

Recently, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster along with the St. Petersburg City Council have been hosting public budget summits to offer the community an opportunity to speak up on what they consider top priorities to help address the city’s budget deficit. Overwhelmingly, people have expressed that they would prefer to pay more versus having services cut in the city—though they also would like some assurance that the city is using its funding as efficiently as possible in the process.

To this end, several community members expressed that they think the city needs to have a stronger focus on “going green” to not only help the environment but also to help cut energy costs for the city. Foster quickly interjected that St. Petersburg has many green initiatives; that the city has accomplished a lot with plans to do more.

And, on May 29th, the city held a ribbon cutting ceremony at The Coliseum (one of 21 city facilities) to recognize the successful completion of the city’s most recent green energy-saving investments.

New solar panels for water heater systems, HVAC systems, chiller plant replacements, and lighting retrofits were installed at the Coliseum and City Hall. It is reported that these green changes will save $22,117 annually in energy costs.

The May 29th ceremony was an opportunity for the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County officials, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and local contractors to gather, recognizing the completion of projects valued at $2.38 million.

The funding source for the energy saving projects, which began in 2010, was the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), administered by the U.S. Department of Energy and available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

The City of St. Petersburg reports that over the years, the city has partnered with more than 25 local contractors, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and professional consultants to complete the city’s list of green initiative projects. Some of these projects include:

  • Jordan School renovation
  • Water Resources Administration building
  • LED Traffic Signal conversions
  • USF-SP and Progress Energy solar energy system
  • 13 Fire Station upgrades
  • Hybrid fleet and E-Z GO utility vehicles
  • 2,300 acres of public parks system
  • Water Conservation efforts
  • Earth-Friendly Recycling program
  • 10 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations installed downtown

As Florida’s first green city, St. Petersburg continues to be a pioneer in its commitment to living green. In 2007, the city received its green designation and in 2008, the city adopted an Executive Order to focus on specific program areas, including:

  • Reporting of financial and emission reductions
  • Meeting LEED standards for large new construction or renovation projects undertaken by the city
  • Using alternative fuels
  • Converting street lighting system to more energy efficient systems
  • Developing and implementing a prototype solar project

More information on St. Petersburg’s green initiative can be found at: www.stpete.org/green.

 

The BUZZ about Florida’s voter purge…

From news reports Sunday…

The Guardian—Florida will defy order to stop purging voter list amid calls of ‘suppression’

“Floridasays it will defy an order from theUSjustice department to stop purging its voter roll of people the state claims may not be American citizens. The justice department has warned that the practice, which critics describe as “voter suppression” byFlorida’s Republican administration aimed at stripping the ballot from people more likely to support Democrats, is illegal under federal laws. It has given the state until Wednesday to agree to halt the purge, something officials inFloridasay they have no intention of doing.”

 

Reuters—Florida weighs warning against voter purge

“The warning issued this week by the head of the Justice Department’s voting section said the effort appeared to violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities. It demanded a response by Wednesday. A spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said the state must make certain that only eligible voters cast ballots. “We have a year-round obligation to ensure the integrity ofFlorida’s elections. We will be responding to (the Justice Department’s) concerns next week,” Chris Cate said in an email message. Cate said in a subsequent telephone call that the state was still formulating its response.”

 

Newsmax—Florida to Continue Voter Purge in Defiance of DOJ

“Florida, a keyU.S.electoral battleground where the 2000 presidential election was decided by a few hundred ballots, will defy the U.S. Justice Department’s warning to stop its effort to purge ineligible voters, a state spokesman said on Saturday.

The warning issued this week by the head of the Justice Department’s voting section said the move to purge voters appeared to violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities. It demanded a response by Wednesday. But a spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said the state must ensure only eligible voters cast ballots, and intends to go forward with the campaign.”

 

Tampa Bay Times—Gov. Rick Scott: Florida is “absolutely not” targeting minorities in noncitizen voter purge

“On Friday, county elections supervisors showed so little faith in the state-led purge that their state association said they shouldn’t cooperate. The announcement came just hours after the U.S. Justice Department orderedFloridato stop its effort due to two federal voting rights laws, partly because the purge could disproportionately affect minorities. Florida Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t rule out fighting the Justice Department in court. ‘We want fair elections,’ Scott said. ‘We want people who have the right to vote go out there and vote.’”

 

Tampa Bay TimesFeds step in to protect Florida voters

“It takes the federal courts and the U.S. Justice Department to defend democracy and protect Floridians from their governor and Legislature who are determined to suppress the vote.”

 

Orlando Sentinal—Florida should modernize its flawed voter-purge system

“These large-scale voter-purge programs end up being such disasters because they are conducted without the proper procedures and checks in place to avoid the erroneous removal of eligible voters. For example, the 2000 purge process was so imprecise that aFloridavoter named John Michaels could be removed from the voter rolls because his name was similar to that of Californian John Michaelson, who had a criminal conviction.”

 

Digital Journal—Florida officials defy federal warning to stop voter purge

“Despite warnings from the Department of Justice and objections from county elections officials,Florida’s Secretary of State plans to continue the effort to scrub the state’s voter registration rolls.”

 

The Miami Herald—Purge the purge list

OUR OPINION: Scott administration should focus on access to voters, not impose obstacles. The Scott administration’s attempt to purge the voting rolls of suspected noncitizens violates federal civil rights laws, the Justice Department warns, and the GOP-led Legislature’s law imposing a 48-hour deadline on the League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote and other third-party groups that hold voter registration drives is a bust, a federal judge rules. Democrats cry voter suppression. Republicans insist they’re simply trying to prevent voter fraud. Who’s right? The problem is the way state GOP leaders inFlorida (and various other GOP-led states) are going about it. They want to “prevent” a problem that there’s no evidence even exists.

 

 

 

 

‘Lens’ design contract approved by St. Petersburg City Council–New Pier

The ‘Lens’ – City of St. Petersburg

Below is my Twitter feed from yesterday’s St. Petersburg City Council meeting about the Pier issue, using “Storify.”

  1. DaphneSt
    #stpete All council members vote yes on Pier resolution except for W. Newton. Motion passes.
    Thu, May 17 2012 19:24:06
  2. The ‘Lens’ design contract was therefore approved by council.
  3. DaphneSt
    #stpete Councilmember Curran “it’s easy to sign a petition-it’s difficult 2get involved” We want a project integrated in the com & downtown
    Thu, May 17 2012 19:21:18
  4. Councilmember Curran is making a case for public involvement versus criticism. She defended the ‘Lens’ design that was criticized by some in the audience as “not traditional-looking enough for downtown,” and cited the Dali Museum structure and its success and the forward-thinking design that the inverted pyramid was in its time. She also stressed that the new Pier is to be a project integrated in the community and downtown. Curran also conceded that the city needed to have done a much better job in communicating with and educating the public throughout the process, from beginning to now.
  5. DaphneSt
    #stpete Pier issue–Newton says that no one who wants to continue their political career will go against 16,000 votes. Re: #voteonthepier
    Thu, May 17 2012 19:15:22
  6. DaphneSt
    #stpete Councilmember W Newton “I’m definately not voting for this. If the people can’t vote, Wengay ain’t voting.” Tweeting on Pier meeting
    Thu, May 17 2012 19:12:02
  7. DaphneSt
    #stpete Councilmember Gerdes says he will vote to put the Pier on a public ballot if petitions meet threshold though not legally obligated
    Thu, May 17 2012 18:50:29
  8. DaphneSt
    #stpete petitions will not obligate city to bring Pier issue to popular vote by law.
    Thu, May 17 2012 18:44:37
  9. It appears that voteonthepier.org may obtain 16,000 petition signatures they are working to collect to have an opportunity for a public vote on the Pier. Based on a question by Councilmember Nurse, he was informed that legally, regardless of the number of signatures obtained, the city is not obligated to bring the issue to a public vote. Note: Most councilmembers agreed that if this number of signatures is obtained, they would make arrangements for a public vote regardless of legal requirements to do so.
  10. DaphneSt
    #stpete Councilmember Nurse- “Pier will either be torn down or it will fall down. Not even safe for garbage trucks. It’s coming down.”
    Thu, May 17 2012 18:43:20
  11. DaphneSt
    #stpete Councilmember Danner “The Pier has never been about history; it has always been about the future” Ref: Million Dollar Pier current
    Thu, May 17 2012 18:35:32
  12. DaphneSt
    #stpete Councilmember Kennedy not convinced design team is committed to project due to a contract clause that’s causing concern for $800,000
    Thu, May 17 2012 18:24:32
  13. Councilmember Kennedy expressed concerns that were also echoed in a lighter fashion by Councilmember Kornell about a particular clause allowing the architect/builder to pull out of the contract. After greater explanation, concerns were alleviated and confidence in the commitment of the architect/builder were restored.
  14. DaphneSt
    W. Newton Lens not the best idea & motion Nov vote: “I will not vote on something unless the people can vote.” Motion w/o 2nd dies. #stpete
    Thu, May 17 2012 18:17:45
  15. Councilmember Newton motioned to open the decision to allow for a public vote on the Pier and place this on the November ballot. No one on the council seconded the motion. The motion died.
  16. DaphneSt
    Lens Public presentation to be held in weeks at Coliseum St. Pete from developers. Details of event still under dev Tweeting from #stpete
    Thu, May 17 2012 18:06:13
  17. This presentation is coming too late to help gain the public trust and garner support for the ‘Lens.’ Recommend a streaming video of this presentation along with TV coverage to help reduce barriers to the information and allow for on-line questions submissions prior to the event.
  18. DaphneSt
    Seems like #stpete really should put The Pier issue up for public vote. That’s been said before, I know. Tweeting from City Council meeting
    Thu, May 17 2012 17:52:27

Florida’s charter schools are in danger of extinction while Broward County is paving the way through corruption

Florida’s charter schools are in deep need of funding to be able to sustain let alone grow and build as an increasingly popular education choice within our state. While Florida lawmakers agree that charter schools are in need of renovations, equipment and software, they also have rejected a proposal that school districts say would take money from their traditional public schools and give it to charter schools.

For anyone not familiar with charter schools in Florida, these are public schools of choice available within public school districts that do not charge a tuition. They are very popular and are among the fastest growing school choice options in the state. The purpose of charter schools is to offer more effective, innovative programs and choice to diverse groups of students. Most offer students a concentration on a specific field of study such as the arts, criminal justice, medical studies, etc. while still ensuring that core curriculums of math, sciences, and English are prioritized.

Since 1996, the number of charter schools in Florida has grown to over 400 in 2010 with enrollment reaching well over 175,000 students. Many students move on to wait lists to address the increasing popularity of this choice compared to the number of slots available.

Unfortunately, while charter schools are public schools, they do not currently receive funding in the same manner from the state and districts as traditional public schools do.

“How do we treat all our public schools fairly? At this point I don’t see legislation that has completely satisfied that question,” said Rep. Marti Coley, (R-Marianna).

“We have many policy issues that need to be discussed,” she said. “And that is how do we treat all our public schools fairly? At this point I don’t see legislation that has completely satisfied that question.”

Florida education advocacy groups including Citizens for Strong Schools, Fund Education Now, Save Duval Schools and Support Dade Schools issued this statement today praising the House Pre-K-12 Committee for defeating Rep. Janet Adkins’ amendment to HB 903 to allot funding to charter schools:

[The] bi-partisan vote in the House Pre-K-12 Committee was a bold rejection of Rep. Adkins’ goal to hand our hard-earned public tax dollars over to for-profit charter developers to buy or improve private assets.  This is the second failure by the House to pass this measure which was stripped from HB 903 by House K-20 Innovations days ago. Members of our alliance testified against companion bill SB 1852 last week in the Senate K-12 Education committee.  That bill still gives public tax dollars away to for-profit corporations to buy and maintain assets the public will never own.  We oppose any and all efforts by politicians to turn tax dollars over to private corporations who value profit over the children we love.

This issue has regretfully become a battle with Florida school districts pitting themselves against charter schools and the funding they need to survive.

One county’s ordeal—Broward County School Board deemed corrupt by the Florida Supreme Court

In Broward County, FL, issues of funding charter schools have reached a fever pitch of allegations leading to the Florida Supreme Court concluding that corruption was indeed present within the Broward County School Board and district. As published in FINAL REPORT OF THE NINETEENTH STATEWIDE GRAND JURY IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA Case No: SC09-1910:

The evidence we have been presented concerning the malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance of the Broward County School Board (Board) and of the senior management of the Broward County School District, (District) and of the gross mismanagement and apparent ineptitude of so many individuals at so many levels is so overwhelming that we cannot imagine any level of incompetence that would explain what we have seen. Therefore we are reluctantly compelled to conclude that at least some of this behavior can best be explained by corruption of our officials by contractors, vendors and their lobbyists. Moreover, many of the problems we identified in our inquiry are longstanding and have been pointed out by at least two previous Grand Juries.

The county’s charter schools legal representatives painted a clear evidentiary picture of specific management problems found and detailed in the report, which included: 1) lack of accountability; 2) lack of disciplinary authority; 3) infighting; 4) lack of training and standardization for inspectors; and, 5) inadequate record keeping.

As a result, the Florida Supreme Court concluded that, “for the Constitutional mandate that requires an elected School Board for each District, our first and foremost recommendation would have been to abolish the Broward County School Board altogether.”

Testimony from mid-level management provided to the Court cited explanations that “they can’t discipline or fire lazy, incompetent workers.” Further testimony and evidence revealed, “Whistle blowers and other malcontents who expose flaws in the system and lack of leadership find themselves transferred out of their positions to less desirable ones, even outright fired…”

The Final Report of the Grand Jury also included the fact that “The [School Board] has authorized the spending of billions over the last 10 years and has saddled Broward taxpayers with $2 billion in long term debt, and yet [the county has] thousands of empty seats at under enrolled schools in the eastern portion of the county and critically overcrowded schools in the western part of the county.”

The final conclusion of the Supreme Court, described as what might be the worst example, “it is our conclusion that there was a deliberate, conscious effort by senior officials of the District in collusion with or at the direction of certain Board members to avoid the timely filing of an updated Plant Survey with State Department of Education between 2006 and 2008 for the express purpose of continuing what was by then an out-of-control badly mismanaged construction program. This was in our view driven mostly out of a desire to benefit contractors and the political fortunes of Board members. The result of this effort is an abundance of empty classrooms, mostly in the east, $2 billion in debt in critically overcrowded schools in the western part of the county.”

How these grievous issues within the Broward County School District relate to charter schools is that the charter school system doesn’t get as much money for building its funding, while the district is busy purposefully mismanaging the funding it receives, as it was determined by the Florida Supreme Court cited above.

Additionally, city officials have maintained for years that Broward should pay the several million for police officers in schools for school safety and should contribute some funds for building improvements to help ensure sustainability of charter schools.

Legally the district is not responsible for covering these costs, but it could. It currently pays half the city’s police officer cost. And, courts have ruled that the county district doesn’t have to help with building funds for the charter schools.

Yet, as reported by South Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 12, 2011 by Ariel Barkhurst:

The city-run charter school system of Pembroke Pines [in Broward County] seems a dream come true for many parents, with an A for academics from the state and graduates’ college-attendance rates in the high 90s.  It serves about 5, 600 kids, and has a waiting list 12, 205 kids long. But it’s almost out of cash, and sinking fast.

The five schools together face a $5 million budget deficit. Revenue is down from $50 million to $44 million; expenses haven’t decreased by much. And they only have about $5.6 million in savings. That doesn’t leave much of a safety net.

City officials are considering cuts to close the gap. They might not buy new science text books, a move City Manager Charles Dodge admits will probably negatively impact student science FCAT scores.

 For charter schools to remain a viable choice for students and families, it is critical that the issues of equality in funding allocations be sorted out. Otherwise this innovative, proven successful education choice may no longer be an option in many Florida communities.

Unedited version above… for editied version published in SaintPetersBlog, visit here: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/02/broward-county-school-board-deemed-corrupt-by-the-florida-supreme-court/

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