St. Pete City Council Archives - Page 4 of 30 - SaintPetersBlog

St. Pete’s Acheson-Mackey Home gets local historic designation

The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved an ordinance providing local historic designation of a home located at 3900 9th Street North known as the Acheson-Mackey Home.

Allendale Terrace creator Cade B. Allen built the stone residence in 1931. The home stands today as Allen’s most defining work.

Real estate developer Nick Ekonomou now owns the home. He had initially been opposed to local historic designation. Instead the Allendale Crime Watch Association filed a third party application to designate the home and the property. After negotiations with Ekonomou, the association was able to come to an agreement both parties were satisfied with to present to Council for approval.

The agreement includes three lots instead of the six proposed in the original application. That limits the designated property to just the southern lots. The change also now includes the home’s garage that was also built in 1931 and gives the owner rights to relocate the garage to be on the same lot as the home.

The ordinance approved by Council also changes the name of the applicant from the Allendale Crime Watch Association to Ekonomou.

“The only reason I purchased this was that I loved the home,” Ekonomou said. “I never intended to do anything but bring this home back to its previous glory.”

There was overwhelming support for the home’s historic designation. Because City Council didn’t get to the item until about 9 p.m. many speakers had left, but most turned in cards voicing support. Only a couple of people voiced any objection.

One critic, neurosurgeon David McKalip, voiced his concerns over the process, but not necessarily the Acheson-Mackey Home in particular.

“The process has been flawed and political and very concerning,” McKalip said. “I am concerned that there was a bit of strong-arm tactics used to create this designation.”

But even McKalip didn’t specifically say the home should not be designated a local historic landmark. And if he had, it would have been difficult to compete with at least one resident showing up to offer support – Burton Allen, Cade Allen’s son.

“I remember when it was being built. Dad had all of us boys working,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of fond memories growing up there.”

The Allen family never actually got to live in the home. Cade Allen originally intended for it to be the family home, but as economic conditions continued to worsen in the wake of the Great Depression, he was forced to sell it instead.

Allen learned of Edward Acheson, a famous inventor who spent winters in St. Petersburg. Acheson had worked with Thomas Edison experimenting with a conducting carbon that could be used in Edison’s light bulbs.

Allen traveled to New York to meet with Acheson and, as his son described it to council, came back with a contract.

The home’s stone façade is indicative of Allen’s work. He often shipped in various types of stone from other parts of the country for the exterior of homes he built.

According to the city, Allen’s development was a significant driver in St. Pete for future development. The Acheson-Mackey home shaped design in the area from the 20s all the way through to the 50s. The home was intended to stand as a showcase of Allen’s talent and skills.

Under the local historic designation, Ekonomou may still make changes to the home and even demolish it, but he would have to obtain the appropriate permits to do so.

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St. Pete City Council won’t spend $1.5 million on sewers … yet

St. Pete City Council members voted not to allocate $1.5 million of the $6.5 million paid out as a result of the BP oil spill settlement to pay for sewage infrastructure repairs at a meeting Monday evening.

Instead, the council voted 7-0 to ask staff to come back next week with a resolution highlighting the city’s commitment to increasing funding for the projects.

At issue is whether or not the city should use BP settlement funds for sewage repairs or instead allocate that money to other projects in the city. City Council member Karl Nurse, who has been the most vocal about spending BP funds on sewers, was the one who made the motion not to allocate the money at this time.

The decision came after a flurry of public comment showing residents are concerned about how the BP money is spent. Other suggestions for the money proposed for sewers included more money for the arts including Mayor Rick Kriseman’s proposed $1million endowment using BP funds, youth program and other economic stabilization uses in South St. Pete and homelessness.

Prominent community activist Momma Tee Lassiter suggested splitting the BP funds up evenly throughout each district in the City. She lambasted council for not taking bigger strides in improving the impoverished Midtown and Childs Park neighborhood and likened the city’s use of funds to running a family.

“When you’re running a family you all have got to look out for everybody,” Lassiter said.

The resolution City Council voted to ask for would also include provisions about ensuring commitment to a long-term study evaluating what the city needs to shore up its crumbling sewer infrastructure.

“The good news is that this is forcing us to have the conversation about how to we pay to upgrade our sewer system,” Nurse said.

The conversation is also hot on the heels of another last week during a committee meeting in which voting councilmembers unanimously approved spending the $1.5 million on sewers – $500,000 more than Kriseman had proposed. During that same meeting, however, some council members expressed concern about spending one-time money on recurring costs.

During that meeting Darden Rice called the idea “wrongheaded,” though she was not a voting member of the committee. During this Monday’s meeting Rice said she heard the voices of the people loud and clear on “hitting the pause button.” But she worried the discussion was pitting key city issues against one another.

“We can prioritize,” she reminded members.

The resolution is expected to come back to council next Thursday. It’s not clear when, or if, the council will re-evaluate spending BP funds on sewers following that meeting.

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Anthony Holloway would consider gun cameras for St. Pete officers

St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway would consider putting cameras on his officers if he could purchase ones that were mounted on officers’ guns. That way, video would start anytime an officer unholstered his/her weapon.

“If I pull my weapon than it’s recorded and you’ll see everything that happened,” Holloway said during a City Council update Monday afternoon. “That solves the privacy issues.”

Holloway was referring to his stance on body cameras in which he frequently sites concerns that victims’ privacy rights could be violated. One of his oft-sited examples was that an officer tending to a victim’s home following a crime could conceivably lead to video of that person’s home being captured and subject to public record.

But, even without the gun-mounted cameras, Holloway said the agency expects a white paper to be released next year evaluating the usefulness of body cameras and the agency will look into the issue further. That White Paper is expected sometime in August.

Holloway was speaking to council as part of a quarterly report. He boasted several wins for the police agency including community crime tips from the community being on the rise, the success of the Park, Walk, Talk program and absence of crime being found as a result of cameras being on the Pinellas trail.

But council member Karl Nurse expressed concerns about the numbers of officers on the street staying stagnant. City Council approved the 2016 fiscal year budget including an increase to the police department to pay for a reserve unit.

Holloway explained it takes time for new hires to actually hit the streets, especially if they come in untrained and have to go through the police academy. He said the agency just hired 18 new officers, but residents won’t actually see them on the streets until August.

“For the next three years we’re going to be busy hiring a lot of people,” Holloway said noting there are a large number of officers about ready to retire. “When we hire them with no skill it’s 8 months before we see them.”

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St. Pete City Council committee wants to spend $1.5 million on sewers

A St. Pete City Council committee voted Monday to spend $1.5 million of the total $6.5 million awarded the city as a result of a settlement in the BP oil spill disaster.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman had recommended spending $1 million for infrastructure repairs and replacement.

Earlier discussions about the BP oil spill award showed some City Council members wanted to spend more of the money on immediate repairs in the wake of 31 million gallons of raw and partially treated sewage being dumped into Tampa Bay, Clam Bayou and the Eckerd College campus after a heavy rain event in early August.

Currently there are $15 million worth of work that needs to be done to make immediate repairs in order to avoid another sewage dump. City Council member Karl Nurse is among those who want to spend money right away.

However a memo sent out last week from City Administrator Gary Cornwell recommended City Council vote to borrow funds rather than take a pay as you go approach to repairs and suggested BP funds not be used for ongoing expenses, but rather on one-time projects.

In addition to recommending that City Council borrow the $15 million needed for immediate repairs he also said it’s possible to reallocate money from $30 million in existing bonds.

The memo explained that borrowing was advisable because increases in sewer rates would be “negligible.”

Cornwell sent the memo after receiving results of several scenarios addressing the city’s crumbling sewage infrastructure and hearing from some members of City Council, including Karl Nurse and Charlie Gerdes, in which members thought it may be more appropriate to spend at least half the BP settlement funds on sewage.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, neither Nurse nor Gerdes changed their minds following the memo last week. Nurse echoed that in a Budget Finance and Taxation meeting Thursday morning.

Darden Rice called the idea of spending one-time settlement funds on recurring expenses a good intention, but said it was still a bad idea noting that the issue has been politicized to a level above sound fiscal policy decisions. Rice, however, is not a voting member of the BF&T committee.

The board did not take up the issue during a City Council meeting later in the afternoon. It’s likely they will take a vote later this year.

The city is currently studying the aging system. That report is expected in March.

Though the committee approved an amount only slightly higher than Kriseman’s proposal for BP funds, the memo urging council not to spend BP money on sewers wasn’t mentioned much.

In a Times story last week, Nurse compared financing to making a repair to a private residence insinuating homeowners wouldn’t likely finance such a repair. During the meeting Monday he reiterated that financing doesn’t make sense.

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Momma Tee Lassiter: Activist or antagonist?

When does a person’s civic activism go too far?

Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter is perhaps the feistiest of engaged citizens in St. Petersburg. She attends every meeting. She’s seen in the background of many city news conferences, business openings and ribbon cuttings.

She backs candidates and condemns others.

And sometimes she’s thrown out of meetings.

Elected officials in St. Pete know Momma Tee well. Other engaged citizens know her well. But for those who don’t there are a few things you should know about Momma Tee. First, she’s a Republican. She was former Mayor Bill Foster’s loudest cheerleader and doesn’t seem to care quite as much for Rick Kriseman.

She’s loud. Momma Tee yells when she’s happy — things like “praise Jesus” — and yells when she’s angry.

She refers to herself as “the community activist” seeming to imply she’s the only one. She’s not.

She’s not afraid to wag her finger at City Council, the Mayor or City staff. Sometimes, Momma Tee makes some really good points. For example, never has there been as staunch a supporter for community revitalization in poor, mostly black neighborhoods than Momma Tee.

But back to that yelling when she’s angry thing. At some point Momma Tee’s bombastic comments and rude and disruptive behavior need to be shamed.

During a City Council meeting Thursday that went from 8:30 a.m. until well after dinnertime Momma Tee spoke on just about every single item open to public comment. And every single time she stepped up to the podium she was unnecessarily mean.

People tend to take Momma Tee’s antagonistic tone with a grain of salt. Watching a live stream of Thursday’s meeting viewers could see a woman sitting in the background behind Momma Tee laughing while she spoke. At one point the woman, who probably had no idea she was on video, even covered her face.

But the, ‘she’s just a little old lady with spunk’ justification for bad behavior should not be tolerated. Momma Tee should have been thrown out of City Hall Thursday. A woman with a baby was once asked to leave because her child was cooing. COOING. That’s cute, right? But when Momma Tee storms away from the podium blurting a string of obscenities, she’s allowed to sit down and waste an additional thirty seconds or two minutes or however it plays out yelling from her seat.

The First Amendment is a grand thing. Freedom of speech is an amazing right Americans enjoy every single day. It’s sometimes abused by people like members of the Westboro Baptist Church who think it’s fun to picket funerals and call people fags. But it’s a right worth fighting for.

What gets forgotten about the First Amendment is it doesn’t mean you get to throw decorum and civic process out the window. There are rules for engaging elected officials during public meetings that have to be followed. I’m not sure if cursing at city leaders is against the rules or not, but if it isn’t, it should be.

Last night, Momma Tee told City Council member Wengay Newton to “sit the hell back” and told the entire board she was “sick of all y’all.” She used the word “damn” several times and she chastised a transgender person to the point of near tears and then muttered something about Satan.

At one point she told the board, “if it was rainin’ brains, y’all wouldn’t get wet” seeming to imply they had no brains — though the statement didn’t really make much sense.

Not once was she ever asked to leave. The worst that ever came Momma Tee’s way was City Council chair Charlie Gerdes correcting her when she said the city never does anything under budget. He told her, in a not-so-soft sort of tone, that was just not true.

Every city has its Momma Tee. Every county, too. If you ever go to a Pinellas County Commission or School Board meeting be sure to watch out for Mark Klutho who calls everyone a moron. In Tampa, there’s Ed Tillou who talks off topic and rarely makes sense. A fellow writer told me about six people in Jacksonville who each have their own amusing, if not irritating M.O.

These people all have the right to speak, of course. And elected leaders are correct to take it in stride, pretend to pay attention and maybe even care. But they are not right to ignore bad behavior.

When Momma Tee was asked to lower her voice Thursday, she blamed the city for having the volume on the microphone turned up to high. No one followed up and her voice continued to pierce City Council chambers.

I don’t know whether City Council members are afraid to piss off Momma Tee or afraid to trample the First Amendment, but I think I can speak for a lot of people who sit through City Council meetings when I say Momma Tee needs to be put in check.

Next time she decides to curse at an elected official, I say give her the boot. After all, the children she claims to so passionately support could be watching.

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Grand Prix to race in St. Pete through 2020

The St. Pete Grand Prix got the green flag to race in downtown until 2020. The original deal would have expired in 2017.

Chris Ballestra, the city’s managing director of development coordination, told City Council the administration had negotiated with the company Green Savoree to secure an updated contract that allows the Indy Car race to continue in St. Pete while still protecting residents and the city’s interests.

The new deal includes about an extra $350,000 in benefits to the city. Direct and indirect economic impact to the city totals about $500 million.

Amended language in the agreement includes protection that the Grand Prix will be raced. It also adds a guaranteed date for the second weekend in March for the next three years.

An earlier version of the agreement allowed the city to choose preferred dates, but did not guarantee a time frame. That left the city with less time to prepare residents and get the area ready.

In the past downtown residents have complained there are too many road closures for too long in the area. Because the track takes time to assemble and disassemble, some roadways were sometimes closed for several weeks. The new agreement reduces setup time by four days, minimizing the impact to residents.

“Any time that we can carve out of that is a benefit to the community as a whole,” Ballestra said.

There is also a new provision that pays the city $1.00 for every ticket sold above 140,000. That’s a threshold Ballestra estimated has been reached in at least three of the past five years and one of those years was a rain-out. Last year’s attendance broke records.

But not everyone was entirely sold on the deal. City Council member Wengay Newton, an oft-vocal force on council, challenged Ballestra about how much the city really gained from the Grand Prix.

And Jim Kennedy suggested an alternative. He said he researched creating a city “sports corporation” that would allow the city to run the Grand Prix and not a third-party organization, thus maximizing the city’s profits.

“We’re talking about the city of St. Petersburg from 2018 through 2020,” Kennedy said. “I acknowledge it’s not the job of this council to negotiate, but I don’t feel as if we have had the opportunity to fully evaluate the concept of a sports corp., what it can do for the city and how we can then control our own destiny and make more money.”

Council members were not opposed to looking into such an arrangement, but most expressed concern over whether not the timing was appropriate and whether the city was equipped to handle such an undertaking.

“We may not have the competence or the expertise to do this yet,” said City Councilwoman Darden Rice.

Even Mayor Rick Kriseman popped down from his upstairs office to squash the idea.

“[Indy Car has] no interest in dealing with a different entity,” Kriseman said.

He noted that they want to continue as is and worked hard negotiating with the city to do so because the race has been so successful. And under the third-party management model, the city shifts its potential financial burden for hosting the race to Green Savoree.

“If we were running this race and we had a rain out like they had in New Orleans, than our taxpayers are on the hook,” Kriseman explained.

Amy Foster suggested an alternative compromise that would have extended the contract to 2018 instead of 2020. That effort was ultimately voted down with only council members Newton, Karl Nurse and Kennedy voting in favor of it.

Kennedy was the only council member to vote against the original motion to approve a contract extension through 2020.

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St. Pete moves swiftly to repair elderly woman’s home

“Who says government can’t act?”

That was the question posed by St. Pete City Council chair Charlie Gerdes Thursday morning after what turned out to be a feel good action by the board.

Annie Franklin, a South St. Pete resident, delivered a tearful plea to City Council asking for help getting a lock fixed on her home. It was broken after a fire erupted at another home at the end of her block.

Franklin described through tears that there was no smoke or flames coming from her home.

Firefighters sometimes are forced to breach homes neighboring other structure fires if there appears to be any chance the fire has spread. But this, City Council acknowledged, was a mistake.

City Council voted unanimously to appropriate up to $1,000 to fix Franklin’s lock and was taking immediate steps to have a member of St. Pete Fire and Rescue respond to her home to ensure it is secure.

Franklin’s husband passed away one month ago and she is a licensed foster care worker. Franklin said she was afraid because she was now alone in the home. She also worried she could lose her license to foster children if the problem wasn’t remedied.

“The sooner the better,” said City Council member Bill Dudley.

City Council usually has to schedule a public hearing in order to appropriate funds. But because the amount was so small city legal staff recommended opening the floor to any speakers in the gallery interested in commenting.

One speaker came forward not with concerns about the appropriation, but to offer to pay for the repair out of his own pocket if there was any problem funding it through the city.

Franklin was the first to speak during Thursday’s open forum. Her emotional plea followed by swift action surely stood as a good start to what is often a long day for City Council members.

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An inside look at Lisa Wheeler-Brown’s campaign challenges

Victorious St. Pete City Council candidate Lisa-Wheeler-Brown’s campaign wasn’t exactly ideal. Negative attacks following the Primary Election clouded her intended message and dominated conversation in the media.

And, as a result, her campaign management became too much of the conversation.

“We work very hard to keep the consultants out of the story,” said Tom Alte, a consultant with the campaign. “You want the candidates to be able to get their message out and to talk to the voters and tell them what they’re running for.”

As more and more information emerged about Wheeler-Brown’s campaign finance activity early on in her campaign, the message became increasingly blurred.

First there was an updated treasurer’s report that showed an expense listed in February for “office space” was actually for a “photo shoot” expense to a dental practice for personal dental work.

Ultimately, Wheeler-Brown paid the $500 expense back when questions swirled about whether or not it was an appropriate expenditure.

Then other mistakes emerged – unreported in-kind contributions, misreported contributions, and various mix-ups in attributions for expenses and contributions.

But Wheeler-Brown wisely steered clear of the controversy. The only times she weighed in were to apologize for the mistakes. And supporters seemed to not take notice even as critics hammered away at the issues.

Instead, the dialogue increasingly shifted toward a battle of consultants.

Wheeler-Brown had initially hired Nick Janovsky of Strategic Campaigns to handle management duties. By the time Blue Ticket Consulting came on with Meagan Salisbury taking point along with Alte, her partner and fiancé things had already gotten hairy.

“In an ideal world, every available penny goes to communicating with voters and telling them what the candidate stands for, why they’re running and what they care about,” Alte said. “When Meagan came on board, she was able to flip the ratio completely and put almost every available dollar into paid communications.”

According to Alte, Salisbury signed on to the campaign with coffers that had nearly run dry and little to show for the expenses except for t-shirts and palm cards that had to be thrown out because they didn’t meet standard criteria. She restructured how funds would be spent and ultimately ensured the campaign was able to limit overhead expenses to almost exclusively the consultant’s fees.

The Wheeler-Brown campaign painted an inaccurate picture of how campaigns should work. Because of the saturation of negative media, it looked to those watching closely that the campaign’s role was to respond to and ward off allegations.

Often in stories about the campaign, the names Tom Alte and Meagan Salisbury – and even the opposition’s campaign manager, Steve Lapinski – popped up more often than the candidates themselves.

Alte was brought into the conversation when there was a mingling between the Wheeler-Brown campaign and an outside group run by Alte’s Florida Voter’s Fund that paid for anti-Will Newton media. A resident filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission.

Later, LaGaceta chimed in on the complaint, bringing Alte again into the limelight.

“I don’ think it had any impact on Lisa, but I also don’t think it was intended to have any impact on Lisa,” Alte said. “I think that was really more of a battle of the consultants.”

Alte explained of campaigns in general that the overwhelming majority of a campaign consultant’s duties should include things like coordinating volunteers, helping the candidate raise money and scheduling meetings with community leaders.

Instead of Salisbury shifting the work burden from typical duties into warding off negative attacks, she just spent more time on the campaign. That work came in addition to attending law school full time and having spent part of the campaign in the hospital.

But despite the less-than-ideal direction the campaign took, Wheeler-Brown still managed to crush Newton in the election with 58 percent of the vote – a 16-point victory in a race most expected to be close.

“Lisa stayed focus on what she needed to do,” Alte said. “She didn’t let the personal attacks get her down. She didn’t take a day off or stop raising money. She did what she needed to do to win.”

Political watchers in St. Pete had called the Wheeler-Brown/Newton race one of the bloodiest City Council elections in recent memory with the most personal of attacks coming late in the campaign when a foundation Wheeler-Brown created in her slain son’s name was called into question.

Despite advice from her campaign managers to stay quiet on the issue, Wheeler-Brown blasted the Newton campaign for falsely accusing her of profiting from her son’s death.

The result: St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman offered his endorsement just one day before the election. It may not have made a difference in the grand scheme of things, but likely earned Wheeler-Brown a few extra votes.

Following Wheeler-Brown’s victory Tuesday night, supporters described the negative attacks as having gone too far.

Wheeler-Brown’s campaign highlights a growing trend of negative media being distributed through third parties that can make or break campaigns.

In Wheeler-Brown’s case, the negative attacks may have made her campaign despite the fact that most were against her. At least at a local level that shows voters may be increasingly rejecting claims by outside groups.

In a campaign that focused more heavily on Wheeler-Brown’s campaign finance activity, past criminal infractions and even her activism following her son’s murder than on the issues, Wheeler-Brown still emerged victorious.

“The main victory there was not getting distracted and that’s why she won,” Alte said.

Now that the race is over, Wheeler-Brown, according to Alte, plans to start forging partnerships with community leaders to better follow through on the messages she did manage to convey throughout the campaign.

Expect one of Wheeler-Brown’s top priorities to be working with the Pinellas County School Board and the city to improve schools in St. Pete. She’s also focused on increasing public safety in her poverty-plagued District 7, expanding affordable housing and creating living wage jobs in the community.

Wheeler-Brown takes office replacing Wengay Newton Jan. 2.

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Old Northeast, downtown voters favored Lisa Wheeler-Brown

Lisa Wheeler-Brown, winner of Tuesday night’s City Council contest, rocked Historic Old Northeast in the election. According to data from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, the precincts where Wheeler-Brown earned the most votes over her opponent, Will Newton, were in that general vicinity.

She also crushed the vote in downtown.

The Old Northeast Precinct No. 135, which butts up against Coffee Pot Bayou, cast more than 250 more votes for Wheeler-Brown than Newton. In the downtown Precinct No. 123, which includes USF St. Pete, Wheeler-Brown earned 246 more votes than Newton.

And in Precinct 130, which includes downtown residents North of the Pier, Wheeler-Brown out-performed Newton by nearly 200.

Wheeler-Brown also dominated high-income neighborhoods along the Pinellas Bayway. That area includes top-dollar condos and several senior living facilities.

The race was much closer in the candidates’ own neighborhoods

Newton failed to earn his own Childs Park area. In Precinct 224 Wheeler-Brown tallied in with 82 votes. Newton earned 78.

Wheeler-Brown held onto her Midtown community, but only narrowly in some areas.

The race was also close in South St. Pete with Wheeler-Brown carrying most precincts by just a small margin. She did heavily win Coquina Key by a margin of more than 40 votes and the pricey Bahama Shores Neighborhood by more than 80.

Pink Street voters on the Southside also favored Wheeler-Brown by 29 votes. The total votes cast in that precinct was just 187.

The analysis of voting trends shows Newton’s conservative endorsements may not have helped him with Lisa handily winning over affluent neighborhoods home to some of the city’s more conservative voters.

However, votes in West St. Pete were not as one-sided, showing that Newton may have gained some ground with voters in those districts.

In all, 15,176 votes were cast for Wheeler-Brown with just 11,113 tallied for Newton. Wheeler-Brown won with 58 percent of the vote – 16 points ahead of Newton.

The race had been expected to be close with most polls showing Wheeler-Brown’s lead within the margin of error. However, a poll conducted just two days before the election showed Wheeler-Brown with an 11-point lead.

Supporters speculate her late-campaign surge may have been a blessing from the Newton campaign. It was a painful gift, but Wheeler-Brown may have benefited from a negative attack by Newton supporters accusing her of profiting from her son’s murder. That move, paired with a campaign mailer that appeared to have been edited to portray Wheeler-Brown with darker skin prompted Mayor Rick Kriseman to serve up his endorsement the day before Election Day.

However, even if there was a surge at the polls, it’s also important to keep in mind that 79 percent of all ballots were cast by mail. None of the ballots were returned after Kriseman’s endorsement and only about 3,000 were cast after the foundation allegations involving Wheeler-Brown’s son.

Total voter turnout this election was less than 18 percent.

Wheeler-Brown takes office Jan. 2.

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Mystery ballot questions in St. Pete election cruise to approval

All four ballot questions on the St. Pete ballot Tuesday were soundly approved by voters. None won by less than about 25 points.

Referendum question number one, asking voters whether the city should approve “permanent use restrictions over a portion of city owned submerged lands in Tampa Bay” was approved with 85 percent of the vote.

That referendum refers to submerged lands near North Shore Park. It would give City Council the authority to create permanent restrictions on land use in order to preserve seagrass beds.

The referendum is aimed at water quality improvement and habitat conservation.

The second question asked voters whether “Precinct Lines Need Not be Followed Where it Would Compromise Compact and Contiguous Council Districts.” That was approved by 62 percent of voters.

This city referendum would allow City Council, essentially, to not use precinct boundaries as a basis for drawing City Council district lines — meaning two voters in the same precinct could be in different districts.

The city is charged with redrawing district lines every 10 years. Lines are redrawn after the city receives results from the once-a-decade federal census. Under the current charter, districts must be drawn in a “compact, contiguous territory” with their lines following “the centerlines of streets, railroad lines or other natural boundaries.” But the charter also calls for districts to “follow voting precinct lines whenever possible.”

The change to language merely clarifies that keeping districts “compact and contiguous” trumps precinct lines.

The third ballot question, and perhaps the most straight forward, was approved by 94 percent of the vote.

It requires City Council and mayoral candidates should to live either in their district, or, in the case of a mayoral candidate, in the city before, during and after an election.

That referendum prevents City Council members from renting a home in one district and then moving out of that district after an election. It would also ensure a sitting mayor couldn’t leave St. Pete as his or her place of residence during the mayoral term.

The final ballot question approved streamlines the way City Council votes are tallied during meetings. Currently City Council members use an automated system to vote. The results are then visually shown and the City Clerk reads aloud the results.

The referendum, approved by 72 percent of voters, eliminates the mandate that results be verbally tallied.

The referendum questions were relatively unknown by voters going into Election Day. In a poll released in early September more than 80 percent of voters didn’t know about the questions.

During exit polling at Pinellas Community Church Tuesday morning, a handful of voters agreed they didn’t know much about the ballot questions, but did the best they could to answer appropriately.

Tuesday’s election also ushered in a new council member. Lisa Wheeler-Brown overwhelmingly defeated Will Newton being vacated by Wengay Newton who is leaving office due to term limits.

Incumbents Steve Kornell and Charlie Gerdes also won re-election.

Ed Montanari will be sworn in along with those winners on January 2. He was elected unopposed following the city’s qualifying deadline.

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