Barbara Banno isn’t shying away from financial struggles that led to a foreclosure filing on her Gulfport home in 2012. In a blog post and in response to media inquiries, Banno readily admits she fell victim to the economic downturn.
However, there are a couple of buts.
First, Banno is still working with her financial institution, Wells Fargo according to financial documents, to satisfy her financial obligations and keep her home through a loan modification.
“My ability to be Mayor of Gulfport and effectively lead this city are not defined by the challenges I have faced in my personal life,” Banno wrote. “For the two years that I served as a City Councilmember, I was hands-on and integral to process that maintained a balanced budget and kept Gulfport debt-free, even though we were experiencing a significant reduction in city revenues.
Banno also points to her business, Stella’s. The breakfast and lunch café employs 19 and Banno said she “regularly” pays sales and employment taxes.
Second, Banno said the issue is old news. During her Jan. 29 campaign kickoff event, she said she disclosed her financial troubles to about 150 supporters.
“I disclosed a very personal side of my life, publicaly (sic),” Banno said. “I am running my campaign on transparency. And keeping my financial history a secret would go against the very reason why I am running for mayor: We need new Gulfport leadership because there is no transparency under the current administration.”
Banno said she anticipated her personal life being publicized, “particularly in this day and age with all of the social media streams.” The foreclosure is a matter of public record and that’s why she said she disclosed it right from the start.
But Banno’s comment about social media hints at how what she calls “old news” has cropped back into the conversation.
Cathy Salustri, Creative Loafing’s arts and entertainment editor and a Gulfport resident, posted photos of legal documents filed in Banno’s foreclosure case on Facebook.
“I had a foreclosure several years back. However, I’m not running for public office and asking to be put in charge of a $10 million budget,” Salustri wrote on her personal Facebook page. “The closer we get to Gulfport elections, the more questions you should ask. Demand transparency.”
Banno’s blog post on her campaign website seems to fill that demand for transparency.
And this isn’t the first time Salustri has taken to Facebook to bash Banno.
“I’m getting tired of your bullsh*t, Camp Banana. The whole town, save your ten donors who exist to seemingly intimidate, besmirch and defame anyone who supports Sam and Dan and our sense of community, is tired of your bullshi*t. I am bone-f–ing-weary of it,” Salustri wrote in a Feb. 21 post defending incumbent Mayor Sam Henderson against accusations that he was a bully.
She refers to Banno’s campaign as “Camp Banana” because of a SaintPetersblog story in which an Apple autocorrect typo listed Banno as “Banana.” The typo has since been corrected.
Salustri emphasized the statements made in those posts were her own and not attributed to Creative Loafing. Instead she said she wrote them as “a private citizen of Gulfport who cares about the future of my community.”
The back and forth between teams Banno and Henderson has made this election particularly bloody, something that is certainly uncharacteristic for Gulfport.
But the sentiments on both sides are chock full of passion. Commenters on Salustri’s post share a general distaste for Banno. And one comment on Banno’s Facebook page suggests that Henderson looks the other way on the Clam Bayou sewage dump issue because St. Pete is looking out for some personal interest of his.
The bloody contest will be settled in less than two weeks when voters hit the ballot box March 15.