Last night, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster hosted another Mayor’s Night Out at the Willis S. John Center—where he and many city departments set up in a community to increase access to City Hall for the people. What were the big topics for the evening? Narcotic trafficking in neighborhoods, the shooting of two men that occurred early Thursday morning at The Scene and a long awaited park that is now coming to the District 2 area of St. Petersburg.
Thursday morning shootings at The Scene
I had a brief discussion last night with St. Petersburg Police Department Asst. Chief Luke Williams about the shootings at The Scene that morning. Williams reported that they had no further developments or leads as of last night and are currently seeking information from the community. The St. Petersburg Police Department is asking anyone who may have any information to help with the investigation to please call 727-893-7780.
As was reported yesterday by Peter Schorsch of SaintPetersblog, both shooting victims were black, and the absence of any mention of race in reporting was conspicuous. According to Schorsch, “Why does [race] matter? Because Tuesday night at Scene is billed as ‘Top Shelf Tuesday’ and Tampa Bay’s largest ‘hip hop party.’ Meaning it’s a night that Scene attracts a crowd more black than white. I also know this firsthand because I live at the Madison Condominiums, which is located about a block South of the club. I know, as well as anyone, what really goes on at Scene.”
“And what’s not being discussed in the [Tampa Bay Times] story, but is being discussed throughout downtown St. Pete,” Schorsch continued, “is that this is another situation like what happened at BayWalk, where black patrons, with few places to enjoy themselves in Midtown, converge on downtown St. Pete and end up scaring the white folk. Again, that’s not in the newspaper, but that’s one of the underlying stories.”
When I asked Williams about how racial tensions may have played a part in the shootings, he said, “Race is not being considered. A crime is a crime, and I don’t consider anything racial in an investigation. It’s about the crime itself.”
Mayor Foster did say that the City Council will most likely pass an ordinance requiring clubs to hire off-duty sworn officers at the door and for security within these clubs. The details of this potential ordinance are still under development.”
Councilmember Jim Kennedy said, “Security in clubs and bars is critical. The community needs to feel that these places are safe for St. Petersburg to prosper.” Kennedy also reported that the club owners have contacted the police department to both cooperate fully with the investigation and to improve security on the site. Kennedy said, “They want to do things right.”
The public buzz
I had the pleasure of speaking with a few citizens waiting in line to speak with Mayor Foster last night. I asked them why they came out and if they wouldn’t mind sharing with me what they wanted to discuss with the mayor. The answers were varied.
A couple of people wanted to raise awareness of increased prostitution and drug activity in their neighborhood. Another person was very concerned about an increased presence of homeless people in the Kenwood neighborhood but wanted also to thank the mayor for the recent closing of the Mosley and Economy Hotel.
Another significant topic for the evening surrounded the development of a new park that is slated to be built on the former site of Rio Vista Elementary School. Councilmember Kennedy said, “The development of this park is almost a legend in District 2, long before I came to the council. It’s good to see this finally happening.” Two individuals were in line to speak to Mayor Foster about their ideas for the park.
Someone else reported that they had no interest in speaking with the mayor. He had his issue of finding shells in his drinking water addressed by talking to city representatives from the water resource and engineering department.
Mayor Foster reported that popular topics for the night included the Rays and the Pier, but the most popular topic by far was law enforcement issues, particularly narcotics. St. Petersburg Police Department representatives echoed this statement.
Personally, I was pleased beyond belief at the large crowd gathered at this Mayor’s Night Out. I hope to see an equally active and impassioned crowd of citizens at the next one. The Mayor has kept his promise to increase access to himself and City Hall. Now, we need to take advantage of this great opportunity to have our voices heard, get questions answered and demand action as a result.