Clearwater City Council and mayoral re-election races are holding up progress on how to spend $6.4 million in BP settlement money even though the it has been available since July. The council will hold off at least four months on determining what to do with the cash.
At issue are re-election campaigns for Mayor George Cretekos and City Council members Doreen Hock DiPolito and Jay Polgaze who are all appearing on the March ballot.
During a meeting Nov. 5, City Councilman Bill Jonson talked about possible uses for the money, but was quickly hushed, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“If I were to say ‘Let’s spend $6 million of the BP money on project X,’ somebody is going to say ‘Mayor Cretekos is doing that because he’s running for re-election,’ ” Cretekos reportedly said in response to Jonson’s list.
The tone is a detraction from what has been happening in other cities awarded BP settlement funds. St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman quickly recommended several uses for the $6.5 million that was awarded, including repairs to the city’s wastewater system, a bike share program, and an arts endowment, among others.
City Council discussed the recommendation during a meeting even though two City Council members were up for re-election earlier this month.
The difference, according to DiPolito during the Clearwater City Council meeting earlier this month, is that St. Pete runs a strong mayor form of government rather than Clearwater’s city manager form. Discussing the funding uses could be perceived as a stump speech, she said.
“I don’t think it’s fair to all five of us for any part of the election process to be discussing what we should be doing right now with a bucket list as it relates to BP,” DiPolito said at the Nov. 5 meeting, according to the Times.
Jonson isn’t backing down despite City Council approval to table the issue until after the March election. He filed an agenda item to be heard later this month to evaluate City Council priorities, noting city business should not be put on hold just because there is a looming election.
BP settlement fund uses have also been brought up in Dunedin where $3.9 million is on the table and in Tampa where $20 million was awarded.