St. Pete District 2 candidate Lorraine Margeson says Jim Kennedy doesn’t have the “power he poses”

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For St. Petersburg City Council District 2 candidate Lorraine Margeson, the time has come to move from activist to policymaker.

“I know all the players around the city and the county,” Margeson told reporters in a Google+ hangout interview Tuesday, “I finally decided to try to legislate than to fight legislation. I have a lot to offer and am ready to go.”

ShadowVote.org founder Leonard Schmiege moderated the online video exchange, which brought the candidate face-to-face with local political bloggers in an hour-long discussion of the issues facing the city and Margeson’s community.   

On crime reduction, Margeson welcomes a return to the “community policing” program, where law-enforcement had a more personal (and effective) presence with the public.

“I know that it is a really important component to reinvigorating and strengthening our neighborhood associations,” she says. “I have heard it all over the city … the lack of knowing who police officers are.”

As one of the first citizens to start the 34th Street Neighborhood Association, she personally got to know officers assigned to the area. At that time, both the neighborhood and the police developed “unified teams,” helping residents see the officers as community neighbors, rather than simply law-enforcement.

“Yes, that is going to take some shifting of funds or finding a little bit more funds,” Margeson says, adding that the city needs to reexamine policing efforts.

When the subject changed to transportation, Margeson blasted her opponent — incumbent Jim Kennedy — for taking false credit for a number of projects in the district.

“He doesn’t have as much power as he poses,” she says, using the example of a recent Rivera Bay Neighborhood Association meeting about structural improvements to the 83rd Ave/San Martin Bridge in northeast St. Petersburg.

Kennedy told residents he helped change the timeline for upgrades to the bridge over Rivera Bay up to 2015, instead of the original 2020.

Margeson contacted Pinellas County, learning that since the bridge was not under City control, her opponent not only didn’t provide input on the project schedule, but the plan remains set for a 2020 completion date.

“What has Mr. Kennedy done to improve, move forward or do anything (to impact) this future project on the San Martin Bridge?” Margeson asks. “The answer, nothing.”

Margeson claims that the Riviera Bay event was only one of the different times Kennedy took credit for projects under county control.

“It is not to say that a City Council person cannot have discussions, or to have commentary, on (county projects),” Margeson says. “But it is not like my opponent is running that show.”

She also notes that Kennedy did not respond to a “5 Questions” survey submitted to City Council candidates by Gene “Doc” Webb for the news site Patch. Webb was one of the bloggers in attendance at Tuesday’s Google+ hangout.   

The video of the Google+ hangout with Margeson is available on the ShadowVote YouTube channel.

In an Oct. 14 StPetePolls survey, Kennedy leads in the District 2 race with 40.2 percent of registered voters, with Margeson getting 23.3 percent. More than 36 percent of voters are undecided. 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.