The loss of Honda’s sponsorship of the St. Pete Grand Prix should be the end of Bill Foster’s time as mayor

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In a classic Friday news dump, the organizers of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix announced that Honda pulled its sponsorship of the three-day racing event.

Honda’s decision blindsided SPGP officials, as well as city leaders.

“To say we’re surprised is an understatement,” race president Tim Ramsberger told Danielle Paquette of the Tampa Bay Times. Ramsberger said there was no explanation for Honda’s decision.

As for reaction from Mayor Bill Foster, all he he could offer was, “Sponsors come and go. … No one’s married to Honda. We’re married to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.” 

You know what else comes and goes? Mayors and politicians. The loss of Honda’s sponsorship of the St. Pete Grand Prix should be the end of the Foster’ time as mayor.

No, Foster is not the race president. No, he does not work in the marketing department of Honda. It may be unfair to blame Foster’s for the divorce with Honda.

But ask yourself this: Were Rick Baker still mayor, would this have happened? Were Baker still mayor, would Honda have blindsided the city? Were Baker still mayor, would he have been caught off-guard AGAIN by another critical development in the city?

Absolutely not.

In fact, even if Baker were still mayor and Honda just had to end its relationship with the SPGP, you know that Baker would have a strong enough relationship with the company that they would have given him a three- or six-month heads-up. Only after a new sponsor had been secured would news of Honda ending its relationship with the SPGP have been announced. The average resident of the ‘burg would have thought it was a positive development Honda was leaving and Company X was coming in. 

That’s leadership — a concept Bill Foster has proven he does not fully understand. 

Instead he was caught flat-footed — again.

Just as he was caught off-guard by Sweetbay’s decision to leave Midtown.

Just as he was caught off-guard by Lori Matway’s decision to leave his administration. 

Just as he was caught off-guard by the cost of the RNC party at Tropicana Field.

This criticism of Foster is my strongest yet. I am essentially saying he needs to be voted out of office. This was not an easy decision for me to arrive at as I am not entirely convinced Rick Kriseman is a much better choice than Foster. This profile of Kriseman in Sunday’s edition of the Times doesn’t do much to assuage my concerns about Kriseman. 

But two other factors are at work here.

One change is coming to Pinellas and St. Petersburg and it should be embraced. With Bill Young’s death, there will be a new member of Congress representing St. Petersburg. After a decade, there will be a new Police Chief. Leslie Curran and Jeff Danner, two longtime members of City Council, will be replaced. 

In that spirit, why not make a clean break with the past? Bill Foster is part of a previous generation of St. Petersburg leaders. The period of John Bryan and Go Davis and Kathleen Ford and Ernest Williams. Let’s make a break from that divisive period. 

Second, go read my friend Jeff Copeland’s Facebook page. Copeland was one of Foster’s key supporters in 2009. He’s still one of the most dialed-in members of the city’s black community. And he has completely broken with Foster because of the Mayor’s inability to lead on issues important to Midtown. Copeland abandoning Foster is like me giving up on Charlie Crist. For it to happen, something must be dramatically wrong.

Regardless of how you feel about Kriseman, this development with Honda, which puts the Mayor’s failings on full display, should be the nail in the coffin for Bill Foster.

It is time for a change.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.