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Toast to the Bay, Dump into the Bay: Karl Nurse and Sam Henderson

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Toast: Karl Nurse’s environmental gusto

As a lame duck City Council person, Karl Nurse has proven himself quite feisty. During a day chock full of legislative process, Nurse seized an opportunity to nail home a message he’s made no secret of – saving the environment.

Thursday included for St. Pete City Council a full day of committee meetings, regular agendas, Community Redevelopment Area sessions and public hearings. And in the middle of it all, Nurse jumped on an admiral speaking point – why the hell are public servants driving around in gas guzzling Chevy Tahoes and various SUVs?

And why in the blazes do those already fuel inefficient vehicles need to have racing engines?

Nurse may have sounded to some as a whiney liberal (any by some we mean people who only pretend to give a rat’s patoot about the environment,) but what he was in reality was quite different. He was pragmatic. He was wise. He was, simply put, on point.

Both the police and fire department have in their automobile fleets several large Sport Utility Vehicles. The police department typically uses those for canine officers who need room for their furry partners in the back seat. But, wouldn’t a sedan suffice? And as for the fire department, really?

Nurse wisely raised the specter on whether or not such vehicle purchases are thought through. And he did so with the promise from City staff to look into it.

But Nurse didn’t even stop there. Nurse also called out bus drivers for leaving buses idling.

His fervor is not only impressive, it’s necessary. Cheers to you Councilman Nurse – keep fighting the good fight.

Dump: Sam Henderson’s hissy fit

Anyone who has met Sam Henderson knows he’s a cool guy. And his work as Mayor of Gulfport hasn’t been particularly shabby either. We like Sam. But he may have just screwed himself royally this week with an outburst entirely unbecoming an elected official at any level (except maybe Congress; they’ve made these sorts of temper tantrums common place.)

During the final moments of a meeting Thursday night, Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman proposed a resolution pertaining to the August sewage dump into Clam Bayou. The issue left Gulfport split. There are those who were peeved, but who trust St. Pete will do the right thing. And there are those who want more assurances from St. Pete that such a thing won’t happen again and more research into the environmental repercussions.

Henderson’s dump-worthy behavior has nothing to do with which side of that he falls. He could have shouted the Pledge of Allegiance in the same tone and been just as out of line and just as self-sacrificing. It was his tone.

Roman’s resolution asked, among other components, that there be conversations with St Pete officials about the issue. Henderson scolded her that there were and then called her a liar. That prompted outrage and it was all down hill from there.

Henderson continued to berate Roman, who is a woman making it all the worse, as if she were a child with a bad grade on the spelling test. He raised his voice and wagged his finger. He told her that she “would listen.”

At one point, someone in the audience shouted at Henderson that he was a bully. The altercation only ended when another council member diplomatically called for adjournment.

The next day Henderson took to Facebook to defend himself. Instead of accomplishing that, he wound up sounding even worse. He claimed he wasn’t being a bully because he was being bullied. His evidence was that Roman was spreading misinformation, launching a political attack as Henderson seeks re-election and taking credit for actions the rest of the board took.

Whether or not that is true is cause for another discussion – there’s a load of nuance. What is clear is that even if Roman was way off base, it’s cause for a professional conversation. Henderson showed no decorum in his handling of the disagreement and in doing so, he may have screwed himself royally.

His re-election bid has become a contentious one. Barbara Banno, a former City Council member, has made the Clam Bayou dump one of her key talking points. If Henderson is right and some are making mountains out of mole hills of an issue that is being handled, he lost any footing in that debate by screaming like a child.

It was unprofessional. It was mean. And it wasn’t smart.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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