As in many governments, the hired staff tend to run the show in St. Petersburg, ignoring the citizens and the elected officials who represent them. Such is the case in the re-drawing of the maps used to determine who is eligible to run for St. Petersburg City Council. Based on a history of politicians Gerrymandering their opponents out of the race, citizens voted to establish a public commission that would re-draw the maps. However, it is still the City Staff that is drawing those maps and they have made it clear that they intend to protect one class of candidates over all others: incumbents. As has been exposed here at the Sun Beam Times, City Attorney Mark Winn has asserted that the Commission “MUST” keep the incumbents in their districts, even though the charter does not list that as a requirement for re-drawing the maps. Now that the Commission is prepared to make its final recommendation to the public, Mr. Winn has been caught telling the commission that he does not value the input of citizens in St. Petersburg and doesn’t know why they should even be given the chance to do so.
Citizens will have the opportunity to have that say on the final recommendation of the St. Petersburg Election Maps at a public hearing
Tuesday 2/5, 5 pm at St. Petersbsurg City Hall – 175 5th St. N.
At the meeting of the Redistricting Commission on Wednesday 1/30, Mr. Winn offers made the following observation during a discussion on the weight the Commission should give to the public comments heard:
“I’m honestly not sure why we do the public hearing requirement. Because most of those people will not speak to the Charter requirements. Their going to speak to completely [sic] issues not required by the Charter. I think it was just – the city tends to give the people a voice in everything – uh, whether they get a chance to get their way or not is different; but a chance to at least speak their voice, speak their peace, speak their mind.” Hear the full audio here.
So a public process that is run by citizens who are not elected officials, ostensibly to serve in a non-political way should not, according to the City’s own attorney, even worry about public comment! This is an example of the continued corruption in the process of re-drawing the maps used to determine who can run for City Council. The maps being offered are all skewed to ensure that incumbents keep their seat. That is a corruption of the process since the Charter does not list that as a requirement.
Another comment made by Winn is illustrative of the problems with the process.
“…and Really the discussion and concept was to take the politics out of this so that, so that people that didn’t have a political or vested interest were, who were looking at these maps and saying ‘what was the best configuration to meet the charter requirements.’…”
Here the City Attorney is pointing out that people with “Vested interest(s)” can negatively influence the process. That is exactly what is happening here. The City staff and the attorney have a significant vested interest: they want to keep incumbents in their seat. They are on the record as saying so. There is good reason for them to do so since the current incumbents have a voting record that always protects the bloated benefits and pay of the staff.
The Citizens of St. Petersburg need to be heard on this process. They should show up at the next public meeting a 5 pm at City Hall on Tuesday February 5th at City Hall , 175 5th St. N.