Race pits big dreams against smaller steps
By LEONORA LaPETER
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 20, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- City Council candidate Dennis Homol Sr. wants a zoo with lions and tigers and apes. He wants St. Petersburg to build its own water desalination plant. He would stop all building unless it created jobs or raised the city's standard of living.
Richard D. Kriseman, who was appointed three months ago to the City Council, has smaller steps in mind: an ordinance that would make it easier to renovate, improvements to the city's Web site, research on how the city can become more pedestrian friendly.
On March 27, voters citywide will elect one of them to the City Council seat for District 1, which includes the Azalea, Eagle Crest and Lake Pasadena neighborhoods and the Tyrone Boulevard area on the city's western edge.
These are two very different candidates. Kriseman, an attorney with a history of civic involvement that includes a few years on the city's nuisance abatement board, holds the seat now. The City Council appointed him in December to fill the unexpired term of Robert Kersteen, who resigned and ran unsuccessfully for the state House.
In three months on the council, the mild-mannered Kriseman has proved to be calm, measured and decidedly unexcitable.
Kriseman, 38, has talked frequently about restoring decorum to City Council meetings and improving the city's relationship with its citizens.
He said he has talked with the city's computer experts about improving the city's Web site so that residents can log in and complain that their garbage hasn't been picked up or respond to a question during a City Council meeting. He also would encourage computer mapping so that the city could track complaints by neighborhood.
Kriseman said he can't imagine such computer upgrades would cost much, maybe $10,000 to $20,000, but he thinks it would be worth it.
He also wants the city to find ways to make its streets better for pedestrians and its roads safer.
Kriseman said he would talk to the police chief about taking more time to enforce ordinances and city statutes. "You make it clear that this is a policy that needs to happen," he said. He also wants to make it easier for residents to remodel their homes.
Homol, a city wastewater plant mechanic and the owner of a video business, has a more radical approach to codes and construction in St. Petersburg.
The 37-year-old thinks the city should require residents who complain to the code enforcement department about their neighbors to open up their own property for inspection. City officials said this might eliminate a good source of complaints about blighted properties.
Homol also would try to pass an ordinance to stop all building unless it benefited the city by creating jobs or improving the standard of living. He said this would affect major new developments, not those trying to redevelop their property or add a third bedroom.
Homol stressed he was not lobbying against businesses that bring jobs or enterprises that improve the area's standard of living, such as a zoo.
He thinks the city should join the University of South Florida, Florida Progress Corp. and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in bringing a full-sized zoo to property the city owns next to Lake Maggiore.
But Homol could not point to any other source of money for such an enterprise. He suggested using the Penny for Pinellas tax, a 1-cent sales tax that goes to local governments, but most of that money has already been earmarked for specific projects.
Homol also couldn't say how the city would pay for his proposed desalination plant that would provide the city with additional water. Homol said St. Petersburg needs to be in control of its water supply, although he doesn't think the city should pull out of Tampa Bay Water, the regional consortium that oversees the water supply.
The Tampa Bay Water governing contract precludes the city's seeking its own water source. The city could pull out of Tampa Bay Water, but that would have both legal and financial implications. Tampa Bay Water already is building a desalination plant.
"What we can do is look at federal money to build our own desalination plant," Homol said. "Our plants would just not be part of Tampa Bay Water."
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