Snippets of conversation from the July 7 Gulfport City Council meeting.
Cathy Salustri

“All of us here are on a fixed income. … This is almost $1,000 a year.” –JW Madigan, speaking to council about fixed minimum rates for trash collection that he thinks should be lowered for senior citizens

“I’ve been to 55 or 60 towns in the state, and you are definitely one of the three or four towns we want to talk to about this. You have a beautiful Veterans’ Park down on the water; it is plenty big for what we want to do.” –Steve Udovich, speaking to council about the proposed Iraq and Afghanistan War Memorial he and his organization are trying to build

“Your cost is people and tipping fees. You are still picking up the same amount of garbage. It is not going to reduce because you pick it up less. It doesn’t matter how many times a week. It can be one day or two days, it is still going to be the same amount.” –City Manager Jim O’Reilly, in response to councilmember April Thanos’s (Ward I) suggestion that trash pickup be cut from twice a week to once a week to save expense

“During those six months out of the where we have 80º temperatures, that garbage being out once a week gets a little stinky.” –Mayor Sam Henderson, referring to the effects of reduced trash pickup

“We have neighbors who were putting out garbage with six or eight people in that household. It is set out there on a Friday night and they pick it up on Monday, and it stinks. I’m sitting in my backyard going, ‘Wow’. –Councilmember Paul Ray (Ward III) about trash pickup

“As of July 1, property values this year have increased citywide 15.21%. Once again, you are the second-highest in Pinellas County in property tax growth [behind Indian Rocks Beach]. Last year it was 8.6%. This council needs to applaud itself and recognize that over the past two years the City of Gulfport’s property values have risen approximately 24%. That is something you have done and by allowing my staff and I to do our work to keep improving the community. –City Manager Jim O’Reilly

“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘I’ve had one next door and it’s wonderful, the property was a dump before it became a short-term rental,’ and an equal number of people who say, ‘I’m up all night because they’re partying all night.’ … We owe it to the people who are having their lives interrupted, and we are not going after every single person who has an Airbnb or short-term rental.” –Councilmember Paul Ray, referring to potential code enforcement regarding short-term rentals

“We’re getting into some real serious issues about our ability to protect our employees from attacks. Email, verbally, physically, being accosted in public, plus the volume of emails coming in with vitriol language that attacks our employees … Two things. One is weaponization of access to the city government environment. Second, when we looked down the street [July 4], it was very similar to what happened in Illinois. Then you look at the weaponization of emails and public access to our employees or weaponization of the public records law. We need to have that conversation and I need to put on the record to you that it’s my responsibility to protect your employees. These are the people you depend on to provide some of the high-level services we talk about in the budget, but it also impacts the other residents. These are the people you hire to run the city and maintain a healthy society in the community. –City Manager Jim O’Reilly, who later clarified that the small-town atmosphere in Illinois reminded him of Gulfport

“They’re just going to work. We are doing some great things, and in the background, our employees just want to go to work.” –Vice mayor Christine Brown (Ward II)

“And they don’t need to go to work in a toxic environment.” –Councilmember Paul Ray

“I think it’s a useless piece of legislation. I’ve made that pretty public. I don’t know how Bay News 9 decided we were all applauding it … I think it’s putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. That’s the one quote they got right in that story.” –Mayor Sam Henderson, about Gulfport’s possible application of new state no-smoking legislation

“Inflation in the Tampa Bay area has gone to 11.3% in the past 12 months … This has a lot of similarities to what we went through in 2008. That was a significant economic downturn and there was a long-term recovery period. We just want to be cautious. I can’t recommend that Council get overly financially stimulated. I caution against any drastic expansion in government.” –City Manager Jim O’Reilly

“Inflation moves faster than you think and usually faster than our ability to adapt. … Public sector salaries never keep up with this type of inflation. … The price of fuel has gone up 58% [since the last budget].” –City Manager Jim O’Reilly

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