REDINGTON BEACH – State Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, updated Redington Beach Commissioners on the 2014 legislative session June 17, pointing to numerous upgrades in education.
Rejecting “polarization” as a major factor on all level politics, she stressed the Florida Legislature this past year passed 285 bills including what she said were “sweeping” education bills, nearly 200 of which she said passed with no debate.
“I don’t think we are broken or polarized,” she said. “Unfortunately, I believe the public’s perception is that we are. I think it’s important to state we are doing a pretty good job.”
“I’ve never been told how I ought to vote,” she added.
Since her 2012 election to the Florida House of Representatives, Peters has represented the 69th District, an area from Redington Shores to St. Petersburg Beach.
A past member of the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center Advisory Board, her passion about which she spoke at length, is helping youngsters climb out of poverty.
Combating homelessness, she says, is another one of her major goals. Florida has the third highest number of homeless people in the country.
Peters and Sen. Jack Latvala filed Senate Bill 1090 and House Bill 979, to expand grant programs to Florida communities to help fund temporary and transitional housing and services for the homeless in addition to offering training and technical support to Florida agencies that serve the indigent including the Department of Children and Families in partnership with the State Housing Initiatives Partnership to distribute funds and resources to its various homeless programs.
Peters said huge changes have been made in foster care but that homelessness within Florida remains a significant problem. She cited a figure of 93,000, 12,000 of whom are women and 64,000 are children, including those who live in the affluent beach communities, which she said is “unacceptable” but added, “In the last two years, we have done sweeping changes to help our most vulnerable citizens.”
She blamed the lack of affordable housing and unemployment for much of the woes that currently plague Florida.
“A lot of folks didn’t like that we did not take on the federal Medicaid expansion, but what I can tell you is we have done everything we can to eliminate every waiting list for our most chronic, our most vulnerable, our most critical,” Peters said.
When asked by Commissioner Mark Deighton her take on attempts to establish a light rail system throughout Pinellas County funded by a 1 percent sales tax increase, raising $130 million per year, she replied that she favored a “robust” transportation system that would include expanding the county’s current bus system rather than building a light rail.
She also spoke out in favor of home rule, a provision included in the Florida Constitution, which allows local municipalities through charter to enact codes, plans and resolutions without prior state approval. She said she is “battle fatigued” from pending bills that she said are “chipping away” at the provision.
In closing, she urged the commission to encourage residents to phone, email and send letters to their state representatives regarding matters important to them.
“People think they don’t matter, but I can tell you it matters,” she said.
In other news, Mayor Nick Simons said he was “a little disappointed” that the advertisement placed by the town seeking a code enforcement official has failed to draw more of a response.
As such, he spoke with Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and some of his staff who after meeting with Mark Davis to learn more about what the job entails, suggested the town consider hiring a sheriff’s deputy who would work about 10 hours per week at a cost of $10 per hour. The cost would be $20,000 per year.
“If we need more than 10 hours a week, they would be willing to provide more than 10 hours a week,” Simons said.
Commissioner Tom Dorgan raised the issue of potential issues such as water run-off disputes between neighbors that might not be covered in the town’s codes. Town Attorney Robert Metz said the town would take a look at it on a case-by-case basis.
The board expressed a consensus to pursue this option.
The town will lack a code enforcement officer come July 2 when Public Works Director Mark Davis is set to retire after 36 years on the job.
In a related manner, the commission also voted to award Davis for his service with a $1,000 gift card, a cake and a plaque despite Davis’ wish that his retirement lack any fanfare.
In addition the Park Board, the Redington Beach Home Owners Association has also given Davis monetary thanks in the form of gift cards.