Summer Camp Fee Increase, Roman Given Fond Farewell 

Councilmember Yolanda Roman attended her final council meeting on March 6 as the outgoing representative of Ward 3. She is not seeking re-election for a third two-year term. Fourteen audience members spoke to thank her for her service. Many presented her with flowers and one gave her a naming plaque for her house. “I’m going to go home and decorate my house. I love flowers,” said Roman. “I’m going to find every vase, cup or mug and just put them all over the place. Good memories.”

To be more in alignment with other area municipal summer camps, the Gulfport City Council approved a 23 percent rate increase to the program’s fees during their Tuesday, March 6 meeting.

“Councilmember Yolanda Roman brought up during the budget process last year the idea that our fees for the summer program were obscenely below market value,” said City Manager Jim O’Reilly.

The proposed new residential rate for the nine-week 2018 program in Gulfport is $495. This compares to $623 in St. Petersburg, $725 in St. Pete Beach and $810 in Treasure Island, said O’Reilly.

“It’s less than $12 per day,” said Councilmember Christine Brown. “Families rely on this and the kids have a great place to go. The people who run it really do a quality job.”

With regard to costs, Vice Mayor Dan Liedtke said, “As I understand, we have never turned anybody away due to their inability to pay. We’ve always found a way to help these folks out.”

O’Reilly detailed that the city offers scholarships as does the Michael J. Yakes Foundation, a local non-profit named after a former mayor.

Liedtke and councilmembers Brown, Roman and Michael Fridovich passed the measure unanimously. Mayor Sam Henderson did not attend the meeting.

Roman Receives Farewell Wishes

Roman was attending her final council meeting as the outgoing representative of Ward 3, as she is not seeking re-election for a third two-year term.

Fourteen audience members spoke during the Public Comment segment at the beginning of the meeting expressing their thanks to Roman for her public service. Many gave her flowers and one person provided her with a naming plaque for her Gulfport home.

One of the speakers, former Councilmember Dawn Fisher, said, “I wanted to thank Yolanda for all she’s done. She’s given 110 percent for the city and the residents.”

Another speaker and local business owner, Barbara Banno, said to Roman, “You can leave the dais knowing this community is stronger and inspired because of the actions you’ve taken over the past four years.”

During Roman’s Informational Report period at the end of the meeting and at her request, council members granted her extra time beyond the customary five-minute limit so she could read prepared remarks summarizing milestones during her time in office. She spoke for 12 minutes.

At just under the 50-minute mark and as her final official act as a councilperson, Roman responded to Liedtke’s call for a motion to adjourn the meeting and it was accepted.

Mooring Field Definition of Terms

Councilmembers also unanimously passed an ordinance that defines key terms associated with the city’s new mooring field facility along with detailing the related job description for the harbormaster who is also the director of marina operations.

Outgoing Statement from Gulfport Ward 3 Councilmember Yolanda Roman

When I joined the Gulfport City Council, I committed to holding office hours, town halls, coffee chats, community forums and attending community events. Below is a review of some of my experiences these last four years.

I requested that street paving and alleys be a higher priority, advocating yearly for additional funding.  In 2014, I recommended we prioritize downtown parking concerns. We conducted a parking survey, which should be repeated to seek parking solutions as our city grows. Thanks to Gulfport Tom Pitzen for the beautiful parking art pieces gracing our city.

We must stay in the forefront of preserving our Clam Bayou eco-system. I am proud of my voice regarding the St. Pete raw sewage discharge. It was important for me to press for action from the DEP, the City of St Petersburg and others. I requested the need for an SOP to ensure future events are handled appropriately. I held a November 2015 Clam Bayou town hall, as well as an April 2016 Clam Bayou forum.

A great moment was getting council support for the 2014 Gulfport Marriage Equality Resolution. We were bold in taking a stance with elected officials. Thank you to Congressman David Jolly who provided me with a statement supporting marriage equality. I am proud to have introduced raising the Pride Flag in Gulfport.

An issue with a bittersweet outcome was Lincoln Cemetery. Although a pathway to ownership by Mt Zion AME Church was underway, the cemetery is now owned by another entity. Thanks to the Church and the NAACP for their work, including the detailed 2016 application to the county for BP funding, which I supported. I am honored to have also worked on the adopted Gulfport Lincoln Cemetery Resolution.

It was my duty to meet with county, state and congressional elected officials. I attended Pinellas State Delegation meetings, speaking on Gulfport matters and Home Rule.

Thank you for letting me introduce the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr “Day of Service,” now in its fourth year. It has been an honor representing Gulfport in the St. Pete MLK Parade.

I recommended the “Spirit of Gulfport” award for Margarete Tober (Gulfport Neighbors), as well as Jo Silverleaf who painted the two beautiful paintings remembering Pulse victims. We also issued a Proclamation honoring Gina Burke.

Special thanks to Justin Shey and Gail Biron who I have spent countless hours with. To Chief Vincent and Chief Marenkovic, thank you for keeping Gulfport a safe place to live. After a discussion with Chief Vincent in 2015, I successfully requested we add funds to the budget for a GPD community volunteer position. Thank you to Dave Mathers for helping me organize my annual Black History Month event at the library, as well as last year’s showing of “A Plastic Ocean.”

An issue I knew that needed to be addressed were “bank-owned” abandoned, blighted and vacant properties. I introduced, and we adopted, a Bank Foreclosure Registry ordinance.

As a council, we have had an interest in securing a new skateboard park. My position was to consider relocation to the abandoned playground at the Rec Center. I proposed we submit a federal grant request, which was approved, to help relocate and fund the park.

At the request from the Pinellas County School System, the city manager and I introduced the summer internship program for Gulfport high school students.

In the spring of 2016, I recommended we submit a funding request for our mooring field to Pinellas County, responding to their request for projects they could fund using their BP monies. We succeeded in getting $100,000.

During my tenure, we have had changes to City Council’s Rules & Regulations. I caution this council to keep an open mind on how we serve the public, always treating them with the utmost respect. I also maintain that salary adjustments for Charter Employees should be tied to annual performance reviews. I stand by my position that increases to council stipends are not necessary (a process should be added to the city charter).

An area that taught us about transparency and communication was the bike trail process. I applaud the actions by residents for getting involved and being part of a positive solution. I also applaud the advocacy of Stetson area residents regarding the 61st street proposed closure by Stetson Law School. It was important to hear their concerns at my May 2017 community forum. I stand firm that the closure is not in the best interest for our community.

I look forward to the implementation of the “residential lateral sewer line replacement program,” which I researched extensively and introduced. Thanks to City Manager O’Reilly in securing an agreement with DEP, as well as Senator Rouson who is helping us seek state funds. I know Gulfport residents are looking forward to this cost-sharing program. Another priority of mine was to recommend the now-in-use vacuum and pumper trucks to prevent discharges into streets and/or Boca Ciega Bay during storms.

I recommended we proactively plan for future growth and challenges that Gulfport will face. This includes documenting what we want to protect and preserve in the form of a character statement. I didn’t get council consensus and we will not be updating the 1993 Gulfport WRD plan that has served us for the last 25 years (still in effect, with very little applicability to today). I am also a proponent of the legal pathways (using zoning ordinances, not bans) taken by municipalities that help balance the presence of formula stores in small communities.

I was disappointed that Gulfport did not take a stand in asking the Florida Legislature to consider gun safety measures.

Regarding Hurricane Irma, a big collective thanks to everyone. We are Gulfport Strong.

Here are priorities we must address: 1) Adopting the annual budget will get more challenging due to the annual 25% St. Pete surcharge payment ($800,000+), our sewer repair loan payments, and the potential passage of the new Homestead Exemption;  2) Upgrading our sewers, paving and brick replacement, alleys and sidewalk;  3) Address the drainage issues on Shore Blvd (detailed in the study I requested);  4) Aggressively renegotiate the St. Pete water/sewer agreement;  5) Implement a proactive v. reactive “Code Enforcement approach;”  6) Make plans now to address climate change, sea level rises and more damaging storms;  7) Implement solar solutions in Gulfport now;  8) Consider improvements to parking along 54th Street;  9) Implement a Clymer Park Arts Management Program; and  10) Consider neighborhood/residential incentives that help beautify the city.

Thank you to my fellow councilmembers, City Clerk Leslie DeMuth and City Manager Jim O’Reilly. Best wishes Councilmember Paul Ray. More importantly, thank you to all the residents of the city of Gulfport. It has been my pleasure and honor serving you as a Gulfport City Council Member.

 

Yolanda Roman
Councilmember Ward 3

 

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