At the January 19 Gulfport City Council meeting, Mayor Sam Henderson was absent and Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich presided over the meeting, which lasted just over an hour. CJ Reynolds of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council gave a virtual presentation about planning for climate change and natural disasters. Council discussed how to handle unruly dogs, approved three events for February, and renewed an agreement with Duke Energy. For more, pick up a print copy of the Gabber on January 28.
Gulfport City Council approved renewed its agreement with Duke Energy. This agreement allows Duke to use the city’s right of way, for which Gulfport gets 6% of their revenue. Last fiscal year, that translated to $785,000 last fiscal year for the city. Council voted unanimously to renew the agreement.
Festival Season Commences in Gulfport– with COVID Caveats
Art, volleyball and cars: Gulfport City Council voted to allow three special events in the city in the coming month. The So49 Car Show will take place on February 6; the Gulfport Fine Arts Festival will take place on February 13 and 14; and the VetSports volleyball tournament will also take place on February 13 and 14. Masks will be required at these events, which take place on public property (unless participating in a sport); organizers will install hand-sanitizing stations, and event staff will enforce both. The city, Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich added, will be able to ask people to leave the property if they do not wear masks.
“We do have the ability to cancel if necessary,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly told Council. However, the city cannot ticket people for not wearing masks because Governor Ron DeSantis will not allow it. As part of the event organizer agreements with the city – respectively, So49, the Gulfport Merchants Chamber of Commerce, and VetSports – organizers agree to police masks and require attendees to wear them.
Councilwoman April Thanos cast the lone dissenting vote for approving any of these three events. She voted no on the VetSports event, after raising concerns that it would take up too much space on the beach. Former Ward One Councilman Dan Liedtke, who Thanos displaced in the 2020 elections, championed the event.
Overheard at Gulfport City Council
“I would like to ask the city to go beyond that and consider adopting the charter that Kenwood has.” – Artist Margo Dalgetty, asking council to designate Gulfport an artist enclave. City Manager Jim O’Reilly reminded council that the city has an overlay district that allows artists in that district to function as if they are part of an artist enclave.
“I already talked to her and yes, she can do that.” – Councilmember April Thanos, in response to council candidate Mike Bauer’s request to CJ Reynolds for a map of expected sea levels around Gulfport in the next few decades. Although Bauer requested this map in real time at the meeting, Thanos had apparently anticipated and requested the map on Bauer’s behalf. Bauer is challenging incumbent Christine Brown in the March city council elections.
“I am here to ask that the city consider adding an ordinance, or escalating this matter to the county, to have a muzzle or leash on dogs that have been found too dangerous.” – Claudine Fle, whose service dog was attacked by another dog that was off leash. O’Reilly and Vice Mayor Michael Fridovich responded that since animal control is run at the county level, their hands are tied, but are considering doing a PSA for the city on the issue.
“I can barely hear you. Please use your microphone. That’s my only comment. I can barely hear anybody.” – Caron Schwartz, who had been watching the meeting online and called in to voice this one concern.
“Between COVID, the insurrection we had at the Capitol, the upcoming election, we really need to take some time out, do something small, like dropping off food at the pantry, making a welfare check on a friend, anything like that that does make people feel a lot better.” – Councilmember Paul Ray, in his closing council comments.