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Ward I Representative – April Thanos – Monthly Report

April Thanos

April Thanos

 athanos@mygulfport.us
(727) 826-7138 

MAY 2022

On May 3rd, I had a Town Hall about parking. There were about 30 people there and we had 2 guest presenters, Angelo Rao (was Traffic and Parking Operations Manager at the City of Lakeland) and Christopher Brimo, a professional Certified Planner.  We had a discussion about the types of things we could do and how the situation is now. There were many ideas, but no consensus about the need for a change or what the change would be. So for the time being we will leave things as they are. I presented the results of the meeting in writing to the council at the next council meeting.

I attended several, either in person or zoom meetings, on affordable housing. Plus, I went to an affordable housing conference. I also had several meetings and many discussions about short term rentals and how they affect the city and the housing situation. I had a presentation from Granicus who has a platform that tracks short-term rentals to see what they could offer the city and how we might be able to use them. I thought the costs were very reasonable for what they do.

Every Monday I meet with the City Manager, by phone usually, to go over the next agenda and any other items I have concern about. I also get questions answered that people have asked me recently on various topics.

Every third Tuesday, I have a table at the Tuesday market outside the Welcome Center to answer questions and help people check their voter registration status.

On May 25th, there was a meeting about homelessness in the area. This was put together by the Homeless Leadership Alliance. It was very interesting to hear what other cities and organizations are doing about this issue. We are planning to work with a couple other cities to share funding for a resource person to seek out homeless people and make sure they know all the services available to them. Our city staff – police, fire and others also do this whenever they can. There is a difference between chronically homeless and their needs and people who are recently homeless due to rising rental rates and having their rental homes sold. The second group are often employed and just can’t afford rental housing now. I have asked someone from the Alliance to speak with the council.

I try to answer all my emails and phone calls by the next day and this oftens requires some research or questions to staff. I often get stopped and asked questions whenever I am out and about and will get answers back to people if I don’t immediately know the answer.

JUNE 2022

June 1st we had a lovely flag raising for Pride Month. There was a successful Pride event that Saturday. There was also a great Art Out event at the library which I attended, organized by the LGBTQ Resource Center of the Gulfport Library.

On June 3rd there was another webinar on affordable housing. This topic is usually the first thing on the agenda with all the meetings of other cities I attend or listen to.

Deckard Technologies gave me a presentation on their short-term rental platform. It is a comparable cost to Granicus and seems to have more in depth information. It was good to have another choice and see the differences between the two companies. We already use Granicus for some other applications. Deckard is more of a data company and uses AI to scan sites and compare information between short-term rental sites, real estate listings and the property appraiser. There are also other companies which may be of interest.

We had a well attended and moving ceremony for Flag Day at Veteran’s Park on June 14th.

On June 23rd, The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council had a program on Resilient Ready Tampa Bay for an afternoon at the Marriott on Roosevelt. There were people from cities all over the region and it was great to hear that we are on the same page about the needs for this very vulnerable area. Getting consensus on the most immediate needs and the money to do them are not quite as easy. It was a very thoughtful event and very informative.

The St Pete Pride parade was on June 25th and I was on the trolley representing Gulfport. There were a lot of entries in the parade and a great crowd watching and cheering. The staff did a great job of organizing it and taking care of those on the trolley. Thank you.

JULY 2022

The Senior Center had an indoor picnic for the 4th of July holiday. Michael Fridovich and I were servers and I heard Christine Brown had helped setup. It was very well attended and the food was fabulously picnicy. The staff had this very well organized – kudos to Rachel and Walt and all the Senior Center volunteers.

Fourth of July was a hot, fun day. We had a great, typical small town parade where everyone can participate. I was with the other council members and the mayor narrated the event. Lots of beads for the onlookers. This was topped off with our usual great fireworks display. Again our city staff did a wonderful job. We have checked into doing a laser light show, but for now they are too expensive. Hopefully, the cost will come down and we can do something that won’t upset the town pets.

On July 11th, I started the Gulfport Police Academy with six others. It is a wonderful way to get to know how the department recruits and trains staff; what some of the regulations are: how the call center works and our relations with the sheriff’s department; how the police car is equipped and what it takes to pass the driving requirements for training; our neighborhood crime watch program and much more. This is the first class since covid, but more will be coming up. It is weekly for 8 weeks and will include a ride along with an officer.

I did my required four hour ethics course on July 13th. This is required of all elected officials on a yearly basis. It reminds us of the sunshine rules, how meetings should be conducted, when there is a conflict of interest and what are considered inappropriate gifts, among other things.

The Suncoat League covers cities in Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus, Hillsborough and Hernando counties. Our own Jennifer Webb is our legislative consultant.

Our 2022 Legislative priorities were:

  • The Housing Factor – Housing equity is rooted in the idea that people are happier living in a neighborhood that provides for their needs.
  • Building Safety and Recertification – We wanted legislation that would shorten the 40 year period for building recertification.
  • Resiliency and Sustainability – We support legislation that enables intergovernmental coordination and planning for coastal resiliency and sea level rise strategies, natural water quality improvements and natural resource protection.

 

The Suncoast League is also concerned with bills related to vacation rentals and how they affect local authorities, bills related to preemption of local ordinances and protecting Home Rule in general. Please contact me if you want more information on this legislative agenda. Affordable housing is one of our big objectives for next session – including homelessness. We also want to make sure net-metering for home solar energy doesn’t change to make solar less attractive.

I had a meeting with the city manager, finance director and public works director about the upcoming 2022-23 budget to go over some questions I had. This will be discussed more in upcoming council meetings. There is a copy of it on the city website for anyone to review before the upcoming meetings. Please let me know if you have concerns or come to a meeting and bring them up.

The Suncoast League of Cities had a Candidate Forum on the evening of July 25th. This was done speed dating style. The candidates moved from table to table as we asked questions that related to city issues. The goal is make sure all candidates understand our concerns, so whoever is elected knows how League Cities position on important issues to cities. There was only one judge candidate, but many of the other candidates were there. Unfortunately, there was also a NAACP candidate forum that night as well.

I am working on putting together a town hall about the housing crisis and what a city our size can potentially do to help the situation. I want to have people there to talk about what others are doing and what is reasonable for Gulfport. This will probably be in October when more people are back in town.

Please let me know how I can help you.

I am looking into renewing our trolley service when the season gets busier and potentially restarting something like the GetGo with money from PSTA. More info on that to come.