Twelve days in to St. Pete’s Fighting Chance Fund (FCF) program, Mayor Rick Kriseman had not made a donation to the fund.
Kriseman called the fund recipients “the backbone of this city” when he announced the FCF program.
District 3 City Council Member Ed Montanari donated $1,000, and District 4 City Council member Darden Rice donated $50.
Montanari is the city council chairman, was elected to city council in 2015 and is a commercial airline pilot for American Airlines.
In other words: no other council member had made a donation to the Fighting Chance Fund through April 15. Not Robert Blackmon (Dist. 1), not Brandi Gabbard (Dist. 2), not Deborah Figgs-Sanders (Dist. 5:), not Gina Driscoll (Dist. 6:), not Lisa Wheeler-Bowman (Dist. 7) and not Amy Foster (Dist. 8).
Their personal monetary commitment for the mayor’s Fighting Chance Fund is as high as Kriseman’s.
A total of $209,056 was donated, of which 96% came from two $100,000 donations: one from the Milkey Family Foundation, and one from the Vinik Family Foundation. Neither the Milkeys nor the Viniks live in St. Petersburg.
Only $5,950 was donated by people residing in the city or organizations with addresses there, further indicating weak local support for the FCF effort.
The city will use taxpayer funds to make FCF payments to individuals and businesses through the end of April. After that, donated money will be used.
“The partnership will be much publicized and good for all,” said Kevin King, the city’s Chief of Policy & Public Engagement in a text message to Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF) CEO Duggan Cooley on April 1st. King was talking about PCF’s role in collecting Fighting Chance Fund monies for the city.
In our initial article about the FCF, The Guardian raised questions about what its real purposes area. Based on King’s statement, publicity is one such purpose. King donated $25 to the Fighting Chance Fund.
“Our legal will provide a basic contract for your review at some point soon. Won’t be complicated,” King wrote to Cooley on April 2nd. On April 3rd, the day the program launched, King wrote that “legal” (the city attorney’s office) was “working on something simple.”
However, the 5-page and not very simple agreement between the city and PCF was not finalized until April 16th, more than 13 days after PCF started collecting funds on behalf of the city. The delay was likely caused by the questions we raised about public records, whether the promised donor anonymity could legally be provided, and other issues.
“These businesses and their employees deserve a fighting chance,” Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said in this video when she announced the FCF on April 3rd. “They are why we shine as a city.”
Like 75% of the council members and Mayor Kriseman, Tomalin also did not donate to the fund.
The full list of all 43 donors is here. Tampa has a similar but much smaller program. Unlike St. Petersburg, Tampa collects donated money itself, thereby avoiding the legal issues St. Pete and PCF generated for itself by choosing the fund-raising path they did.
We spoke to City Communications Director Ben Kirby and asked how much of the $6.8 million city’s FCF monies had been distributed by the city through last week. Kirby said he would check, but did not provide a response by the time of publication of this article.
One thing is clear: St. Pete’s taxpayer-funded Mad Men put the “city” in “publicity.”
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