Gina Driscoll was elected to St. Petersburg City Council in November 2017 to represent St. Petersburg’s 6th District as Karl Nurse termed out of his seat. Driscoll was sworn in to the female-dominated body in January 2018 and represents much of downtown St. Petersburg, the Tropicana field site, as well as Old Southeast and Coquina Key.
In her first year of city governance, Driscoll made a name for herself on City Council for not just being unafraid to speak up but also extending an ear to listen to the concerns of her constituents.
We caught up with Driscoll to review 2018 and look forward to 2019.
St. Pete Catalyst: What were St. Pete/City Council’s biggest accomplishments in 2018?
- Revisions to the South St. Petersburg CRA resulting in 14 new programs focused on workforce development, housing, and business development
- Strengthening the apprenticeship ordinance to provide more opportunities for workers to gain valuable experience and hone their skills
- Restrictions on plastic drinking straws and expanded polystyrene, sparking a larger conversation about single-use plastics and the small steps we can take to be better stewards of the environment
- Addressing the low number of city contracts with minority businesses through a bold action plan to improve communication and assistance to minority business owners, as well as a recently-launched disparity study to identify barriers and solutions
St. Pete Catalyst: What was a challenge St. Pete/City Council faced in 2018 and what did you learn from it?
Driscoll: The approval of the location for the Janet Echelman floating sculpture at the new pier was especially challenging. Many residents spoke passionately in favor of the project, while others voiced strong opposition to the placement of the sculpture on our precious waterfront park space. I suggested a compromise: Let’s explore other locations and see if we can find a way to preserve the park and still bring this renowned artist’s work to St. Pete. The next day, I stood on the pier construction site and did just that. The new location on the pier approach was agreeable to all, and brought people together instead of creating divisions. The lesson? Be open to compromise as a way to meet your ultimate goal. Plan B might just be that sweet spot!
St. Pete Catalyst: What are your policy goals in 2019?
- Address food desert problem in South St. Petersburg by attracting a grocery store that truly serves the community with affordable, healthy options
- Update downtown development regulations to encourage smart development while protecting the unique aspects that attract people to live, work and play here
- Continue efforts to reduce unnecessary single-use items with a fee on certain plastic and paper bags
- Develop a citywide infrastructure plan to address sea level rise
- Rebate or other incentive for soil moisture sensors and smart water timers
- Revise noise ordinance to strengthen penalties enforced by designated personnel
- Prioritize living wages in RFP criteria to create more opportunities for better paying jobs
- Revise foreclosure program to require affordable housing within specific time frame
- Revise requirements for affordable housing construction to be more in line with other area cities
- Improve the public transportation experience with more bus shelters and creative solutions for efficiency
St. Pete Catalyst: What do you see for St. Pete in 2019?
Driscoll: In 2019 we will celebrate the completion of the new Police headquarters and welcome the first guests to the new St. Pete Pier. City Council will continue to move forward with bold action to increase affordable housing. And we will see real progress in South St. Petersburg as the new CRA programs are launched to improve housing and jobs for the community.
St. Pete Catalyst: What insight (advice or a tip) can you share with readers?
Driscoll: We want to hear your voice! Every resident can speak on any city issue for three minutes during Open Forum at City Council meetings. Use this time and tell us what’s important to you!
St. Pete Catalyst: What’s your morning ritual/How do you organize your day?
Driscoll: The most important part of my morning is the dog walk. It’s a peaceful time to contemplate the day ahead before I jump into the action.
St. Pete Catalyst: What are you listening to?
Driscoll: The Rolling Stones – most of the answers to life’s questions can be found in their songs.
St. Pete Catalyst: What are you reading?
Driscoll: High Tide on Main Street, by John Englander. It’s an interesting look at sea level rise and how we should approach intelligent adaptation.
St. Pete Catalyst: What is a must-read/watch/listen for our readers?
Driscoll: Charity Detox, by Robert Lupton. If we are serious about significantly reducing poverty, we have to change how we help others, with more focus on dignity and the long-term results we see from giving a hand up rather than a handout.