Fourth-graders visit City Hall for a press conference with the mayor

Mayor Bill Foster   
Left photo- Melrose Elementary fourth-grade students went to City Hall for a press conference with Saint Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster on May 6.

From left, Quaniya Johnson, Daveon Washington and Thoms Thach, fourth-graders, are in the TV studio at City Hall pretending to be TV anchors after their press conference with Mayor Bill Foster

On May 6, fourth-graders went to City Hall in downtown Saint Petersburg to have a press conference with Mayor Bill Foster and tour the building.

City Hall was built in 1937, but the building looks new. We walked up lots of shiny, smooth marble stairs with gold railings and past large, fancy windows to the city council chambers. That room looked like a court room. Each of the council members names were on plaques, and there were lots of neat rows of chairs. There were two large paintings of pelicans on the beach. Next to where the Mayor and city council usually sit, we saw the bronze city seal with a pelican on it, the American flag and our city flag, which also has a pelican on it. The pelicans are our city bird. “We’re home to the pelicans,” Mayor Foster said. “They see food and come down and swoop it up.”

Mayor Foster shared that the city has worked a lot on the neighborhood around Melrose to try to make it look better and clean it up. “I call Melrose my No. 1 neighborhood,” he said. “I love the fact that you are journalists. I love young people that love to read.”

After our press conference, we got to see the rest of the building and learned City Hall has its own TV studio, with really bright lights and lots of electric equipment.

Here’s some of what we learned from Mayor Foster:

Q: What do you do as Mayor?

A: I have the privilege of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the city. This includes, the police department, sanitation department, which helps keep the city clean, libraries, parks and water. The water department is a huge deal. You drink water, you brush your teeth, wash your face, and use the bathroom…

Q: What’s hard about being mayor?

A: Being on your game all the time. I have to make sure I’m available 24 hours a day seven days a week. Sometimes my phone rings really late at night. It takes me about four hours to get through Publix because so many people come up to me with questions. Sometimes I leave my house at 7 a.m. and don’t get home until 9 p.m. without eating or drinking anything.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: I like to spend time with my kids. I have a daughter who just graduated from the University of Florida and a son who is a senior in high school and going off to UF.

Q: What are you doing to help homeless people get jobs?

A: There are two kinds of homeless people. Some of them have lost jobs and want to find work. Some chose to be homeless. We have great places like Pinellas Safe Harbor and Pinellas Safe Hope. These are housing and training programs. If you are homeless and don’t want to be, Saint Pete is the best place for you.

Q: What are you doing to prevent neighborhood violence?

A: There are officers whose jobs are to patrol neighborhoods. There are also community service officers who educate people that it’s OK to tell the police about things. It’s a lot about relationships….It doesn’t matter if there are 100 police officers, violence still happens.

Q: Some of us have had bikes stolen off our porches. What are you doing to prevent this type of crime?

A: A lot of bikes and other things are stolen because a lot of times people make it very easy for their things to be stolen. People don’t take time to secure and safeguard their things. You’ve got to think. Lock your doors, lock your bikes. Don’t leave that backpack in the hallway.

Q: I have neighbors who make a lot of noise, and it makes it hard for me to sleep. What can you do so that they have to quiet down at night?

A: Call the police department’s non emergency number 893-7780. The police will tell them to quiet down. We have laws for these things.

Q: How can we get more street lights in our neighborhood?

A: Call the Mayor’s Action Line and give us the address, and we’ll send someone to see how dark it is.

Q: Do you have any plans for creating new parks?

A: There are two new parks we’re working on. Rio Vista on the north side is going to be a nice, big park. And on the south side, we’re expanding Maximo park and adding some nice things there.

Q: What is fun about being mayor?

A: Standing up in front of young people like yourselves and explaining what makes our city so great. This is the best part of my day.

Mrs. Gonzalez’s and Mrs. Redington’s fourth-grade classes contributed to this story.

Ms. Gonzalez’s class: David Barnes, Trinity Bolden, Jer’Miah Bradford, M’nyia Hubbard, Qua Niya Johnson, Nyambreya Joseph, Nabri King, Kylah Maloy, Dante Mells, Kaliel Rohlsen-Jackson, Shaquesha Sermon, Daveon Washington, Darian Watson, Shamaya Williams, Carr’Shae Witchard, Hasun Wright.

Ms. Redington’s class: Zantasia Boose, Kari Caldwell, Roderick Casteel, Clinton Cummings, Samiya Hillard, Sondajah Isidore, Mykala Lane, Richardo Lawes, Aaliyah McRae, Bry’aja Murph, Anthony Nelson, Nakosha Newsome, George Newton, Suniyia Patterson, Kyrah Pruitt, Ta’shya Smith, Thoms Thach, Kashe’ Williams, Semira Witchard