In the two weeks since Rick Kriseman announced he would seek re-election, the St. Petersburg mayor has been hit with a barrage of bad headlines on a range of issues.
Some of these setbacks are of Kriseman’s direct making, but most are not. Still, taken together, these stories seem to answer a question posed recently by the Tampa Bay Times editorial board: Is the city on a roll because of or in spite of Kriseman?
On Wednesday, Kriseman picked a fight with one of his key constituencies, the city’s LGBT community. Charlie Frago reports:
“Hours after the St. Pete Pride Parade announced a new downtown waterfront route … Kriseman said he would withhold city financial support for the event, angering some gay activists. … Kriseman’s action was a shock and a disappointment, (executive director Eric Skains said. But he said the parade, founded in 2003 and now Florida’s largest, won’t bend to mayoral pressure.”
Kriseman’s rationale for pressuring the Pride parade to remain in the Grand Central and Kenwood neighborhoods is that, according to city spokesman Ben Kirby, “the mayor told us he just really wanted sun to shine everywhere. He wants exciting events all over the city and not just downtown.
Spoken like a true Westsider!
Of all the fights I could never have predicted that Kriseman would picked, its one with the LGBT crowd. This is his base like the Downtown Partnership is a leg of support for former mayor Rick Baker.
As Frago correctly assesses, “Kriseman’s decision threatens to divide the city’s large gay community, which has strongly supported a mayor that returned its embrace and has made the Pride parade a high point of his mayoral calendar. Last year, the mayor greeted parade spectators while wearing a rainbow-colored supermanesque cape.”
“The event existed for a number of years under Rick Baker and Bill Foster, supporters in name only. It looks like we reverting back to that. To me, that’s a shame,” Skains said.
Unfortunately, for Kriseman, the dust-up over the Pride parade is not the only micro-crisis facing Kriseman. It almost seems like you can’t open the Tampa Bay Times without reading about a fight Kriseman has picked, a setback, or some disappointment.
— There was his quick clarification/reversal on the city’s ridesharing. As Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal explains, Kriseman had supported a policy that would have imposed a business tax on companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in the city legally. He then asked for the issue to be tabled.
— Ridership for the Cross Bay Ferry, one of Kriseman’s top priorities are “still far off,” per Irwin.
— During and after his state of the city speech, Kriseman mixed it up with former mayor Bill Foster on the damage caused by the 200 million gallons of sewage dumped or spilled into local waterways. “It doesn’t seem accurate to say there was no evidence that no damage was done to the bay or that the public wasn’t at risk. The city’s own testing shows that there was,” said Suzanne Young per Frago, a University of South Florida doctoral candidate who tested the waters of Tampa Bay after last summer’s discharges and said she found troubling evidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Those preliminary results couldn’t be confirmed, but Young said ample evidence exists that sewage discharges are dangerous.
— Just as Kriseman insists there has been no damage to the Bay, stories about a rash of dead fish and pelicans have drawn the attention of U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and local environmentalists. While many are eager to point the finger at recent wastewater dumps in the bay, but the city insists that’s highly unlikely. What could be connected is a nearby fish kill, that’s linked to temperature changes. Yes, the city’s taking the matter seriously, but try to convince the average resident the dead pelicans and the sewage overflows are not connected.
— But the most damaging development in the city, is the closing of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Midtown. Kriseman is probably right when he argues there was probably not much he could do to keep the retail giant in the poverty-stricken neighborhood, but Rick Baker acolytes like myself wonder if the store’s closing would have happened on his watch.
Again, much of this is not Kriseman’s making. He has as much control over the pelicans as he does Walmart.
But like the New York City mayor who was hurt every time a pigeon died in Central Park, St. Pete’s mayor can’t be happy with his recent press.