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Kriseman: Joint effort to bring Amazon to Tampa Bay wouldn’t be happening if Rick Baker were mayor

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Officials from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties announced this week they are jointly pursuing an effort to recruit Amazon to the region.

The country’s largest retailer is looking to build a second headquarters outside of its current Seattle campus. This has led to an intense bidding war among communities throughout the country.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says he’s excited about the joint effort. He also says it wouldn’t be happening if his opponent in this year’s mayoral election, Rick Baker, were back in charge.

“That doesn’t happen with Rick Baker leadership, because, based on past behaviors, it would be all about St. Pete going at it on its own, and as great a city as we are, we would not be successful on our own and I believe Hillsborough and Tampa wouldn’t be successful on their own, but together, we’re a power that is to be reckoned with,” Kriseman told a group of supporters at the Italian Club in Ybor City Wednesday night.

This was the third fundraiser Kriseman has held across the Bay. He said it shouldn’t be a surprise why he continues to do so.

“We’re one region and for far too long as Alex (Sink) was saying, ‘That was not the way that we looked at ourselves,’ ” he said. “It wasn’t that way under the leadership of Rick Baker, and even on this side of the bay, and the old way of doing things just wasn’t working, which is the reason why St. Pete leadership by Rick Baker wouldn’t work because St. Pete’s a different city today than when Rick Baker was mayor. We are not the same place. We have evolved, we have grown and fortunately for the better and the days of parochialism and saying that’s it’s all about St. Pete and we don’t compete with Tampa, those days are over.”

Kriseman also noted the regional cooperation between the four local governments when it came to the Cross-Bay Ferry, which the mayor championed.

The mayor was engaging with Tampa Democrats a night after he engaged in his first candidate forum in more than a month. Although Baker said “yes” when asked if he believed in the science behind climate change, Kriseman maintained that Baker still doesn’t truly believe in it enough to combat the problem.

“You can’t plan for climate change if you don’t believe in the science of climate change,” Kriseman said. “It’s pretty hard to trust scientists to help you put a plan in place when you don’t trust them for what the causes of climate change are, and so leadership matters,” he said.

Among the local Democrats in attendance at the event were state Representative Sean Shaw, Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohn, Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, and the aforementioned former Florida CFO Alex Sink, who spoke excitedly about Annette Taddeo‘s victory over state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the state Senate District 40 race. Sink said it bodes well for Kriseman and other Democrats.

Sink also said that Baker was not a cooperative partner with Tampa during his time in office.

“In an era in which we needed regional cooperation, and have Tampa and St. Petersburg’s mayors working closely together on regional things, Rick Baker did not play well in the sandbox at all with Tampa,” she said.

The Baker campaign disagrees.

“While serving on the board of Tampa Bay Water, Rick Baker successfully worked with Hillsborough and Pasco to solve the regions difficult water issues. Baker works regionally while protecting St. Pete’s interests,” said Nick Hansen, Baker’s campaign director. “Sadly, as a career politician, Rick Kriseman’s primary focus is his personal political future.”
(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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