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Rick Kriseman has no regrets on Manhattan Casino decision

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Rick Kriseman believes he’s run a substantive re-election campaign, contrary to comments made by a St. Petersburg City Council member who believes the race hasn’t focused enough on issues directly impacting city residents.

“I’ve certainly talked a lot about the things that I want to do to move the city forward to finish the big projects that we started, like the Pier and the police station, hopefully putting a deal together with the Rays,” he told reporters. “But we’ve also talked about plans to work on poverty eradication south of Central (Avenue), a 2050 plan for mass transit, things that are really important for this community that we have to be focused on: climate change and sea-level rise and preparing for that as we move forward, and obviously continuing the hard work on our infrastructure, and not just on our sewage system and our stormwater system, but our roads, our bridges and our seawalls.”

Notably, Council member Steve Kornell has not endorsed any of the six candidates running for mayor this summer; in a statement on his Facebook page Sunday, Kornell expressed disillusionment with the state of the race between the two leading contenders, Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker.

“I am beyond disappointed that the two campaigns have spent more time talking about Donald Trump and Paul Congemi than the issues that most impact citizens of St. Petersburg,” Kornell wrote.

“After seeing the two campaigns,” he added, “I am pleased that my name is not affiliated with either.”

Some black leaders in south St. Petersburg criticized the mayor following his decision to award the leasing and operating rights to the historic Manhattan Casino to a group affiliated with Pipo’s Cuban restaurants. State Sen. Darryl Rouson, a strong Kriseman supporter, said over the weekend that he believes the mayor could have reached out to more people in the community before announcing his decision.

When asked if he would do anything different in how he handled the situation, Kriseman said he really wouldn’t, adding that the opportunity to bid for the project went out to the community.

“When we received the unsolicited bid we put out a notice saying that we were interested in seeing if anyone else wanted to put a proposal out there,” the mayor said. “We had open houses and community meetings, and our hope was that we would have multiple offers to choose from. “

However, that wasn’t the case.

“I do think that we got an offer that is committing to respecting the history of that facility and is financially viable, which is something that this community hasn’t really experienced,” Kriseman said. “There’s been a consistent revolving door of businesses that come and go, and we don’t want to see that happen again.”

Kriseman fielded questions from reporters in front of the St. Petersburg downtown office of the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections, where accompanied by his wife Kerry he turned in his mail-in ballot for Tuesday’s election. While some (like Kornell) think the mayor has interjected the name of the 45th U.S. president more than necessary in what is ostensibly a nonpartisan election, Kriseman got in one more dig at Trump, without mentioning his name, by citing his mother’s admonition that people can’t complain if they don’t show up at the polls.

“We’ve seen what’s happened in this country when people don’t vote,” he said. “I think we have some leadership in Washington that’s concerned a lot of people, and if you didn’t vote in that election, this is what happened when you don’t.”

Kriseman was scheduled to visit his campaign headquarters Monday night joined by St. Petersburg Democrat state Rep. Ben Diamond for a last-hour directive and encouragement session for volunteers on the eve of the election. Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m.

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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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