This morning, Rick Kriseman was working and thus didn’t hear Rick Baker blast his nearly three-and-a-half year tenure as St. Petersburg mayor.
It was an aggressive performance by the former mayor against the current one, and Kriseman — without knowing the exact contents of Baker’s fusillade, opted to maintain a theme that it’s about moving the city forward, not back into the last decade.
“Well, I think it’s up to the voters to decide if they don’t like what’s happening,” the mayor said following a news conference he held with members of the Florida Consumer Action Network on a Complete Streets program in St. Petersburg (story to follow).
“We have record economic growth, and quality of life has improved,” Kriseman said. “We’ve invested in issues of homelessness and in our small businesses, investing in our kids in the community, brought crime rates down. Out police and fire departments are as strong as it’s ever been, and we’ve done it without raising taxes … so I leave it up to the voters to decide if we’re doing a bad job. “
A big element of the Kriseman re-elect theme is that he and the city are more socially welcoming of all types. Baker referred to that aspect in his speech, mentioning in the final minutes that he had members of the LGBT community who worked with him when he served in City Hall. But Baker notably never attended a Pride march, and that is something that Kriseman noted on Tuesday.
“I think St Pete is a very diverse, welcoming community and some of the policies in the past weren’t as welcoming. We have tried to open our doors to everyone, make everyone feel comfortable here and recognize the importance that everyone plays as a resident of the city and in the community, and so some of the policies of the past belong to stay in the past.”
When asked specifically what he was referring to, Kriseman said, “Not only raising the pride flag over City Hall to walking in the parade to holding the city’s first Iftar dinner … we are diverse, and intolerant of intolerance.”
Krisemans’ former colleague on the City Council, Leslie Curran, announced Tuesday her support for Baker, after endorsing Kriseman four years ago, mentioning that she was “disappointed” in his tenure at City Hall.
“There’s going to be people who support me, and there’s going to be people who don’t support me,” Kriseman said in response. “And that’s OK.”