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For St. Pete Council hopeful Robert Blackmon, knowing needs of diverse District 6 is key

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Speaking at the Fish Tales Seafood House in St. Petersburg, City Council candidate Robert Blackmon noted that while he loves the restaurant’s Salt Creek location, the adjacent waterway still needs work.

“Salt Creek leads through underneath Fourth Street into Bartlett Lake,” the District 6 hopeful told supporters at his fundraiser there Wednesday. “It is theoretically passable by kayak but, it’s almost impossible.”

“I talked to the city recently,” he added. “We need to get that cleared and turned into an eco-kayak trail.”

Blackmon also pointed out that Salt Creek was the unfortunate recipient of tons of partially treated sewage dumped during one of the major storms that hit St. Pete last summer.

“We need to get the sewer system fixed immediately.”

City officials agree, which is why the City Council approved earlier this year a proposal by the Kriseman administration to spend more than $300 million in repairs to the city’s wastewater system.

There needs to be a full-court press on getting a grocery store up and running at Tangerine Plaza in Midtown, Blackmon said. “Instead of busing people around from one Walmart to another.”

Last month, the St. Pete native and St. Petersburg High School graduate became the last of the nine candidates filing to run in the District 6 race.

In an interview before addressing supporters Wednesday, Blackmon stressed the fact that by living in so many parts of the very diverse district, it gives him a competitive edge in the race.

“I’ve lived on Coquina Key, I’ve lived in Lakewood Terrace, I’ve owned in downtown, I’ve lived in Midtown,” said Blackmon, who is a real estate investor. “I know kind of what everybody needs, and you just need to be in touch and involved in every neighborhood and make sure you’re not just representing one small pocket that you may be familiar with.”

The district encompasses downtown, Old Southeast and a small part of Old Northeast from Ninth Avenue North to the south.

Two weeks ago, Blackmon faced his opponents in the first debate of the season, an occasionally raucous affair hosted by the People’s Budget Review.

Unlike a traditional forum, this event offered much more time for the public to speak, than to those on the ballot.

And while that atypical setup appeared to unnerve some candidates, Blackmon insisted he loved it.

“That was the greatest format you could have possibly done, because you had 40 to 50 people come up, very passionately and tell you about things, and then you’re taking notes, so you’re distilling out of 40 to 50 people who all really care about the district.”

For Blackmon, it’s important to have a single message for everyone he meets in the district, even though those needs may be different: “You have downtown, arguably the richest neighborhood, and certainly the richest street in the entire city in Beach Drive, and then you have Midtown, which has traditionally struggled with economic issues, so you have to have, there’s a place for everybody in St. Pete, it’s a city of inclusivity.”

“You just have to have something for everybody,” he added. “So, workforce housing, absolutely, you need to have housing for regular people. The wealthy already have Beach Drive — and there’s nothing wrong with that — even the average person can enjoy a meal on Beach Drive once in a while.

“But but you certainly need to protect those classes that don’t always have a voice, and make sure that they are covered.”

The debate schedule for the District 6 race resumes late next week.

Among those in the crowded field include Corey Givens, Jr., Jim Jackson, Sharon Russ, Maria Scruggs, Eritha “Akile” Cainion, Justin Bean, Gina Driscoll and James Scott.

The primary is Aug. 29, and the general election is Nov. 7.

 

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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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