Rick Kriseman Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Hillsborough Commission expresses caution about fully investing in Cross-Bay Ferry for second year

Hillsborough County Commissioners sounded impressed by the relative success of the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project between Tampa and St. Petersburg that concludes at the end of this month, but whether they are prepared to spend another $350,000 to fund a repeat performance later this year remains uncertain.

After hearing a presentation from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose leadership led to the project happening, the board passed a motion to have County Administrator Mike Merrill review whether the board can find the funds to subsidize its portion of the four-government pilot project later this year.

Curbing his enthusiasm somewhat, Kriseman began his address to the Board by acknowledging that the ferry is hardly the solution to the Tampa Bay area’s vexing transportation issues. “It is simply an additional tool in our toolbox that works toward those solutions that I think all of us seek and know that we’ve got those challenges that we’ve got to address if we’re going to grow out counties and our region,” he said.

The St. Petersburg mayor, who is running for re-election this year, unveiled a PowerPoint presentation filled with statistics to measure who has actually taken the ferry over the past five-and-a-half months. At the end of March, more than 31,000 people had ridden on the ferry, with organizers hoping the total number could hit 40,000 before it ends in 12 days.

Kriseman said that expectations were low for people to commute to work on the ferry, especially with the project using only one boat. During weekdays the service offers only two full round trips, with three on the weekends.

The visit to the Hillsborough Commissioners was the mayor’s second appearance before one of the four local governments who contributed the $350,000 to get the project with HMS Global Maritime rolling last fall. He will visit the Tampa City Council next week.

The survey shows that 90 percent of passengers were Tampa Bay residents, but Board Chairman Stacy White said he wanted those numbers broken down further by zip code, questioning how many people living in the outlying parts of both counties were using the service, vs. those living in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Nearly everyone – 95 percent – said they enjoyed the experience.

The ferry has had a farebox recovery rate of 35 percent. That’s higher, Kriseman noted, than the standard farebox recovery for bus systems, which is around 20 percent.  (Farebox recovery is the proportion of the amount of revenue generated through fares by its paying customers as a fraction of the cost of its total operating expenses).

One of the biggest disappointments was that the ferry was inoperable during high profile events like Gasparilla and the Saturday before the national college football playoff game. Kriseman said that the lack of a permanent docking station was the culprit. The ferry has been taking off the Vinoy Basin in St. Petersburg, and dropping off passengers next to the Tampa Convention Center.

Commissioner Les Miller noted that the passenger loads were less than filled to capacity in the opening weeks of the ferry service, but grew noticeably in recent months. What changed, he asked Kriseman.

The mayor acknowledged that the reduction of the fare had a considerable influence on ridership, dropping one-way tickets from $10 to $5 on weekdays, but he said he thought the number one factor was the awareness and word of mouth factor.

The local governments will not get their $350,000 back, but they will collect some funds to reduce the subsidy when it ends later this month. As of the end of March, more than $111,000 was scheduled to be returned to Tampa, St. Pete, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, with the mayor predicting they will receive a check back for approximately $30,000. “It rarely pays for itself,” he said of transportation outlays, a comment frequently invoked by local officials advocating for light-rail in recent years.

An optimistic Kriseman said in addition to ferry service in Hillsborough County and from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Petersburg, he also mused about ferries running from St. Pete to the Westshore area of Tampa. “Not only giving people the opportunity to go to work in Westshore, but also to take a shuttle to Tampa International Airport and not have to rent a car.”

“This was one of the best reports that have come back to us that we’ve made,” enthused Commissioner Sandy Murman after Kriseman’s presentation Murman reminded the public that the board did approve a proposal two weeks ago to move forward on a much delayed public-private partnership ferry plan to take passengers from South County to MacDill Air Force Base, then to St. Petersburg.

“I don’t know if we can go up to $350,000 the next round,” she admitted about a similar Tampa-St. Pete Cross-Bay Ferry project for 2017-2018. “I think we’re building a very solid case for continuing this.”

“The wife and daughter and I enjoy our moments crossing the bay on the ferry, ” said Commissioner Victor Crist. ” They’re memorable moments.”

Merrill said that “there are enormous needs and enormous opportunities,” regarding the upcoming budget discussions, but said that the Cross-Bay Ferry project would fit into the “return on investment category” in the budget, where it could hopefully recoup all of their investment next year.

“It’s probably a little bit early to judge how this would fit with all the others (budgetary issues) because we haven’t really finalized all of the work that we plan to bring back on May 9th,” Merrill said, adding that his staff will seriously look at the funding request.

 

Janet Long doubtful about supporting $14 million CRA request for St. Pete Pier

The St. Petersburg City Council is poised to vote for a final time this week on approving another $14 million for the city’s plan for a new Pier. If approved, the Council will then approach Pinellas County about re-allocating $14 million in tax increment financing, or TIF funds, to the $66 million Pier project, boosting the price tag overall to $80 million.

Commission Chair Janet Long says she’s not likely to support the request.

“The City Council themselves are not united, number one,” she said on WMNF’s MidPoint program Tuesday, referring to the different ideas that Councilmembers made earlier this month when initially approving the request from Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Long also expressed dismay about the price tag of the new Pier continuing to escalate, as well as the fact that the money comes from the city’s Downtown CRA (community redevelopment agency).

“CRA’s, from my understanding, are put in place to try to help take care of blight in a community,” Long said. “Frankly, I don’t see anywhere I go in downtown right now that could be considered blight. Downtown St. Pete is humming. It’s going to be humming whether there’s a new Pier or not.”

Shortly after Long’s comments, Brandon state Senator Tom Lee struck out in a Florida Senate committee attempting to make the same point, arguing for legislation that he said would cure a problem with CRA’s that were originally created to address blight in a community but have transmogrified into what he called  occasionally pet projects for CRA board members, or in some cases, “slush funds” for said legislators.

“To me, it’s gorgeous the way it is,” Long said about the St. Petersburg waterfront, sans an operating Pier.

“I’m going to have to hear a lot more solid reasons why we have to allocate another $14 million that has been heretofore designated for a transit hub, and since there are so many transportation issues we have, just getting people from point A to point Z downtown is often difficult, so I’d let to see some deeper discussion about what that money can be used for, and maybe that CRA for that matter needs to go ‘bye-bye,’ and we take our thoughts and put it on the Tropicana Field area, or what’s going on the south side of St. Pete. Those two places seem to continue to get the short shrift.”

Long says she has previously made her feelings known to Mayor Kriseman. It’s uncertain where the rest of the County Commission heads are on approving the $14 million.

Long also weighed in on the legislative vehicle proposed by Jack Latvala and strongly endorsed by the Tampa Bay Partnership that would revamp TBARTA, making it smaller and redirecting its focus. Supporters of the legislation took a blow this week when the bill was seriously amended by Tampa Bay area Lee and Jeff Brandes, requiring that any desire for light rail would have to be approved by lawmakers in Tallahassee.

The bill also calls for a majority vote by the MPOs of each county impacted by any proposed rail projects before the authority can pursue any real related contract. It would also require the authority to conduct a feasibility from an independent third party before pursuing any rail-related project.

“At this point in the session, for it to blowup the way that it did, is a bit small minded in my opinion,” Long said, criticizing state lawmakers for not focusing on the future.

Long is supportive of local Metropolitan Planning Organziations merging, an idea that the Obama federal government encouraged. Beth Alden, the head of the Metropolitan MPO, told SPB earlier this year that she didn’t understand the community’s urgency on the matter, a notion that Long is baffled by.

“Are you kidding me? What is the sense of urgency?” said a flabbergasted Long. “Have you ever tried to leave Tampa International and drive across the Howard Frankland and go to Clearwater Beach?” she asks. “I mean it’s a transportation gridlock. “

“Beth is a planner, while I understand in the great big visionary world you want to have those areas in an MPO,” she continued. “If you talk about Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco that’s where the density is. It’s not in Herando, or Sarasota, or Manatee counties.”

Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg ‘under siege’ by bad bills, budget cuts

Donald Trump’s proposed budget and bad bills in Tallahassee are putting cities “under siege,” according to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“Our city is under siege by bad proposed bills and budgets,” Kriseman said in a news conference Thursday. Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman joined the mayor to speak in front of a home in South St. Petersburg.

Urging residents to call their representatives in protest, the mayor blasted the Trump administration for efforts to shut down the Community Development Block Grant program, as well significant cuts to the Housing and Urban Development budget.

The president was actively standing in the way of efforts to help low-income citizens, Kriseman said.

St. Petersburg receives about $3 million in CDBG funds, which goes to improvements to homes in low-income neighborhoods like the one where the event was held at 2645 14th Ave. S.

“These programs are vital to our community,” Wheeler-Bowman said. “The loss of these programs will be devastating.”

Kriseman also had strong words for the Florida Legislature, which is considering changes in the tax increment financing (TIF) process.

Legislation sponsored by Republican State Rep. Jake Raeburn of Valrico and Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa are seeking to change the rules governing TIF funds.

TIF’s use tax revenues for specially designated community redevelopment areas (CRA), financing improvements in low-income communities. St. Petersburg has four CRA’s.

The bills from Raeburn and Lee (HB 13/SB 1770) came after reports of mismanagement in a single Miami-Dade CRA in Hallandale Beach.

Kriseman criticized blaming an entire system for the “actions of one community.” Residents should contact Senate President Joe Negron directly, Kriseman said, calling him to stop the bills.

“We need to hold them all accountable for their votes,” he added.

Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project to end on April 30

The Cross-Bay Ferry’s last trip from St. Petersburg to Tampa and back is scheduled for Sunday, April 30.

The pilot project was always planned to last for just six months, and as that deadline approaches, the service has become increasingly popular. Ferry officials announced last week they had sold a record 7,990 tickets in March. That marked a 31-percent increase over its previous record, which ferry officials said was in February.

The private partnership between HMS Ferries and St. Petersburg, Tampa, Pinellas and Hillsborough included a $350,000 contribution from all four local governments last year. According to ferry officials, preliminary figures “suggest the ferry has generated enough from tickets to reimburse the four government sponsors $57,332 for March. That sum is on top of $44,693 in February and $9,909 in January, for a total of $111,934 to date with two-and-a-half weeks to go.” However, it should be noted that none of those local governments have received a single dollar back yet.

The schedule for the rest of April includes three trips leaving St. Petersburg and two leaving Tampa Monday through Friday, beginning at noon. There are three round trips on Saturday beginning at 2:30 p.m. and two round trips on Sunday.

Although final results and analysis are a few weeks off, conventional wisdom in Tampa and St. Petersburg is that the Cross-Bay Ferry has been a success. Certainly, Hillsborough County Commissioners seem to think so, as they were motivated enough last week to ramp up a proposal originally announced in 2013 to launch a ferry service in Hillsborough County.

The board approved a proposal last week that could tap into the $22 million received from the BP oil spill of 2010 to use on the proposed public-private partnership plan to take passengers from South County to MacDill Air Force Base, then on to St. Petersburg.

Appearing before the Pinellas County Commission last month, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, the leading public official advocating for the ferry, said that his staff is contacting federal and state officials to see what is required for those governments to possibly contribute money for the temporary service. The mayor will address the Hillsborough County Commission on April 19 and the Tampa City Council on April 27, where he is expected to make similar comments.

 

Justin Bean joins crowded field running in St. Pete’s District 6

Local businessman and civic activist Justin Bean is the latest candidate to jump into the crowded field vying for District 6 on St. Petersburg’s City Council.

The 30-year-old Uptown district resident is the business development and sales manager at Reusable Transport Packaging, a web-based sales and marketing company in downtown St. Petersburg.

Bean is also the chair of the Williams Park Partnership and founder of SmartBurg, an organization focused on economic growth and development in the city.

Bean ramped up his interest in city affairs during the debate over building a new Pier three years ago. This ultimately led to his appointment by Mayor Rick Kriseman to the Pier Upland Selection Committee.

Last week, the St. Pete City Council voted to ask Pinellas County to reallocate $14 million in TIF funding to the Pier project, the tab for which is now at $66 million and counting. Several Council members expressed doubts about requesting that all $14 million go to the Pier, a sentiment that Bean endorses.

“I have reservations about spending that much money on the Pier,” he said Tuesday. “I think there are some things that are important that are on that list of enhancements, but I also feel that they should have been in the budget, so it’s frustrating.”

Bean said if it were up to him, he’d spend that additional money on somewhere else in the city. He says his number one priority is infrastructure projects. “That’s a top priority, and Council and the mayor should be treating it as such,” he says. “That’s what I’ll focus on that we’re moving that forward.”

Another role that brought Bean to downtown issues was his role as the chairman of the St. Petersburg Young Professionals.

“I have helped to grow my family’s business. I have worked to turn Williams Park into a world-class outdoor venue. I helped give the St. Pete Young Professionals a voice in city matters. Now, I want to bring that experience and perspective to City Hall,” continued Bean. “We are a city growing younger and more diverse every day, and it is time that we embrace that trend while still respecting our history.”

Bean also served as an adviser on the redevelopment plans for the Tropicana Field property, which Kriseman has proposed as the ideal site for the Tampa Bay Rays to play at after they exhaust their search for a stadium in Hillsborough County.

“This site from all the research that’s being done is really the only public piece of land that is immediately developable, right?” he said on Tuesday, acknowledging that some people support a stadium at the Derby Lane site.

Two things that he says the city needs more of is affordable housing and office space for the burgeoning business community.

“We have a housing gap that if you’re trying to buy a house that your family can grow in, it’s going to cost you more than $300,000- $400,000, and a lot of people are going to have a hard time affording that, especially people who live here now, ” he says. “We need to bring in those jobs; we need to bring in office space for them.”

He also believes in recruiting more businesses to St. Petersburg. “Being a champion for St. Pete is something I’m looking forward to,” he says.

Bean’s website is www.justinbean.com

He now joins a crowded field of candidates in District 6. Corey Givens Jr., Maria Scruggs, Sharon Russ, Jim Jackson, John Johnson and Akile Cainion round out the roll call. Civil justice attorney Augie Ribeiro says he might join the field as well.

Democratic activist Jim Jackson becomes latest entrant into District 6 race

Add longtime educator and Democratic Party activist Jim Jackson‘s name to the growing list of candidates vying for the St. Petersburg District 6 seat being vacated by the term-limited Karl Nurse.

“I feel that I can bring the different parts of the city together,” Jackson explained Monday.

“Downtown is thriving. It may be thriving too much for some people in terms of the rapid growth,” he says, bemoaning the fact that a lot of people would love to live in the downtown area but aren’t doing so because they “can’t afford $4,000 a month rent.”

Jackson is the seventh candidate to enter the race, with more expected in the geographically and demographically wide-ranging district, which begins in Old Northeast, spreads west to 22nd Street, and then south into Midtown and ultimately stretches to Pinellas Point.

The 72-year-old has spent most of his professional life in education, and has run twice for the Pinellas County School Board, losing bids in 2010 and 2012. Although he acknowledges that education is not in the bailiwick of the Council, he believes it’s critical that the most troubled schools in St. Pete need to be turned around.

“There are all kinds of reasons why the schools in South St Pete are not doing as well as they should,” says, adding that nobody has come truly up with a sufficient answer to address the five failing schools in South St. Petersburg that were featured in a Tampa Bay Times investigation a year ago.

Jackson works as an adjunct progress at St. Pete College and USFSP. He previously taught at Miami-Dade College and Florida International University, but may be best known to some locals for his work as a Democratic Party activist, where he’s worked on numerous campaigns (including for some members of the current council). He was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008.

While stating that he hopes the Tampa Bay Rays stay in St. Petersburg, he admits he’s not sold on Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s plan to lure the team to stay right where they are at a redeveloped Tropicana Field is the answer to the team’s wanderlust. And he’s adamant that if Rays owner Stu Sternberg decides to stay in St. Pete, that no taxpayer dollars expended in building him a stadium.

On the Pier, he questions the escalating price tag for the project and openly wishes that those funds could be transferred to more needed parts of the city’s budget. Last week the City Council approved borrowing tens of millions of additional dollars to build the new Pier.

The other candidates running for the District 6 seat include Corey Givens, Jr., Maria Scruggs, Sharon Russ, John Johnson, Akile Cainion and Justin Bean.

The case against Rick Baker running for St. Petersburg mayor

As coy as he has been with the local media and as busy as he is promoting the Rowdies referendum, Rick Baker is almost certain to run for St. Petersburg mayor this year.

Last week, Baker was in Tallahassee for a series of not-exactly-clandestine meetings with top Republican donors like Brian Ballard and Nick Iarossi.

Baker’s biggest cheerleader in the capital, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, set up the meetings.

Baker does not particularly enjoy fundraising; At least not as much as his fellow St. Petersburg office-bearer, Charlie Crist. It’s not that he can’t or won’t make the ask, it’s just that he believes — rightly so — that he probably has better things with his time.

So, for Baker to shake his tin can in Tallahassee, it’s the surest sign yet that he plans on challenging incumbent Rick Kriseman.

If polling is to be believed — and St. Pete Polls has a near-bulletproof record surveying St. Petersburg voters — Baker would actually start as a favorite against Kriseman.

Despite all the hullabaloo over the city’s sewage system crisis, as well as a lack of genuine, visible progress on big-ticket items like a new St. Petersburg Pier or a new home for the Tampa Bay Rays, Kriseman is popular with city voters.

Were anyone other than Baker to challenge Kriseman — from popular Republicans like Brandes to City Council veterans like Amy Foster or Darden Rice — the mayor would dispatch them easily.

But, head-to-head, Baker trumps Kriseman.

In other words, Kriseman is a popular mayor; Baker just happens to be a more popular former mayor.

Three times out of five, Baker beats Kriseman. Which means it’s not a lock that Baker will beat Kriseman in November. In fact, one can make a pretty compelling case for how Baker might lose to Kriseman.

Here are 10 reasons why Baker might not want to run against Kriseman.

Demographics  

St. Pete is an increasingly progressive city, substantially more so than when Baker was re-elected in 2005. St. Pete’s gay community is more visible and more influential than 12 years ago. And if there’s one cohort Baker is cross-wired with, it’s Team Pride. While in office, he refused to sign a proclamation celebrating Florida’s biggest Gay Pride festival — a symbolic non-gesture that many of the city’s LGBT leaders and residents have not forgotten. These folks may already be against Baker’s Republican politics, just as they were against Bill Foster‘s. But Baker’s candidacy may galvanize the gay community in a way no other candidate would.

Demographics — Part 2

When Baker won re-election in 2005, he won every single precinct in the city. That means precincts where blacks are in the majority — no easy feat for a Republican running against an opponent who would become chair of the Pinellas Democratic Party. Black voters also functioned as the deciding vote bloc for Baker in 2001 and for Foster in 2009 (both men defeated Kathleen Ford). Baker prides himself on his relationship with the black community. Remember, this is the policy wonk who won national acclaim for his vision of a “seamless city.” But will the black vote, in this era of Donald Trump, embrace Baker over a Democratic elected official who will likely be endorsed by most major African-American leaders? Even with Goliath Davis and Deveron Gibbons as his chief surrogates, it’s difficult to envision Baker winning the black vote at the same clip he did in his first two elections.

Lessons from Jeb

In the parlance of Game of Thrones, Baker is a loyal bannerman to House Jeb. So many Republican pols admire Baker, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine him having to look up to anyone. But Jeb Bush is one of those people. Had Bush won his bid for The White House, it’s very likely Baker would be Secretary of Something right now. Obviously, that was not the case and in Jeb’s humiliating defeat — “Please clap” — there’s a cautionary tale for Baker. Bush was out of office for so long, and the political environment had shifted so much, that he was caught flat-footed by the new rules of engagement. What will Baker do when an anonymous negative website about him inevitably pops up? What will Baker’s strategy for Facebook and Twitter be? Will he be caught on video saying something honest, but politically damaging? How will he interact with the Tom Rasks and David McKalips of the mayoral campaign? There are so many possible landmines out there for anyone running for office that it can be a challenge for even a savvy operator like Baker. He can ask his friend Jeb about that.

The Times will not be with him

Baker’s never been the Tampa Bay Times’ favorite local Republican (that would be Jack Latvala), but rarely has he been in its crosshairs. The local newspaper probably doesn’t have the desire or the horses to make Baker one of its “projects,” but it’s not going to be on his side — as it was in his races against Ford and Ed Helm — either. At the end of the day, the newspaper really likes Kriseman, even if it’s aware of his shortcomings. But his politics matches its and Baker’s apparently do not, so expect the editorial page (sans Baker ally Joni James) to weigh in again and again about how Baker had his time, and the city needs to move forward with Kriseman and blah, blah, blah. Also, the Tampa Bay Times may want to make up for this.

The Bill Edwards conundrum

One day, residents of St. Petersburg may look at a statute of Bill Edwards that memorialized his many, many contributions to the prosperity of the city. Or maybe not. It very much depends on the outcome of an ongoing federal lawsuit lodged by two whistle-blowers accused Edwards of looting millions from his defunct mortgage company. According to Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times, Baker was uncertain about Edwards’ situation, especially as it relates to the Edwards-Baker effort to attract a Major League Soccer team to the city. Questions about Edwards’ future and Baker’s work for The Edwards Group could be an issue on the campaign trail. Remember, Kriseman made Foster’s remote connections to Edwards an issue during the 2013 race.

Rick being Rick

As smart and successful as Baker has been throughout his career, now and then he makes a decision that even his most ardent defenders (like me) can’t explain. After all, Baker did endorse Herman Cain for President in 2011Kriseman is already making hay about Baker’s politics

Baker is not running against a tomato can.

Not hardly — Some might say Baker has been very lucky with who he’s had to run against in his previous campaigns. Ford, well, is Kathleen Ford, the ultimate femme fatale candidate who, despite her tenacity, was never going to win over a majority of supporters. Helm, well, is Ed Helm, who, despite his sheer intelligence, could not get out of his own way for long enough to build a winning coalition. While Ford, Helm, and Kriseman are all Democrats, Kriseman is nothing like Ford or Helm. He’s already proven he can build a winning coalition of city progressives, minorities, residents from the west part of the city, young voters, and the upscale urban liberals of northeast St. Pete. He has a loyal veteran campaign team and a base of donors and supporters already hard at work. Kriseman’s camp is not taking the prospect of a Baker challenge lightly; that’s why it has been raising money hand-over-fist in what is expected to be St. Pete’s most expensive campaign ever.

Duh! Kriseman is the incumbent

Even Captain Obvious recognizes there are many advantages to being the incumbent in a local race. For example, Kriseman recently won the endorsement of the police union, an organization which went with Foster in 2009. Why? Because Kriseman is committed to building a new headquarters for the St. Pete Police Department. Will rank-and-file cops turn out for Kriseman? That remains to be seen, but advantages like this are the kind of default support an incumbent receives. He gets to be on the city’s TV channel, shows up at ribbon-cuttings, be in the newspaper and on TV any day he wants. Kriseman will be careful about doing so, but all the city’s resources are at his disposal.

Kriseman knows how to throw a punch. Does Baker know what it’s like to be hit?

To quote Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Kriseman knows how to throw a punch; his campaign will not hesitate to use any and all lines of attacks against Baker. In the end, Kriseman’s campaign and its allies will throw the kitchen sink at Baker, who, while no stranger from the spotlight, hasn’t had a negative mailer written about him in 12 years. He hasn’t been the star of a grainy, black-and-white television attack ad. He hasn’t had his name dragged through the mud just for the sake of doing that. How will he react? How will Baker counterpunch? The answer to these questions may be the most fascinating thing to watch during the campaign.

Does Baker really want to be Mayor again?

I think if Rick Baker had his druthers, he’d strap on his guitar and tour the state talking about his soon-to-be-released book and how there is a third way for polarized state politics. He’d speak of a “seamless state” and how Republicans can be both tough on crime and strong on the environment. Or be president of an expansion Major League Soccer team. But I’m not 100 percent sure he wants to be Mayor of St. Petersburg for the next eight years — who would run against him in 2021? Sure, Dick Greco had a successful second act as Tampa’s mayor, but by the end of his career, Greco was sadly out of touch with the community he loved so much and once loved him.

Nothing in politics would cause Baker more heartache than for him to lose the respect of his neighbors and fellow residents.

Rick Kriseman to host major St. Pete fundraiser this month for re-election bid

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is joining a significant group of Tampa Bay area supporters –  including some leaders in the Tampa Bay Rays organization – for a major fundraiser this month supporting his re-election campaign.

The event is Monday, April 17, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at 3 Daughters Brewing, 222 22nd St. S. in St. Petersburg. Suggested contribution is $250.

According to the email invite, the host committee includes Rays owner Stu Sternberg and President Matthew Silverman, former Florida CFO Alex Sink and state Rep. Bill Heller, St. Petersburg City councilmember Charlie Gerdes, former Democratic candidates Eric Lynn and Augie Ribeiro, among others.

On Thursday, Kriseman released a 43-page report prepared by the city to make its best pitch for the 85-acre Tropicana Field site as the ideal location to build a new Rays stadium. The proposal did not include financial details on how that would happen. One of Kriseman’s campaign promises is to resolve the ongoing stalemate with the Rays over a new location for the team.

 

Rays get “Baseball Forever” pitch from Rick Kriseman

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and local Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher pitched a deal to the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday that would have a new stadium built at the existing Tropicana Field site.

The 43-page “Baseball Forever” pitch includes letters of support from 15 major employers in Pinellas County, all of which said they were devoted to keeping the pro baseball team in St. Petersburg.

Among the corporate supporters were BayCare Medical Group, Bayfront Health, Ceridian, Duke Energy, HSN, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Nielsen and Raymond James.

The plan would completely redesign the 86-acre site to include a kids zone, neighborhood market, hotel, conference center and, of course, “a new contemporary sustainable ballpark,” which the Rays organization would take the lead role in designing.

“The ballpark site would be approximately 20 acres and intricately integrated into the surrounding urban fabric, including the redevelopment of the existing Tropicana Field site and the surrounding area,” the report said.

More than 3.2 million people live within a 60 minute drive of the site, and the plan says that radius captures the bulk of the cities wealth, with the average annual disposable income in the area coming out to about $55,000.

The plan also includes an “innovation district” that would feature a research and tech campus to bring high-skilled workers to the city.

The report said the proposed build out is “a model of mixed-use urban development and the business of Major League Baseball” and includes a walkthrough of how the development will be integral to attracting high-skill workers, enriching the lives of residents and bringing tourism to downtown.

Kriseman will pitch the plan to the St. Petersburg City Council when it meets at 8:30 am Thursday at City Hall.

Poll shows Rowdies soccer stadium referendum cruising to victory

During a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Rick Baker said there were no plans for direct mail or other campaign spending to win a May 2 referendum to negotiate a 25-year lease with the city to expand Al Lang Stadium.

That’s because Baker, the former St. Petersburg mayor and president of the Edwards Group who is quarterbacking the pitch for Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, is confident St. Pete residents will support the stadium expansion as part of an effort to entice Major League Soccer to award the community an expansion franchise.

Per usual, Baker is right. Very right.

According to a new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls, 70 percent of city voters say they will vote to approve the referendum, 19 percent indicate they will vote against it, while 11 percent say they are unsure.

While not exactly relevant to the May 2 referendum (but entirely relevant to the upcoming mayoral election, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s favorability/unfavorability rating stands at 48 to 35 percent, while Baker is at 60 to 23 percent).

The poll includes only responses from those registered voters who have participated in a city election within the last four years.

Vote-by-mail ballots were sent out late last month. Polls will be open May 2 in several locations throughout St. Pete (a list of polling locations is at votepinellas.com).

The proposed upgrades to historic Al Lang Stadium would cost up to $80 million and would increase capacity from approximately 7,500 to 18,000. The full cost of the renovations would be financed entirely by Edwards, and the upgrades would only happen if Tampa Bay is awarded an MLS expansion team.

The Rowdies, who are moving from NASL to USL this year, submitted their expansion application to MLS on Jan. 30. The club is one of 12 groups in 12 different cities that submitted a bid. The league will announce two new expansion clubs in 2017, with those teams set to begin MLS play by 2020. Two more teams will be added at a later date, taking the league to 28 total clubs.

Material from MLSSoccer.com was used in this report.

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