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Rick Kriseman on Rick Baker announcement — it’s about moving St. Pete forward, not back

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.”

 

Rick Kriseman needs to respond forcefully to Rick Baker’s Trumpian ‘St. Petersburg carnage’

It’s been seven years since Rick Baker exited City Hall as its most powerful, successful mayor. Hardly a day has gone by that someone — perhaps this site more so than anywhere else — has wondered whether he’d have to, like Cincinnatus, come in from the fields to save the city he loves.

Today, St. Petersburg received Baker’s response, as he forcefully declared that he would challenge Rick Kriseman in what wrestling promoters would call a loser-leaves-town match.

Before I analyze what I thought was a semi-dystopian speech by Baker, I need to make it clear that SaintPetersBlog, both the site and the publisher behind it, are neutral in this race.

That may be hard to believe given my extensive history with Baker, but I owe it to the readers of SPB — which basically launched in 2009 to improve upon the lackluster coverage by the local media of that year’s mayoral race — to provide the best, most even-handed analysis of this race.

So, for now, my heart may be with Rick Baker, but my mind and keyboard have no allegiance.

It’s with that declaration that I can say today’s launch by Baker was good but not great.

Baker and his fledgling campaign — still building a campaign website, repurposing old logos and slogans, making sure the phone lines don’t go to other candidate’s voicemails — did a solid job building a crowd for the speech. (It deserves extra points for making sure the launch took place early enough in the day so as to avoid the warm Florida sun.)

It was reassuring to see local campaign veterans Nick Hansen and Brigitta Shouppe circulating behind the scenes. Jim Rimes‘ presence means Baker has one of the best in the consulting business to offer strategic guidance.

It’s hard not to chuckle at media consultant Adam Goodman‘s inexhaustible repertoire of making sure everyone knows he is attached to a candidate. But he’s also a pro who knows how to cut a sharp commercial.

Functioning as one part crowd-builder and one part carnival barker, Amscot executive and former mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons never stopped moving as he glad-handed almost everyone at the event. He even tried to be kind to me.

Gibbons: “I hear we’re getting together soon.”

Me: “No, I don’t think so.”

Gibbons: “But <name redacted> mentioned we’d be getting together.”

Me: “No. That won’t be happening.”

Gibbons: “Um … OK.”

Me: “Exactly.”

Standing behind Baker was a coalition as diverse as a big-city parade.

“Look, there’s Wengay Newton!”

“That’s Minister So-and-so!”

“Why is the guy who sells OxyClean standing behind Rick?”

As for Baker’s speech … I really don’t know where to begin other than to say it’s exactly not what I would have wanted Baker to say.

First of all, it was mercilessly too long. By minute thirty, people were done looking at their watches. By minute forty-five, people started worrying about being late to work.

Second, the former mayor employed too many sentences that only served to remind people of his former mayorishness.

Mind you, no one in the crowd was unfamiliar with the encyclopedia of Baker’s many, many accomplishments.

Baker could have had everything done in 20 minutes, just saying: “I got sh-t done.” Not even the most loyal supporter of Rick Kriseman would disagree.

But it was Baker’s view of the present St. Pete that was more alarming than his insistence on focusing on the past.

Like Donald Trump, who stood on the National Mall and bemoaned the “American carnage,” Baker did everything but describe the St. Petersburg carnage.

“They have no successes,” Baker said, before blasting Kriseman for failing to build a new Pier.

City Hall is bleeding money, Baker added. The baseball team is leaving, Baker warned. The black community is ignored, Baker opined.

And running the Sunshine City into the ground, Baker contends, is Kriseman and a coterie of overpaid political appointees accountable to no one.

Oh, and by the way, the entire town is covered in sh-t because Kriseman broke the sewer system.

Not that this isn’t a compelling argument. Undoubtedly, it’s the kind of thing I know Baker has heard, including from me, every day since Kriseman entered City Hall.

But the truth is, St. Pete is doing fine. It has big ticket issues it must solve. And Rick Baker is probably the better executive to solve those issues.

But little about St. Pete is, as Baker said today, “disastrous.”

That’s why, if he wants to win, Kriseman needs to double-down on his criticism of Baker.

Don’t, as John Romano seems to want, keep the race a low-key affair.

Blast, and blast away. Nonstop.

The message is simple. Just as it was simple for Joe Biden when articulating the rationale for Barack Obama‘s re-election in 2012.

“Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” the Vice President said throughout the 2012 campaign.

“The Rays are still here and a new Pier and sewer system are on the way,” is what Kriseman surrogates should say every day between now and the election.

Meantime, they should knock it off about Baker being against black people because he didn’t support Obama. Didn’t Baker endorse Herman Cain for president? Yes he did, proving that Baker has no issues with a black man in the White House.

As for my advice for Baker, it’s the same as it ever was. Don’t let your candidacy be about you “saving” the city. Again, the city is fine. It can be better, but to return to my Roman Republic reference above, the barbarians are not at the gate.

Voters want a vision of St. Petersburg in 2021, not a nostalgia tour of the city from 2001.

Announcing another bid for St. Pete mayor, Rick Baker savages Rick Kriseman

Speaking in impassioned tones Tuesday, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is ready to tangle head on against incumbent Rick Kriseman.

“You’re going to hear a lot about Republicans and Democrats over the next few months,” Baker said as he formally announced his bid for mayor on the steps of St. Pete City Hall. “Because that’s that’s the only thing they have.”

Baker was referring to earlier statements from Kriseman’s campaign manager about Baker’s support for Republicans like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Herman Cain in what has become a very Democratic city.

“They have no record that they can run on. They have no successes,” Baker added, before blasting Kriseman for failing to build a new Pier.

Surrounded by former mayors Bill Foster, David Fisher and Bob Ulrich, as well as former and current City Council members Wengay Newton, Leslie Curran, Bill Dudley and Jim Kennedy, Baker said that it was never his intention to run again for City Hall after two successful terms from 2001-2010.

But Baker heard too many critical things about the city he loves while on the campaign trail for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in recent months. That, he said, motivated him to get back into electoral politics.

Curran endorsed Kriseman for mayor in 2013, but since, she said she has become increasingly disappointed.

“Rick (Kriseman) ran on a platform of leadership, and I have seen none of that,” she said, endorsing Baker’s “proven leadership.”

The first part of Baker’s 36-minute speech was a nostalgia-filled recital of programs and initiatives accomplished during his two terms at the beginning of this century, parts of which he practiced talking about in recent months while campaigning for last week’s referendum expanding Al Lang Stadium for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. It was a part of his effort in working with Rowdies owner and St. Pete entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

About halfway through, however, he pivoted sharply into a detailed and brutal attack on the Kriseman administration.

He began by blasting Kriseman for hiring a chief of staff, a public information officer, and a neighborhood liaison; all those positions Baker said he didn’t need because he was in charge when running City Hall from 2001-2010.

“We have a chief of staff (Kevin King) now, that I think a lot of people wonder, who’s running the city now, right?  Baker said. “A lot of people wonder that.”

“Did anybody wonder that when I was running the city?”

Baker accused Kriseman of dividing the city, and the results have been “disastrous,” specifically referring to how Midtown is doing these days. He brought up the recent departure of Wal-Mart there, leaving the area to become a food dessert.

“We worked so hard in Midtown,” he said. “We put so much effort into Midtown, and we did it because it was the right thing to do.”

While undoubtedly Team Kriseman will contest that, among those in attendance at the news conference was former Police Chief Goliath Davis, who endorsed Kriseman in 2013 but has also backed Baker in his earlier runs. He’s with Baker this time around.

“I’ve always been a Baker guy,” he said. On Kriseman, he simply said: “I’m not excited about what has occurred.”

One of Kriseman’s lowest moments as mayor occurred late last summer when heavy rains brought massive sewage dumps. Over 200 million gallons made way into local waterways.

Baker contested Kriseman’s charge that previous administrations ignored infrastructure issues in the city. At the time, he had spent $160 million on water and sewer capital improvements, he said, claiming the city was named the state’s best big city sewer system in 2010.

Sewage came back up when Baker stated that Kriseman would talk a lot about the past versus the future. “Backward is dumping 200 million gallons into the Bay,” he said.

Baker insisted he’s not been somnolent in the years since leaving City Hall, referring to his work with the Rowdies as well as helping the people in the Warehouse Arts District.

He also prominently discussed his involvement in local schools, criticizing Kriseman for not taking the same initiative.

As for problems depicted last year in South St. Pete schools dubbed “failure factories,” Baker didn’t blame the current mayor for that situation but wondered where his passion was in trying to ease the problems.

“Where is the involvement? Where’s the plan? Where is the all in response? I promise you, I will give a response. I will go into the schools and work with the school system, and work with the school board.”

At the end of his speech, Baker spoke to the LGBT community.

Over the years, the former mayor’s refusal to attend Pride events became an issue when he was in office. Baker knows, undoubtedly, it will be brought up again this year, with a City Council that includes three members of that community.

“I believe that the LGBT community, is a vital part of our community,” he said, noting that while in office, he had LGBT staffers at City Hall.

Before the speech, a crowd of a few dozen protesters held anti-Baker signs across the street from City Hall.

Pinellas County Democrat Bill Bucolo said he wasn’t there as a Kriseman supporter but as a Baker detractor.

“When he was mayor, we were known as being a very mean place. I think ‘mean’ is bad for business,” Bucolo said, specifically citing the incident where St. Pete Police officers ripped the tents of the homeless. “St. Pete’s not known for being a mean city anymore.”

(Rick Kriseman responds).

Rick Kriseman picks-up major endorsements from South St. Pete leaders

Rick Kriseman announced a number of high-profile endorsements from St. Petersburg’s African-American community Friday as he continues to build momentum for his re-election.

State Senator Darryl Rouson, County Commissioner Ken Welch, School Board member Rene Flowers and City Council Vice-Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman all said they would be supporting Kriseman.

“Mayor Kriseman has led on important issues and confronted big challenges” said Welch, who has served on the Pinellas County Commission since 2000. “His leadership has helped to bridge what was once a considerable divide between St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. Working together, we have established the South St. Pete Community Redevelopment Area and provided the necessary funding for major projects. Mayor Kriseman deserves four more years.”

“The mayor understands the importance of public education and has fought to protect our public schools throughout his career” said Flowers, who served on the city council with Kriseman back in the aughts. “As mayor, he has not only been a presence in our schools but a regular mentor to students. Partnerships are the backbone of a strong and vibrant community where our youth can thrive, imagine, and grow. I look forward to continuing to work alongside him to ensure our students are being well-served.”

“I ran for city council to make our neighborhoods safer and to expand opportunities in a part of town that had long been under resourced,” said Wheeler-Bowman. “Mayor Kriseman has been a strong leader, a forceful advocate for sensible gun laws, and has worked tirelessly to bring economic development to my district.”

“The Kriseman Administration is creating opportunity south of Central through sustainable economic development and opportunity creation,” added Rouson, who has represented parts of South St. Pete in the Legislature since 2008. “I am especially grateful for his decision to ‘Ban the Box’, allowing for job applicants to simply be judged on their ability to do the job. I know Rick Kriseman and I know he is the right choice for St. Petersburg.”

Kriseman said he was proud of the endorsements.

“Working together, we have begun to make real progress for the residents and business owners of South St. Pete,” he said. “Due to numerous initiatives, including the 2020 Plan and our innovative community redevelopment plan, poverty is down and jobs and new business registrations are up. But there is still much more to do.”

Kriseman has a handful of opponents who have declared their intention to run against him this year, but his most formidable opponent, former Mayor Rick Baker, has yet to declare whether he will challenge Kriseman.

Polls indicate that Baker is the only candidate who could stop Kriseman from getting another four years as St. Pete’s mayor. The two men pushed aside their partisan differences and celebrated together this past week, as the Tampa Bay Rowdies overwhelmingly won a referendum that could allow them to expand the seating capacity at Al Lang Stadium.

Mike Deeson: If I were king — I would end The Pier project immediately

Although there has been some kind of Pier project in downtown St. Pete since the late 1800s, the city has changed, and the Pier is not needed.

When I first moved to Tampa Bay 35 years ago, downtown was anything but vibrant. The Vinoy, now a crown jewel, was closed, full of broken windows and in search of a developer.

Young people didn’t seek downtown as a destination. The only things the drew people was Spring Training and the inverted pyramid Pier — I could never figure out why.

Back then, St. Petersburg was known for its green benches and (jokingly) was called the home of the newlywed and nearly dead.

But that was then, and this is now; things have changed.

Downtown is alive with outdoor cafes that draw people even during weekday nights … the Vinoy is a world-class hotel … the new Dali and Chihuly museums bring thousands to the city. but there is this little problem called sewage running in the streets and being dumped into Tampa Bay.

The city sewer system is a mess and needs a fix that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars … while the city administration says it can take care of the problem through issuing bonds.

Remember, bonds are like a loan that has to be paid back … and spending money on the Pier is like running out and buying a Rolls-Royce when your roof is leaking.

Now, there is an expense to stopping the Pier project; the city claims it will cost $35 million because of bond obligations it took out for the project … but others, including [St. Pete City] Councilman Karl Nurse, believes it will be much less … But still, even if the administration has wasted $35 million … that is less than half the $80 million it wants to spend on the Pier.

And continuing, in my mind, is throwing good money after bad.

I know Mayor [RickKriseman is hellbent on completing this project, but I believe it is a waste of money, particularly at this time.

It is unnecessary and foolish … and if I were king, it would end today.

 

Rick Kriseman launches first TV ad for re-election campaign

After announcing this week that he has raised more than $400,000 for his re-election, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is spending some of that cash on the first television ad of the campaign.

The ad (called “Moving Forward”) features the mayor briskly walking through various parts of St. Pete, alluding to his work on issues that were front-and-center when he defeated then-incumbent Bill Foster in 2013.  Specifically, he refers to the Pier, the future of the Tampa Bay Rays stadium issue, and a new police station for the SPPD.

“Four years ago, St. Pete had big problems,” the mayor says in the ad. But we tackled them head on, and today, St. Pete is a city moving forward.” says Kriseman in the spot. “It’s a new day for the police department and our community. We ended the stalemate with the Rays,. And we’re building a new world-class pier. There’s still a sewer system to finish and more opportunity to create all over this city, but I know we can make sure St. Pete keeps moving forward.”

Perhaps most importantly, Kriseman also alludes to an issue that was not part of the 2013 campaign, but probably will be used by his opponents this year: the city’s sewage problems, which ultimately led to the mayor and City Council announcing that they will spend more than $300 million infrastructure plan to improve the sewer system.

On Tuesday, the mayor joined in the celebrating at Al Lang Stadium, after 87 percent of the voting public in St. Petersburg voted to  extend the lease of Al Lang Stadium to Bill Edwards and his Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team. Among those he reveled in the celebrating with was former mayor Rick Baker, who was the point man in educating the public about the referendum. Rumors have floated for months that Baker will challenge Kriseman for his re-election bid.

“To my knowledge, it’s the earliest an ad has ever been aired in a mayoral election,” says Jacob Smith, Kriseman’s campaign manager.

You can watch the ad below:

 

Bill Edwards’ Tampa Bay Rowdies referendum cruises to victory; wins with more than 87 percent support

St. Petersburg voters are well on their way to allowing city officials negotiate a 25-year lease with Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards to expand Al Lang Field capacity from its current 7,000 seating structure to 18,000.

With all 93 precincts reporting, the measure is cruising to victory, with 87 percent of residents voting “Yes” compared to 13 percent opposed.

A total of 24,589 voted in support of the measure, with only 3,628 against it; 28,217 ballots were cast in total.

Voter turnout was just under 17 percent — not shocking in a special election with just one issue on the ballot.

The soccer franchise needs that increase in seating capacity for eligibility to join Major League Soccer, the pre-eminent soccer league in America. Currently, the team plays in the United Soccer League.

The Rowdies are one of twelve soccer franchises hoping to join MLS within the next couple of years. The league is expected to announce two expansion teams before the end of 2017, and two more in the future. Construction would only move forward if the MLS chooses the Rowdies to join its league, followed up by a vote by the St. Petersburg City Council approving the expansion.

Although construction plans don’t call for expanding the stadium’s footprint, the St. Petersburg City Charter provides that any portion of the waterfront park property that is sold or leased for private use must be approved by the citizenry through a referendum.

“In approving this referendum, voters have not only expressed their support for a longer term agreement at Al Lang Stadium but have sent a strong message that St. Pete and the entire region are excited about the prospect of the Tampa Bay Rowdies joining MLS,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said minutes after polls closed.

“The Rowdies’ future in the Sunshine City has never been brighter.”

There was little-to-no organized opposition to the measure, in part because it’s not expected to cost taxpayers a cent. Edwards has said that his company would foot the entire $80 million expenditure to upgrade the stadium. Edwards also paid for the $271,000 tab for the referendum.

As part of the 11th biggest media market in the nation, the largest market currently not in the MLS, the Rowdies should get a good look from MLS officials. But Florida Squeeze editor Kartik Krishnaiyer, who writes about soccer, recently declared that Rowdies are not a slam dunk to be invited by MLS.

“On the surface, Tampa Bay is the best market for MLS to grab. But there are drawbacks,” Krishnaiyer writes“Firstly, MLS might prefer being on the Tampa side of the bay rather than in St. Petersburg. Secondly, the Rowdies proposal for renovation and expansion of Al Lang Stadium is quite frankly substandard by MLS standards. This is despite the fact that the vista where the stadium sits would arguably be the best in the league. Thirdly, Edwards himself is a wild card, unpredictable and in a league whose image-consciousness is often over-the-top, Edwards may not be a clean fit in MLS. Fourthly, MLS would be smart to want a “war on I-4” but perhaps they are fearful the Rowdies would cut into Orlando City’s supporter base.”

That “wild-card” image of Edwards is centered around a legal case over his now-defunct mortgage company, Mortgage Investors Corp., accused of cheating veterans and the public in refinancing VA loans.

“He feels there’s no merit to it and that he’s a veteran himself and he fought in Vietnam and was wounded in the hospital for two years,” said Edwards surrogate and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker last week at a Suncoast Tiger Bay event. “He believes he’s going to prevail.”

For more than a month, Baker has been making the rounds advocating for the referendum, a campaign that many speculate is a prelude for his own plans to challenge incumbent Kriseman for mayor later this year.

Photos of the Rowdies vote celebration, and renderings of the upgraded Al Lang, are courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rowdies:

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Rick Kriseman campaign raises more than $100,000 in April for re-election

Rumors continue to circulate that former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker will soon announce his candidacy to challenge incumbent Rick Kriseman in November.

If so, Baker may need to do it as soon as this week, as Kriseman continues to extend his financial advantage.

The Kriseman campaign announced Monday that the campaign and an associated committee combined to raise over $100,000 in April for his re-election bid, bringing the total Kriseman for Mayor has raised to nearly $400,000.

“Every day, I talk to people who are excited about the direction our city is going,” Kriseman said in a statement. “I’m humbled to have so much support for our vision of St. Petersburg. Under my administration, crime and poverty are down, and the pier and small businesses are going up.

“I ran four years ago to take on some of the biggest challenges our city has ever faced. Where others ignored these challenges, we tackled them head on, and now St. Pete is a city moving forward. It’s an honor to be your mayor, and I’m going to keep fighting to make this great city even better.”

Currently, Jesse Nevel, Paul Congemi and Anthony Cates III have filed to challenge Kriseman in the August primary.

While Baker has been extremely coy about his ambitions, it has been assumed for months that if he were to run, he would make that announcement after the public votes on a referendum on expanding Al Lang Field. That’s the initiative that is literally funded by Baker’s boss, entrepreneur and Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards.

Baker has been speaking to neighborhood groups for months to advocate for the referendum that will go before St. Petersburg voters Tuesday, where it is expected to easily prevail.

Florida Young Democrats to hold annual meeting in Tampa next month

Florida Young Democrats will hold their annual convention in Ybor City, just outside downtown Tampa, on May 19-21.

Speakers and panelists include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, Winter Park State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, former State Rep. Ed Narain, felon rights restoration activist Desmond Meade, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp.

Training sessions will cover transit initiatives in the Tampa Bay region, criminal justice reform, how to connect with newly activated progressives, and how to run for office.

“There is a renewed excitement in the Democratic Party,” said Ricky Nettina, president of the Florida Young Democrats. “We hope to bottle up that energy at the 2017 FYD Convention and push it to make progressive change in our own communities”.

“The Hillsborough County Young Democrats (HCYD) are excited to host the 2017 FYD State Convention. Hillsborough and the surrounding counties are essential for developing Democratic leadership in Florida,” said Alvin Jin, Ph.D., president of HCYD. “We look forward to sharing the history of our city with young Democrats from across the state, and encouraging them to get involved locally to shape the current and future direction of the party,” he continued.

 

Rick Kriseman, Cross-Bay Ferry get mixed reviews from Tampa City Council

A year ago, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman requested and received $350,000 from the local governments of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County and his own City Council to help fund the Cross-Bay Ferry public-private pilot project that ends Sunday.

While those local governments won’t get close to that money back — they were never expected to — but final totals could end up bringing as much as $30,000 back to those local governments.

Speaking before the Tampa City Council today for twenty minutes Thursday, Kriseman made a similar presentation as he did last week before the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners. But the reaction was a little rockier.

“I’m getting 10 percent of the original investment, if all the numbers are correct,” said Councilman Charlie Miranda. “So I lose 90 percent of my money, of the citizen’s money that I have to deal with.”

“I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to vote for private enterprise,” Miranda continued, alluding to the fact that the ferry is operated by HMS Ferries, Inc.

Councilman Frank Reddick‘s response was even harsher.

Reddick blasted the mayor for failing to market the ferry to the black community, and said the $5 fare was still too expensive (originally, it was $10).

“I always believe that government cannot pay the costs for all of these services,” said Reddick, comparing the city’s funding of a private ferry to the GOP-led state Legislature spending $200 million on charter schools. “That bothers me.”

Kriseman said the ferry was never supposed to be a solution to the region’s transit problems, but as a “tool” to provide an alternative way of getting people to connect across Tampa Bay. He didn’t intend to come back in a year to request another $350,000 from the council.

Answering Reddick’s criticism about marketing, the mayor said that with only a $75,000 marketing budget, options were limited.

Other council members embraced the concept.

“I don’t expect when we make an investment like this that it is going to pay for itself,” said Councilman Harry Cohen. “What I expect is that it’s going to give us — as you did today — some reliable markers that we can look at to see what we can expect in terms of ridership and revenue in the future.”

Cohen says that he could see how the Cross-Bay Ferry could be an avenue for the much-delayed Hillsborough County proposed public-private partnership ferry plan to take passengers from South County to MacDill Air Force Base to pay for itself. The success of the Cross-Bay Ferry has re-energized Hillsborough commissioners into seeing that project reach fruition, though it still has a long way to go.

“When you start a business, you don’t get a return on day one, or a few months later,” said Councilman Guido Maniscalco, who said he wished the ferry service could continue beyond this Sunday’s cutoff date, since the attendance has grown month-over-month.

Council members Yolie Capin and Luis Viera also spoke out in s support of Kriseman and the ferry.

As of 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 the project’s completion in four days.

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