Rick Kriseman Archives - Page 7 of 46 - SaintPetersBlog

St. Pete Pride officials say they intend to move event downtown

The St. Pete LGBT Pride Parade is moving to downtown St. Pete.

But is it a done deal?

Traditionally held in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood and Grand Central District, officials with the annual festival now say the parade in 2017 will move to a downtown staging location, beginning at Albert Whitted Park and proceed along Bayshore Drive to Vinoy Park.

Officials say this route crosses fewer intersections than the current route, which will make it easier to secure and provides fewer points of potential intrusion. They also say it will provide additional space for parade viewing.

“In 2016 we had an independent economic impact survey conducted that found 50 percent of attendees come from outside of Pinellas County and stay an average of 2.6 nights,” says Eric Skains, executive director of St. Pete Pride. “Since the change from a one-day to a multiday event, the economic impact has grown from $10-million to over $20-million. By giving more options to attendees, we hope this impact will continue to grow as the event becomes more accessible to them.”

In a statement issued Thursday, St. Pete Pride officials say that the current parade staging area at 31st St. N. and Third Avenue N. is slated for redevelopment. Multiple new locations were reviewed, including an option utilizing the Tropicana Field parking lot for parade staging.

“With a focus on security of attendees, production costs, and the potential for growth, the St. Pete Pride Board was presented with the downtown St. Petersburg option for consideration at December’s board meeting,” says the statement.

Organizers say the three-day celebration will include a Friday night event in the Grand Central District, a Saturday evening parade along Bayshore Drive, and a Sunday Festival in Vinoy Park.

“It was extremely important to the board that the Grand Central District remain part of St. Pete Pride Weekend,” says Skains. “Grand Central will always be a special place for the LGBTQ community. We fully intend to work closely with the district to ensure the Friday night event is supported by our sponsors and marketed equally with the parade and festival.”

Not everyone is down with the move.

Former City Councilman Jeff Danner wrote on his Facebook page: “It is a shame this Board has abandoned its roots and the community that started Pride. Grand Central and Historic Kenwood supported it back when others did not.”

His page was filled with comments from residents who live in Kenwood and the Grand Central District who are not pleased with the decision, and many apparently will be taking up City Council Chair Amy Foster’s comment that people should contact Mayor Rick Kriseman to oppose the move.

“I recommend everyone make their voice heard on this issue to the Mayor,” Foster wrote. “I have had one conversation with him yesterday, and he opposes the move but needed to have more discussions on Pride’s contract.”


St. Pete City Council raises eyebrows at $14M in Pier ‘enhancements’

St. Petersburg council members had mixed reactions Thursday to a progress report on the new Pier.

They generally liked proposed “enhancements,” including family friendly recreation facilities. But the $14 million price tag for those enhancements was another issue.

So far, the city has earmarked about $12.5 million for the Pier approach and about $33.6 million for the Pier itself. Pinellas County had agreed to kick in about $20 million, bringing the price tag to $66 million. If all the enhancements were financed, the total cost could reach about $80 million.

“I feel fairly certain I will not support a $14 million figure,” council member Steve Kornell said.

Kornell noted that adding $14 million to the price tag would increase the overall cost between about 20 percent to 30 percent. He, like other council members, questioned spending that money on the Pier when there are other needs in the city.

 “As a council member, there’s an entire city to look at,” Kornell said. “We have other needs in our city.”

They were also concerned about the costs to maintain and operate the Pier. Council member Jim Kennedy noted that one problem with the old Pier was the approximately $1.5 million the city had to spend each year to keep it running. He wondered if city staff had estimated the annual subsidy the city would have to make for the new Pier — a much larger space with more activities.

“That subsidy could be a whole lot more,” Kennedy said. “I want to have an understanding of that before moving forward.”

No figure was forthcoming on Thursday.

Staff members and designers said some of the proposed enhancements came from comments the council had made during previous updates. Others came from comments St. Petersburg residents raised during public presentations.

Among the proposed enhancements are a kayak rental site with a boathouse and launch, playground equipment and an upgraded splash pad.

The current proposal would have 12 jets of water that children could run through. The project would improve the splash pad to 36 jets, which could include music and lights.

An estimated cost for the upgraded splash pad is about $300,000.

“We can have a splash pad or we can have a signature water feature,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

If done right, Kriseman said he suspected adults would also want to run through the fountains as they spurted water.

Kriseman told council members that the $14 million price tag was the outside amount for the enhancements. It’s likely, he said, they would not cost that much, but it is safer to have the money earmarked and not need it than to need the money and not have it available.

Kriseman proposed taking the $14 million from the tax increment financing, or TIF, money derived from the city’s downtown community redevelopment area. That’s tax money that is collected in that area that is set aside to be used only in that section of the city.

Council member Karl Nurse said he was concerned that some of the downtown TIF money should be spent on fixing sewer pipes in that area rather than on the new Pier.

But Kriseman said fixing those pipes would not help solve St. Petersburg’s real sewer problem, which is a lack of capacity. Fixing that, he said, requires work on the Albert Whitted and Southwest sewer plants. Both of those are outside the downtown CRA so the funds could not be used there.

Amy Foster was also concerned about having to use TIF money not just for the enhancements but also to make up future costs of the Pier.

“I know you have numbers you’re not showing yet,” Foster said about the price of possible subsidies to keep the Pier District operating.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.15.16 — Pier politics, part VIII

St. Pete City Council members are scheduled to receive a report on the progress of the St. Petersburg Pier at City Hall this morning.

Architects from ASD Architects, Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers, representing the Pier and W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects, representing the Pier Approach will present updated renderings of the new Pier. According to a news release, City staff will report on timing, budget and next steps.

Not covering St. Petersburg on a regular basis these days, I have to admit I wasn’t aware where we all were in the process. Otherwise occupied, I didn’t realize that there has been an additional $20 million added to the budget from Pinellas County. For years the top line had been $46 million, which it remains in terms of how much the city will allocate to it.

As reported in yesterday’s Times, now Mayor Rick Kriseman wants the county to cough up an additional $14 million that has been earmarked to build an intermodal transportation center for light rail and buses. That now pushes the budget up to $80 million.

“I don’t want us to have any regrets down the road,” the mayor tells Times columnist John Romano this morning. “I want to be able to give the community something really special.”

When I closely covered the saga of the Pier in 2012-2013, I learned that while removes the element of the downtown crowd was all in for “The Lens” and couldn’t be bothered to hear arguments for maintaining the now razed inverted pyramid Pier, many people in the community felt otherwise. Though Councilman Wengay Newton was depicted as just being eccentric in supporting the 1973 model, he was actually onto something with his resistance to making such a change.

So, yes, people, the Pier is a complicated thing.

Like the never-ending saga of the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s still hard to predict how this whole Pier thing is going to work out. Though there is a sentiment within the same circle of folks who liked the Lens to just quash the whole damned thing, that won’t work.

So maybe Kriseman is on to something. It’s hard to say when it comes to the Pier. City Council members in the past year have found their voice in confronting the administration regarding the sewage crisis — will they as a whole resist the urge to keep on spending on something “really special”?

In other news …

In a health care committee meeting in the Florida Senate yesterday, some health care providers say this whole managed Medicaid system isn’t working out so well for them.

While Tampa Bay area lawmakers try to pass a law that removes the suspension of driver’s licenses for a series of crimes unrelated to driving, they don’t do so for drug crime.

Hillsborough County Commission Pat Kemp heard from some Tampa-based constituents not happy with the low salaries that are so prevalent in the area.

The Tampa Bay History Center is about to go through an $11 million expansion.

And critics of the Tampa Bay Express project aren’t surprised to hear FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold call for a ‘reset,’ but they want the whole thing killed.

By asking for more Pier money, Rick Kriseman misreads political mood

If we have learned anything from the just-completed election, it is this: People are fed up with the political status quo. I mean, isn’t that obvious?

Apparently not to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

He wants to shift an additional $14 million into his city’s Pier project, which could bring the overall cost to $80 million. Kriesman’s logic is exactly the reason millions of people voted for Donald Trump.

“I’m looking at, if we invest some more money, we can have a world-class Pier,” Kriseman said in the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s more taking the elements that would exist in the current budget and taking them up another notch.”

Oh dear.

Grab hold of your wallets when mayors and other elected officials start using words like “invest” and “world-class” because it usually means they’re investing in a world-class monument to themselves.

The money would come from a special tax increment financing plan, or TIF district. That sounds good because it doesn’t sock taxpayers directly, but as city council members pointed out some of the TIF money could be directed to other more pressing projects that aren’t as glamorous as the Pier.

Even giving the good mayor the benefit of the doubt on that one, he surely must know that those words “invest” and “world class” are etched on the tombstones of politicians whose careers died because they wanted to take things “up another notch.”

The more prudent approach would be to take the city’s crumbling sewer system “up another notch” – well, a lot more notches, because no one has forgotten the stench in the streets in September after Hurricane Hermine overpowered the wastewater system and sent ca-ca flowing into the streets.

That is a public safety issue.

The Pier is not.

Whatever happened to holding the line on costs?

This doggone Pier was originally supposed to cost $46 million. Google, a wonderful invention, popped up a Times story from about five years ago, that reported if the city would just throw in a few million more the Pier would be a whole lot better.

Sound familiar?

That same story included a promise from officials that they absolutely, positively were going to cap costs at $50 million. It included a great quote from then-Mayor Bill Foster: “For $50 million, people will get a Pier.”

Oh darn.

Well, it’s already at $66 million and now Kriseman wants more. I suspect he is misreading the mood of the voters on this one. I also imagine they will explain that to him at the appropriate time.


Pinellas County GOP head Nick DiCeglie to run for head of state chairs

After successfully leading his county to go red in last month’s presidential election, newly re-elected Pinellas County Republican Party Executive Committee Chairman Nick DiCigle is thinking ‘bigly’ for 2017. At next month’s state party meeting in Orlando, he intends to run for the Chairman’s Caucus Chairman, the leader of all 67 county GOP leaders from across the state.

“My goal – if successful – is to share what worked for us here in Pinellas County with the other chairmen in the state of Florida,” DiCeglie said last week in an interview at the Pinellas GOP’s offices in Clearwater last week.

Initially elected in 2014 and re-elected on Monday night, DiCigle says that unlike many other county chairs across the state, he has the luxury of being in a large county with a substantial donor base and other resources that he’s been able to adroitly tap into.

“I want to be able to share not on my successes and our successes here in the party, but to share those successes, so that collectively we can come together as a group of chairmen, (so) when these folks go back to their counties, they’re more knowledgeable, they’ve  learned something, and they can improve what their doing locally, that’s the ultimate goal,” DiCigle says.

The Long Island native has been active with the Pinellas Republican Party since 2009. After a stint as vice chair, he was elected chairman of the REC in 2014 when he defeated two other challengers to take the reigns of the local party. His biggest accomplishment to date was leading Pinellas to go red for Donald Trump in last month’s presidential election, a significant development in comparison to 2012, when Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by nearly ten percentage points in the county.

DiCeglie is aware that some of the migration to the local Republican party in 2016 emanated directly from those attracted to Trump, and that some of those voters don’t necessarily have that strong of an allegiance to the GOP. His goal is to make them want to stay in the party.

“I think this is an opportunity for Republicans,  and we have a responsibility as a local party as well to change minds, and as we change minds, and as things improve in this country, we’re going to be able to not only register Republicans as voters, we’re going to bypass the Dems by significant margins,” he says, adding that one of his goals over the next to years is to “identify, engage, communicate and motivate this new electorate.”

The next big thing in Pinellas when it comes to elections is the St. Petersburg Mayor’s race, taking place next November. And while Rick Kriseman has been struggling at City Hall regarding  his handling of the sewage crisis, he still doesn’t appear to be in danger for re-election unless Rick Baker were to leave the private sector and run for the job he held from 2000-2009.

DiCeglie acknowledges that the list of potential challengers to Kriseman begins with Baker, but says if he doesn’t pull the trigger “there are other Republicans that we’re going to be engaging, though he says he can’t say who those people are just yet. He grows impassioned when discussing what he says has been a distressing lack of leadership at City Hall.

The GOP leader scoffs at the idea that the mayoral race is nonpartisan. “Tell that to Rick Kriseman,” he says. “He made that race extremely partisan four years ago,” referring to the tens of thousands of dollars that the Florida Democratic Party contributed to his campaign in 2013.

“We certainly want to play a role,” he says about the municipal election, where four City Council seats will also be on the ballot. “We don’t know exactly what that’s going to be, but there’s a significant concern about the direction about the city of St Petersburg, and we’re firm believers that any leader of mayor, who focuses on limited government and fiscally conservative values is certainly better than what we’re seeing right now.”

Regarding the election for state party chair, DiCeglie is a Blaise Ingoglia man, but says he’s friends with his challenger, Sarasota state Committeeman Christian Ziegler. “They’re both great people, and either way, we’re going to have a very strong party coming into this next cycle, no question about it.”

Rick Kriseman sets next steps to reach 100 percent clean energy goal

St. Petersburg became the first Florida city last month to sign on to the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, which seeks to convert the city to 100 percent renewable, green energy.

Mayor Rick Kriseman on Friday set out the first steps the city is taking to reach that goal. It’s an initiative he calls the Integrated Sustainability Action Plan. The city has earmarked $250,000 for the ISAP.

First on the ISAP list is an overall energy audit to help discover the city’s problem areas. That data will be used to create a long-range plan and set target dates to get to interim and ultimate goals. That could take about a year.

City officials are not waiting a year to get started, they’re partnering with a professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa to have students perform mini-energy audits on departments that seem to consume a lot of energy. The idea is to be able to quickly solve problems where St. Pete officials know they exist. The city has allocated another $250,000 for audits and retrofits.

St. Pete is also collaborating with Pinellas County in developing a vulnerability assessment and modeling program that will allow the two to estimate the risks and impacts from potential future impacts, such as sea level rise and direct hurricane hits. The city has $300,000 set aside for this project.

The total $800,000 comes from BP settlement money.

The Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign is an attempt to convince cities across the U.S. to lead the way in moving from electrical power to renewable, clean energy. St. Petersburg is the first in Florida and the 20th city in the U.S. to take the pledge.

Kriseman said the decision to become a part of the Ready for 100 campaign was an outgrowth of a 2015 executive order he made to net zero energy usage.

USF St. Pete announces climate action plan

Sophia Wisniewska, the regional chancellor at USF St. Petersburg, announced Friday that the campus has created a climate action plan to help the university reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Wisniewska made her announcement as part of a press conference at St. Petersburg City Hall with Mayor Rick Kriseman. Kriseman set out the city’s next steps for converting the city to 100 percent renewable energy.

USFSP’s action plan, or CAP, will serve as a guide to help the university reach its sustainability goal of 50 percent carbon neutrality by 2035 and 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2050. The plan, a set of goals and strategies that were developed by USFSP staff and students to reduce carbon emissions, reflects an extensive analysis of the campus’s 2014 greenhouse gas inventory and daily use forecast.

On Earth Day 2013, USFSP became a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in recognition of the challenges that will be faced by waterfront communities as a result of global climate change. Meeting ACUPCC expectations and ranking in the Princeton Review Green Colleges guide are among the key performance indicators outlined in the university’s Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan, which the CAP aims to help satisfy.

“The creation and implementation of this plan is a huge step—not only for USFSP, but for the entire St. Petersburg community,” said Brian Pullen, sustainability coordinator at USFSP. “What is so special about the CAP is that it has taken a lot of hard work over the course of two years from several students, staff, researchers, and specialists within their respected fields.

“Together, we developed a feasible, yet aggressive, plan for guidance on how the university will foster innovative solutions to mitigate and adapt to 21st century global and environmental issues.”

The St. Petersburg City Council recently approved the city’s own Integrated Sustainability Action Plan (ISAP), which will serve as a road map to help the city transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. St. Petersburg will become the first city in Florida and 20th in the nation to commit to this goal.

St. Pete takes first steps to comprehensive plan to handle climate change, rising seas

About a year ago, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman signed an executive order establishing an office of sustainability.

Now, a group of experts from New Orleans, Miami, Boston and Tampa Bay have come together in partnership with St. Petersburg officials to set strategies that can be used in developing a comprehensive plan to answer the problems presented by climate change and rising seas.

The two-day conference, spearheaded by the Urban Land Institute of Tampa Bay, did not limit itself to the effect of storms, droughts and other emergencies on real property. Members of the group also considered the impact of climate emergencies on people and businesses. They also considered the disparate impact on some members of society who are older, poorer or who, for other reasons, are less able to cope with problems caused by the climate.

The real challenge, they said, is to raise climate change to an issue that’s in the front of peoples’ minds.

Among the strategies they recommend St. Pete consider in coming up with a plan:

Communicate with and educate residents about the need for such a plan. This should include people from all areas of the city.

Communicate with and educate businesses about the need for a plan and the wisdom of preparing to survive climate emergencies and to recover afterwards.

Think regionally and create partnerships with all stakeholders. This could include other governments, businesses, schools, homeowners’ associations, among other groups.

Demonstrate what’s possible with city projects: Consider, for example, including resiliency as a part of the redesign of Tropicana Field.

Be sure to budget for resiliency.

“There have been some really good takeaways,” St. Petersburg Council member Darden Rice said.

She added that resiliency in the face of sea rise and climate change is “not just an esoteric greenie subject about how to build neat buildings.”

Rice said she was especially struck by the need to include resiliency as a part of the city budget. And, she said, the issue of resiliency for all St. Petersburg residents is extremely important.

“It’s hard to be resilient when you’re broke,” Rice said.

Rick Kriseman: St. Petersburg’s economy is ‘vibrant’

No matter where you look in St. Petersburg, you see signs of a thriving, growing economy, Mayor Rick Kriseman said Monday.

That’s true, he said, whether you look at south St. Petersburg, the Tyrone area, the Skyway district or the Gateway area. Every section of the city is showing signs of economic growth.

“It isn’t just in downtown,” Kriseman said. “A vibrant city has economic development happening all over.”

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin agreed, saying, “St. Petersburg’s economic landscape is on fire. … We’re only on the cusp of what’s possible.”

Kriseman and Tomalin were talking Monday to a room full of business and political leaders at the mayor’s second annual state of the economy presentation. The presentation looked at the city’s economic growth from the standpoint of data as well as projects in the city.

A snapshot of St. Pete’s population shows a 5 percent increase in growth – or about 28,000 more residents – since 2010. Those residents, and the population as a whole, tend to be well educated and younger than in the past. St. Petersburg has pockets of poverty throughout its municipal area, but overall, it has the second lowest poverty rate among Florida’s major cities.

That population growth has spurred a residential building boom – of the $654 million in permitted new construction during the past year, almost half – 42 percent – was residential.

Kriseman said some have questioned the amount of residential development in light of the city’s sewer issues. The city has been fined for dumping thousands of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into the bay during two tropical storms this year. And the city is facing a multi-year, multi-million dollar program to remedy the problems.

The mayor said the residential development has no impact on the city’s sewer issues.

“We don’t have a sewer problem,” Kriseman said. “What we have … is a rainwater and groundwater problem.”

Had there been no new development, he said, the city’s sewers still would have overflowed this past year because of the infiltration of rainwater and groundwater into cracked and broken pipes.

He added that the residential construction is needed because it will bring in more tax money to pay for repairs and upgrades to the system.

Kriseman again touched on the sewer issue when he spoke about redeveloping the Pier. The city has already sold bonds to finance the new pier and has put about $62 million in escrow. Laws prohibit the city borrowing for one item and spending the money on another. And, he said, it would cost St. Petersburg about $35 million to buy back the bonds prematurely. That, he said, makes no sense.

“We will have a pier,” Kriseman said. “We are going to build a pier.”

Mitch Perry Report for 12.2.16 – The Rock in 2024?

Rick Kriseman’s appointment of former WTFS weatherman Bill Logan to serve in the newly created position of communications director for the public works department is getting (predictably) negative reviews in the Pinellas County GOP world, who think it is more “big government” from the Democratic-leaning administration. It naturally fuels speculation about who will the Pinellas County Republican prop up to challenge the mayor next year, if Rick Baker opts not to not to get into the race. As is usually the case with the former St. Pete Mayor, no one on the outside is clear where he is on such a big decision, and he’s likely to play the Hamlet card with those of us in the media before making that decision. If not Baker, is there anyone else viable?

While the world waits to figure out how far Donald Trump will go on some of the (few) specific policies that he enunciated during his successful campaign, immigration always rises to the top. Trump has promised to deport the two-million plus undocumented immigrants who have criminal records, but that’s going to be a problem. According to the NY Times, there is a backlog of more than 520,000 in the 56 nationwide immigration courts around the nation. The paper reports that at least hundreds of thousands of those deportations would have to be approved by immigration judges, which means the most efficient way to clear the backlog would be to hire more immigration judges. Except that there was another promise made on the trail – that he intends to freeze federal hiring new resources.

“Now in Denver, the court with the longest wait times in the country, most cases drag on more than five years, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group studying federal data, has found,” the Times reports.

The Democratic National Committee won’t choose their chairman for two more months, but the early front-runner, Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, says he’s getting smeared about some of his comments going back to the early 1990’s.  The Anti-Defamation League says that his 2010 comments about about whether Israel controls U.S. foreign policy are “deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”

You’re hearing from a lot of blowhard baseball purists today, hailing the decision by Major League Baseball to award home field advantage in the World Series to the pennant winner with the best regular-season record, and not the representative from the League that won the All-Star game. Sure, it makes sense, but do you know what the rule was before 2002, when Bud Selig made the change? It alternated between the leagues, with zero consideration about who had the best record in the game. So there.

And forget about Kanye West in 2020, what about The Rock? The man just declared the Sexiest Man Alive by People and the highest paid actor by Forbes tells Sports Illustrated that he’s thinking of running for office. “I’m something I’m very serious about in the future,” says the 44-year-old registered Republican.

In other news..

Davison’s loose talk about using secession of New Tampa from the rest of the city has prompted Bob Buckhorn to come off the sidelines and endorse Viera, a fellow Democrat.

The state of Florida was behind the majority of states when it finally passed a texting while driving law thee years ago, so a South Florida House Democrat would like to make it tougher, changing from a secondary to a primary offense.

For those who want to petition their state government, your best shot at speaking before a state lawmaker may take place in two weeks, when the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meets up in Tampa.

And the White House has named the Tampa Bay area and three other Florida regions as “tech-hire” communities. 


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