Although not universally embraced (most prominently by some conservative Hillsborough Republicans), most observers considered the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project last winter and spring a success.
The ferry was also a positive example of the region coming together on at least one project to deal with the vexing issue of transportation.
Championing the plan, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman went hat-in-hand to local governments in Hillsborough, Tampa, Pinellas and his own City Council to raise $350,000 in total to get the project off the ground.
At Tampa’s Mise en Place Thursday night, the mayor celebrated the collaboration.
“There was a $1.6 million impact on our communities,” he said, calling it a first step in the path of continued cooperation to improve a desultory transit system in the Tampa Bay region.
“If we want to keep our millennials to stay here,” he added, “if we want to attract businesses here, we have to talk transit. And we just can’t talk about it, we have to do something about it … and we did it in a way that it hadn’t been done before.”
The mayoral campaign in St. Pete is moving to Tampa this week.
While Thursday’s Tampa fundraiser — before a group of about 30 progressive Democrats — was his second such event this summer, Kriseman’s chief opponent, Rick Baker, will also trek to Tampa Friday morning to speak during Cafe Con Tampa at the Oxford Exchange.
Now down to the last 18 days of the primary, the only suspense in the race is whether Kriseman can hold Baker below 50 percent, giving him two more months to chip away at a lead Baker has maintained since before entering the race in May.
Throughout his ten minute speech, Kriseman lightly chided Baker, saying that he was proud of the deal that he made with the Tampa Bay Rays which allowed them to speak with officials in Hillsborough County. He remains confident that the team will ultimately choose to return to a redeveloped Tropicana Field.
Baker said he would not have made that deal.
And without name-checking Baker, Kriseman said the public would always know where he stands on the issues.
“I’ll answer questions. I’ll answer questionnaires. I’ll answer questions during debates even if they’re uncomfortable,” he said. “I think that it’s important that the community who’s electing a mayor knows what their values are, their beliefs are, knows what their principals are and that person communicates what those things are.”
Team Kriseman (and now the Florida Democratic Party) are emphasizing how Baker isn’t saying much about the latest actions from the president of the United States, beginning with the fact that he has not said if voted for Donald Trump. Whether that argument works in a race with plenty of local issues remains unclear.
Kriseman also talked about his belief in man-made climate change and that he was the first St. Pete mayor to hang the Pride (and Carter G. Woodson African American) flag over City Hall.
The Democrat also bemoaned record levels of campaign spending in the race; he’d rather see the money go to nonprofit groups to help bring people out of poverty or assist those who are mentally ill and homeless, but hey, the system is what it is, so he has to compete, because to date he’s being outgunned in that category.
Baker leads the financial arms race, raising nearly $600,000 for his political action committee, and $355,000 on his own.
Comparatively, Kriseman raised $324,000 from his political action committee, and $352,000 on his own.
Among local Democrats in attendance for the event were Ed Turanchik, Pat Kemp, John Dingfelder, Mark Hanisee, Gary and Jane Gibbons and Ione Townsend.