Incumbent Bill Foster is blasting a new poll as “unscientific and unreliable” that gives Rick Kriseman a 10 point lead in the hotly contested St. Pete mayor’s race.
After a candidates’ forum Tuesday night, Foster described the numbers as “nonsense.” The poll shows Kriseman leading Foster, 50 percent to 40 percent, among registered voters in St. Petersburg.
“I suggest that somebody needs to do a scientific poll as I did with a real scientific sampling,” the mayor said. “That is an unscientific and unreliable poll.”
Kriseman, however, said he was pleased but not surprised by numbers that give him a solid lead. “There is no excitement for this administration,” he said. “There are no achievements that Bill Foster can point to that are the direct results of him being mayor.”
Kriseman continued to drive that message during a debate at NOVA, an event space at 535 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., near downtown.
The debate was moderated by Mitch Perry, a reporter with Creative Loafing. The questions focused on local businesses and the arts.
Kriseman criticized Foster for failing to adequately market the arts, assist small businesses or be responsive to neighborhood needs.
Foster focused on his record, noting that property values are up, new residents are moving in, the crime rate is down and “panhandling is off the street corners.”
When asked if more could be done to help small businesses, Foster suggested initiating some type of property tax abatement program, a solution he had not offered in previous debates.
“After cutting and cutting” the budget in a bad economy, the city may be able to start an abatement program that lets small businesses “invest in their futures,” he said.
“It would be a small token of our appreciation,” Foster said.
Kriseman kept to a message that he has delivered at other recent debates, describing the Foster administration as unresponsive to small businesses.
As example, he said that an electric bike company on Beach Drive – BionX – took its manufacturing operations to Europe because there was a lack of support from the city of St. Petersburg.
Kriseman received a few a laughs from the crowd when he said that business owners tell him that they only see city staff when it is a member of code enforcement showing up at their doors. It is an assertion that he has made at previous debates.
“The administration is not hearing what the small businesses need,” he said.