Neighboring Mayors Bob Buckhorn and Rick Kriseman will deliver a State of the Bay address at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon at the St. Pete Yacht Club in downtown on Friday.
The two are likely to tout their respective wins in both Tampa and St. Pete. For Kriseman that means a demolished Pier, a thriving downtown, several key steps in stamping out poverty in South St. Pete and, most likely by then, a new deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.
For Buckhorn, there’s the mostly completed Riverwalk set to breathe life into an otherwise dull downtown. There’s Jeff Vinik’s proposed “Vinikville” in Channelside. There are plans to increase bike lanes on Tampa roads considered some of the most dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists in the country. He’s passionate about improving transportation, including that dirty word: rail. Buckhorn may even mention new parks and finally fixing Cuscaden Pool.
While both Mayors will no doubt tout lifting their cities out of the Great Recession and rebuilding a shattered economy – Buckhorn initially had to tap into reserves to get through, while Kriseman came into office finally budgeting money back into reserves – Buckhorn’s talking points will likely be much larger than Kriseman’s.
While Kriseman’s focus during the first half of his first administration has been on all things St. Pete, Buckhorn’s sweeping re-election to a second term has resonated with rumblings of an incomplete four years in favor of manning the Governor’s mansion in Tallahassee.
During what some thought an overly grandiose inauguration, Buckhorn hinted at gubernatorial aspirations evoking bipartisan sentiments at the state, not the local, level.
It’s not even Buckhorn’s goals for higher office that may make Kriseman look like small potatoes. It’s his commanding presence that has in the past cast Kriseman as the annoying little brother.
Last year, Buckhorn even referred to St. Petersburg and other cities across the Bay as “junior partners,” “small boroughs” and “little hideaways” while referring to himself as the “900-pound gorilla.”
That trash talk came before a go-kart race promoting the St. Petersburg Grand Prix where Buckhorn raced Kriseman and other Bay Area mayors. Buckhorn lost.
Though on paper Kriseman and his beloved St. Pete appear to have more to gloat about in recent months and years – the city transformed itself from “God’s Waiting Room” into a craft beer mecca for millennials in just a matter of years – Buckhorn’s presence and drive for more power will likely dominate the event.
One of the key issues likely to dominate conversation after the two have finished their scripted commercials for the area and are launched into the Tiger’s Den to be carved up is the Tampa Bay Rays. Kriseman wants to keep them. Buckhorn wants to steal them.
By Friday, Kriseman will likely know whether or not he has majority support from a new City Council for a deal that would let the Tampa Bay Rays look outside the city for new stadium sites. He thinks that’s the best way to keep the Rays in St. Pete because they will quickly see it’s the best place for them.
For Buckhorn, it lets him finally talk with the team about its prospects in Tampa.
But there’s a lot the politically savvy members of Tiger Bay could drag out of Buckhorn during the Q&A. Buckhorn hasn’t expressed much, if any, eagerness to help the team pay for a stadium in Tampa. That’s a problem. And the most attractive place for a stadium, downtown’s Channelside, is off the table.
On Kriseman’s side of things, there’s also the question of where. The current site seems the most ideal. There’s plenty of space and it’s basically in downtown, a priority in modern-day stadium building. But how can he ensure attendance will increase with a new stadium in the same spot?
Expect Kriseman to answer that question, should it arise, with any number of ideas including better transportation. The city is looking forward to a new Bus Rapid Transit line connecting downtown to the beaches and Kriseman is moving forward with plans to establish a ferry service shuttling people between Tampa and downtown St. Pete.
St. Pete also has access to county bed tax revenue crucial toward funding a new stadium.
Whatever comes up, any clash of Tampa’s Buckhorn and St. Pete’s Kriseman is likely to be a lively event.