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Could Rick Kriseman’s City Council win really be a loss?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In SaintPetersBlog publisher Peter Schorsch’s rundown of winners and losers from the St. Pete City Council election this week, he counts Mayor Rick Krisemn among the winners.

“With [Lisa Wheeler-Brown’s] victory, he has another ally on City Council and the fifth vote for his deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The mayor also deserves credit for not appearing to put too heavy a thumb on the scale for his preferred candidate,” Schorsch wrote.

Indeed, that is a win for the mayor who has added himself to the list of St. Pete leaders plagued by a looming stadium saga.

But there’s another side to this story that may paint Kriseman as something of a loser in the race, too; or at the very least one that lumps him into the mixed-bag category.

An underlying line of dialogue emerging throughout the City Council races this year came up when Wheeler-Brown was dubbed a likely rubber stamp for the Kriseman administration.

That deals not only with the Tampa Bay Rays debate, but also the oft-testy conversation involving the St. Pete Pier.

And now it has come up again. In a blog penned by Gene Webb in his postulations of all things Tampa Bay, Webb begs the question, who could be the next St. Petersburg Mayor?

Webb claims to have been asked by several city staffers who he thought would be the next mayor. That obviously implies there’s at least some sentiment that Kriseman won’t serve a second term.

Critics have accused Kriseman of running a shifty administration where deals are brokered behind closed doors and deals are all-but decided before they even hit the public eye.

That there are enough people worried about a new City Council member being a rubber stamp for his administration illustrates how much in jeopardy his seat in City Hall may be.

But there’s also this to consider: the City Council member Wheeler-Brown will replace in January, Wengay Newton, is known for his consistent questioning of the mayor’s priorities – particularly on The Pier. Voters overwhelmingly chose Wheeler-Brown to succeed him.

So maybe those who don’t mind a Kriseman-friendly councilmember outweigh those who do.

Nevertheless, Kriseman has logged quite a bit of baggage in the first half of his term. Aside from The Pier cantankerousness and the stadium stalemate, Kriseman has headed a city that dumped sewage into waterways, rolled out a recycling program that ignored 40 percent of residents, and suspended an employee for publicly criticizing the mayor.

Two of the three have since been remedied. Alley recycling pickup will begin in January and the suspended employee was quickly brought back to work and repaid for lost time. The sewage thing is still a dark cloud lingering over Kriseman and his sunshiney city.

With all of that considered, Webb is right to speculate on who may emerge to challenge Kriseman in 2017. In his piece, Webb throws out the names of former Mayor Rick Baker and City Council members Karl Nurse and Charlie Gerdes.

There’s also Kathleen Ford who could give it another go or Bill Foster potentially looking for redemption.

While Kriseman has done some pretty awesome things for his city – living wage, ban the box, parental leave, etc. – those moves tend to get obscured in perceived scandal.

I’ve written before, the guy just can’t win. He’s made enemies on both sides of the political lines and, somehow, those enemies seem to be a lot louder than those who quite fancy him.

Were it not for the Wheeler-Brown/Newton contest during the City Council election the race would have been a total snoozefest. Instead, that race, paired with a growing list of unfortunate circumstances, paved the way for a lively 2017.

Webb points out that it’s not too early to start asking around who might hope to kick Kriseman from his post as St. Pete’s top dog. And he’s probably right.

We may not hear for sure which names will emerge for another year or so, but you can bet your bottom dollar there are probably already a handful of people eyeing the prize.

 

 

 

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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