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Dan Ruth: Bad recycling planning = A one-term Kriseman

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Rick Kriseman can’t win.

It took St. Pete years to hop on the universal curbside bandwagon. The slow progress led the city to be the last remaining major Florida city not to have universal recycling.

Environmentalist do-gooders reamed Kriseman’s predecessor, Bill Foster, for not pushing recycling. Kriseman, on the other hand, touted it during campaigning and capitalized on the recycling vote.

He ushered it in, along with a willing City Council and now it’s just days away from becoming a reality.

Yet Kriseman has drawn little more than ire for the program.

Now it’s not just residents complaining about the color, size and location of the bins, it’s his oft-times foe Dan Ruth over at the Tampa Bay Times.

“The problem is that 40 percent of city residents get alleyway pickups for their garbage. And yet, the city went and bought garbage trucks that are too big to navigate the narrow alleys,” Ruth wrote in a column Thursday. “The trucks look more like enormous modified Army surplus MRAP combat vehicles — all to pick up empty bottles. “Duh” doesn’t quite capture the shortsightedness of it all.”

As per usual, Ruth compares Kriseman to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who seems immune to Times Editorial scrutiny.

Problems with the Pier? Just have big brother Buckhorn come over with his wrecking ball and show you how it’s done.

Recycling got you down? Don’t worry, Buckhorn can show you how things are done.

All of this is not to say Kriseman’s hands are clean in the recycling boondoggle that has become St. Pete. Indeed, blue dots are blighting neighborhoods as they sit unmoved along neighborhood streets. Not to mention the 40 percent of homeowners and renters who are facing curbside pickup where the alley would be more appropriate.

But what’s done is done and the city is taking steps and having conversations to fix the issues. What new program begins without a hiccup or two?

New websites have glitches.

New employees have learning curves.

New programs have unforeseen and often unintended consequences. This one happens to be a biggie.

But why isn’t the Times writing anything about people complaining over things so trivial? There may be some homes where taking a rolling bin to the curb is slightly more burdensome than taking it to the alley, but if those residents can’t find a way to handle that they can just not participate until the city gets it sorted out.

Why hasn’t Ruth used his darling snark and unrivaled wit to lambaste people who are angry because the bins are blue? Or to poke at those who think a choice in color or size for a, as Ruth calls it, “rubbish” bin is worthy of name-calling and impeachment.

Be gone with you, mayor, the bins should be green!

Kriseman is the leader of St. Petersburg and therefore, the ultimate success or failure of this program falls on him. But to ignore the many other angles is simply shortsighted.

The bottom line, the story here is recycling and the fact that St. Pete is finally getting with the program. Could it have gone smoother? Of course. Could Kriseman have done a better job? Absolutely.

Will the alley pickup oversight mean he doesn’t get a round two as mayor? That may very well be.

But while Ruth paints an accurate picture of sentiments surrounding Kriseman’s handling of recycling, it’s not very good for the city. Instead of taking cheap shots at Kriseman, who has become an increasingly easy target, maybe there should be some commentary on why folks should work together to ensure its success.

But, apparently, it’s more fun to pontificate on Kriseman’s certain demise.

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 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

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