Here’s where sh*t stands – the “just about the ‘burg” edition

in Peter by

I don’t know about you, but I am as busy now — in the dead of winter — as I was during the last legislative session or the run-up to the elections. These are, indeed, interesting times. Because you can find a mountain of coverage about national and state politics elsewhere on this site and on FloridaPolitics.com, this post is just about what’s going on in the ‘burg.

Originally, I wanted to construct this post as a ‘these pictures tell the stories about what’s happening in St. Pete,’ but then I read some headlines in the Tampa Bay Times which need to be responded to, so this post is also a grab bag. Pardon me in advance.

A photo which caught my eye was one snapped by the Tampa Bay Times’ Charlie Frago at the campaign kick-off of Rick Kriseman.

He’s running this year for re-election as St. Petersburg mayor. Unless former mayor Rick Baker gets into the race — something I give about a 40 percent chance of happening — Kriseman should be easily re-elected.

And, yet, the scene at Kriseman’s re-election, at least in Frago’s photo, is underwhelming AND very white.

Holding a re-election event at Three Birds was an interesting choice, in and of itself. Can’t say I’ve been to many political events there (and I once lived right around the corner from the restaurant.) Scheduling an event at a restaurant that is known for its outside patios in January is ballsy, too.

But it just doesn’t look like there were a lot of people at Kriseman’s event. Our Mitch Perry said he counted about 100; Frago said it was north of that. Even if it was 150 people or so, that seems light.

Were Baker to run, I imagine there would be a couple of hundred people in the crowd. Heck, some members of City Council — Darden Rice, Steve Kornell — can draw 200 people for their events.

And why is Kriseman kicking off his re-election campaign in northeast St. Pete? Isn’t he a west side guy?

A better question is where are the faces of color in this photo? This crowd is lily white. Kriseman won in 2013 by pulling the black vote away from Bill Foster, who, in turn, used it in 2009 to hold off Kathleen Ford. That’s how St. Pete elections work. The white vote gets split between the two candidates — it’s usually the prosperous northeast part of town versus the downscale voters in the west part of the city — with the black vote going en masse to decide the winner.

I’m sure some black folks showed up later at Kriseman’s event, but they weren’t shown in the one photograph tweeted out by the Times reporter covering this race.

That’s bad optics for Kriseman.

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The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce convened last week for its 118th annual meeting. This is a behind-the-scenes shot of outgoing chairman Greg Holden addressing the crowd.

Holden is my friend; I am proud of what he’s accomplished this past year leading the Chamber. I was also impressed by his big-stage speaking ability.

If Kriseman wins re-election in 2017, might Holden be one those who will hope to succeed him in 2021?

As for the event itself, it was a pleasant evening, but also reminded me (and others) of how far the Chamber needs to go before it’s on the same level as its cross-the-Bay colleagues at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. There was a dearth of young professionals at the St. Pete Chamber event, but isn’t there always?

Still, when you think about where executive director Chris Steinocher and his board have taken the SPC this decade, it’s beyond impressive. Remember, the St. Pete Chamber was on the brink of insolvency not too long ago. Today, it’s on solid footing.

It will be interesting to see what role the Chamber plays in the very important discussions about the future of Rays baseball, Rowdies soccer, the building of the new St. Petersburg Pier, and so many other critical, promising issues.

***

A photo and story which have a lot of people in the town buzzing is one of the almost-completed Publix located between Central and First Avenue South. Word on the street is that the story may open as early as the first week in March.

Looking at this picture, it prompts a lot of questions about the growth of St. Petersburg.

There is already a Publix less than a mile away from this new store, yet the company (obviously) believes downtown can support both stores.

That this Publix went in where it did — between Eighth and Ninth Streets — is the latest reminder that the axis of the city continues to tilt more to the west — and away from Beach Drive. Can you imagine what this area will look like in five years now that it has a prominent grocery story as an anchor?

It’s easy for developers and city planners to succeed when they’re just blocks away from the water, but this store is a mile from the water’s edge. It helps connects downtown with the Grand Central district, which, in turn, is connected to the beloved, artsy Kenwood neighborhood. That’s a big swath of land.

When I returned to St. Pete in 2008, the bar and restaurant district essentially ended at Fifth Street, with restaurants like Bella Brava not able to make it beyond this imaginary border. Now, it’s beginning to look like a two mile stretch of the city — from the waterfront to deep into the Grand Central district — is the core of St. Petersburg.

All of the construction transforming the downtown skyline has some, including members of St. Pete Preservation, worried, reports Waveney Ann Moore of the Tampa Bay Times. The organization is as busy as ever, Moore reports, trying to save some of downtown’s oldest buildings in an era of rapid redevelopment.

Moore mentions how last year the group tried to save the “cheese grater” buildings on Central Avenue’s 400 block and lost.

What Moore does not mention — and what I hear whispered consistently — about St. Pete Preservation is that it took a $100,000 dive, err, donation from the developers who owned the parcel under the “cheese grater” building. That donation has many questioning what the group’s price will be to abandon its opposition to Tony Amico’s plan to redevelop the historic “First Block.”

Some really good people work for St. Pete Preservation — vice president Peter Belmont and former City Councilman Jeff Danner first among them — and I really don’t care if they saw the writing on the wall with the “cheese grater” building and took the best deal left on the table.

But the organization does have a lingering PR problem it needs to address.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.