Mayoral candidate Rick Baker is using the recent closure of the 40th Avenue bridge into a campaign issue in his quest to knock incumbent St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman out of office.
The bridge, which connects Northeast Park and Shore Acres, was shut down Friday for emergency repairs after inspectors found last week that support strands on the bridge were rapidly deteriorating. City officials expect the repairs to take two weeks, which Baker said was another sign of mismanagement from the Kriseman administration.
“Another example of what happens when Rick Kriseman governs from 30,000 ft, takes the City Scorecard performance measures offline (including bridge replacements) and diverts $35 million away from city infrastructure needs to budget overruns,” Baker wrote on Facebook. “Sewers, bridges, what’s next?”
“Turn in your ballot for Rick Baker now by mail or on August 29th,” he added.
Baker’s last jab was in reference to the 200 million gallons of sewage that spilled into the bay on Kriseman’s watch, which led to a state report excoriating city officials.
Without naming the mayor, FWC investigator Ammon Fisher wrote that “[St. Petersburg’s] leadership has had a culture of being willfully and negligently indifferent toward known problems in its wastewater treatment system that ultimately lead to some of the largest wastewater discharges in State history.”
Baker is one of six candidates running for city’s top spot. Recent polls show him with a 44-39 lead over Kriseman, which is a significant decrease from the high single-digit lead he enjoyed in the month leading up to the candidate qualifying deadline.
Ernisa Bardwell, Anthony Cates, Paul Congemi, Jesse Nevel, and Momma Tee Lassiter have also qualified for the race. Lassiter registered at 3 percent in the same poll, while Cates, Congemi, and Nevel each received 2 percent support. Another 9 percent were undecided.
St. Pete voters will cast their ballots in the mayoral primary Aug. 29. Assuming no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the two candidates with the most votes will duke it out in the Nov. 7 general election.