Mayor Rick Kriseman was sworn in two weeks ago, and if you believe the Tampa Bay Times, the record is mixed — and the bar is set fairly high. At the Times, they seem to have decided to focus on the mechanics of the operation, like how the mayor is paying for new staffers. Don’t believe me? Just look at today’s editorial saying Kriseman is “raising the stakes” with new staff in the mayor’s office. The editorial from earlier this week focused on the transition report that said the mayor should give Fire Chief James Large the boot.
But in just two weeks, the mayor is already off and running with some big-ticket items. The Times editorial team shouldn’t miss the forest for the trees.
He has had Acting Police Chief David DeKay change the high-speed pursuit policy. As reported by Noah Pransky, he also sent a memo to the Chief tightening the rules on cops who run red lights and get caught on camera.
In a widely popular move, Kriseman opened the walkway around the Pier — something he announced at his swearing-in.
And today, he held a photo-op in his office as he signed the statement of principles from Mayors Against Illegal Guns. This is the national bi-partisan organization founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. They just merged with Moms Demand Action, the group founded after the Sandy Hook shooting.
Skeptics will say that this was little more than ceremony, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Kriseman’s signature on the statement of principles changes no laws or policy inside city hall.
This is more about a cultural shift away from guns and gun violence. But it is also about St. Petersburg being welcomed into an important national conversation. There are more than 1,000 mayors on the list from big cities to small towns (Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson signed on just the other day).
A few months ago, Starbucks announced it would no longer allow guns in its stores. This was, in large part, due to the advocacy of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action. In 2008, Walmart adopted several of the policies and sales practices advocated by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Adding St. Petersburg’s voice to that kind of change makes a difference in the gun policy debate, as well as for the image of St. Petersburg.
Illegal guns — and gun violence — in St. Petersburg aren’t going away tomorrow because Mayor Kriseman signed a piece of paper. But it is a smart step in the right direction.