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Rick Kriseman tells Charlotte Observer that St. Pete is “welcoming, inclusive and open for business”

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The good-natured rivalry between Tampa Bay area Mayors Bob Buckhorn and Rick Kriseman now transcends Major League Baseball, with both of them pitching their cities to businesses looking to relocate because of ordinances perceived to be discriminatory to the LGBT community.

The St. Petersburg mayor wrote an op-ed that appeared on The Charlotte Observers website on Wednesday, where he writes that “there has never been a better time for Florida, and especially St. Petersburg, to send the message that we are welcoming, inclusive and open for business.”

His letter was prompted by a roiling controversy in North Carolina. In February, the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance that extended rights to the LGBT community. One of those rights covered by the ordinance was the ability of transgender members to use the bathroom of the sex they identified with. It was in response to that that the state government introduced House Bill 2 (HB2) to overturn the ordinance.

The signing of that bill by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed has set off a firestorm of protests from not just the LGBT community, but the business community. Google, Apple, American Airlines, Marriott and Bank of America, which employs 15,000 people in North Carolina, have all blasted the law.

And on Tuesday, Dan Schulman, the CEO of PayPal, announced that he would was canceling the corporation’s plans for a new operation center that would have employed over 400 people in Charlotte, citing that new law.

That prompted Buckhorn to send a tweet on Tuesday and follow up with an on-air television interview on Wednesday appealing to PayPal to consider relocating to Tampa.

“This is an opportunity to tell corporate America that we are open for business,” Buckhorn told WTVT-Fox 13. “This is a place that you want to do business. If you want to bring those 500 employees here, they will all be treated fairly, they will not be discriminated against based on who they love or any other reason, so I thought it was important as mayor that we get in that game and we tell that story.”

Kriseman wrote his op-ed on Monday, said Ben Kirby, his communications aide, before PayPal announced it would be leaving North Carolina.

“As mayor of St. Petersburg, I am sending the message to businesses looking to relocate that our community respects and protects the dignity and basic rights of all who live, work and play in our city,” Kriseman writes. “In fact, we have consistently received the top ranking in the Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide evaluation of municipal laws and policies.”

Here’s the column:

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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