Rick Kriseman, the ‘Innovation Mayor’

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As he embarked on his campaign to be mayor of the fourth largest city in Florida, an early critique of Rick Kriseman was that he lacked specifics. Yes, he talked about having a “vision” and the “potential” of the City of St. Petersburg. But what is the plan, complained the media and political watchers.

No longer will they need to ask.

Today, at Seminole Park in Historic Kenwood, we got the first real glimpse of what a Kriseman Administration would look like. The advantage of a politician who cares about policy and the details is that they can weave it all together, seamlessly.  The use of new technologies in green energy and environmental issues, engaging with Pinellas County Schools to prepare young people for a lifetime of education, working with neighborhood leaders to improve services, addressing public safety in a measured, reasoned way — all of it came together flawlessly, and in ways that residents don’t hear enough. St. Petersburg is a big city — it deserves to be treated like and talked about like the big city that it is.

Kriseman also showed passion for these issues, something for which he has been vaguely criticized in the past. He said directly and pointedly that he would end the police department’s chase policy, citing one instance of a cruiser going over one hundred miles per hour in a forty mile per hour zone. He also said he looked forward to “selecting and working with the next Police Chief” of St. Petersburg to implement smart policing policies to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. This was a subtle but clear message referencing the imminent retirement of Police Chief Chuck Harmon. Kriseman has said he would like to conduct a national search for the next chief.

Kriseman also seems incredibly excited about the idea of implementing CitiStat, an idea executed with great success in Baltimore. Imagine being able to pull up detailed city data with just a couple of mouse clicks. Access to this kind of data is not just convenient — it changes the way the city responds to requests for services. And it changes the way people view the city itself.

This is a “big data” solution for government — something that has never been done before in this area. If it is successful, it would do more than just save the city money (as it has in Baltimore, Syracuse, Louisville, and Chicago). 

This speech wasn’t political. It was the first heavy layer of substance behind the rhetoric. It wasn’t just the vision — it was a detailed, crisp picture. And it is a picture filled with big ideas, big data, and big innovations.