Robert Blackmon, a 28-year-old St. Petersburg native, is the tenth person to enter the City Council District 6 race.
A graduate of St. Petersburg High School who received a B.A. in political science at Florida State in 2011, Blackmon works in real estate on the investment side, buying, renovating and renting out and managing apartments and condominiums. That background informs his view on the issue of affordable housing in the city, a hot topic in this election year.
While acknowledging that it’s “a huge concern,” Blackmon believes plenty of old housing stock can be renovated.
“That’s what I’ve done, and that’s what I do, but the city needs to make the permitting and the renovation process as easy as possible,” he says, adding that along with the major housing projects being built downtown, “there’s still a lot of old, dated, dilapidated housing stock out there that could be renovated for the middle class or students.”
Regarding the new Pier, Blackmon (who says he was a fan of the inverted pyramid structure that was demolished in the fall of 2015) questions the recent economic impact report claiming that it would create $80 million in annual economic impact. “I would love to believe it, (but) those numbers sound extremely optimistic,” he says.
In talking to citizens, he says most people are concerned if the city will get the “best bang for the buck,” but has concerns, such as the floating sculpture for the pier that artist Janet Echelman is scheduled to develop.
“I don’t even know what it is? It’s a piece of cloth? A piece of art? I don’t even know what it is, but $2.5 million seems like a lot for a vague piece of art that we don’t have a concrete rendering on, when we’re still dumping sewage off of Lassing Park where I go kayaking every Sunday, and I see kids swimming all the time, I’d rather not swim in feces than looking up at another piece of art.”
No specific dollar figure has been established for the Echelman project, but Blackmon is apparently referring to the cost of a public art sculpture she built in Phoenix.
Blackmon also is frowning on the Kriseman’s administration’s request (approved by the City Council) to spend $225,000 on marketing the city, with $82,000 of that going toward social media influencers.
“Why not just throw that money directly into improving the sewage system?” he asks. “I know that’s a drop in the bucket, but all things considered, that would influence people more than anything else … having a great sparkling environmental reputation.”
Blackmon is well aware that he is now the 10th candidate to enter the contest to succeed incumbent Karl Nurse later this year.
“I don’t know what everybody’s motivations are, ” he says of his opponents.
“I just hope that everybody’s heart is in the right spot, and that they’re ready to hop in there, serve and do their part to help steer this government in the right direction for the people to benefit people the most.”