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Tampa Bay Times shortsighted in making Steve Kornell’s re-election bid a one-issue race

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Disappointment.

Obstructionist.

Those are just two of the names the Tampa Bay Times has used to describe St. Pete City Council member Steve Kornell because he continues to reject a proposed agreement between the city and the Tampa Bay Rays to allow the team to look outside St. Pete for possible new stadium sites within the region.

The Tampa Bay Times has repeatedly called for Kornell’s ousting over this sole issue. The Times’ editorial board became one step closer to its wish Monday now that political novice Phillip Garrett has officially entered the race for Kornell’s district.

But the Times has not offered any other reason for replacing Kornell. The editorial board has continued to harp on one issue while ignoring the many victories Kornell has overseen during his six-year tenure on council.

“I think it would be a shame if any media outlet made this a one- issue race,” Kornell said of the Times’ many editorials calling for his head. “There [are] a lot of issues facing this city. I don’t think we should have a one-issue race.”

Among Kornell’s long list of accomplishments is his most recent. Kornell, along with city staff and five members of the community he represents, worked to bring Jabil Circuit to the Ceridian building in the Skyway Marina District.

“It’s not a bad way to start out a campaign with an announcement that Jabil is opening shop,” Kornell said.

The partial move from Jabil’s current headquarters in North St. Pete means 365 tech jobs will be available in Kornell’s district. While those don’t represent new jobs, as turnover happens positions will open.

Kornell is also working on partnering with St. Petersburg College to develop a targeted curriculum to support the Jabil jobs. In an interview Kornell said SPC president Dr. William Law has said he’s a willing partner in creating programs specifically targeted toward businesses in St. Pete.

The news broke Friday just after Kornell’s challenger had begun the process of filing campaign documents with the City Clerk. It builds on an already growing list of accomplishments in Kornell’s efforts to revitalize the Skyway Marina District on 34 Street South.

That includes a successful rezoning effort that allows more mixed-use development in the area. There’s also an approved $1 million incentive for the first developer to come in with a mixed retail and residential plan and another $50,000 incentive for the first sit-down restaurant.

New signs are on their way to the district to better identify and market it. Kornell said he’s excited about the new sign that boasts angled cables in the background symbolizing the Sunshine Skyway Bridge just South of the corridor.

There is also funding secured for landscaping projects and improved lighting.

The Times is also seemingly ignoring Kornell’s work on improving conditions in the crime-laden apartment complex that was formerly Mariner’s Point. The complex was known for excessive calls to police, murders and other rampant crime.

Under Kornell’s watch the complex is now under new ownership. It’s been renamed St. Charles Row and is undergoing a facelift to give it a Big Easy feel. New owners are going for a New Orleans theme.

The first move under the new ownership was to put in a security gate.

“It’s so much better now,” Kornell said of the complex. “It’s really obvious that crime is down.”

Kornell has also been active in working with the city to bring programs to low-income youth. In 2011 he partnered with the Juvenile Welfare Board to provide a half million dollars for 21st Century learning programs at city recreation centers.

Kornell also serves on the Tampa Bay Estuary Program board and is past chair. During his time as chair the program reached its key 40,000 acres of sea grass.

He worked with that program to develop a youth education curriculum that is now offered in some city summer programs.

Kornell is also proud of his work on issues surrounding equality. That includes improving conditions for the LGBT community, but also any groups facing discrimination.

Kornell said he’s not worried about the Times’ public disdain toward him and he’s not going to let the editorial board’s continued pressure on the Rays issue back him into a corner.

“I’m not going to rubber stamp anything,” Kornell said. “My priority is to protect taxpayers’ investment and that’s what I’m going to do.”

He noted that he never said he wouldn’t agree to a deal with the Rays, he just doesn’t think this one is in the city’s best interest. Kornell sees the Rays debate as two separate issues. One is keeping baseball in St. Pete or the region and the other is redeveloping the Tropicana Field site if the Rays do leave.

“I’ve been called dumb. I’ve been told I have my head up my a**,” Kornell said. “I take it all for what it’s worth.”

He said he enjoys campaigning and will do so at full steam working to reach out to constituents, answer questions and share his accomplishments.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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