As SaintPetersBlog’s Mitch Perry first reported Wednesday afternoon, the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee will not accept a $531 grant it received to install native plants around its headquarters located on the outskirts of downtown St. Petersburg. The decision comes after community-wide criticism was level at the party for requesting taxpayer dollars to improve the grounds of a political headquarters.
Of course, the grant should never have been awarded in the first place. One of the many brightest minds Mayor Rick Kriseman has surrounded himself should have stood up and said, “Hey, you’re the first Democrat to hold this office in decades. It might not look so good if we dole out taxpayer dollars to our partisan allies.”
The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith took a step further, putting into writing what many City Hall observers think to themselves.
“Critics have grumbled about Kriseman making the mayor’s office more overtly partisan than his predecessors,” writes Smith, “and this move makes that charge virtually impossible to deny.”
The charge of Kriseman’s office being overtly partisan has been impossible to deny for longer than this latest controversy about a landscaping grant. Remember, this is a mayor who thought it was funny to snark about Donald Trump not being welcomed inside city limits. Not that I disagree with Kriseman’s decision to oppose Trump, but it’s just one of many times when Kriseman and Co. have been too-cute-by-half.
Kriseman’s chief aides, Kevin King and Ben Kirby, are partisan warriors. And their guy won an election. And elections have consequences. But turning the Mayor’s Office into an adjunct of the local Democratic party does not serve their boss well. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why Kriseman would not be a lock for re-election were Rick Baker to challenge him.
However, it’s not just the Mayor’s Office which has injected unnecessary partisanship into city affairs, it’s also some members of City Council.
Darden Rice’s proposal to limit outside political money is really not about curbing the influence of major donors, it’s about establishing a test case that Rice’s partisan allies can use to relitigate the landmark Citizens United case. And while undoing that case may be worthwhile, it’s not the kind of battle which should be waged from the City Council dais.
Nor was the City Council’s consideration of a resolution urging the U.S. Senate to hold a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Or the City Council’s consideration of divesting from pension funds which include fossil fuel companies in their portfolios.
After all, it’s not as if Kriseman and Rice and King and Kirby don’t have enough on their plate.
Isn’t there a Pier to build. A new police station to envision. A baseball team to keep in the city?
City leaders should focus on city issues and leave the partisanship to the political parties.