Would Rick Baker have permitted ‘Failure Factories’ in St. Pete?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Editor’s note: This post continues our discussion in reaction to the Tampa Bay Times’ investigation of how, after the Pinellas County School Board voted to effectively resegregate its education system, five predominately black schools now rank among the worst in the state. Read previous posts here.

One thing is for certain in the wake of “Failure Factories“: Local politicians are scurrying … some for cover, some to seize the strategic opportunity that arises in what is nothing less than a crisis.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the latter category. Kriseman posted to his Facebook page that he found the Times report “deeply troubling.” The mayor promised that, if he gets the City Council to sign off on his budget request, he will be “adding a director of education and community engagement to our city team to lead our public education efforts and to liaison with and assist our education leaders, partners, and parents.”

This director of education and community engagement will essentially be filling the position left vacant when Lori Matway left City Hall during Bill Foster’s term. Matway’s position was originally created by former Mayor Rick Baker, who made “supporting education” one of the four points of his Baker Plan.

Thinking about Baker, his belief in a Seamless City, and what the schools in St. Pete looked like during his tenure, I have to wonder, would Rick Baker have permitted “Failure Factories” to flourish in the city?

Of course I don’t think he would.

It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders in the black community who is quoted in the Times‘ story is Goliath Davis, a key ally of Baker. I can just imagine what would be happening if this story had come out with Baker in office and Davis still as police chief. The reaction would be what it always was under Baker: immediate, full-court, and realistic.

Unfortunately, in between Baker and Kriseman, whose heart appears to be in the right place, St. Pete endured four years of Bill Foster, whose Nero-esque reaction to the burning troubles of the black community are still being felt today.

Perhaps Kriseman will reach out to his predecessor, Baker, and the two men can be part of the solution that closes down the “Failure Factories.”


Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.