Kriseman and Kornell in social media tussle
The city's 14-month sewage crisis spilled onto social media this week as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman blasted City Council member Steve Kornell for comparing the city's nearly 200 million gallon sewage discharge to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Kornell made the comments at Thursday's City Council meeting.
"This is our economy, this is our tourism industry. We're starting to get national headlines on this. This is a Deepwater Horizon, BP oil spill kind of situation," Kornell said.
Kornell was responding to Council chairwoman Amy Foster's suggestion that the city not rush into decisions on a sewer fix. She said the city took its time to make the right call on other major projects like the Pier and the new police headquarters.
Kriseman didn't attend the meeting. He rarely attends City Council meeting that don't involve awards and presentations-- the so-called "mini meetings." He has attended for major issues like voting to let the Tampa Bay Rays look outside the city for a new stadium. Last month, for instance, he attended a council meeting about the sewage crisis.
Yet shortly after Kornell made his comments near the end of an 11-hour meeting, Kriseman took to Twitter.
"Of all the hyperbole I've heard about our infrastructure problems, CM Kornell's reference to Deepwater Horizon (11 deaths) is most shameful," Kriseman tweeted.
As of 3:15 p.m. Friday, Kriseman's tweet has received zero retweets or likes. But it did prompt a response from Kornell on his Facebook account.
"I woke up about 6:30 this morning and I continued working my way through about 6, 3 inch binders of materials in regard to our sewer system. I am seeking to completely understand the issue so I can hopefully be a part of the solution.
I do not spend much time on twitter, but received several texts in regard to a tweet Mayor Kriseman put out. Here is the exact text of the tweet:
"Of all the hyperbole I've heard about our infrastructure problems, CM Kornell's reference to Deepwater Horizon (11 deaths) is most shameful."
I'm not going to engage in a twitter war with anyone, I'm much too busy and it's really not my style. I will provide context to my statements and then I am done with this.
For several months I have urged our city staff to respond to the sewage crisis with a sense of urgency. After Tropical Storm Colin they informed council it would take two years to solve the issues. I urged them to move faster - to seek ways to speed up the procurement process - to consider asking contractors to work double shifts to complete projects quicker, etc. I still believe that makes sense.
In yesterday's city council meeting I again stated that I wanted us to move with a sense of urgency. Council Member Foster said something along the lines of I understand the sense of urgency but we need to temper that with the need to get this right. She referenced the police headquarters project as an example.
I responded back that while I agree with Council member Foster that we need to get this right, but I did not feel that the Police Headquarters was an appropriate analogy. I stated that I felt a better model for looking at the sewage issue was the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. In that case you had oil gushing and there was an immediate need to get it stopped. You also had long term issues that needed consideration. I believe the sewage crisis has an immediate need of stopping the discharges, while at the same time thinking of the long term issues that will make sure we never discharge again.
I believe that Council Member Foster and I did what council members should do, discuss an issue and look at all angles. I feel that Charlie Frago in this morning's times captured what Council Member Foster and I said.
Now I am going back to my notebooks. My two dogs are mad at me because they want to go to the Ft. Desoto Dog Beach and the hurricane stopped that plan."
Kornell's post has received 38 likes and 22 comments, some quite critical of Kriseman.
Kriseman received national attention for his tongue-in-cheek tweet banning Donald Trump from St. Petersburg after the GOP presidential nominee proposed a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants into the United States.
The mayor uses Twitter frequently to advocate for his policies and publicize his administration's initiatives. It's unclear if he has ever used it to criticize a council member.