Midtown grocery store intersects with St. Petersburg's mayoral politics
ST. PETERSBURG — Reaction to Sunday's Tampa Bay Times story about the troubled history of Tangerine Plaza has elicited strong opinions from current and former mayoral administrations.
From the tone of the dueling cousins, Kanika Tomalin and Goliath Davis III (Davis officiated at Tomalin's wedding), the fate of the Midtown shopping plaza that has seen two national grocers fold in four years will likely be a campaign issue, especially if former mayor Rick Baker jumps into the race against Mayor Rick Kriseman.
Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin had this to say on her Facebook page on Feb 4, the day the story appeared online:
"Bringing a grocery story to an impoverished area without doing anything meaningful to change the buying power and reality of the people who live there is useless and not sustainable. That's why Mayor Rick Kriseman, our team, and partners are investing in our people at least as much as we are any place - with jobs, training, transportation and wrap around services. When you put up pretty buildings in a sea of poverty and walk away, you basically just built a movie set. Once the cameras leave, so does the activity. This is real life for a very important segment of our community. It calls for real solutions, which our urban affairs platform will continue to work toward," Tomalin wrote.
Kriseman tweeted her post.
This week's Weekly Challenger carried a much different take from former Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis, who served in the Baker administration.
A grocery store is what the Midtown community needed and wanted, Davis wrote. The 2013 closure of Sweetbay and this month's shuttering of Walmart Neighborhood Market were the fault of Baker's successors, he wrote.
"The Baker Administration listened, responded and delivered the grocery stores," Davis wrote. "Subsequent administrations lost them."
Tangerine Plaza developer Larry Newsome has also voiced his opinion. In a letter to the Times that is similar to a missive published in the Challenger, Newsome characterized the story as a "hit-job" full of "garbage."
"Blame the black guy," read the headline of Newsome's column in the Challenger, which hasn't posted it online.