Pinellas Commissioner says Kriseman has set back regional cooperation by two years
Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long doesn't like the comments about the Tampa Bay Rays stadium search emanating from Mayor Rick Kriseman's office.
She doesn't agree with St. Pete-focused campaign being waged by the mayor to keep the Tampa Bay Rays at the Trop.
And she's told him so.
Kriseman had done a good job building relationships with the county commission, other Pinellas cities and Tampa, she said.
"But if you do one thing that is not exactly the right thing, people remember that and your whole persona takes a hit," Long said Monday. "In my opinion, the dialogue has been set back by two years."
Kriseman has been in office since January 2014. Long said she spoke with the mayor last week about her concerns. St. Petersburg can't afford a new stadium without the help of the county's bed tax. And the county's nearly two dozen municipalities contribute to that fund, she said.
The county and city need to be partners in the process, she said.
"If you want a strong partner, you have to treat them with respect," Long said. "That's been thoroughly lacking."
Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman, said the mayor ''respectfully disagrees" with Long. The whole point of the agreement to let the Rays look outside St. Petersburg is proof of Kriseman's commitment to regionalism as are projects like a ferry between Tampa and St. Petersburg, he said.
But keeping the Rays in the city is Kriseman's first objective.
"It's reallly important for everyone to remember that he is the mayor of St. Petersburg," Kirby said.
The role of Kriseman's chief of staff Kevin King in the recent political squabbles with the county commission and State Sen. Jack Latvala also annoyed Long.
"It made me furious," Long said, referring to King's comments that Oldsmar, which made a pitch to the Rays new home, might as well be in Georgia and would only serve to alienate St. Pete and Tampa if selected. "It set a tone that went in the opposite direction to what so many of us have been working so hard to get beyond."
After Long expressed those sentiments to Kriseman, King texted her, she said, telling her to contact him directly if she had a problem.
She texted back to King saying she had said all she needed to say to his boss.
King said he texted Long without being aware of the content of her conversation with Kriseman. He reached out, he said, after learning she was upset with him.
King's comments riled politicians across the county, prompting an Jerry Beverland, an Oldsmar City Council member, to call St. Pete a "rat's rear end" and suggesting King "go to Hades."