Sunday, November 19, 2017
News Roundup

St. Petersburg mayor's transition team misses two deadlines to produce, present work

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ST. PETERSBURG — After he won the election, Mayor Rick Kriseman wasted no time tapping the who's who of community affairs to participate in his transition team.

The group's task— and time line —was ambitious.

"For the next six weeks or so, we are a think tank, if you will," businessman Andrew Hayes, who was co-chairman of the 50-person team, said at its first meeting on Nov. 20. "Our mission here … is to provide the new administration with ideas and suggestions going forward for governing."

Kriseman officially got the keys to City Hall on Thursday. But residents will have to wait to find out what his transition team thinks he should do next.

So far, the group has missed two self-imposed deadlines to produce and present its work to the new mayor — and the public.

On Dec. 31, the Tampa Bay Times asked Ben Kirby, the city's new communication director, for the transition team's draft progress report. It was due two days before Christmas, according to a document given to transition team members at that November meeting.

Kirby said he would check on it.

On Thursday, the Times asked for the team's final report, due that day.

"We don't have a report right now," Kirby said hours after Kriseman was sworn into office. "The mayor would rather get the information right than fast. If this group of dedicated volunteers need to take a little more time, we will give it to them."

When will the report be ready?

"I don't know," Kirby responded. "They're working on it."

For now, residents can only glean a partial sense of the transition team's work.

Members were told to keep records of their actions, and many submitted documents to the city's website in the last few weeks.

But even that has been sporadic.

The team was broken up into nine sub-groups that tackled specific topics: public safety; transparency and fiscal oversight; the pier; economic development; strengthening neighborhoods; innovation, collaboration and sustainability; the Rays; arts and culture; and transportation.

Some of these groups already have published their final reports and recommendations, while others have posted nothing but minutes of their meetings to the city's website.

A few haven't posted anything at all.

Lorraine Margeson, a community activist and former City Council candidate, said her strengthening neighborhoods sub-group submitted its final report with recommendations on Dec. 23.

But the only thing on the city's website are the group's meeting minutes.

"I don't know why," Margeson said. "We were all pretty proud of our report. We want to restore the faith of the neighborhoods."

Margeson said she has no fear that the group's suggestions will be tossed aside. One of the people who served with her is Mike Dove, whom Kriseman has tapped to be his director of neighborhood affairs.

Other sub-groups also are likely to find their ideas supported by the new mayor.

The team that looked into transportation said it wants the city to "actively, visibly and consistently champion the Greenlight Pinellas initiative." Kriseman already has pledged to do so.

The transportation group also suggested hiring at least one grant writer and legislative affairs and inter-governmental person with the hope of investing more into St. Petersburg's infrastructure. They also suggested moving the operation of the red-light camera program to the police department.

The innovation, collaboration and sustainability sub-group encouraged Kriseman to take risks.

"The city government that residents want is the one that makes it possible for them to see their visions become realities," the sub-group's final report states.

That group also would like Kriseman to start a new entity within city government to facilitate innovation and collaboration among public, private and nonprofit organizations.

The arts and culture subgroup said St. Petersburg needs to harness its reputation as a destination and develop a clear, citywide strategy for branding and marketing its cultural assets.

Not everyone gave advice. And some of the groups' work stuck to familiar themes.

The Rays group, for example, was only asked to "fact find" rather than make recommendations. Because of that, none of its meetings were public and its final report is basically a summary of issues related to the stadium stalemate.

On the campaign trail, Kriseman said he wanted to have a new pier built by 2015.

But the transition team subgroup dedicated to that issue suggests a longer time line. It laid out a process that would have a new structure open to the public by 2017. It also suggested creating a "pier working group" that would update the work already done by previous task forces.

Margeson said she is looking forward to Kriseman implementing the transition team's work. She said she is ready for a "good and fresh and strong" start.

"I know every group tried really, really hard," Margeson said. "It was an eye-opening, fantastic, worthwhile process."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected], (727) 893-8643 or @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.

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