ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration will now serve taxpayers from satellite offices to provide Midtown residents better access to City Hall.
Starting this week, residents will be able to get information on city services at the Enoch Davis Center and Childs Park YMCA. Various city staffers will rotate between the centers, said Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.
"By design, it's going to be responsive and reflective of what people are asking about," said the deputy mayor, noting that hours will fluctuate to better serve the community.
The Childs Park YMCA office on 43rd Street S will open Wednesday; the Enoch Davis Center office on 18th Avenue S will open March 19.
The idea came after residents told Kriseman and his top aides that transportation issues or work schedules prevent many from getting to City Hall during business hours, Tomalin added. The city doesn't expect any new costs to open the offices.
The fate of the city's poorest residents dominated much of last year's mayoral election.
Kriseman accused then-Mayor Bill Foster of not doing enough to battle poverty, educational disparities and unemployment in the Midtown area. The black community overwhelmingly backed Kriseman on Election Day.
Keeping a campaign pledge, Kriseman hired Nikki Gaskin-Capehart as the city's director of urban affairs with a special focus on Midtown.
Residents have always lacked access to top city administrators when problems arise, activist Jeff Copeland said. People want to speak with staffers in person, not on the phone, he added. "Our biggest problem is, no one can help get through the red tape," said Copeland, who has deep ties in the African-American community. "People need this."
Activist Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter, one of Foster's biggest backers, supports opening the satellite offices. But it will take bigger efforts to solve the problems, she stressed. "They need to listen to the people," Lassiter said. "They need to get the issues dealt with."
On Wednesday, the mayor and a dozen top aides spent four hours on a bus touring Midtown. It's part of Kriseman's goal to immerse himself in all pockets of the city.
Gaskin-Capehart planned the event. While the group visited five businesses to speak with owners, staff members in economic development, real estate and parks and recreation explained projects and problems.
The administration is still learning the city, said Kevin King, the mayor's chief of staff, adding: "We're still in orientation mode and meeting people who are trying to move the city forward."
Mark Puente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter @markpuente.