Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg's incredible shrinking mayor's race

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman recently summed up why he's the kind of visionary leader the city needs. • "I'm willing to listen. That's a really important part of being a leader," he boldly declared. "Listening is more than just hearing. It's taking in and processing the information that you're hearing and then acting on it." • Powerful stuff.

Candidate Kathleen Ford has made a point of courting African-American voters, who rejected her by big margins in her first two mayoral campaigns.

"My great-uncles fought with the Irish regiment in the Civil War for the Union," she said by way of introduction at an NAACP forum.

And here's Mayor Bill Foster explaining his leadership on the Pier.

"If I were king for a day I would have given myself the charter ability to put that on the ballot, but under this charter the mayor does not have that ability," said Foster, who supports the Lens design but doesn't like to tell people that.

Call it the incredible shrinking mayor's race.

These three are running to be mayor of the fourth-largest city in Florida, and yet they seem more like candidates for Oldsmar city manager.

In most major Florida cities — Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale — you'll find mayors widely viewed as potential candidates for statewide office. No one is courting Foster for higher office the way they regularly do with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and used to do with former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.

Some of it may be the nature of St. Pete, with its Midwestern, conservative sensibility.

Residents in this city of nearly 250,000 tend to be wary of audacious ideas, as anyone involved in the original stadium proposal or the Lens can attest. That makes candidates wary of touting big ideas, which is ironic considering that bold and ambitious decisions made nearly a century ago — buying and preserving the waterfront from development — account for much of the city's success today.

Whether you liked him or not, Baker had a clear agenda, and carried it out: focusing on Midtown and a "seamless city" where no area is under-served, for instance, and assorted initiatives to improve local schools.

It helped that Baker constantly held "It's another great day in St. Petersburg!" news conferences to signal that the city had momentum. Buckhorn and former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio never fail an opportunity to publicly tout Tampa's progress.

Foster says he is too "humble" for that. His sporadic news conferences tend to be hastily called affairs to clarify something he said the day before or to walk it back.

A strong mayor can't just be reactive. Legislators are often hamstrung by the priorities of legislative leaders, and Congress is so beset by partisanship that little gets done, but a mayor can be an incubator of ideas.

If you talk to Baker or Iorio or Buckhorn you'll find them brimming with ideas, some plausible and some far-out, to improve most every aspect of their community's quality of life.

Ford, Foster and Kriseman have been campaigning for months, and it's still hard to describe any of their visions for the city or their top priorities with any specificity. Ford clearly wants to shake up City Hall, especially the police department, and Foster and Kriseman apparently want to keep the city on more or less the same course — only Kriseman contends he can do it better.

Surely the candidates can offer up more than critiques of the soundness of the Pier's pilings, barbs about tasteless Krispy Kreme calendars, or unsubstantiated complaints that City Hall is turning away businesses eager to open up near Tropicana Field.

The underwhelming campaign is partly a testament to the strength of the city.

There are big challenges with the Rays, the Pier and underperforming schools. But the city does not have the racial tensions that scarred St. Petersburg in the 1990s, its downtown is bustling and hip, and even some of the stark divisions between different parts of St. Petersburg have ebbed.

That doesn't mean the city merely needs a warm body in the mayor's office.

On Tuesday, voters will narrow the field to two. Neither will be a charisma king or queen. Let's hope, though, that they elevate the general election campaign and debate to the level a great city deserves.

Contact Adam C. Smith at asmith@tampabay.com.

St. Petersburg's incredible shrinking mayor's race 08/23/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 23, 2013 3:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shakeup on Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    In a sign of unsteadiness for what  had  looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director. Hard-charging Campaign manager Kristin Davis and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join …

    Putnam campaigning in Destin the other day as part of his 22-city bus tour
  2. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

    National

    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  5. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”