Thursday, June 21, 2018
Politics

Romano: Great job, Mayor Kriseman, now don't blow it

The crowd was chanting, a Tom Petty song was playing and the re-elected mayor of St. Petersburg was expressing heartfelt thanks from the center of the stage.

This is what victory looks like.

In another four years, we’ll know if it’s also what vindication looks like.

This is your time, Rick Kriseman. Even more so than your first mayoral victory four years ago. That election started you on a new path, and this election will determine where you end up.

Where, in a real sense, everyone ends up in St. Pete.

RELATED: Rick vs. Rick: St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman completes comeback

You defeated Rick Baker on Tuesday in a race that stretched from spring to fall with the two of you seemingly running side-by-side the entire time. So take a bow. You deserve it.

But also know this:

You won the most votes, but you didn’t win as many hearts.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Recap of the St. Petersburg mayoral race and Pinellas elections

I’m sure it hurts to hear that, but you probably knew it already. You knew it when you turned a nonpartisan election into a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency.

The only way you were going to survive your day at the polls was by making the election a question of Democrats vs. Republicans instead of Kriseman vs. Baker.

If you look at it strictly by party numbers among registered voters in St. Pete, you should have begun the election with an 18-point advantage on Baker. And yet you won by 3.2 points. That would seem to indicate an awful lot of Democrats and independents either sat at home or decided to vote for Baker.

Kind of hard to muster a WOO-HOO out of that, huh?

I don’t say that to be mean, but rather to be helpful.

A local business leader recently suggested that you are a much better man than you are a politician. Maybe some people don’t think that’s a compliment, but I certainly believe it was meant that way. Especially since I think the opposite is true of far too many elected officials.

RELATED: The St. Petersburg mayoral race in 3 maps

Consequently, it’s when you try too hard to play the political game that you get into trouble. Whether it’s strong-arming City Council members or stiff-arming reporters, your tactics are more off-putting than your ideas.

Now, you could argue that these observations are overblown. That your first term was unfairly tainted by a sewage crisis that you inherited just as it was about to explode. And that, if not for broken-down pipes and a sewer department’s miscalculation on the Albert Whitted treatment plant, you’d have had a much easier ride during your first term.

RELATED: Penny for Pinellas: Voters overwhelmingly pass the tax for another decade

I’ll buy that.

But, if you’re being honest, it wasn’t the only problem. There were too many unforced errors along the way. Petty feuds about claiming credit, or hiding from blame. Voters might expect that on the state or national level, but it feels unseemly when you’re talking about a politician so close to home. And that perception ate into your support this year.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Editorial: St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman rides anti-Trump wave to second term

But here’s the good news: None of that matters today.

The election was narrow, but its effect could be colossal. Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, you’ve been given an amazing gift. A chance to start over. To change the trajectory of a legacy.

Be the mayor everyone expected in 2013, and these squabbles and missteps will be long forgotten. There have been few questions about the goals of your administration, just the methods.

You have already represented the city well when it comes to the police department, the environment, the Tampa Bay Rays and the idea of connecting St. Pete with the larger region.

There is no doubt the city is in a better place today than it was a few years ago. It’s moving forward. It’s making a name for itself nationally.

For that, you should be proud.

Your acceptance speech Tuesday night was a great example of the mayor you can be. While Baker failed to congratulate, or even mention you, during his concession speech, you were gracious toward him, appreciative of the voters and uplifting for the city.

You’re a good man.

Don’t ever forget that.

Comments
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18