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KRISE-O-METER: How's St. Petersburg's new mayor doing on those campaign promises?

A little more than five months into his first year in office, Mayor Rick Kriseman has focused on several of the promises he made on the campaign trail.

While talk often centers on whether Kriseman will find a Pier design the entire city can support or end the stadium stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays, that's not all the new mayor has been doing.

PolitiFact Florida has been tracking many of Kriseman's campaign promises. Here's a look at his progress on housing, transit and the city's website:

Expedite demolition of condemned homes

Kriseman campaigned on strengthening St. Petersburg neighborhoods, in part by speeding up the process of demolishing condemned homes.

The new mayor set to work immediately, creating a Neighborhood Affairs Department and hiring Mike Dove as the agency's head. Dove was former deputy mayor for neighborhood services before retiring in 2006.

Dove assumed responsibilities previously handled by leisure and community services. Kriseman split the two functions, putting things like parks, libraries and golf courses in one area and housing, social services and codes compliance under Dove.

When Kriseman took office, St. Petersburg had 830 vacant homes, including a backlog of about 150 condemned homes the city needed to demolish.

Dove has set to work on the process, meeting with investors and rehab groups to deal with the vacant properties — for example, helping close a deal with a North Carolina-based nonprofit called Builders of Hope to sell 73 empty homes in the Midtown area for rehabilitation — and scheduling demolition for the rest.

Benjamin Kirby, the mayor's communications director, said the number of boarded-up or vacant homes had shrunk to 781 as of the end of May. He also said Dove had prioritized the demolitions and was working with the county on asbestos removal.

Since Jan. 2, Kirby said, 28 structures were torn down through the city's condemnation and demolition program. That number does not include structures demolished by the owner.

The promise was to "expedite" demolition, however. How does this year compare to the rate at which homes were being demolished under former Mayor Bill Foster? City statistics show that from Jan. 2 to June 1, 2013, there were 25 homes torn down.

Three more in the same time frame doesn't seem much faster, but Kirby said more will be coming down soon.

"You can't just take a bulldozer and bulldoze the house," Kirby said. "There's an entire removal process that's involved, which takes time do safely."

We rate this promise In the Works.

Support Green Light Pinellas and route into downtown

One of Kriseman's biggest campaign pledges was to support expanded mass transit for St. Petersburg and the region. Since his term coincides with the Greenlight Pinellas campaign, he has expressed enthusiastic support for the measure.

With about five months to go before Pinellas voters decide whether to approve a 1 cent sales tax to pay for light rail and expanded bus service, how much has Kriseman done to tout the measure? He certainly talks about it enough.

While the city can only inform and not advocate, Kriseman has been sure to mention it in speeches. In his Jan. 2 inaugural speech, he said he and his transition team "have been engaged in the necessary conversation about restructuring the bus system, adopting light rail, and even reconfiguring our tax system to pay for the way we travel in this region."

He also makes mention of it in a recurring stump speech his office says he last gave on May 30.

Kirby also highlighted that one of Kriseman's first hires was Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin. She was co-chairwoman of the Greenlight Pinellas Business Committee, which studied the workability of the mass transit plan.

Kriseman and Tomalin are the driving forces behind including and updating information on Greenlight Pinellas on the city's website, Kirby said. Kriseman also is the city's representative for the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, which supports the initiative.

Kriseman has voiced his support of the project, and there's plenty of time for him to do more before voters decide.

We rate this promise In the Works.

Make city website more friendly

Ask anyone who has ever used the city of St. Petersburg's website, and the words "easy to use" don't necessarily come to mind. Kriseman promised to change that.

While campaigning, Kriseman said he would make "user-friendly, highly interactive, and reflective of our community." He also vowed to make the city's budget easy to review.

A quick look at the site five months into Kriseman's term shows more features, to be sure. There are quick-navigation bars for hurricane season, the city's Pier, the Greenlight Pinellas mass transit initiative, the downtown waterfront master plan and parks and recreation. These all have updated information, the city said.

Kirby said the website was still a work in progress, but pointed to the Council Agenda page as an example of a recent update. Clicking on day and meeting links will bring up documents showing agenda items with backup material on subjects.

Kirby also said Kriseman has discussed a complete redesign of the website with the city's marketing team. He said the tentative goal is to have a new site available sometime in 2015.

We rate this promise In the Works.

KRISE-O-METER: How's St. Petersburg's new mayor doing on those campaign promises? 06/12/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2014 11:00am]
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