Thursday, November 23, 2017
Politics

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

RECOMMENDED READING


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 StPete.org "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.

Comments
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 2 hours ago
As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

As rules change, many Florida immigrants face a choice: Do they stay or go?

Lys Isma was born in Haiti, but she’s used to driving in Miami with a license, going to college and living without fear of being deported.The Florida International University biology student has lived in Florida since she was 9 months old. Undocument...
Published: 11/22/17

Top Trump staffers failed to file financial reports on their way out the door

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff Reince Priebus and foreign policy adviser Sebastian Gorka — failed to file legally required financial reports after they were dismissed this summer, according to government re...
Published: 11/22/17
William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

William March: Lee says lieutenant governor should work for a living and get a vote

It’s an old joke that Florida’s lieutenant governor, with no duties specified in the state Constitution except to fill in if the governor is disabled or dies, has little to do except monitor the governor’s health. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, ...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Trump calls father of freed UCLA player an ‘ungrateful fool’

Associated PressPALM BEACH — President Donald Trump started off his first day of Thanksgiving vacation by resuming his taunts of the father of a UCLA basketball player detained for shoplifting in China, saying Wednesday that he was an "ungrateful foo...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

Trump speaks up for Moore, warns against his ‘liberal’ rival

WASHINGTON — Silent for more than a week, President Donald Trump all but endorsed embattled Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, discounting the sexual assault allegations against him and insisting repeatedly that voters must not support Moor...
Published: 11/22/17
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Published: 11/21/17
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17