Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact Florida: Mayor Foster scores higher on economic data than Kriseman

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, left, and challenger Rick Kriseman debate at the Palladium Theatre last week.


St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, left, and challenger Rick Kriseman debate at the Palladium Theatre last week.

St. Petersburg's mayoral candidates addressed the city's economic health during Tuesday's Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 debate. But competing rhetoric left viewers with a tale of two cities.

Mayor Bill Foster said things are looking up, pointing to the city's unemployment rate. Challenger Rick Kriseman said small businesses and jobs have suffered since Foster took over.

PolitiFact Florida examined each candidate's points.

Unemployment rate

Foster claimed: "Unemployment in the city of St. Petersburg is below the state average."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out monthly unemployment reports for the country, states and metro areas. But using the data to compare cities with states is like analyzing apples and oranges.

Why? National and state data is adjusted for the season, but local data is not.

It seems picky, but the distinction is important in Florida, where the economy is more susceptible to seasonal swings. Temporary but expected jolts to the economy, such as snowbirds coming during cooler months and teachers not working for the summer, are smoothed out for the state but not the city, leaving it with a less precise figure.

But it's also the best data we have. It shows that Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 7 percent for August, or 7.1 percent without the adjustment.

And St. Petersburg? Its unemployment rate is 6.9 percent, according to the state. In fact, the city's rate was lower than the state average for most of 2013.

We rate Foster's claim Mostly True.

Small businesses

Kriseman said: "Unfortunately, since Mr. Foster's been mayor, we have less small businesses in the city of St. Petersburg."

There are a number of different ways to define "small business," which makes it hard to get an accurate count. Even when experts agree to define a small business by number of employees, there's no consensus among experts about which number to use.

"I think if you ask six economists what's the size of a small business, you'd get six different answers," said City Council Chairman Karl Nurse.

The U.S. Small Business Administration says any business with fewer than 500 employees fits the bill. By the SBA definition, more than 90 percent of businesses in the city would be considered small.

Kriseman campaign manager Cesar Fernandez referred us to the city's Business Tax Division, which collects taxes from each business but does not define a small business.

Instead, all we could do is look at the total number of businesses and the total amount of tax money they pull in for the city. Using that metric, Kriseman is wrong. The number of businesses and the tax revenue they generate are up since 2010 — though not by much.

We rate this claim False.

Number of workers

Kriseman also said: "There are less people employed in the city of St. Petersburg than there were prior to (Foster) taking office."

The jobs picture for the nation and state has improved in recent years. Wouldn't St. Petersburg follow the same trend?

In short, it does.

Foster took office several months after the recession ended in June 2009. Just over 103,000 St. Petersburg residents were working in January 2010 — the lowest total in at least a decade.

But federal data for July 2013 show the number of employed residents is up to more than 115,000. State data show 116,127 employed residents for August.

Granted, that's still short of the size of the city's workforce pre-recession. But it's not a reduction from when Foster took office. We rate this claim False.

These rulings have been edited for print. Read more fact-checks at

PolitiFact Florida: Mayor Foster scores higher on economic data than Kriseman 10/20/13 [Last modified: Sunday, October 20, 2013 7:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  2. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick Friday night in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case


    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate


    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.
  5. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101