Friday, November 24, 2017
Opinion

St. Petersburg's visioner-in-chief is something to see

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About the only thing missing from the moment was some meditative Ravi Shankar sitar refrains and a bit of incense wafting over the assembled crowd gathered at the Mahaffey Theater to set just the right tone for Guru-In-Chief Rick Kriseman and his Deputy Grasshopper Kanika Tomalin before the city's civil servants.

The event was billed by the High Priest of St. Petersburg as a chance to define his "vision" for Camelot-on-the-Bay, as well as to unveil a new city slogan — "The Sun Shines Here," as if that wasn't already self-evident.

About 800 city workers showed up for the boola-boola pep rally filled with pulsating music, downpours of confetti and an uplifting video about how swell the city is. At the end, I wasn't sure if I should race over to City Hall to take out a building permit in the patriotic spirit of community pride, or put in an Amway order for some Nutrilite.

Vision is always a very nice thing to have. And Kriseman wants everyone to know he is a mayor with more vision than the late psychic Jeane Dixon. After all, it sure beats being the mayor of a city and when asked to define your vision responding, "I dunno." See: Foster, Bill.

So without further ado, just what exactly is Mr. Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy's "vision" for St. Petersburg? As Hizzoner and his Aide-de-Clairvoyance explained, it is to create a shining city on the hill that is committed to: fiscal responsibility, innovation, community engagement and accountability. Cue Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.

Forgive just a pinch of cynicism, but this vision thing does not exactly appear to be the work product of countless hours burning the midnight oil.

There is absolutely no problem with gathering the City Hall troops in a massive "I feel good!!! Like I knew I would, working for the city of St. Petersburg!!!" rally. But — and not to put too fine a point on this — doesn't the very essential nature of managing any city revolve around fiscal responsibility, innovation, community engagement and accountability?

It's not as if Kriseman entered office committed to fiscal irresponsibility, inertia, community disengagement and opaqueness, only to suddenly awaken one morning and think to himself, "Hey wait a minute here. I may be going in the wrong direction. I think I've just had a vision."

As visions go, merely acknowledging he plans to do what the mayoral job description pretty much already covers is not quite on a par with Our Lady of Fatima appearing before some Portuguese children to convey to the rest of the world it had better straighten up and behave.

Or perhaps put another way, Kriseman and Tomalin called a meeting of more than 800 city employees to sit around for nearly two hours to listen to the mayor promise he planned to do the job he was elected to do. Well, it's always good to get these things on the record.

To be fair, it wasn't all the Kriseman/Tomalin, Steve and Eydie Show of municipal government.

Also on hand was Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, who is quickly becoming baseball's answer to NBA zen master Phil Jackson, dispensing his wisdom on how to live a stress-free life and navigate the workplace.

Maddon noted he meditates every morning, which made one wonder if he has been cogitating on what's wrong with Alex Cobb? Too stressful?

The skipper also emphasized how important it is to have fun on the job. And that's certainly true, although one might wonder how many laughs a city worker has in handling a zoning violation.

Maddon's inner-peace presence was troubling on another level, though. Given the mayor's penchant for larding his administration up with all manner of deputies, sub-deputies, adjutants, assistant adjutants, ambassadors to Wauchula and vice lords of the admiralty, all this bureaucratic kumbaya could get out hand.

Could we be that far away from the visionary Kriseman appointing a Deputy Mayor for Transcendentalism? Probably best not to encourage him. Ohmmmmmm!

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