There is a refreshing spirit of cooperation in St. Petersburg City Hall. Twice this week, Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council members worked together to create a smart path forward on issues that would have been divisive in other eras.
First, Kriseman acted on council member Darden Rice's good suggestion regarding the bidding process for the new universal curbside recycling program. Rice suggested the city seek separate bids for processing and collecting. She was concerned that one contract to do both would freeze out some companies and result in higher costs. Kriseman responded by calling a time out on developing the request for proposals and directing city staff to seek separate bids for processing and collecting recyclables.
On red-light cameras, the mayor recognized the council was headed toward another divisive showdown and defused the situation. Kriseman, who supports red-light cameras, said the city would end the program when it no longer paid for itself. The council responded by voting 6-2 to kill the cameras when they stop being profitable, or no later than Sept. 30. Credit council member Wengay Newton and local camera opponent Matt Florell for keeping up the political pressure and pointing out the flaws in the camera operation until they won the argument. While a legislative report found fatal accidents have decreased at intersections with red-light cameras, other crashes are up. The cameras have been as much about making money for state and local governments as they have been about safety.
There are larger issues facing St. Petersburg, and mayors and city councils can disagree. It's healthy when the executive and legislative branches act as checks on each other. It's also healthy to listen, build trust and resolve issues before they trigger avoidable fights.