St. Petersburg voters have seen plenty of campaign television ads and mailings plastered with the Tampa Bay Times or PolitiFact, our fact-checking website. They are not from us. The ads are from the campaigns of Mayor Bill Foster and Rick Kriseman, and from third-party groups outside the city with innocuous names and fuzzy backgrounds. Some quote from our work in ways that are out of context and confusing. As voters head to the polls Tuesday, let there be no misunderstanding about where this editorial page stands.
The city needs a new mayor, and Kriseman has the energy and skill to build consensus and move forward on issues that are stalled or neglected.
Kriseman is a former St. Petersburg City Council member and state legislator with the breadth of experience to look beyond the next election, geographic boundaries or old divisions within the city. He listens, and he is comfortable working with both Democrats and Republicans, elected officials inside and outside the city, and residents from Pinellas Point to Midtown to Tyrone to Shore Acres. But Kriseman also is willing to take a stand and advocate a long-term approach even if the price is short-term political pain. Foster has failed to develop those relationships, too often embraced the politically expedient and developed a reputation for being less than candid with the public.
Stalemates over the future of the Pier and the stadium negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays need to be broken. Efforts to improve public schools, redevelop Midtown and revitalize other neighborhoods need more attention. And the next mayor has to be an effective salesman for the 2014 Pinellas transit referendum — and join Hillsborough to push for a rail connection across the Howard Frankland Bridge. Kriseman is the best prepared to meet each of those challenges.
This mayoral election has not captured the imagination of the electorate. That may be because more than seven of 10 St. Petersburg voters believe the city is headed in the right direction even as they are open to electing a new mayor. There also are few substantive policy differences between Foster and Kriseman, and neither has presented a bold new agenda for the next four years.
Instead, this election is about leadership. It is about electing a mayor who recognizes St. Petersburg's potential, seizes opportunities and understands that the success of the city and of Tampa Bay are linked. It is about building new relationships and renewing old ones.
The only candidate for mayor who has the enthusiasm, credibility and vision to rise to the occasion is Rick Kriseman.