Saturday, July 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Kriseman uses partisanship to get spotlight off sewers

Less than three weeks before the election, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's closing argument is clear. He's making a nonpartisan race partisan by reminding voters former Mayor Rick Baker is a Republican and linking him to President Donald Trump. And he's making crime an issue when the real issue is his mishandling of the sewer crisis. This is an incumbent mayor trying to change the subject because he can't defend his record.

Partisanship has no place in the mayor's race. There should be no Democratic or Republican approaches to ensuring garbage is picked up, police respond when they're called and parks are maintained. Mayors have no control over foreign policy, immigration or social issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage. Political affiliations should not matter in City Hall like they do in the White House or the Governor's Mansion, or in Congress or the Legislature.

Yet Kriseman campaigns as though he's a Democrat running for state or federal office. He has four field staffers from the Florida Democratic Party. The state party is running television ads linking Baker to Trump, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Scott. And a political committee run by a Kriseman consultant has mailed fliers touting Kriseman's support of President Barack Obama and labeling Baker as a critic of the former president.

Baker has nothing to do with Trump, and partisanship has nothing to do with being mayor. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is a Democrat, and he isn't nearly as partisan in tone or substance as Kriseman. Buckhorn has a working relationship with the Republican governor that has benefited Tampa International Airport, Port Tampa Bay and the city. Kriseman's campaign treats Scott as the enemy. With Republicans controlling Washington and Tallahassee, it's not smart for St. Petersburg's Democratic mayor to be so partisan, and it hurts the city in the long run.

When he's not playing partisan politics, Kriseman changes the subject to crime. He points out crime is down significantly since Baker was mayor in 2009. Of course, crime is also down nationally and in Florida since then. If he wants to talk about 2009, Kriseman should note there were fewer murders in St. Petersburg that year than in any of his first three years in office. His administration discounts its own statistics that show crime in the poor, black neighborhoods of Midtown was up substantially during the first quarter of 2017 over the same time last year.

The top issue in this election remains Kriseman's mishandling of the sewage crisis. It was a mistake to close the Albert Whitted sewage plant in 2015 before adding additional capacity. It was a mistake not to reopen that plant before the 2016 rainy season. And it was a mistake to seek a state loan to help pay for the project to convert sewage sludge into methane gas to run garbage trucks when the money should have been sought for sewer repairs. Voters cannot overlook nearly 200 million gallons of sewage that spilled into Tampa Bay and elsewhere.

It remains difficult to get straight answers about the cost of the Kriseman administration's miscalculations. Despite thoughtful questioning Thursday by City Council members Ed Montanari, Amy Foster and Charlie Gerdes, it was unclear how much the cost of the biofuels project has changed or how much money it might save. There was even less clarity about how much water and sewer rates will have to rise to pay for sewer improvements.

St. Petersburg's mayoral election is not about party labels, and voters know Baker well enough to reach their own conclusions about him without being swayed by any ad linking him to Trump. The election is not about comparing crime statistics from different decades. It's about leadership and competence — and there is nothing partisan about that.

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Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old p...
Published: 07/20/18
Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

The CrossBay Ferry appears headed for another round of rides across Tampa Bay, with local governments pledging one more year of financial support. But as more taxpayer money is steered into this project, it’s important to recognize what purpose the f...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18