St. Petersburg voters will have a stark choice when they elect the next mayor in November: the stagnant status quo or an energetic alternative. Mayor Bill Foster narrowly won Tuesday's primary, but Rick Kriseman's strong second-place finish indicates there is a healthy appetite for change and a smarter direction. The razor-close primary results should energize a general election campaign that ought to carefully examine the mayor's disappointing record and force both candidates to offer a sharper vision for the city's future.
The primary campaigns focused more on leadership styles than substantive differences. Foster avoids the spotlight and has no grand vision for the future, preferring incremental progress. Kriseman embraces the broader possibilities of the mayor's office, much like former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker did and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn does now. The former City Council member and state legislator is more adept at building consensus and borrowing good ideas that have worked in other cities.
Here are five areas where voters need more specifics from Foster and Kriseman during the general election campaign:
Stadium stalemate. Both candidates favor negotiating with the Tampa Bay Rays to let the franchise look at potential stadium sites in Hillsborough County. Foster only recently came to that conclusion after more than three years of stonewalling. Kriseman also wants to work on boosting attendance at Tropicana Field. Both should be clearer about how they would proceed while protecting the city's interests.
Transit referendum. Both candidates support the 2014 referendum that will ask Pinellas voters to approve a 1 cent sales tax to pay for enhanced bus service and light rail. But they should spell out how they would promote the referendum and build public support for an effort that could transform St. Petersburg.
Neighborhoods. Both candidates say they are committed to improving neighborhoods. Kriseman talks of re-establishing neighborhood grants and stronger code enforcement. But both candidates should be more specific about how they would promote and enhance the neighborhoods that give the city its character.
Business development. Beyond hundreds of new apartments going up, both candidates need smarter plans for what's next for downtown. Ongoing efforts to bring more jobs to Central Avenue, 34th Street South and Midtown need more detail.
Education. What can the next mayor do to devote more resources and attention to improving schools with low test scores?
Foster has yet to explain to voters why he would be a better mayor after underperforming in his first term. Kriseman has to move beyond platitudes and add detail to his argument that he is a better alternative. This should be St. Petersburg's most competitive race for mayor in decades, and the next 10 weeks of campaigning should be more enlightening than the last 10.