ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Ken Welch marked his 100th day in office on Friday.
He appeared on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall on Monday morning, his 103rd day in office, to share highlights of his administration and discuss what lies ahead.
“The first 100 days have been enlightening,” he said. “We confirmed just how much progress can be made when we come together with common goals unified in purpose to address the challenges before us.”
Chief among those challenges: Affordable housing. While investors continue to drive up rents and home prices, he pointed to recent initiatives to help with down payment and home rehab assistance, distributing $18 million in federal relief funding for rental assistance and increasing incentives to developers who sell to lower and moderate income households.
“Private sector investors often making a cash purchase can simply act more quickly than government can,” he said.
Though Welch’s administration was tasked with exploring rent control from the previous City Council, Welch said Monday that he’d prefer to focus on “the things that we know do work,” like a new a 264-unit apartment development near Gibbs High School for families making as little as $12 an hour.
He celebrated the completion and opening of affordable housing projects Skyway Lofts and Delmar 745, going off-script to give a nod to departed Mayor Rick Kriseman, who started those two projects.
As for other inherited issues, Welch said he will choose a developer for the 86-acre Tropicana Field by June 30. He said he is “excited and optimistic” about continued conversations with the Tampa Bay Rays about building a new stadium in St. Petersburg.
While two amendments to address equity in the City Charter failed in November, Welch said his administration is budgeting for an equity office. That’s a recommendation from a structural racism study completed last year that found the city’s Black and poor residents face disproportionate health, economic and social challenges.
Welch announced that he is using federal dollars to create “community one-stop shops” to provide trauma-informed support services, including access to case managers, therapists and outreach.
The mayor was asked what grade he’d give himself after his first 100 days in office:
“I feel good about where we are. I feel good about the relationships from Tallahassee to Washington to our city council and neighborhoods. I think we are moving in the right direction.”
But when asked about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new congressional district maps that split St. Petersburg down the middle — through the predominantly Black and poor Childs Park neighborhood — Welch called it “déjà vu.”
“We’ve been there before,” he said. “So I trust the courts to come up with a solution that is legal.”