TAMPA — St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s inaugural foray into the Tiger Bay Club on the east side of the bay turned out to be a tame affair.
The Sunshine City mayor spent about an hour with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor at the Cuban Club in Ybor City on Friday, fielding questions that didn’t break any news on the Tampa Bay Rays stadium saga — a subject that’s a talker in either town.
Instead, the two mayors praised each other’s cities, voiced their love of dogs and mused about their legacies.
Asked about how they hoped to be remembered, Kriseman, who leaves office after two terms in January 2022, said he wanted to be known for breaking down the “artificial wall” that separated the “haves from the have-nots” when he arrived at City Hall in 2014.
That wall is Central Avenue, the city’s signature east-west artery, and a thoroughfare that historically separated the city’s white and black residents.
Lately, the mayor often cites U.S. Census Bureau data showing a 46 percent reduction in poverty among African-Americans in his city between 2014 and 2018.
“When I leave office, my hope is that we’ve changed the trajectory for the residents of South St. Petersburg. We’ve created equity, we’ve reduced poverty, we’ve reduced crime. And we’ve increased the the quality of life and the educational opportunities for everyone that lives south of Central,” he said.
Castor, nearly ten months into her first four-year term, said she’s not interested in being associated with any legacy project.
“You’re not going to see my name all around. For me, a legacy would be making progress in those five areas I’ve mentioned. I know that we’ve already done some in construction services, and looking at transportation, housing affordability, workforce development, sustainability and resiliency. If we can make marked improvement in every one of those areas, that will be my legacy,” Castor said.
Several Tiger Bay questioners asked about the fate of the Rays, with one joking that Tampa Bay should offer to trade the baseball team to Orlando for its NBA team, the Magic. The mayors, though, repeated familiar talking points about keeping open minds and touting the viability of the region, which includes having the nation’s 11th-largest TV market.
The pair of Democratic mayors didn’t give much away on presidential politics either. Although New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg met with Castor recently and awarded Kriseman with $2.5 million in assistance to combat climate change, neither local leader would reveal who they would vote for in the March 17 primary.
They did please the crowd with dog tales.
Castor said her office dog, Alcadesa, is a great ice breaker, especially with children. Kriseman talked about fostering Southeastern guide dog puppies. His family is on their tenth puppy, he said.
Regionalism, always a popular talking point when Tampa Bay’s mayors appear in public together, was once again on display.
Castor said she told a recent business group interested in the region that they would be investing in friendly terrain.
“If you choose Tampa, you get St. Pete and Clearwater in the package,” she said.