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  1. St. Petersburg

Kriseman to focus on growth at upcoming State of the City

St. Petersburg's mayor will also touch on sustainability, public safety and infrastructure

ST. PETERSBURG — The key word at Mayor Rick Kriseman's fourth State of the City address next week will likely be "growth."

"Clearly we're hearing a lot about the opportunities and challenges related to growth in St. Pete," said Kriseman's policy chief, Kevin King. "I'd say the thrust of his remarks next week will be about growth and how we move forward."

It's a topic that has consumed a lot of oxygen in St. Petersburg recently. The city's tallest tower, 41-story ONE St. Petersburg, opened last year, and the same developer is planning another condo tower downtown. Last month, a New York firm announced it will break ground later this year on a 50-story tower along Central Avenue, creating angst among some. And the City Council last week greenlit a 21-story tower near Mirror Lake, over the objection of dozens of residents.

The debate has passionate voices on both sides — those who want to see St. Petersburg expand and those who want the city to remain quaint — and Kriseman will try to thread the needle with a message of growing "responsibly," King said.

"He's a defender of growing," King said. "He says a lot that cities need to grow. We can't sit still."

He'll outline his vision for the St. Petersburg of the future, what Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin called "the preamble to our 2050 journey." Kriseman will announce the launching of the Vision 2050 campaign, an 18-month period where community members will weigh in on what they'd like the city to be in 30 years, and city officials will draft a document meant to guide decision-making moving forward.

But much of the speech, which is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. at the Palladium, will be reflective. Kriseman's administration had hoped to have the speech atop the parking garage of the still-under-construction police department headquarters, the city's skyline the backdrop. But the elevator, though installed and operational, is not yet certified and it would have left the event inaccessible to those who can't climb stairs.

The plan was to use the venue to highlight how far the police department had come in the five years under Kriseman, according to King, including the recruitment and hiring of Chief Tony Holloway; the construction of a police station and training center, the first in a century; and what King and Tomalin called improved community relations. The mayor will still touch on those themes.

"Take stock of how far we've come," King said. "It's a point of pride."

Kriseman will also touch on sustainability and the environment. The Tampa Bay area is consistently ranked one of the most vulnerable areas to sea-level rise, and Kriseman and City Council have pushed environmental policy toward the front of their agenda.

"It's such a high priority," Tomalin said, "I cannot fathom a time the mayor would convene a cross section of the city and not have a meaningful discussion about it."

The mayor will also talk about the Pier and other infrastructure. The city is currently spending $326 million to improve its stormwater and sewage systems, which failed in 2015 and 2016, dumping up to a billion gallons. And look for an announcement about the Pier's branding, King said.

Additionally, Kriseman will likely express his frustration at the slow implementation of Amendment 4, which restores the right to vote to non-violent felons who have completed their sentences. He is likely to also mention marijuana and tout the city's Second Chances program, which is a youth program for first-time misdemeanor offenders.

"(The speech) is really just a chance for the city to hear where the mayor is charting the course for the last 12 months," Tomalin said, "and a look back at what it has looked like in the last five years."

Contact Josh Solomon at jsolomon@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4613. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.

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