St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman addresses the Tampa Bay Rays, the legislative session, Gov. Ron DeSantis and seeing Steph Curry

During a sit-down in his City Hall office, the mayor riffs on some issues, including a trip he took to an event with former President Barack Obama and the NBA star.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman looks on during a news conference addressing climate change with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in January. [Times (2019)]
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman looks on during a news conference addressing climate change with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in January. [Times (2019)]
Published March 6

Tampa Bay Rays

Time is running out for the Rays if they want to build a new stadium in St. Petersburg.

At least, that's what Mayor Rick Kriseman thinks. The team is contractually obligated to play its home games in Tropicana Field through 2027, but the city gave the Rays a three-year window to explore its options in Tampa. That window closed at the new year without a deal because of a lack of financing, putting the focus back on the Sunshine City, which has a rosier public financing picture.

Pinellas County has earmarked a boatload of tourism dollars for a new Rays stadium, but Kriseman fears it won't be there forever.

"I don’t truthfully think we have another year of indecision," he said. “That’s a significant source of revenue, it’s a significant amount that will help get the stadium built. And if that goes away, it makes it very difficult — not impossible — but certainly very difficult to get a stadium done.”

He said he impressed that urgency upon Rays leadership at a recent meeting, his first since the Tampa window closed.

Kriseman said he is confident that if the team does approach the city about a new stadium, they could work out a deal.

"I expressed to them at that time and I will continue to do so that if they want to have a partnership in St. Pete, we’re ready," he said. "I’m confident that if they come to the table and are prepared to work on a true partnership, that we could get it done.”

He said he and the team will have a follow-up meeting in the coming weeks.

As for that wacky proposal to split the team between St. Petersburg and Montreal, Kriseman reiterated he would never let that happen while the Rays are under contract in St. Pete.

"(That's) not something we would ever agree to.”

Goals of the 2019 legislative session

Unsurprisingly, it's really about the money.

With the legislative session under way, the mayor said he hopes to see the city's museums — including the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, the St. Petersburg Museum of History and the Dali Museum — have their budgetary requests fulfilled by lawmakers.

And, he said, he hopes monies in the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund actually get spent on affordable housing; the fund tends to be raided for other priorities.

Additionally, Kriseman said he's worried about pre-emption laws, which set standards at the state level and prevent cities from regulating within their borders. One particular bill that has him concerned was filed by hometown Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that would open up Florida for electric scooters. Kriseman says he's all for e-scooters, but has concerns that statewide rules would prevent the city from banning scooters on its sidewalks, which he he'd like to reserve for foot traffic and restaurant seating.

"We would like to have the ability to regulate the companies that come into our city to do business," he said. "And this would prevent us from doing that. And that’s a little disconcerting.”

Another example is straws. A pair of bills seek to prevent cities from banning plastic straws. That would endanger the ordinance St. Petersburg City Council passed last year to ban single-use plastic straws.

Thoughts on Gov. Ron DeSantis

Call Kriseman "surprised."

"More positive than I expected," he said of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Kriseman lauded DeSantis for his commitment to clean up the state's waterways and his announcement that he will drop the lawsuit initiated under Gov. Rick Scott that sought to prevent patients from smoking medical marijuana.

“I thought wow, fabulous, that’s great," Kriseman said.

The mayor, though, is not high on DeSantis' pick for Education Commissioner, former House Speaker and Land O'Lakes resident Richard Corcoran, who championed charter schools when he was in the Legislature.

The two haven't spoken, but Kriseman hopes he gets a chance to sit with DeSantis when the mayor visits Tallahassee during the legislative session.

"I want to talk to him about how when my city is doing well it’s good for the state, and when the state is doing well it’s great for us,” Kriseman said.

My Brother's (and Sister's) Keeper

Last week Kriseman flew to Oakland for the MBK Rising!, a fifth-year anniversary celebration of My Brother's Keeper, a program President Barack Obama started to "close opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color," according to the program's website.

As a representative of St. Petersburg's chapter — St. Pete's is branded My Brother's and Sister's Keeper — Kriseman was one of several mayors and city officials to attend the conference, which featured a town hall with Obama and NBA superstar Steph Curry of the hometown Golden State Warriors and a panel discussion moderated by musician John Legend.

“It was fascinating," he said. “Anytime you have an opportunity to hear from the president and get inspired, which is equally important to continue to become inspired about what you’re trying to do in your community and to make a difference for the lives of these young men and women, it’s a good thing.”

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

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