St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman has set the right priorities as he prepares to take office in two months.
At a press conference a day after his victory, Kriseman signaled a sense of urgency in getting discussions with the Tampa Bay Rays on track, and with finding a solution to replacing The Pier. He says he is eager to work with Mayor Bill Foster on finding a replacement for Police Chief Chuck Harmon, set to retire Jan. 6.
Several other moves signal changes at City Hall. Foster preferred to work without professional handlers. Kriseman will hire a chief of staff, and a communications director, positions familiar to mayors in large cities. He also plans to interview the top administrators, but should be careful about triggering a mass exodus.
In the end, the Rays stadium impasse and the chain-link fence around the empty Pier came to represent failures of leadership.
How much Foster was to blame for those situations is debatable. Either way, he could not escape the consequences. Both now represent an opportunity for Kriseman.
The Rays present a sticky problem for the mayor of St. Petersburg, no matter who occupies the office. The city’s interests must be protected, while acknowledging the team wants to look for a new stadium in Tampa. Making certain St. Petersburg is fairly compensated if the team breaks its lease will take all of Kriseman’s lawyerly skills. Pulling it off would be a significant accomplishment.
As for The Pier, Kriseman says he wants the chain-link fence to come down, opening the deck area to visitors but keeping the building closed. Depending on the cost, that seems like a reasonable move and one that would let the public enjoy at least part of the Pier’s appeal while its fate is decided. He said during the campaign he wants to have a final pier design in place by October. That, too, would be a significant accomplishment.
We criticized Kriseman for running a campaign without new ideas. But his first hours as mayor-elect show he is firmly grounded in the issues at hand, and there is something to be said for that.