Kriseman offers glowing (if unsurprising) remarks on St. Pete's progress

Rick Kriseman spoke in an optimistic manner about his visions for St. Petersburg’s future, as well as his accomplishments: a proposed bike share program, a measure tackling wage theft and a high speed ferry that could connect the shores of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

But his tone shifted to solemnity as he voiced his biggest concern prevailing within the city: gun violence.

Kriseman delivered his State of the City address to a crowded room Saturday morning. The speech was initially scheduled to take place on the outside steps of City Hall, but was relocated inside the Palladium Theatre due to cold weather and high wind warnings.

Kriseman’s primary focus was the city’s presence of gun violence. He maintained that statistics highlighting drops in violent crimes don’t register with parents whose children are found “facedown in an alley.” Towards the end of 2015, seven young people died from gunshots in St. Petersburg within a matter of days.

“Issues like the Pier and the baseball team, they’re important, but they don’t keep me up at night,” said Kriseman. “What means the most to me are people's lives. Their quality of life, their safety, and whether opportunity exists for them.”

Kriseman believes the City Council can help create safer neighborhoods by reestablishing a “community-oriented” police force. He says the city’s police and fire departments are creating new cadet programs for students in Gibbs High School and Lakewood High School. These programs allow students to obtain school credit while training for first respondent careers.

“This training serves to strengthen their skills and improves their likelihood of completing the police academy,” said Kriseman.

Of course, the city's ongoing Tampa Bay Rays stadium drama came up.

Kriseman reviewed each potential plan for the future location of the Tropicana field, focusing more on the positive aspects of each possible outcome, while barely acknowledging the potentially unfavorable negative consequences that could accompany each scenario.

While Kriseman insists the team’s current plot is the best site for the new stadium, he said the team will be more likely to remain in St. Petersburg if they are allowed to look at other locations in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. He assures that if the Rays do decide to relocate outside St. Petersburg city limits, the city could collect a $24 million compensation and a chance to repurpose 85 acres of vacant land.

“The bottom line is that this is a win-win,” said Kriseman, “I can assure you, that St. Petersburg will come out on top because that’s what we do.”

Kriseman also briefly talked about the Pier and the city’s plans to expand the area’s waterfront parks system. He stressed that the city needs to commit to following the budget and abide by the requests of residents.

“The new St. Pete Pier will truly be the people’s pier,” said Kriseman, “There will be something for everyone. It’ll once again be the crown jewel of St. Petersburg and more specifically, our new Pier district, the first phase of our waterfront master plan.

Environmental protection was also a big topic.

Kriseman mentioned the alley way recycling program starting this week. He also intends to create a resiliency strategy and climate plan action to address unease about sea-level rise and the impacts of severe storms. He also touted plans on using part of the $500,000 BP settlement fund to finance a bike share project.

“To me one of the best things to do with BP money is to use it against BP, by getting people out of cars,” he said.

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