Photo via cityofstpete/Flickr
St. Petersburg's Charter Amendment 1 is a question about rescheduling city elections, aligning St. Pete’s municipal races with even-year presidential and gubernatorial races (like this year).
Not unlike most Floridians, St. Pete voters have a busy ballot this election season. There’s a U.S. Senate race to consider, a congressional race, and a slate of statewide races, including the race for governor. There are heated contests for state attorney, state senate, and the state house, and a race that will have significant implications for our Pinellas County Board of Commissioners. And that's just the first page of the ballot. There is a page of judges, another page for three state constitutional amendments, and, finally, a page with two City of St. Petersburg Charter questions and two City referendum questions.
When you get to page four of your ballot, if you don't want it to be even longer next time, vote no on City of St. Petersburg Charter Amendment 1.
(Editor's note: Creative Loafing Tampa Bay also recommends a "NO" vote on St. Petersburg's Charter Amendment 1.)
This is a question about rescheduling city elections, aligning St. Pete’s municipal races with even-year presidential and gubernatorial races (like this year). Such a switch would make St. Pete the outlier among Florida’s largest cities. No other big city in Florida does this. There is a frequent chant in the Sunshine City that we don't want to be Miami or Orlando. In this instance, we think we do.
Aside from lengthening an already long ballot, passage of this Amendment would also make municipal elections less visible.
We’ve had the privilege of working at all levels of government and politics. Policy and politics at the national and state level can be fun to watch and talk about, but it is local government that has the biggest impact on our everyday life. It’s the government that can least afford to be overshadowed or be made an afterthought.
Should this pass, it will also make our municipal elections more expensive, making communicating about hyperlocal issues more difficult. When former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, for whom we both served for two terms, ran for re-election in 2017, it broke records for the amount of money spent on a race for mayor in St. Petersburg. Such a campaign would be considerably more expensive if forced to compete with a senate or gubernatorial race on the ballot. And a question for progressives: Does Rick Kriseman still edge out Rick Baker while a popular Republican governor is running for re-election?
We are Democrats who have worked in Democratic politics most of our adult lives. But when we worked for the City of St. Petersburg, we were proud of the nonpartisan nature of our job. Our eight years weren’t without politics, but we relished the focus on people and policy. Aligning with partisan statewide and national races will, without a doubt, further politicize our local elections.
Some have argued that this change will increase voter turnout. While we agree that we ought to increase turnout in our elections across the board, this isn't the way to do it. And in fact, a long ballot may result in voter fatigue and dropoff, decreasing turnout for the municipal elections. There is data to support this. As has been cited previously, about 550,000 Pinellas County residents voted in the 2020 election. About 30,000 less people voted down the ballot for the first constitutional question.
We are not aware of any organized effort to pass or defeat this particular measure. We are not even aware of any individual voices being raised for or against this. But as veterans of national, state, and local government and politics, we’ve seen enough to know this isn’t the best idea. And as dads of young children, we care about the direction of our city. The sun is shining bright on St. Pete. Let’s keep it that way and stop trying to fix what’s not broken.
Please join us in voting no on City of St. Petersburg Charter Amendment 1.—Benjamin Kirby and Kevin King
Benjamin J. Kirby is a communications professional who previously worked in the Clinton Administration, for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman from 2014-22, and Nikki Fried for Governor. Kevin King works in the private sector and previously worked for the Florida Democratic Party, the Florida House of Representatives, and for Mayor Rick Kriseman from 2014-22.