In this news brief: St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman announces a new plan to name a library after President Barack Obama; statewide vigils are being held tonight to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting; 26 unlicensed contractors are arrested in Operation Drop the Hammer; the Tampa Downtown Partnership wants you to leave your car at home this week.
Voters elected incumbent Rick Kriseman to be mayor of St. Petersburg by a slim margin on Tuesday.
According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Kriseman won 51.64 percent of the vote. His opponent, former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker, received 48.36 percent of the vote. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two candidates, both of whom have served time as the city’s mayor.
Kriseman campaigned with a platform that supported clean energy and LGBT equality, while openly criticizing President Donald Trump. He also emphasized his commitment to reducing crime and improving infrastructure.
Baker’s campaign also focused on reducing crime and making St. Petersburg more environmentally friendly. His campaign website’s “blueprint” also showed his desire to improve public schools, bring more jobs to the area and revitalize the downtown district.
On paper, both candidates seem to agree on most topics—but they certainly did not act like it. Baker, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2010, repeatedly criticized Kriseman’s administration, blaming it for St. Pete’s “sewage crisis” which was worsened by Hurricane Irma. Kriseman called out Baker for not openly opposing Trump.
While the office is nonpartisan, political parties still play a major role. Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican.
A columnist at the Tampa Bay Timesadvocated for Baker to speak publicly about Trump. For John Romano, the writer of that article, knowing a candidate’s political ideology is crucial when deciding who to vote for, and knowing whether Baker supports one of the most polarizing people in America could have swayed voters.
Kriseman won despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times, the most popular local newspaper, endorsed Baker. The Times traditionally recommends Democrats, and some have questioned the newspaper’s motive for recommending Baker.
In this news brief: several Bay Area post offices are open late today so people can make tonight’s tax day deadline; two people are injured after a boat catches on fire in Coquina Key; heavy fires inside a New Tampa Jersey Mike’s damage three neighboring businesses; an overnight house fire in Wimauma sends one person to the hospital; Tampa International Airport releases more plans for its billion-dollar renovations; the first and second rounds of March Madness are returning to Tampa in 2020.
In this education brief: a St. Petersburg teacher is surprised with a $25,000 award; a local elementary school is providing for its students in and out of the classroom; some Bay Area teachers will be receiving a bonus through the Best and Brightest program; a new Riverview school is named after a civil rights activist.
St. Pete Festival helps to build the city’s reputation as a harbor for the arts and celebrates local artists and their creations with 57 dedicated events ever weekend through September
On Sept. 17 a series of curated dance performances took the streets of downtown St. Petersburg. It was part of Our Town: A Moving Dance Tour of St. Pete, an original art installation directed by USF assistant professor of dance Andee Scott. Scott has wanted to create a piece of moving public art for some time now.
“I think it’s just fun to think of the audience as part of the performance,” said Scott.
The project received an overwhelming amount of support by all those who joined the tour and even those who chose to stay on the sidelines. Dozens of members of the community attended the event to discover something new about their city. Scott, together with the St. Pete Dance Alliance and Dance Linkages, are already in the process of putting together an even bigger art installation.
The audience traveled through the streets of downtown from one performance to the next and experienced historic sites in a new way. Dancers and performers from around the Bay Area were invited to participate in the event. Alex Jones, a choreographer from Collective Dance Soles Company, directed one of the seven performances of the evening.
“It was really nice to be asked to be a part of something so awesome,” said Jones.
Donna Welch has made it her mission to educate young girls about their worth and their choices.
“We have learned that girls can have so many challenges in their life,” Welch said. “So having a program where they can come—it’s a platform open to the young ladies to discuss all the issues that relate to them…we cover it all.”
Welch established My Daughter’s Keeper of Tampa Bay, Inc. (MDK) in 2007. The St. Petersburg mentoring program aims to encourage and empower young women ages 10 to 18. The girls meet weekly to discuss anything from school to relationships to aspirations. The program also organizes workshops for the girls on etiquette, personal development, and any other needs the girls may have.
“I think that a lot of what is being talked about now is self-esteem issues and being confident in who you are and in your own skin,” mentor NaKeena Cromartie said.
There are currently 25 to 30 girls enrolled in the program. When Welch is not working with them, she is touring the Bay area, giving speeches and offering her services. Welch has an open door policy and loves when previous mentees like Cromartie come back to help out with the program.
“That’s the rewarding part,” Welch said, “to be able to see the young ladies that go off to school, or you know the military or whatever they choose to do in life, but they don’t forget the program that helped them get there.”
“I’ve known Ms. Donna for a very long time,” Cromartie said. “And she’s not only been and instructor from the MDK perspective…but also like a godmother to me.”
Welch hopes to continue to influence young girls by expanding her program to Tampa.
Fans were given a chance to mingle with both players, coaches, and alumni. Autographs by some of the team favorites raised over $50,000 for charity. Carnival-style games and batting cages were enjoyed by fans of all ages.
After two decades of playing at Tropicana Field in St. Pete, word of the team seeking out a new stadium spread fast. With an official search for a site underway, fans were asked what they thought about the potential move.
Trevor Norman of Largo said, “I don’t think it’s really the whole far away factor…you hop on the interstate and you’re there. I think the biggest thing is probably parking. Kind of a shady area but, you know, I guess, I think if they could improve that they could definitely get more people to come.”
Key considerations of the new stadium include location, authenticity, and size. The Rays’ have suggested a site with at least 20 acres.
Season ticket holder Travis McManan isn’t going to let the relocation affect his loyalty to the Rays. “I’m a pretty hardcore baseball fan. If it’s Tampa, if it’s in St. Pete, if it’s in Orlando, as long as it’s a reasonable drive, I’m going to be right there,” McMahan said.
This year’s Fan Fest set a record attendance of over 17,000 people.
The first game of the season is scheduled for April 3rd. The Rays’ will take on the Toronto Blue Jays with a home field advantage.