Swearing-In Remarks by Mayor Rick Kriseman
To my family, to Judge Mark Shames, members of our city council and city administration - including Administrator Dr. Gary Cornwell and Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin and family; to the St. Petersburg Police Department and St. Pete Fire & Rescue, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
There is no place I would rather be today than right here with each of you, at the beginning of a new year and a new term.
Four years ago today, standing in this very spot, I made several promises. I pledged, working closely with our city council and the more than 250,000 citizens we represent, to tackle the most stubborn challenges facing our city; including poverty in south St. Pete, the construction of a new pier and police station, our agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays, and our infrastructure; specifically, our transportation infrastructure.
All of us, working together, have either resolved these issues, or made significant strides toward resolving them.
African-American poverty is now at an all-time low. But, we’re not declaring victory. There’s a long road ahead to ensure sustainable progress that can’t be undone.
A new, 26-acre pier is under construction, and will feature new restaurants, an event lawn, a unique playground and splash pad, a marine science education center, open air market, and so much more.
Construction of our new police station is also well under way and on budget.
An agreement was reached with the Rays in order to improve our chances of keeping the team in the Tampa-St. Pete area, and a master plan for the Tropicana Field site has been completed and presented to the team.
And our local and regional transportation infrastructure has become a priority for City Hall; resulting in the Cross Bay Ferry pilot program, bike share, Open Streets, and a community driven Complete Streets plan that will lead to neighborhood greenways and new and improved trails and bike lanes. In fact, St. Pete was recently recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly city, a ranking no other mid or large-size Florida city has attained.
Despite our progress on transportation and transit, the fact remains that the Tampa-St.Pete area is woefully behind our competition. And it’s costing us in countless ways. That’s why I’ll be working to not only bring the ferry back, but to better interconnect our city, and to connect our city with Florida’s other urban cities via more diverse mass transit options.
And we can have debates about the merits of rail or other alternative transportation, and we can debate how to pay for it, but there’s no debating that the status quo is simply unacceptable.
Other infrastructure challenges, such as the 40th Avenue bridge and our sewer system, are being addressed head-on. In fact, nearly $100 million has already been spent reducing the amount of stormwater that enters our wastewater system and increasing our treatment capacity.
And my hope is that this issue will now be less of a political football and that we can make even greater progress without unnecessary distraction.
This is important.
This isn’t just a public works project. It’s a public safety and public health project.
In addition to our immediate upgrades, our integrated ‘one water’ initiative will help us understand how drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, reclaimed water and recreational water uses overlap, and how we can best prepare for heavier use, a changing climate, and rising seas.
And all of this work complements our ongoing efforts to make St. Pete a cleaner and greener city less reliant on fossil fuel. Our latest initiative will formally kick off two days from now as we announce our agreement with Duke Energy to remove our incandescent street lights in favor of more efficient and brighter LEDs. And brighter streets also means safer streets; for our residents, our police officers, and especially for our kids.
Our kids, their future, is really what all of this is about.
It’s about ensuring St. Pete forever remains a wonderful and affordable place to live, work, and play.
We have work to do.
We recognize the difficulty that many families have finding homes that are the right price and right size, and we are working on solutions.
We also recognize that the very businesses we want lining our main streets - small and independent businesses - are threatened.
I believe in market forces, but I also believe leaders have a role to play in helping to shape a city by protecting the distinct flavor of vital commercial corridors, like Central Avenue. That’s why we kicked off a community conversation last May, and that’s why we’ll continue that conversation in 2018.
And we’ll also begin a larger conversation about St. Pete’s growth and future, which I expect will result in a Vision 2050 guiding document.
Again, it’s about our kids, and leaving our city better than we found it. We’re on track to do just that.
Beyond the progress I highlighted are new ordinances and policies and bold stances that have brought us closer to fully attaining our vision of being a city of opportunity where the sun shines on all; of being a truly innovative, creative, and competitive community.
This is the result of a team effort, beginning with the men and women who dared to turn a train stop into a resort town, and a resort town into a hub of arts and culture. Today, we dare to go further than anyone has ever imagined.
Today, we are a St. Pete that pursues a Cuban consulate, Amazon’s second world headquarters, and the World Pride celebration. We are a St. Pete that is brash enough to take on federal campaign finance laws. We are a St. Pete that has enough confidence to tell our Major League Baseball team to go look around - we’d love for you to choose us, but we’ll be just fine without you, too.
Today, we are a St. Pete of green initiatives, not green benches; a St. Pete where 20,000 strong march along our waterfront for women’s rights, and for every other right Donald Trump wishes to deny us of.
Today, we are a city of a compassion, a city that aims to be what Pope Francis has called a “workshop of peace.”
Today, literally today, we are a city where… for the first time...a majority of our council members are women.
This past year has been an especially important and inspiring year for women...because of women. I have the good fortune of being surrounded by strong women in my life; my wife Kerry, my daughter Jordan, my wonderful mother-in-law Ann, as well as so many exceptional women in leadership roles throughout our city government; from Dr. Tomalin to our first-ever female City Attorney, Jackie Kovilaritch, to our assistant city attorney, Jeannine Williams, to numerous administrators and directors. And we are better for it.
In fact, between our council members, our legal team, and our Deputy Mayor, as many as eight women may be sitting on the dais at one time in 2018.
So, let it be known: we are proud of our progress and our progressivism; especially right now, when good people from throughout our state, nation, and world are looking for rays of hope, and even refuge.
And so, we must continue to lead, not slow down. We must continue to shine bright, and not dim our light for others.
Join with me today. Join our council members. Join our city’s business leaders and faith leaders and neighborhood leaders and everyone who makes positive contributions to our city, in moving us forward and finishing the work we began.
And let’s do so united, because a united St. Pete is an unstoppable St. Pete.
Thank you and God bless you.