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Saturday, May 19, 2018
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A new voice for St. Pete

Voters decided Tuesday that a new mayor is needed for St. Petersburg. Rick Kriseman’s comfortable win over incumbent Bill Foster is a clear message that a fresh voice is wanted at City Hall.

Foster steered the city through rough economic times, implemented effective panhandling laws, and handled the tragic deaths of three police officers with dignity. But his inability to communicate effectively with city council members, with Tampa Bay Rays officials and the leaders in Midtown and neighborhoods beyond his base ultimately led to his defeat.

The public wants a mayor who can build consensus and deliver the desired results.

Kriseman’s first official phone call should be to the Tampa Bay Rays. Negotiations to end the stadium impasse stalled under Foster, and a new mayor might be positioned to get team officials back to the table.

He might follow that phone call by gathering the people needed to chart a realistic course for replacing The Pier. Beyond that, Kriseman finds a city poised for growth. He promises to be a champion for mass transit, foster economic development in Midtown, alter the city’s police-chase policy, bolster education initiatives, attract new businesses and bring more transparency to government.

He’ll have a city council that, for the most part, is eager to work with a new mayor. A majority of the council endorsed his candidacy, and the two new members elected Tuesday, Darden Rice and Amy Foster, appear to be in line with Kriseman’s stated goals. The incumbents who won re-election, Jim Kennedy and Karl Nurse, are capable council members who put the city first.

Kriseman never soared as a candidate, but he has a reputation as an effective advocate who clearly articulates where he stands. That skill should serve him well as mayor.

Meanwhile, by a wide margin, voters in Clearwater approved a plan to lease prime city property where a $160 million aquarium might one day be built.

The plan’s backers say the popularity of Winter the dolphin could propel the aquarium’s annual attendance above the 1 million mark and support a three-story aquarium facility that will transform downtown Clearwater.

While we think the plan is too ambitious, the coming months will give the public a better sense of its viability.

A feasibility study is being completed, and backers must now demonstrate they can raise the money to build the facility. If those hurdles are cleared, the final lease must be approved by the Clearwater City Council before the facility can be built.

Tuesday’s vote was the only chance the public will have to vote directly on any aspect of the plan. It is now incumbent on city council members to perform the due diligence expected of such a significant project.

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