From raw sewage to Sarah Palin, St. Pete mayoral debate goes down a rabbit hole

The two ‘Rick's' battle for St. Pete Mayor
Posted at 10:15 PM, Jul 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-26 02:26:41-04

Current Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker faced off at the Palladium theater for an hour long debate.

Most of the topics were what you would expect from two candidates running for mayor.  Questions were asked about public safety, keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete, the construction of the pier, affordable housing, education and jobs. 

But, the topic that dominated the conversation, sewage spills.  Baker never accepted any responsibility for the current sewage crisis despite his two terms in office from April 1, 2001 to Jan. 2, 2010.  Baker claims that during his tenure, the city had its sewage under control.

“In my 9 years in officer, we invested $160 million into water and sewer capital infrastructure in the city, that's probably in today's dollars over $200 million we worked on the sewer plants, we worked on the lift stations, the pipes throughout the city made an enormous investment,” Baker said. 

Kriseman said the city is developing a master plan to fix all of the issues with sewage.  The plan will take 18-24 months to develop. 

In the meantime, Kriseman said the city is taking steps to make sure they don’t have another 31 million gallon sewage spill into the bay, like they did in Aug. 2015.

“We just didn't invest enough in the maintenance,” Kriseman said.  “We didn't plan for the future of our growing cities and climate change.”

When the candidates were asked to ask each other questions Baker asked Kriseman about the sewage crisis.  But, Kriseman asked Baker something out of left field.  

“Why you supported Sarah Palin?” Kriseman asked.

Baker quickly responded, telling the audience that races for mayor shouldn't be partisan.

“Rick Kriseman has tried everything in his pose to make this a partisan race because he doesn't have a record to run on,” Baker said. “That's what Mayor Kriseman has done with his tweeting.  He is paying so much attention to what is going on in Washington, so much what's going on in Tallahassee he is not focusing on St Pete.”

Kriseman said the voters should know where Baker stands on hot button political issues of the day.

“You know where I stand.  You’ll always know where I stand,” Kriseman said.  “If believing that man has an impact on climate change, if opposing drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, if fighting against the repeal of Obamacare so that the thousands of people that live in the city of St. Pete can still have their insurance, and if speaking out against President Trump.  I’m going to speak out against that cause those are my values.  We haven't heard what Mr Bakers values are cause he hasn't shared them with you because he doesn't want to get into that because it's partisan.”