Candidates for mayor of St. Petersburg pledge to do more for the city's poorest neighborhoods

Foster touts progress, Kriseman promises more

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Away from the scenic waterfront vistas and world class museums, there is a grittier and more dangerous St. Petersburg.

"It is a tale of two cities" said NAACP President Emmanuel Sykes.  He said he's seen no real improvement outside his office on 16th Street for over 20 years.  

"The time has come where drugs have got to stop being the biggest employer in our community," said Sykes.     

"If you live in South St. Pete or you live in Midtown, you shouldn't have to drive 20 minutes to go to a restaurant or go clothes shopping. That's got to change," said mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman.

Kriseman is speaking to voters who have more immediate concerns than what happens to the Rays or the Pier.

"Certainly downtown is thriving. But if you look outside the downtown, I haven't seen a whole lot change in Midtown or South St. Pete."

But, incumbent mayor Bill Foster ticks off a list of improvements during his time in office.

"St. Pete College building a 45,000 square foot campus, the reopening of the Manhattan Casino with Sylvia's of Harlem, Walmart coming in."

Foster supports a community redevelopment designation that would funnel much needed investment dollars into Midtown beyond the recently announced Walmart store.

Foster says he would have accomplished more had the economic crash not slashed tax revenues to the city.  
"If I had 35 million dollars, I could have said yes to everybody and been the most popular mayor in the city's history. But we didn't. We had to provide essential need services with less," said Foster.

Reverend Sykes has this question for both candidates.

"What are you going to do about it?  I don't want to hear about what the city council will or won't let me do. What, out of your unilateral power, are you willing to do?"
A recent poll by the Tampa Bay Times shows among Black voters in St. Petersburg, challenger Rick Kriseman is winning two to one.

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