One of Rick Kriseman’s most constant pledges on the campaign trail was to pay more attention to Midtown and issues affecting the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Just shy of a month after he won the mayoral election, Kriseman made good on his vow to hire someone to take charge of developing the struggling area. He made St. Petersburg native Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, 40, his director of urban affairs on Dec. 3. She will make $95,000 a year and is expected to start soon.
That’s one promise down. But Kriseman has at least 24 more to go, according to a tally by PolitiFact Florida.
"Wow," Kriseman joked recently. "I made that many?"
Kriseman, who will officially be sworn into office Jan. 2, has a lengthy to-do list. Now, residents will be able to monitor whether he gets any of it done.
PolitiFact Florida, the fact-checking website of the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald, is launching the Krise-O-Meter, which will compare what the new mayor said he would do to what he actually does.
Kriseman has company.
In the past few years, PolitiFact has created several other meters for politicians, including one for the president (Obameter), Florida’s governor (Scott-O-Meter) and Kriseman’s counterpart in Tampa (Buck-O-Meter). The meters hold public officials accountable for the pledges they make to voters before they go to the polls. The ratings are based on outcomes, not intentions.
"It’s good to have the scrutiny," Kriseman said. "My goal is to try to deliver on those promises."
It may not be easy. In addition to running the state’s fourth-largest city, Kriseman will face three daunting tasks almost immediately.
Police Chief Chuck Harmon is retiring after 12 years at the helm and Kriseman must find his replacement and address public safety concerns that came up on the campaign trail. The new mayor also will take over negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are angling for permission to explore new stadium sites outside of the city.
And then there’s that shuttered inverted pyramid on the city’s waterfront.
Kriseman made promises about all three on the campaign trail.
On the Rays: He said he will protect taxpayers and require the team to pay a fee if they want to scout locations outside the city.
On the Pier: He said he wants to move quickly, promising to have new task force recommendations by April and submit a final design to council by September. He said he wanted a new structure in place by the end of 2015.
On public safety: Kriseman said he would conduct a national search for Harmon’s replacement. He also pledged to tighten the agency’s high speed pursuit policy and re-establish a community policing philosophy.
"Everything I talked about seemed to be issues that I was interested in," Kriseman said, "but also things I was getting a lot of feedback on."
He’s likely to get more of that in the coming months, in part because he also pledged to share more information about city business with residents.
To do that, Kriseman said he would create "StPeteStat," a way to measure how well the city is working based on statistics.
StPeteStat, Kriseman said in speeches and campaign materials, "will consist of regular meetings, during which my staff and I will meet with department heads to examine and analyze past performance, future performance objectives, and overall performance strategies. Performance goals will be set, managers and workers will be held accountable, and results will be measured — not yearly, but monthly or even week-to-week."
During the race, Kriseman said the city didn’t do enough to sell itself or make it welcoming to people — even if they already live here. Several of his promises related to how neighborhoods look, feel and function.
They range from the very concrete — restoring funds for neighborhood grants — to things that are more conceptual.
For instance, Kriseman has said he wants to increase signs in neighborhoods so it’s easier to promote and distinguish among different areas in the city.
"My goal is for each neighborhood or area to have its own vibe, to be its own destination," Kriseman said on his campaign website. "Visually appealing signage at neighborhood entrances and wayfaring signage in populated areas is an easy first step and a resource for both residents and visitors."
Not all of his pledges are likely to be popular with residents.
Like his predecessor, Kriseman favors red light cameras and has no plans to halt the use of them. According to a Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll earlier this fall, a majority of voters oppose the cameras.
On the campaign trail, Kriseman promised to utilize the cameras at the most dangerous intersections for safety, not revenue. Still, he is likely to face resistance from some council members, who have signaled they would be happy to kill the program.
Kriseman also said he will support the November referendum for Green Light Pinellas. The plan, which would expand mass transit and raise money for light rail from a higher sales tax, is backed by 55 percent of Pinellas voters, a recent poll showed. That’s slightly less than the number of people who supported the idea a year ago.
"If I can do everything I said I wanted to do, then I can look back and say that I accomplished all those goals," Kriseman said. "To some degree I think they’s why folks voted for me. They want to see some of these things happen.
See Krise-O-Meter items.