A tale of 2 boomtowns: Tampa, St. Pete

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman took the stage February 21 at Tampa Tiger Bay Club’s monthly meeting at the Cuban Club in Ybor City to tell "A Tale of Two Boomtowns.''

83 Degrees asked several attendees to share their top takeaways with our larger audience. Here is what they think you should know:

Yvonne Fry, President, Fryed Egg Productions; President, Tampa Tiger Bay Club

Yvonne FryThere were several top takeaways. Transportation continues to be an underlying concern in each part of our region and thus, regionally is an issue we must address. The opportunities for collaboration on strategy, funding, and execution expand as we embrace the bigger picture together. The Rays dominate so much of our time and attention and it’s important to keep them here as Mayor Castor stated, but not at any cost. Our sense of place in each community has blossomed so much and offers something for everyone to enjoy and benefit from, but there’s still a lot of earnest work to be done on equal economic opportunities, access to resources, affordable housing and yes, transportation options.

Tom Scherberger, VP, Tampa Tiger Bay Club 

Tom ScherbergerAs someone who's been around for 40 years and lived on both sides of the bay, I was struck with the seemingly genuine spirit of cooperation. Even with the [Tampa Bay] Rays, an issue that has sorely divided the two cities, they seem to be working together, not against each other. We knew [former Tampa Mayor Bob] Buckhorn and Kriseman got along and it's gratifying to see Mayor Castor continue. The two cities are so different and so great in their own ways, and the mayors seem to recognize that and treat each other with respect. I think that will pay long-term dividends.

Mauricio Rosas, Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association Volunteer

Mauricio RosasNo one threw any soft pitches, but both held their own. It was good to hear both addressing climate change head-on. Kriseman is taking the lead in using solar energy to power new buildings, like the new Pier, and not waiting for Duke Energy to step up to the plate. Whereas Castor is highlighting the innovation of the Water Street project. And both are on the same page about expanding the use of our waterways to connect both cities. Overall, both look at working as teammates and not rivals to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Mimi B. Osiason, TampaBay-Job-Links Community Liaison
Mimi OsiasonCongeniality was the word of the day. Even as they criticized the state Legislature for usurping responsibilities best left for local governments, no names were named, no political party critiqued. Both Mayor Kriseman and Mayor Castor emphasized promoting Tampa Bay as a region rather than competing. And while there were a few questions about such things as affordable housing, transportation, and Fair Oaks Park in East Tampa, the audience was most interested in the Rays, another topic about which both mayors espoused working together to keep the team in the area. 

Susan Raines, Community Advocate

Susan RainesI had several takeaways. For me, one of the most important points centered around the issue of housing affordability. It was disappointing to hear Mayor Castor disclose that only a small percentage of permits issued in 2019 was for affordable housing. Something needs to be done to address issues in this area so that there will be more interest in those permits in the coming year.   
Another takeaway was wanting to find out whether Strategic Property Partners plans to incorporate affordable housing into the development of downtown Tampa’s Water Street. These affordable housing options are desperately needed in our community.
While we still do not have anywhere near the number of affordable housing options required to actually begin meeting the huge need in our community, I still have hope.  With the continued support of Mayor Castor and the strides she is making, I believe we will see more affordable housing in our community in the not-too-distant future.

Don KruseDon Kruse, President and CEO, Beauty and Health Institute

We finally have two Bay Area leaders that not only show a willingness to get along, but both recognize it’s the only way for each of the communities to succeed.

J. Scott Taylor, Esq., Tampa

J. Scott TaylorMayor Kriseman expressed little sympathy for the economic plight of Stu Sternberg and the Tampa Bay Rays. And rightly so. While the Rays may be last or next-to-last in game attendance, the Rays ownership has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, huge profits from the TV contract and revenue sharing (see New York Yankees). Not to mention the gigantic increase in the value of the team from the day Mr. Sternberg bought the franchise to today. The Mayor of St. Petersburg did not seem much intimidated by the Rays’ not so thinly veiled threats to move the team. And, he was quick to say, the Rays could split their schedule with any city they like, as soon as their lease at Tropicana Field has expired. Well done, Mr. Mayor. Go Rays!

Betty CastorBetty Castor, Community Leader and Education Advocate

The biggest takeaway was the mutual respect the mayors exhibited for each other and for their respective cities. The civil discourse and positive comments were a contrast to the bombastic, negative 24-hour news cycle. Refreshing.

Helene Daniel, Trial Attorney and judicial candidate running for Circuit Court Judge

Helene DanielMy question was: In light of the unprecedented growth in the Tampa Bay area, what are your respective administrations doing to safeguard our ecosystem?
I was impressed with both mayors’ awareness of the issues affecting our ecosystem in the Tampa Bay Area and their fluidity in articulating the challenges we face and solutions they are working on. They expressed genuine concern and both are taking active roles to safeguard our environment for future generations. 

Mayor Castor has studied other cities that share similar waterways challenges. She is advocating the use of safer building materials that will make a difference in the years to come.
Mayor Kriseman is advocating, among other things, for a regular ferry system between Tampa and St. Petersburg, which will greatly alleviate emissions due to heavy traffic on our bridges. The clear message from both Mayor Castor and Mayor Kriseman is they are each willing to use their time in office and resources to effect change.

 Robert H. “Bob’’ Buesing, Tampa attorney

Bob BuesingMy takeaways on the “themes” I heard:
  • Optimism -- Both projected a recognition that growth is going to continue and they both expressed optimism they can make real progress on their key goals.
  • Regionalism -- They both expressed a regional view and sidestepped any chances to treat differences as competitive advantages within the region. Instead, it was all about regional strength.
  • Frustration with Tallahassee’s hypocrisy on “Home Rule” -- But it didn’t sound like it was going to slow then down much -- an annoyance more than a party killer.
  • Transportation Improvements are needed -- Both hit that hard. That is not news, but they didn’t miss a chance to say it one more time.
Janet Scherberger, VP of Communications, Tampa International Airport

The connection between investment in transit and transit-oriented development and affordable housing was one of the most important points made by the two mayors. It underscores how improving our transportation system is vital to so much more than just getting from point A to point B.

Pat Spears, fund-raiser for education nonprofits

Pat Spears"When you get Tampa, you get Tampa Bay,'' said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. Collaboration was at the forefront of the interactions. Although competitiveness is apparent, think Tampa Bay Rays. They reaffirmed each other’s accomplishments and the strength they have together and working together. Uplifting and positive!

David Lavery, retired Locomotive Engineer and also retired as Chairman, State Legislative Board, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen 

David LaveryTransportation by far. Frustration was raised about the lone Hillsborough County Commissioner (Stacy White) on his efforts to derail the Transportation plan for Tampa and Hillsborough County. The issue is now in front of the Florida Supreme Court. However, Mayor Kriseman said he hopes to see a similar push or referendum for Transportation in Pinellas. These mayors are determined to transform Tampa and St. Petersburg into even more modern livable cities.

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Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is a community leader and award-winning journalist with more than four decades of experience reporting and writing about the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. She serves on the boards of the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications Advisory Council, The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council, Sing Out and Read, and StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. She also is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism, she won the top statewide award for editorial writing from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors while at The Tampa Tribune and received special recognition by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists for creative work as Content Director at WUSF Public Media. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Tampa Tiger Bay Club, USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP), Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Awesome Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Diane and her husband, Sandy Rief, live in Tampa.