Tampa Bay Area Mayors Lay Out Goals For The New Year
The mayors of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater laid out their priorities for 2018 at the State of the Bay discussion on Friday.
Improving mass transportation options, updating aging infrastructure and redeveloping key areas were among the many goals identified by the mayors of Tampa Bay's three largest cities.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said funding for public transportation within and between the major cities of Tampa Bay will be necessary for future growth.
"We can have debates about the merits of rail or [bus rapid transit] or any other alternative transportation and we can debate how to pay for it, but there is no debating that the status quo is just unacceptable," Kriseman said.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn agreed with Kriseman and said the lack of mass transportation options have been the largest obstacle to attracting new jobs.
"I can tell you unequivocally that transportation is the Achilles heel of the Tampa Bay area," Buckhorn said.
Both Kriseman and Buckhorn lamented the lack of investment by the federal government into local infrastructure.
Kriseman said his administration will focus on improving the cities waste water infrastructure. St. Petersburg dumped more than 200 million gallons of water into the bay during 2015 and 2016.
"We can not have quality of life, we can not have economic development, if we are not planning for the future," he said.
For Mayor George Cretekos of Clearwater, the $55 million dollar redevelopment of the city's downtown waterfront is a high priority in 2018.
He said the redevelopment effort will likely take more than a decade to complete, but hopes it will attract more people to downtown.
"This council that I am the mayor of now, and the future councils, will work hard to reestablish downtown Clearwater like Tampa and St. Petersburg," he said.
Kriseman also addressed the controversy surrounding his declaration that St. Petersburg is a "sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws."
"Unless this administration is willing to give me additional personnel who are trained to do immigration, my officers are not trained to do that," he said. "I would rather have them doing the job they were trained to do in my city."
Buckhorn backed up Kriseman, saying "there are no sanctuary cities" in Florida.
"We are not the immigration police," he said. "That's not our job."
All three mayors said dealing with rising sea levels and other symptoms of climate change are priorities for their vulnerable cities.