Neighborhoods are what make our city unique and appealing.
St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
This is the second of an eight-part series detailing the Rick Baker Plan for St. Petersburg
From the Rick Baker BLUEPRINT for St. Pete
For more than eight years as Mayor, Rick Baker worked to transform St. Petersburg into a modern, prosperous, safe, neighborhood- friendly and seamless city. From jobs and economic empowerment, to schools, neighborhoods, the arts, our environment, and public safety, this “blueprint” will guide Rick Baker’s efforts to restore competence, commitment and honesty to City Hall.
Rest assured that a Baker Administration, like before, will be ALL IN for our neighborhoods! They are what make our city unique and appealing, and we will directly partner with neighborhood leaders to constantly improve, nourish and protect them.
- DEPUTY MAYOR: Neighborhoods are so important to me that on day one I will again appoint a Deputy Mayor for Neighborhoods, an important position that was rejected by the current administration. Deputy Mayors report directly to the mayor, and we want neighborhood leaders to always have a direct line to the mayor’s office.
- NEIGHBORHOOD PRESIDENT COFFEES: I had a priority of having regular morning coffees with small groups of neighborhood presidents and members of my staff in the mayor’s office. These were relaxed but productive gatherings with no agenda other than to listen to what is going on in their neighborhoods, everything from planning and public safety to code enforcement. It is problem solving at the street level. It is also a chance for leaders to share and learn from each other. These will be scheduled at least monthly.
- PLAY ‘N’ CLOSE TO HOME: We will finish what I began by ensuring every child in the City is within a safe one-half-mile walk of a city playground. Play ‘N’ Close to Home was almost 80% completed when I left office, yet remains unfinished. For me that leaves too many children without access to a park playground. My opponent doesn’t feel this is a priority; I do!
- REPLICATE DELL HOLMES PARK: The Dell Holmes park and playground is one of the most successful projects we completed. Building on that success, I will build a large playground/water feature/picnic shelter park at Spa Beach on the Pier approach. I will also work with neighborhoods on the west side to explore locations for a similar signature playground.
- BIKING & WALKING: Our citizens love biking, but many lack bike trails near their homes and fear riding in traffic. I will expand the CityTrails program I established to build the largest bike path system in the southeast United States. In walking this city and listening to citizens I am aware that our sidewalks still need more repair, expansion and crosswalk safety options. In my first 6 months, and working with Council, we will build on my very successful CityTrails program to develop an aggressive plan that addresses these needs. St. Pete progressed from being named the #1 pedestrian mean street city in the United Stated during the year before I took office, to becoming one of America’s top ten bicycle cities, thanks to CityTrails. Let’s shoot for #1!
- GREEN CITY: I will be the greenest mayor in St. Pete history, something I began during my term when we made St Petersburg “Florida’s First Designated Green City”. I agree with the priorities I have heard from citizens: fix Rick Kriseman’s sewer plant mistakes and stop his spills that have been devastating to our city and state environment; reverse City Hall’s backsliding in cleaning up of Lake Maggiore; expand the SunLit City Parks solar program (building upon what we started 10 years ago); renew extensive tree planting (we should exceed the 20,000 planted during my previous administration); expand energy saving programs; and expand on our water conservation efforts. As former co-chair of Governor Charlie Crist’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change, I know that adaptation strategies are critical to address sea level rise – it takes more than press conferences and high paid staff positions – it is time to roll up our sleeves.
- DOG PARKS: I was proud to have opened the first St. Petersburg Dog Park, and we built these throughout the city. They have become special places for both our four-legged friends and their human companions. Zero new dog parks have been created by our current mayor. As mayor, I will actively seek neighborhood input, and advocate for the expansion of dog parks so all citizens can enjoy this unique experience.
- LIBRARIES: Reading opens the world up to every child while stimulating creativity and a hunger for knowledge. We built four new libraries during my term in office and upgraded the others. The modern libraries help bridge the technology gap for low income children and adults. We will continue my prior focus on promoting greater availability and access for citizens, focusing not just on books but computer technology as well.
- BLUE WAYS: I will expand the kayak Blue Ways trails we established in coastal waters.
- TRADITIONAL NEIGHBORHOODS & PRESERVATION: We will make historic preservation a true priority moving forward. This not only fosters neighborhood stability, but maintains the unique architecture and atmosphere of our city. The recent loss of the historic Central National Bank building was sad and unnecessary.
- NOISE: This
has become a significant issue, especially downtown, where many new residents
continue to have concerns about the increasing level of noise. We will enforce
the existing (or any new) noise ordinance, something the current mayor has not
done, including taking appropriate legal action when necessary against repeat
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Disclosures: Contributor to Rick Baker for Mayor Campaign
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