ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Speaking extensively on the Rays' Stadium Saga for the first time since city council rejected his proposed deal in December, Mayor Rick Kriseman said he has no timetable for renewing negotiations with the team but expects to find middle ground and advance the dialogue soon.
Kriseman was fielding both hardball and softball questions from participants in the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, a local group that meets approximately once a month to put prominent figures in front of other local influential people to face difficult, but generally good-spirited questions.
TIMELINE: Rays' Stadium Saga Coverage since 2009
Among the Tiger Bay members firing questions at the mayor was St. Pete councilmember Wengay "Newt" Newton, who asked Kriseman if he "really believed council would approve" the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would have given the Rays the ability to explore possible new stadium sites in Hillsborough County without penalty.
Ultimately, council rejected the deal, 5-3, over concerns of future redevelopment potential.
"I view city council as a partner and city government as a team," Kriseman said, acknowledging the two sides won't always see eye-to-eye. ""What I appreciate is that...you and I continue to meet & talk...for the good of the city."
Kriseman added criticisms of the city council, saying it was too quick to "workshop" every issue and councilmembers don't trust each other, so they attend every workshop. He said when he was on city council, from 2002-2006, councilmembers trusted each other more and worked better together.
Kriseman also spoke of what he called St. Pete's advancements on small business gains and LGBT rights. He spoke at length about the city's impressive development, saying the city's parking garages are not just a bargain, but also the key to alleviating street parking issues.
Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long opened the program with an over-the-top introduction heralding many of the mayor's 2014 accomplishments, but also the many hurdles he faces in 2015, including the Rays, Pier, and transit options.