ST. PETERSBURG — A day doesn’t go by when I am in the community that I am not approached by Weekly Challenger patrons who share with me their concerns regarding life in Midtown, south St. Pete and Mayor Rick Kriseman’s performance.
Some constantly remind me of my support of the mayor’s election campaign, and many with whom I speak report they voted for the mayor in part based on my endorsement, and encourage me to write the columns and share their points of view. These conversations and my assessment of current events inspired my Feb. 5 column, “An open letter to Mayor Rick Kriseman.”
I am pleased to report to the readers and others with whom I have spoken that I think we have gotten the mayor’s attention. At 11:25 a.m. on Feb. 6, I received a call from Mayor Kriseman and he spoke on two issues: my Feb. 5 column and the Jan. 22 police-community meeting.
Regarding the column, he requested I call him about my concerns or disagreement with his actions rather than as he stated: “print them in the newspapers.” I assured the mayor I have no problem calling him or speaking with him, but I will continue to exercise my right to choose among the various options: call, write a column, or call and write.
Inasmuch as my writings are intended to convey expressed community and personal concerns as well as hopefully inform public policy, the written columns facilitate transparency and public trust. Ironically, I never received a call from Mayor Kriseman when I authored editorials or columns endorsing his policies or positions to include my columns on the selection of an outside police chief and the retention of charter language supporting his right to appoint top city executives absent city council approval.
On Jan. 22, Chief Tony Holloway hosted a police-community forum at Gibbs High School. I attended the forum, which was also heavily attended by police and city personnel, most of whom I know. When I inquired about the small number of community participants, I was told the forum was not widely advertised. Members of the Uhuru movement arrived and promptly asserted the gathering was not a community meeting given the negligible number of community participants.
During our very brief conversation on the morning of Feb. 6, Mayor Kriseman stated he wanted me to know members of the Uhuru Movement did not change anyone’s mind at the Jan. 22 police-community meeting, and he had information I knew the Uhurus were coming.
I found the mayor’s comments as perplexing as Gibbs’ Principal Rubin Hepburn’s attempt to evict members of the movement from a public meeting just as they were leaving, but stopped at the door to state, in elevated voices, their parting points of view.
I informed the mayor that I called the principal (who is new to the community) aside and asked him to discontinue his eviction efforts and was informed Chief Holloway wanted the individuals removed. Mayor Kriseman responded he does not believe Chief Holloway made the request and I suggested he ask the principal and Chief Holloway. Others present also indicated Chief Holloway wanted the Uhuru members removed from the meeting.
Although I did not address the Uhuru movement or the Jan. 22 meeting in my Feb. 5 article and the two may appear unrelated to the reader, there is a common thread—community. The police are the community, members of the Uhuru Movement are the community and the residents of Midtown and south St. Pete are the community.
Mayor Kriseman brought them all together during our conversation on the morning of Feb. 6 and it is imperative that he and his team, to include Chief Tony Holloway, recognize the legitimacy of all constituent groups and address their concerns.
The “Open letter” called for responsive, responsible leadership in lieu of retaliation. I am confident Mayor Kriseman heard the call, hopeful he will respond appropriately and confident The Weekly Challenger readership will remain vigilant.
Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D.