Leadership — not retaliation

Goliath J. Davis, III. Ph.D.

An open letter to Mayor Rick Kriseman

ST. PETERSBURG – Mayor Kriseman, in my January 29 column regarding the ongoing controversy surrounding the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum, I called upon you to exercise your power as strong mayor to resolve the community tension associated with the issue.

Perhaps I should have addressed you prior to the January 22 vote by the Housing Authority Board of Directors, and I accept responsibility for not doing so. However, it never occurred to me you would follow the retributive voices of Karl Nurse, and others who vowed to punish housing authority board members who voted to sell the building the museum currently occupies.

I understand as mayor you have the right to nominate individuals for volunteer service on boards and commissions. I respect your right to do so, but I never envisioned you would retaliate against Mrs. Ann Thompson Taylor for her vote and I am fearful the others who voted to sell the structure will receive the same treatment when their terms expire.

I fully expect you to reply that your action was not retaliatory; however, I assure you I am not alone in my assessment of your decision to withdraw your nomination of Mrs. Taylor for reappointment to the board.

The leadership platform you campaigned on requires a thoughtful, just response to the Woodson Museum issue—not the political trickery and tactics utilized to change the board composition with hopes of generating a different outcome.

Mrs. Taylor was deemed worthy of reappointment before the vote but apparently fell from grace after voting her conscience. Her dignity and honor remains intact and   regrettably, those involved in the retaliatory act are being viewed less honorably.

The salient question remains: Does a full fledge African-American  Museum, replete with exhibits, staff, educational programs, etc., contribute significantly to the quality of life for St. Petersburg residents and visitors?  The obvious answer is a resounding yes; and if it is to become a reality, responsive, responsible leadership by our strong mayor is required.

Effective problem solving and proactive steps to bring the parties together for mediation and negotiation are essential if we are to achieve the greater good for a museum struggling to realize its full potential, a housing authority’s legitimate right to get out of the commercial real estate business, and a city’s desire for a historical art form.  Leadership, not retaliation is the needed prescription.

Mr. Mayor, your leadership with the baseball issue has been visible and aggressive. Your leadership in Midtown pales in comparison. Midtown residents deserve the same vigor, risk taking and attention major league baseball and other initiatives north of Central Avenue receive.  Midtown constituents frequently comment on your absence.

It appears the parties to the Carter G. Woodson Museum debate are still far from resolving their differences. Mayor, please dispense with the acts of retaliation, get into the arena and perform in a manner consistent with your title—The Honorable Rick Kriseman, Strong Mayor, City of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Thank You!

Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D.

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