To keep St. Petersburg moving into the future and changing for the better, the city must address three things, according to former Mayor Rick Baker who called into The Consumer Quarterback Show and is running for re-election this August. The show is designed to help listeners succeed and get helpful tips from experts. Periodically, the spots are open to government officials who want to improve the atmosphere for business owners, residents and real estate professionals.
Residents, businesses and experts are asking that St. Petersburg deal with environmental issues that are harming fishing and tourism. Currently, one malfunctioning sewage treatment plant is dumping sewage into the Tampa Bay. Baker says that the plant needs to be fixed and reopened to allow the city to move forward on recreational and commercial fishing and bring more tourism into the city. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection needs to spend $160 million to fix the problem. The winner of the election must address this problem.
“In 2007, the city had the best-maintained treatment systems, but one day, the plant was taken offline, and now, we need it back working again,” Baker says.
Besides environmental issues, residents and business owners are concerned about overspending on big projects. For example, the new pier destination project is over budget by $35 million. The same is true for the new police station. That is over budget too. By overspending on the big projects, the city runs out of money for things, such as libraries, recreational facilities, parks, arts and cultural buildings. The overspending is countering the vibrancy and resurgence that is occurring in the Edge District, the Arts District and elsewhere, Baker says.
“We need to get back to Midtown and focus our attention there to keep St. Petersburg moving in a forward direction. Real estate is booming. We need to take advantage of that and keep the momentum going,” Baker says.
Contractors and real estate developers are concerned that the process to obtain building permits is too slow. Real estate is booming in parts of the city, but often, the developers are hampered because they can’t get a permit to continue their projects. This is costing the city, Baker says. In some cases, the developers don’t want to wait and pull out of projects. The city already has lost projects due to the long permit process.
“We want to encourage new businesses, not let them leave. This isn’t helping us move forward and building on momentum of the booming real estate market or the growing arts district and cultural areas.”
Baker will meet with businesses, contractors, developers and officials from the permitting office to determine what is causing the lag and find solutions.
To help the city move forward, St. Petersburg is supporting the Tampa Bay Rays by developing plans for a new stadium. The city has exploded in the area West of the stadium since the stadium was built. It is important to ensure the Rays stay in town to keep the business here. Along the same lines, the city is supporting the Rowdies bid for Major League of Soccer acceptance. Soccer is becoming more popular. By being a member of MLS, the Rowdies will attract more events, people and entertainment. This will push the city forward. Plans are under way to help the Rowdies achieve that goal, which will propel St. Petersburg on a national level.