Kriseman: Baker’s environmental claim ‘smells worse than actual sewage’
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman blasted former Mayor Rick Baker’s campaign claims about the city’s sewer issues as “hypocritical” and “inaccurate.”
ST. PETERSBURG – The race for mayor heated up Thursday (July 5) as Mayor Rick Kriseman blasted former Mayor Rick Baker for providing “inaccurate information” about St. Petersburg’s sewage issues.
“It smells worse than actual sewage,” Kriseman said. Baker’s statements, he said, are “inaccurate, deceptive, hypocritical.”
Baker could not be reached for comment.
Since Baker stepped into the mayor’s race in early May, he has kept up the attack on Kriseman. His main issue is the almost 200 million gallons of sewage that was dumped into Tampa Bay during tropical storms.Baker and others have charged it was Kriseman’s decision in 2015 to close the Albert Whitted sewage plant that led to the spills. The most recent volley in the sewer battle cam over the weekend in the form of a video ad by Seamless Florida, a political committee backing Baker, that charged Kriseman was responsible for the one of the worst “environmental disasters”in the city’s history. The ad also touted Baker’s “green” credentials.
Kriseman called a press conference Thursday at the Sierra Club, which has endorsed him, to tell the facts as he sees them.
It’s Baker, he said, who started the conversation about closing the Albert Whitted plant in 2001. Baker, he said, commissioned a study in 2002 to look into the closure. The idea was later tabled because of “public outcry.”
In 2011, the St. Petesburg City Council voted to close Albert Whitted. When they did, Kriseman said, they ceased maintaining it even though the plant remained open. Kriseman made the final decision in 2015 to close the plant.
When the system became overwhelmed during storms in 2016, Kriseman said he made the decision to release the sewage into the bay rather than let it flow in streets or back up into homes. That’s the same remedy Baker suggested in a book he wrote after leaving the mayor’s office, Kriseman said.
Kriseman said it was “hypocritical” for Baker to criticize him for making the same decision the former mayor said he would make in similar circumstances.
Seven people are running for St. Petersburg mayor: Kriseman, Baker, Paul Congemi, Jesse Nevel, Anthony Cates, Theresa Lassiter and Ernisa Barnwell. The mayor serves a four-year term and earns $180,895 a year. The primary is Aug. 29. The two top votegetters will move on to the Nov. 7 general election. The race is non-partisan.
For information about Rick Kriseman’s campaign, go to kriseman.com.
Photo by Anne Lindberg.
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