Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kriseman Wants Stadium Saga to be Campaign Issue

Voters disappointed they never got to vote on a Rays referendum in 2008 may get another chance in 2013, as Mayor Bill Foster's top opponent may make this fall's election an referendum on his handling of the Stadium Saga.

Former councilman and state representative Rick Kriseman, who announced his candidacy last week, said he is running because of Foster's lack of leadership on issues, including negotiations with the Rays.

"I would not have kicked the can down the road," Kriseman said in an e-mail exchange. "Rather than simply ignoring the concerns of the Rays and hoping that the agreement will adequately protect our interests until 2027, I will initiate conversations about the future of the team in St. Pete and in this area."

Kriseman added that the city's contract with the Rays, which - in theory - keeps the team at Tropicana Field through 2027, "can be amended (as well as) broken."

While Foster, a lawyer by trade, has refused to publicly consider buy-outs and has followed the advice of St. Pete's city attorney not to amend the contract to allow the Rays to search in Tampa, Kriseman disagrees.

Kriseman, also a lawyer, says he would like to capitalize on the city's negotiating leverage now and work to maximize compensation for the Rays' eventual departure.

The stance should help endear Kriseman to the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times, the region's largest and most influential newspaper. The paper lent Foster an influential endorsement when he ran for mayor in 2009, but has since been very critical of him, including his lack of embracing a region-first approach with the Rays.

Kriseman says he respects city attorney John Wolfe, but "that two different attorneys can come up with two different opinions on an issue."

"Because I believe that the agreement with the Rays can be amended without negatively impacting the City's potential damages claim," Kriseman continued, "I would direct City Attorney Wolfe to craft an amendment to the agreement which reflects the Gerdes amendment (or something similar), yet does so in a way that doesn't diminish our damages claim should the Rays decide to terminate the agreement early."

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