Today I had the pleasure of having an audience, along with 9 other members of the St. Petersburg Young Professionals, with the engaging mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Baker. The mayor is the tall gentleman in the back-center. The mayor is funny and well spoken, though his speaking is soft and deliberate. He is a big lover of dog parks and the building of neighborly and community ties that they produce, which I can personally attest to as being 100% true. He told us that the main reason why a recent company of computer engineers chose to move their headquarters to downtown St. Petersburg is because of its proximity to cycling trails. Again, this is another reason why I too love the downtown area of St. Petersburg.
The mayor spoke to us for an hour, outlining what it is to be a mayor and his personal "Baker Plan" for running the city. Here are a few bits of trivia he shared with us:
- a goal of his is to have a playground within a half mile of every child
- "Until the crime rate is zero, you have a crime problem."
- There are various species of trees planted from the Howard Franklin to the Sunshine bridges that bloom so that at any point of the year, some of those trees will be in bloom, 6,000 blossoming trees planted total in the city
- The number of city employees since he took office has shrunk by 14% (-300 employees), but the police force has increased
- The average EMS response time is just 4.5 minutes
- The mayor does not support police car chases for anything other than violent crimes, and argued his point very convincingly
- St. Pete teachers can get a free $20,000 house down payment if they live in that same house for 10 years and continue teaching in the city
I was impressed with his dedication to education and the environment, and I am not easily impressed on such matters. He took questions from us for 30 minutes. I asked him why solar is not more widely used in such a sunny city. His answers of solar not yet being economically feasible to implement and also not technologically advanced enough to put into widespread use would not have been enough for me if he had not wisely qualified those statements with his belief, however, that strides must be taken to keep developing solar so that the costs for using it can come down, as costs have come down for other technologies.
I only wish I could have gotten in the photograph with the mayor too! (I was the one who made it.)