ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- The future of the Tampa Bay Rays and Tropicana Field was the lead topic as nine candidates for mayor squared off in a virtual debate sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Spectrum Bay News 9.
All agreed that St. Petersburg can support a major league team... but apparently not all think it can do so full time. State Representative Wengay Newton says it would be okay for the Rays to play half their season in Montreal. Others, including Darden Rice, want to hear more about the Rays' split-city plans.
A couple of the candidates, including Newton, directed comments at former Pinellas County commissioner Ken Welch, identified as the frontrunner in a recent poll with 20 percent support.
Other issues covered in today's virtual debate....the question of systemic racism in the city's police department, climate change, and privitization of the city's marina.
Welch and Newton, both African-Americans, showed differing views over allegations of racism in the police force, with Newton saying much progress has been made.
Candidate Robert Blackmon insisted that racism "is not an issue within the St. Petersburg police department... we can curb crime by supporting our police." He said that during his time living in the Midtown neighborhood, residents asked for more police protection, not less.
Candidate Marcile Powers, who is white, asserted that "systemic racism and white fragility are prevalent everywhere," then said that police need to go through therapy and "work through their own childhood (or other) traumas," including PTSD from military service.