Lowering the Flag is Just the Beginning of Baker’s Offenses & Sins of Omission

– By Pinellas County School Board Member Rene Flowers

On February 1, 2016, Mayor Rick Kriseman did what no other Mayor before him had ever done in the City of St. Petersburg. He ceremoniously raised the flag of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum over City Hall, in honor of not only Black History Month, but the “Father of African American History,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson.

Nowhere that we know of in this nation’s history has a flag been raised over a government facility in recognition of Black History and Dr. Woodson. St. Petersburg residents have been elated to share the pride inspired when Mayor Kriseman committed to celebrating the contributions of African Americans, past and present.

During a recent debate at the Palladium (sponsored by BayNews9), Rick Baker stated that flying flags over City Hall creates division among residents.  What a sad commentary. To suggest acknowledging Black History Month would prove divisive is the kind of rhetoric that divides.

This is an example of taking two steps forward and five steps back. Placing issues important to African Americans back to the starting line is what we see happening across our nation.  When words do not line up with actions, we must pay careful attention.

Baker’s declaration regarding the flag, among other statements by the former mayor, including his support of Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Rick Scott, and Donald Trump, signifies his desire to “take our city back again,” back to a day when diversity was not embraced as it is today, back to a day when engaging the African American community happened in the most shallow way possible.

Look closely at the efforts Baker claims as his greatest achievements in the African American community

He’s has taken credit for public school successes in the past, but cannot point to instances during the past eight years that demonstrate that he remained committed to our students, parents, staff, or schools.

He expressed dismay regarding the closing of grocery stores, when in fact most of his commercial projects in Midtown either shutdown or struggle to this day because he failed to focus on increasing employment and income in the area.

When the going got financially tough toward the end of his term, Baker slashed Summer Youth Employment funding to $30,000 (2007-08), a far cry from the vibrant levels advocated by myself and peers on city council, and the lowest level ever in two decades tracking of the program.

Yes, the Manhattan Casino was renovated with federal funds under his watch, but Rick Baker left the facility vacant as he and his Deputy Mayor of Midtown refused to negotiate an agreement with anyone. The building remained empty until his successor, Mayor Bill Foster, opened the venue for community use.

The Grogan property across the street, EMPTY under his watch; the building where McCall’s had a restaurant next to the Royal Theater, EMPTY and then condemned; the Old Hardens Grocery store now Chief Creole Café, EMPTY until after Baker left office; the building that now occupies Gallery 909 and a former Barbecue Restaurant, also EMPTY during his terms.

The operative word here is EMPTY, all as the 22nd Street Main Street initiative was left by Baker to fend for itself, while the red carpet was rolled out for businesses and development Downtown.

Further, notice that Baker did not mention during his last debate his prior claim that he opened a Post Office in Midtown. This may be because well respected members of the Felton family (owners of the property that is leased by the U.S. Postal Service) were incensed by his claim, which is yet another negation of African American history, as a post office facility existed prior to Baker’s intervention.

And even Downtown, Baker’s record is less than stellar when it comes to African Americans

Witness his abrogation of the rights of citizens when closing off the public right of way to protesters of the former Baywalk plaza.

Witness the number of businesses that vacated Bay Walk on his watch, with barely a mention of the plaza’s failure in current media coverage.

Witness that the unacceptable practice of targeting persons of color and asking them to leave Sundial (specifically the theater) has continued at what is now Sundial. Why is that Rick Baker?

Also witness, Baker’s mention of City subsidies during the televised debate and take note that the City has consistently provided a subsidy to the Mahaffey Theater, a venue managed by the Edwards Group with Baker at the helm.

Notice too, Baker’s claims of diversity aren’t all that he would have you think

What was also absent from Baker’s dialogue during the televised BayNews9 debate were the accolades he heaps upon Goliath Davis when speaking in the African American community. Did he forget to tell the greater audience how wonderful Davis was to his administration or are those glowing compliments of his efforts reserved for the African American community ONLY?

While Baker and his black backers tout his promotion of African Americans into management positions, kudos to him, but Kriseman has actually done more in that regard.

And when it comes to the future….

Be mindful that the practice of lowering the Black History flag is the ONLY thing Baker has intimated that he would reverse. What about all the issues he has yet to address about the future of our city, of our community, such as climate change, healthcare for all, the assault and underfunding of public education, automatic restoration of rights, the Fight for $15.00……and why he supported Rick Scott, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and (he won’t say) Donald Trump.

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8 thoughts on “Lowering the Flag is Just the Beginning of Baker’s Offenses & Sins of Omission”

  1. Lynette Davis says:

    This race will divide us one way or another.

    And we will be better for it.

    I was a Kriseman supporter; but my family since the 40’s have owned property off 22nd Street South. The Manhattan Casino was a pivotal issue for me.

    I would never vote Republican; but this time, I will. May Mayor Kriseman be thanked for his efforts & be able to pack his office in peace if the voters decide his tenure is over.

    1. Rene says:

      Hello Lynette
      I am sorry to hear this but I understand and respect your decision.

    2. Gloria Campbell says:


    3. Whoever says:

      Thank you Ms Davis somewhere down the libe these people that are so bent on the Krisman office being so set on the black comunity why are they letting a cuban resturant take over the Manhattan which clearly has nothing to do with the history of the building how many black cubans do they know makes no sense this place needs to keep its history intact and putting a cuban resturant there ia just plain stupid.And as far as the flag is concerned yes maybe it was a good thing but what else has this man done for the black comunity? Strutting around town with a load of black people in tow is not showing me nothing!

    4. Whoever says:

      I for one thank we had enough of Krisman! He’s got people thanking hes the good guy but is horbouring the fact that he is helping the whites take over the black history that we have here in St pete.Why and what was the reason to stop The thursday nite gathering on 22nd? Having so many blacks in one place was maybe a concern, if we get this way peacfully to protest some of the things that are going on in this city maybe just maybe we can accomplish something. But it always has to be a party for us to come together its time for we as a race to lift one another and come togehter as one to be SEEN and HEARD. ARE WE STILL IN SLAVERY OR WHAT??? WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

  2. Jim Jackson says:

    Outstanding honest column. thank you.

    1. Rene says:

      Thank you Jim

  3. Carla Bristol says:

    This article is extremely helpful. Thank you Rene Flowers for this insightful perspective. Some of these things I knew and some I didn’t know. Your political literacy is admired!

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