Robert Blackmon

Candidate for: Mayor
Amount Raised: $341,730
Cash on Hand: $45,452

Chamber Interview-

Candidate Q&A

Should changes be made to I-175 and/or I-375? Should they be brought to grade and transitioned to boulevards? Should they be brought below grade and capped (built over) to help bridge the gap between South St. Pete and Downtown?

While I believe that 175 and 375 have the unfortunate effect of presenting a formidable barrier between Downtown and Midtown St. Pete, it is not simply a matter of a Mayor deciding to make changes to these roads. They involve both state and federal stakeholders; further, as we continue to pursue the rebirth of both downtown and Midtown and the revitalization of the Trop area, these roads are likely to be vital arteries for efficiently moving travelers into and out of St. Pete.

I am certainly open to costing out both at-grade and below-grade solutions for 175 and 375, while acknowledging that any plans for these routes will be only at the early stages even during an 8 year administration. I am also conscious that highway renovations, especially below-grade, have a habit of taking far longer, being far more disruptive, and costing much more than predicted.

How does our community connect St. Petersburg and the Pinellas Beaches to the Brightline termination station in Tampa by 2024?

Funding is the greatest obstacle for all our transportation planning. I am enthusiastic about the Brightline extension to Tampa, and I believe any transportation plan for St. Pete and lower Pinellas County must be multimodal. Cars-only doesn’t cut it in a modern, forward-thinking city.

Do you support the plan to lease our City Marina to a developer to operate and make improvements instead of keeping the marina under city management and make the repairs ourselves?

No. The City Marina is and should be operated under city management. I’ve proposed several solutions to raise the funds to finance improvements to the Marina ourselves, including scrapping plans for a downtown replacement to the City’s Municipal Services Center and dispersing those employees to other city locations, principally office space generated by a renovation of Tangerine Plaza, which we already own. This is similar to Tampa’s initiative to move civil servants to East Tampa and would save us millions that can go to community redevelopment initiatives, including this.

What specific impact have you already made in St. Pete toward equitable economic development?

As a property developer, I’ve grown my business rapidly over the last 10 years and rent all of my properties at below market rates. I also have been both a promoter and an advocate of affordable housing even when it meets resistance, as when I voted for hundreds of units of new senior housing in my district last year. More importantly, I have opposed expensive city-driven developments that waste taxpayer money in favor of cost-effective solutions. One of these is direct purchases of existing units in multifamily housing that the city can refurbish, if needed, and then provide to citizens making below 120% AMI at cost. This will help citizens build up equity and become part of their communities rather than simply putting a roof over their heads. I am always an advocate of new and innovative solutions rather than expensive ones.

How should the city balance historic designation with property rights?

Very carefully. Our history is precious, but it falls to us as a community to preserve it rather than relying on government to drive this. I see city government as being a guardrail for development, ensuring it proceeds on a community-focused path, and not an engine. The community should ultimately have the final say on what our city looks like and how we honor our history, and that includes making a big push on affordable housing and encouraging property ownership.

What are your priorities for both sustainability AND resiliency (taken separately) for the City? What are 2 examples that you see as the City’s best opportunities to address climate change impacts?

These are issues that are critical and interlinked. For sustainability we have to use the resources we have to grow intelligently and with respect for our client. I supported the changes to Coastal High Hazard Area zoning precisely because it improves building standards and allows us to increase housing and density while being respectful of the environment. For resiliency, improving water management is vital. I want to put in place tax incentives to repair private laterals (which is a huge flood risk as well as a waste of our clean water) as well as promoting cost effective environmental solutions for flood control like oyster beds and mangroves.

Additional Resources

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