Ex-St. Pete, Fla., Mayor: Cities Need Business Approach

Saturday, 25 Jun 2011 12:15 AM

By Andra Varin and Ashley Martella

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Running a city is a lot like running a business, and municipal officials need to use businesslike tactics to get their hometowns on track, former St. Petersburg, Fla., Mayor Rick Baker tells Newsmax.TV.

“You can’t run a government exactly like a business, but there are a lot of business principles that we need to employ within government,” Baker said.

As mayor of St. Petersburg from 2001-2010, Baker implemented the “Baker Plan” to revive the city by focusing on improving public safety, promoting education, boosting economic development, strengthening neighborhoods, and improving the efficiency of city services.

“You need a strategic plan. What is your mission? In my opinion, your mission should be to improve the everyday quality of life of the people who live in the city while striving to become the best city in America,” he said during the exclusive interview with Newsmax.

Story continues below video.


Baker is the author of a new book, “The Seamless City: A Conservative Mayor’s Approach to Urban Revitalization That Can Work,” with a foreword by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Although some problems can be addressed only on a national level, the former mayor said, he believes that strengthening America’s cities will do a lot to strengthen America. He cited the high crime and financial problems that plague so many cities.

“You have to work on improving the cities as you are improving the country,” he said.

As many cash-strapped local and state governments seek to cut costs by reducing public employees’ benefits, Baker said he isn’t anti-union, but he thinks organized labor has to realize that cities are under serious financial constraints.

“The cities do not have unlimited funds,” he said. “It’s not unreasonable to ask folks to contribute to their own pensions . . . It’s not unreasonable to put restrictions on long-term, permanent medical support after retirement. I think it’s a balancing act.

“There is a good place for the unions, but the obligation of the mayor and the city council and those in city leadership is to protect the interests of the taxpayer as well.”

The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently passed a resolution calling for a swift end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It urged the federal government to direct the money being spent on the conflict to domestic priorities instead. But Baker said the needs of America’s cities and towns can’t be lumped in with U.S. security.

“We should not forget Sept. 11, and we should not forget there are still groups of people, there is an organization of people around the world who want to do us harm, and whether or not we continue those conflicts should be tied to whether or not they’re necessary to keeping those terrorists at bay,” Baker said.

In other areas, Baker said, working to improve U.S. cities and towns can work in tandem with boosting America as a whole.

“I think it’s got to be done at all levels, but the local level, I think that is something not always nationally talked about.”

Editor’s note: To get a copy of Rick Baker’s new book, “The Seamless City: A Conservative Mayor’s Approach to Urban Revitalization That Can Work” at a good price — Click Here Now.


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