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How a St. Pete coffee shop snagged a leading role in Kriseman’s big announcement

Margie Manning

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Mayor Rick Kriseman and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg at Kahwa Coffee

With the Kahwa Coffee sign prominently displayed behind them, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg talked about sustainability initiatives, just before Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a $2.5 million grant for the city to address climate change.

Kriseman, who is a frequent visitor to the coffee shop, called co-owner Raphael Perrier just before Christmas to ask if it was OK to have the meeting at the store at 204 2nd Ave. S., Perrier told St. Pete Catalyst.

“Of course I said yes,” Perrier said.

It was a fun morning, he added. “It’s always good when you have Mayor Bloomberg into your establishment. He’s a good guy.”

The coffee meeting, which attracted about a dozen news media outlets, kicked off a full morning of activities for Kriseman and Bloomberg in St. Petersburg, occurring at the same time the St. Petersburg City Council had a first reading for a proposed ordinance that would require city projects to use green building and sustainable infrastructure design, taking into account scientific findings on sea level rise, climate vulnerability and resiliency.

A public hearing and vote on that ordinance is set for Jan. 17.

It’s the most recent in a series of measures designed to help the city address climate change. In December, the city council approved a ban on plastic straws at food establishments. This year, restaurants, bars and similar businesses are not supposed to give out plastic straws unless a customer asks for them. The full ban takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

At an impromptu press conference at Kahwa, I asked Kriseman if he saw any correlation between the plastic straw ban and a fight Monday at a south St. Petersburg McDonald’s. A video of the fight, which reportedly occurred when a customer had to ask for a straw, went viral.

Kriseman said he didn’t see a connection because the ban is not yet in place, but then I asked if it suggests more education is needed on the issue.

“Certainly that’s part of what council’s intentions were, to use this period of time before the ban comes into effect to educate,” Kriseman said. “But that’s an individual, who according to some of the reports I’ve seen, may have been intoxicated. I’d say that played a bigger part in what happened than anything.”

Raphael Perrier

Kahwa offers several options, including paper and metal straws, Perrier said. The alternatives are more cost-effective, particularly when customers bring their own cups or straws, he said.

And while he is favor of reducing plastic usage, including bags, Perrier said the message is stronger when it comes from businesses, not government.

“The idea of being more environmentally friendly is what everyone should do anyway,” he said. “I don’t think it should come from a law or someone telling you what to do, but it should come from yourself. We should all be more respectful for the environment.”

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