Crist visits St. Pete campus

Gov. Charlie Crist spoke to about 40 students at the St. Pete campus Thursday.ORACLE PHOTO/KRISTEN ROUISSE

ST. PETERSBURG – The first three months in office have been trying for Gov. Charlie Crist. He has faced tough questions about property taxes and home insurance with many debated answers. But on Thursday night, Crist was able to give sure-footed answers about one thing he knows quite well: politics.

Gov. Crist found time to come back to his hometown of St. Petersburg to speak with students from USF’s St. Petersburg campus. Crist was invited to speak to a group of nearly 40 people at the historic Williams House about his goals for the coming year.

“I ran into Governor Crist about a month ago and he was the one who asked me, ‘Can I come and speak to one of your classes?'” said Darryl Paulson, a professor at USF St.Pete who organized Crist’s visit. “So after thinking about it for about a tenth of a second, I said, ‘Well, I think we can squeeze you in.'”

Fresh off a cabinet meeting in Tallahassee concerning his anti-murder bill, Crist spoke to nearly 40 students and citizens. Crist discussed his anti-murder bill – which received 75 percent legislative backing to become the first bill to be passed in regular session – was a major step forward in restoring civil rights. “We may never know how many young people will be saved because of this common-sense approach to governing,” Crist said.The bill forces criminals who have already been incarcerated and have violated their probation to go back to jail.

“I believe in fundamental fairness,” Crist said. “I believe we need to strive to do what’s right, and we may not always succeed, but at least I think we have a duty to try. And if that means protecting the innocent or law-abiding citizen from the criminal, then so be it. And I believe it does.”

Crist also talked about funding for public schools and the current school choice programs.

“We recommended in our budget about $1.3 billion for education this year, which is a lot of ear money, but I think it is where we want it to go,” Crist said.

When asked if he is concerned that students will cause a re-segregation under the current school choice program, Crist said he didn’t see it as an issue.

“I haven’t seen evidence of it, and it would be bad if it did, but I don’t think it does,” Crist said.

Student Ben Sandrowitz said he was surprised how fast Crist was able to fit in the class lecture.

“The fact that he fit this in with less than a week, because last week we didn’t know he was going to be here, is the amazing part,” Sandrowitz said.

Sandrowitz, a social science education major, said Crist’s speech provided nothing surprising but felt that his first three months in Tallahassee have been promising. “I think he is an extremely amazing governor with all the things he’s done,” Sandrowitz said. “I hope he can keep it up.”

Next week will mark the first 100 days of Crist’s administration and Paulson said the current administration may be one of the strongest the state has ever had.

“It’s a pretty powerful beginning for his administration, perhaps one of the strongest 100 days in modern Florida history,” Paulson said. “In great part it’s because of the change in tone in Tallahassee, and I think that tone began with day one in his inaugural address.” Crist is the first St. Petersburg native to become governor of Florida. Even though he won the general election over Jim Davis easily, Crist remained humble and modest about his first few months in the Governor’s mansion.

“I hope you can tell that I am somewhat enthusiastic about this job that the people have been kind enough to give me,” Crist said. “I want you to know that I am very grateful. I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”