Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

John Romano: Putting the Pier out of our misery

The comic strip begins with a bored reporter sitting at the obits desk.

He waits. Waits a little more. Then he grabs a phone and dials a number.

When the woman answers, he sighs:

"Just checking, Mrs. Lipshulz.''

I thought about that long-ago Bloom County strip when I got in my car in downtown St. Petersburg on Monday. I took a couple of lefts and a right, and pulled into a parking lot.

Down a long driveway stood the Pier.

Just checking.

Once again, the plug has been pulled on the city's aging landmark. A judge ruled last week that the city had met all of its obligations when planning the Pier's demise.

Yet even at this late date, the old gal hangs on.

Sitting on the deck of Cha Cha Coconuts on Monday afternoon, Bud Risser, one of the leaders of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, said enough signatures have been collected on a petition to force a referendum on the fate of the Lens, the Pier's proposed successor. All that remains is the verification process, which could take two to three weeks. That doesn't mean the Pier will get a reprieve, but Risser argues it doesn't make sense to shutter the attraction as planned in May if the replacement is in limbo. "There's no rush to the gate here,'' Risser said. "The city is already on record as saying it's safe for another two or three years.''

And so the maneuvering continues.

With the petition in their back pocket, Lens opponents are not only trying to persuade the city to postpone the Pier's closure, but to also hold off on approving another $1 million or more for the architect to continue the Lens design. That decision is scheduled for the first week of May.

"We're talking an extra few months. Why authorize another $1.2 million, or whatever it's going to be, until you get the result of the referendum,'' Risser said. "Because we promise you there is going to be a referendum.''

From an economic point of view, that argument has some appeal. From a tactical standpoint, the city will probably balk.

If a referendum is truly on the way, I assume city leaders will want to make the choice as clear as possible for voters.

You see, this story has always been muddled because there have been too many competing voices. There are those who want to save the Pier, those who want to stop the Lens, those who think residents should have been allowed to cast a vote, and various combinations of all three.

With the judge's ruling, the Pier argument is now essentially moot. The city has won. So tearing it down quickly would remove the renovation option from the argument.

Granted, that might be a risky strategy because it could galvanize opponents, but I'm guessing it's a gamble the City Council will take.

The same could also be said for approving the additional funds for the architects. City leaders can argue that advancing the Lens design will give voters a better idea of exactly what the structure will look like.

And, in the end, isn't that what Lens opponents have been seeking?

This fight has gone on long enough. The city has prevailed on the demolition of the Pier. The grass roots folks appear to have struck a blow with the petition.

So let each side make their best argument, then leave it up to the voters.

John Romano: Putting the Pier out of our misery 04/08/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 8, 2013 11:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Joe Maddon: What my time in Tampa Bay meant — and still means — to me

    The Heater

    Editor's note: The Rays next week in Chicago will meet up for the first time with former manager Joe Maddon, who is in his third year leading the Cubs after nine with the Rays. In advance of the Tuesday-Wednesday series, we asked Maddon to share his thoughts in a column on what his time in Tampa Bay meant to …

    Joe Maddon waits to greet B.J. Upton after Upton's home run in Game 2 of the ALCS in 2008 at Tropicana Field. [Times files (2008)]
  2. First WannaCry, now cyberattack Petya spreads from Russia to Britain

    Business

    Computer systems from Russia to Britain were victims of an international cyberattack Tuesday in a hack that bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

    A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday.  A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe.
[Oleg Reshetnyak via AP]
  3. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cell phone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cell phone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]
  5. Review: Dan Auerbach, Benjamin Booker plumb the past for inspiration on new albums

    Music & Concerts

    It didn't take Benjamin Booker long to get lumped in with the greats. The Tampa-raised singer-songwriter's 2014 self-titled blues-punk debut brought widespread acclaim, not to mention an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a tour with Jack White and sessions with Mavis Staples.

    The cover of Benjamin Booker's new album "Witness." Credit: ATO Records