Bill Cosby used to do a routine about coin flips before historical conflicts.
He would imagine the choices given to George Custer and Sitting Bull, for instance. Another was the colonists and the British army during the Revolutionary War.
Cosby, as referee, would narrate the coin flip:
"The British call heads; it is tails. You lose the toss, British. What will you do, settlers?
"All right, the settlers say they will wear any color clothes they want to, shoot from behind the rocks and trees, and say that your team must wear red and march in a straight line."
It's been years since I've heard Cosby do the bit, but I thought about it this week when reading the choices St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster was suggesting for a Pier straw poll.
Forgive me if I have missed some of the nuance, but the proposal sounded something like this:
Heads: Approve the Lens.
Tails: Get one of those do-it-yourself Pier kits at Ikea.
Now it's possible that I've exaggerated the options, but you get the idea. A straw poll is not going to be terribly reliable if the choices are not realistic.
To be honest, I'm not even sure a straw poll can accurately reflect the complexities involved in this decision. But, if the City Council decides to move forward with the idea this afternoon, I would hope they take great care in framing the questions.
Since the current Pier's imminent closure has removed renovation from the equation, this is more a philosophical debate over what type of attraction makes the most sense.
If residents want to invest most of the funds on building above the water, then the result will be a largely ornamental structure. The Lens is a pretty nice example of this.
The point is that building above the water is extremely expensive, and so the old concept of restaurants, nightclubs and stores hundreds of feet from shore is not feasible.
On the other hand, if residents do not want the focus on aesthetics or walkways, they can choose to invest in attractions on the land near the Pier's approach with a smaller, less expensive structure over the water.
This idea hasn't been given much attention in recent years, so the city would need to explain what an upland project might look like.
The key is that residents need to understand there are ramifications with every decision. The City Council has already said no to renovating the Pier. Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg is urging residents to say no to the Lens.
At some point, St. Pete has to say yes to something.
• • •
Earlier this month, I asked for your help in deciding which manatee to adopt from the Save the Manatee Club. I appreciate everyone who called and wrote with their choices, and I've finally come to a decision.
Thanks in large part to dozens of heartfelt and handwritten letters from Katie Rief's fourth-grade students at St. Mary's Episcopal Day School in Tampa, the winner is Ariel at Homosassa Springs. Ariel was rescued with her mother, Amanda, when she was just 2 weeks old. The adoption was made in the name of Ms. Rief's fourth-grade class.
For more information on adopting and donating, please visit savethemanatee.org.