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Carlton: Fiscality of ferry across bay, a Hawkes watching the courthouse, and week that was

Headlines from the week that was:

Tampa-St. Pete ferry gets initial push off the dock

While a ferry is hardly the comprehensive transit plan our cities need, it could still be progress, plus another good use of all this very cool water around us.

If it works, and for now that's a big if, you could get to that city across the bridge — to a hot new restaurant in St. Petersburg, a play at Tampa's performing arts center, a Lightning game, a gallery, a museum, a stroll along St. Pete's waterfront or a rental-bike ride down Tampa's Riverwalk — all without having to drive across those oft-backed-up bridges.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman is making an enthusiastic pitch to cities and counties involved for a six-month pilot project for a cross-bay ferry between the two downtowns, an intriguing idea with critical questions:

Will there really be enough riders to keep it afloat? Would fares be reasonable, how often would it run and how would it be marketed? Biggest of all: Between the numbers and private-sector support, will taxpayers be kept safe from a potential boondoggle?

For now, public officials are sounding the right cautious-but-optimistic note.

But on this there is no question: Those picturesque waters are an asset. Remember how people fell in love with the old Gandy Bridge converted to a recreational trail that brought in hundreds of thousands of people a year? I'm betting interest from both residents and visitors (and their wallets) won't be a problem if ferry supporters come up with a smart, workable, fair plan to make it happen.

Judge who resigned in Taj Mahal scandal to lobby against term limits for, um, judges

The judiciary should be kept far from the whims of politics, which is why I'm all for a big pushback against the current bad idea of term limits for appeals court judges.

But here's the eyebrow-raiser.

Former appellate court judge Paul Hawkes — who resigned in the fallout over construction of a courthouse considered so lavish it was nicknamed the Taj Mahal — has been hired to fight those proposed term limits.

Yes, Hawkes has buckets of political juice in Tallahassee. But he sure is an interesting pick when some might consider him an argument for exactly why judges shouldn't linger too long.

Quote from the week that was:

"One of my favorite sayings is the world is run by the people who show up."

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap on the importance of people showing up to vote.

The Times reported this week that while other states are using interesting ways to get people registered and voting, Florida appears to be more wed to its old-style neighborhood precincts and reputation for long lines.

Elsewhere you can vote at the grocery or register on Election Day. And how's this for making it easy? In Colorado, every registered voter gets a ballot in the mail which they can mail back or else drop off, if they prefer it old-school.

Of course, making it easier to vote — especially for younger citizens and minorities likely to benefit from such options — assumes elected officials actually want everyone voting.

Sue Carlton can be reached at

Carlton: Fiscality of ferry across bay, a Hawkes watching the courthouse, and week that was 01/07/16 [Last modified: Thursday, January 7, 2016 7:05pm]
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    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

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