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Pier, mayor election, light rail are hot-button issues in 2013

The storm brewing over the future of the Pier won’t ebb soon. In between two strident factions are the downright confused.

Times (2011)

The storm brewing over the future of the Pier won’t ebb soon. In between two strident factions are the downright confused.

As we prepare to ring in a new year, there's no better time to consider the key issues facing residents and leaders in 2013.

First up is a no-brainer.

All eyes are on the Sunshine City as the debate about the Pier continues.

It seems each month serves up a new wrinkle, and residents should expect no less in the coming year.

Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg (Stop the Lens), voteon thepier.com and WOW have all weighed in on the city's plan to replace the Pier.

Slick videos have been produced, a big concert has been held, a lawsuit has been filed and new offices are open for business. There's even a mass mailing in the works to bolster the ongoing petition urging city leaders to allow residents to vote on the issue.

Lost in all the hyperbole is the fact that there's a sizable portion of the population that is flummoxed by the debate.

A recent Times poll shows that 24 percent don't know what to think about the city's plans to replace the iconic Pier with the Lens project.

It will be interesting to see what unfolds in coming months. Will residents be allowed to vote? If so, will they be voting to continue the Lens project, restore the existing Pier or none of the above?

Mayoral election

Municipal elections will be held in 2013, and there are a host of people who are looking to unseat Mayor Bill Foster.

In a matter of weeks, the lineup will be set as filings commence. So far, there's at least one candidate. Retired builder Paul Congemi, a veteran of mayoral politics, filed way back in February.

While the names of several current City Council members continue to surface, Leslie Curran, Jeff Danner and Karl Nurse have yet to officially throw their hats in the ring.

The primary is set for late August and the election for Nov. 5.

Light rail

Could 2013 be the year to finally get on track?

It seems residents are open to the possibilities.

According to a recent poll, a majority of Tampa Bay area residents are in favor of using public money for commuter light rail. The numbers are considerably higher in Pinellas than in Hillsborough.

Truth be told, mass transportation is one of the area's major downfalls.

Millions of tourists are drawn to the azure waters along our sandy shores. But upon arrival, they are forced into shuttles or rental cars, destined for cities with serious parking issues — St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater.

• • •

There's no telling what will unfold next year, but there's a lot to be excited about.

While the city has made strides in the last year, there's still lots of room for improvement.

The Dalí Museum is the crown jewel of the southern edge of downtown. It needs a bookend to the north. Until a more dynamic project comes along, the Lens is the only one on the table that fits the bill.

It will take leadership and vision to move a city forward and St. Petersburg is on the cusp of shedding its sleepy, small-town image.

All the key components are in place: a walkable, vibrant downtown, higher education, thanks to a growing University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, a burgeoning arts community and patrons focused on supporting local businesses.

Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at sgadsden@tampabay.com or at (727) 893-8874 and on Twitter @StPeteSandi.

Pier, mayor election, light rail are hot-button issues in 2013 12/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 3:31am]
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