Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ruth: Prohibiting prolix pier proposals

Expecting a filibuster of politicians to explain something in 15 words or less is a bit like asking Mr. T to get by with just one gold chain.

So it is understandable how the St. Petersburg City Council has tied itself up in knots writing a 15-word title for an Aug. 27 ballot measure asking the public to weigh in on the fate of the $50 million Lens project.

Really now, council member Wengay Newton can't tell you what time it is without delivering a James Joyce-esque monologue rivaling Ulysses.

But 15 shall be the number — no more, not so much as an extra article, noun or verb, although contractions might be acceptable, which could lead to a six-hour City Council debate on grammar.

Let us not forget that this ballot question to do away with the Lens plan emerged after a previous bunch of cranky swells collected 20,000 petition signatures to save the old Pier — only to be rebuffed by council. That played to folks like former council member and current mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford, who recently fretted that its destruction could imperil her ability to navigate her personal armada of a 29-foot sailboat, a 19-foot whaler, a kayak, a canoe and a laser sailboat.

So as a public service to assist the St. Petersburg City Council in its quest for just the right title wording for the ballot measure, a few humble suggestions — in 15 words or less:

• Do you realize you are being played for a chump on this vanity ballot measure?

• Should the Pier be replaced by a giant Jell-O mold of Mayor Bill Foster?

• If the last time you visited the Pier was 1974, aren't you ashamed to vote?

• Admit it, the old Pier looked like a Quonset hut with a gland problem.

• Does Lens architect Michael Maltzan have every right to tell a feckless City Council to … ?

• Do you believe the entire Pier brouhaha is being driven by attorneys' fees?

• Should the Lens be renamed after Mayor Foster: The Waffle House?

• Should the Lens be renamed after the St. Petersburg City Council: Munchkin Land?

• Should the Lens be renamed after Kathleen Ford: The 6th Fleet?

• Would the $50 million Lens budget be better spent on a Rays stadium in Tampa?

• City attorney John Wolfe went to law school for this?

• If every public policy issue is subject to referendum, Do we need a City Council?

• Do we need another weak strong mayor, or switch back to a strong weak mayor?

• Regarding the Lens, be it resolved: … Good luck with that.

• Lens grumps, don't forget: a frown is only a smile turned upside down.

These are only a few humble ideas. Feel free to pass along any thoughts you might have for a title that succinctly captures the full aroma of the ballot measure.

Alas, Mayor Foster, who would figure out a way to turn an Arbor Day proclamation into a declaration of war, was stymied in wanting to include a series of additional questions to the Lens/Pier ballot language.

Those questions won't be included, but one can only fathom the sort of constituent input Hizzoner wanted to elicit from the body politic:

Do believe Mayor Foster has been a bold, visionary leader by staking out multiple positions on the Lens?

a) He ranks right up there with Hamlet.

b) It was the position he took two positions ago, but just before position No. 4 that impressed me the most.

c) I can't make up my mind.

d) All of the above.

Question Two: Should the voters reject the Lens, what should take the place of the Pier?

a) The giant wooden rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

b) The proposed giant wooden badger from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

c) Bill Foster's image carved out of the White Cliffs of Beach Drive.

Question Three: If Rear Admiral Ford gets elected mayor, what do you think she'll do with the Pier footprint?

a) Turn it into her own personal parking space for her PT boat, her aircraft carrier, her submarine and her Titanic replica.

b) Relocate the offices of City Council.

c) Sue anyone who signs a petition to keep the pilings.

Question Four: On a scale of A to D rate the importance of the Pier hissy-fit.

a) Barely a gnat's patootie.

b) Wake us when it's over.

c) Pier? What Pier?

d) Vitally important, especially if you are part of Kathleen Ford's flotilla.

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