Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: See a problem, bulldoze it

One of the many ways the rich are different from you and me is that when you're worth a bajillion-cajillion-gazillion dollars you get to blow stuff up — just because.

How else to explain Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who could buy Switzerland if he wanted to, plunking down $4.25 million for an elegant estate on St. Armand's Key only to tear it down?

What? He didn't like the wallpaper?

Apparently the 6,000-square-foot waterfront mansion did not quite meet the needs of the former hedge fund manager. Perhaps there was a burned-out light bulb in a closet. Or maybe there wasn't just the right light to illuminate his dogs-playing-poker artwork. Or it could be the loo's bathtub was too small to accommodate the rubber ducky collection.

Who knows? But once all the rubble gets cleared away, Vinik and his wife will undoubtedly rebuild something more to their liking. The Palace of Viniksailles, perhaps?

It's his money and the hockey baron is certainly free to do whatever he wants with his hard-earned cash. I just wish he would give some of it to me. After all, I'm getting creaky enough to warrant Vinik's seeming interest in ruins.

In looking at the St. Armand's teardown I had an epiphany. There it was — the answer to all of our problems — staring right back at us in plain sight all along. Jeff Vinik — The Raze-O-Nator.

Quick. What is the biggest issue vexing the city of St. Petersburg at the moment? And no, wondering when City Council member Wengay Newton will show up for a meeting on time doesn't count.

It is what to do about the Tampa Bay Rays, who want to move away from their Siberia of a stadium, Tropicana Field, a place so desolate it is any wonder the players bother to show up for games.

The dilemma is if the Rays were to move across Tampa Bay to new digs, what would St. Petersburg do with the Trop? You had to ask?

Sell it to Vinik and before you can say Mayor Bill Foster bobble-head doll — BOOM — gone. Dresden on the Gulf. Done. Finis. Ba-bye.

How long has it been that various factions in St. Petersburg have been hectoring at each other over what to do with the inverted pyramid, an edifice with the old-world charm of a Soviet-era apartment complex?

Fret not. Sell the fenced off Pier to Vinik, and before the sun sets over a Yacht Club yardarm, it will be "Fire in The Hole!" time. Ka-Bluey! Mission accomplished. Well played. What's next?

Ah, but there's a problem. Conventional wisdom suggests the footprint for any new Rays stadium will be the Channelside area of Tampa where a ConAgra flour mill sits. But not for long. The flour mill would obviously have to be relocated. Enter the Guy Fawkes of Florida.

Just imagine an incredible mushroom cloud of flour dust once Vinik buys the property and lights the first match. A thing of beauty is what it will be. Signed, sealed and imploded. Happy to be of service. His work is done here.

Well, not quite.

For many years, civic activists have been trying to preserve a long-closed expanse of the old Gandy Bridge as a pedestrian walkway. It's been redubbed the Friendship Trail Bridge, which is really nothing more than a warm, fuzzy way of saying it's a dump.

The Friendship Trail Bridge has no historical significance. It's crumbling. It's unsafe. And it really does need to go away. The Hillsborough County Commission has given the pro-bridge types ample time to come up with a private sector funding source to assume responsibility for the bridge and there seem to be few takers.

As a public service — and just for the fun of it — Vinik might buy the expanse and put the Friendship Trail Bridge out of its misery. Drum roll, please. Nice knowing you. Au revoir. Nothing to see here — anymore.

In short order, Jeff Vinik, a man and his detonator, could change the face of Tampa Bay. Years of testy and acrimonious debates — done. Years of indecisive political inertia — a thing of the past. Years of wishy-washy fits and starts — all but a vague memory.

They build statues to people like this — visionaries who came and saw and hired a bulldozer.

Comments
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18