Monday, June 18, 2018
Opinion

St. Petersburg City Council made right call on Pier project

Last week, the City Council's task seemed biblical as it appeared to part the "red sea" of Stop the Lens supporters that crowded its chamber.

The Stop the Lens folks and the pro-Lens group, WOW Our Waterfront, showed up in force as the council voted 7-1 to cautiously move forward on the Lens.

Watching the discussion play out from afar made for interesting political theater.

There was rage, tears and laughter as residents stepped up to voice concern, disdain and support for the Lens project.

One thing is clear: The supporters and detractors of the Lens love the Sunshine City. It's just that one group loves the city's storied past, and the other loves its potential. There is value in both sides of this argument.

One wants to cling to the city's Mediterranean revival architecture and charm while the other wants to take advantage of a burgeoning arts community on the verge of making far greater strides.

Lost in all the emotional hyperbole is that there was a yearslong, open process that brought us here.

I recall sitting in a packed Enoch Davis Center two years ago for one of the visioning meetings with the task force. Similar meetings were held throughout the city.

This was before the city's International Design Competition was announced, or before 23 design teams stepped forward.

Where were the detractors during the process?

The plans have been in the works since 2009. The $50 million financing was set up in 2006 by then-Mayor Rick Baker. In March 2009, the task force was handpicked by Baker and approved by the council.

Last week, council members showed great leadership in voting to move forward. It was a tough decision but the correct one. That's what they were elected to do, make decisions on behalf of the 230,000 residents, not just 16,000 certified signatures on a petition. To do otherwise would not have been fair to the process.

The notion that the Lens doesn't fit with the city's Mediterranean architecture doesn't fly. The towers that dot Beach Drive changed the script years ago.

The Salvador Dalí's new museum is the crown jewel along the waterfront. Its architecture vastly differs from anything here. As does the Signature Place condominium, which adds a strikingly beautiful nuance to the city's skyline. Have you stopped to watch a Saturday Morning Market patron marveling at that building's flowing fountain?

There have been comments that the Lens will not be a draw for residents and tourists. Tourists will go to the Lens, just as they do the Pier. Residents are another matter. Unless the city starts hosting monthly Thrill St. Pete (residents dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller) or boat parades, the only residents you'll find there are fishermen and fitness buffs. The Lens project will accommodate these groups.

Unless the courts are willing to turn back progress, the clock is ticking and come May 2013, the Pier and its approach will be closed and demolition will begin.

Here's the bottom line: The current structure is crumbling, and liability aside, the city can no longer afford to continue to subsidize private businesses — $1.4 million annually — with taxpayer dollars.

It's time to move forward.

There's an old saying that speaks to the city's demise: "Let go of things that can no longer be fixed … Holding on is being brave, but moving on is what makes us stronger."

Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at [email protected] or at (727) 893-8874 and on Twitter at @StPeteSandi.

Comments

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...
Updated: 11 hours ago
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
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18