Friday, May 25, 2018
Editorials

A signature moment for St. Petersburg

It's the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and in Chicago it's Millennium Park with the reflective sculpture nicknamed "the Bean.'' Seattle has the Space Needle, Atlanta has Centennial Olympic Park with its Fountain of Rings, and New York has High Line park.

These are signature public places, bold statements that help establish the identity, values and vision of the city. Some were built with private money, some with public money, and some with a combination. Most included some sort of design competition, and there often were initial controversies and public disagreements over financing or artistic taste.

Now St. Petersburg has a unique opportunity to create an iconic destination on its downtown waterfront. The Lens would be a natural extension of the city's front lawn, gracefully linking the waterfront parks and bay. A dramatic looping promenade would sweep over the water, offer dozens of activities from dining to kayaking, and provide dramatic views of the city. It's not Pier Park, the commercial marketplace rejected nearly three decades ago, and it's not a sidewalk to nowhere as critics claim.

The concept has evolved following years of work by a citizen task force, dozens of public meetings, revisions from city officials and brainstorms in an international design competition. A contract with Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan has been signed, a construction management contract is being drafted, and more refinements are on the way with even more public input.

Yet the project may be derailed this week by a skittish St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and a wobbly City Council. They have been cowed by a petition drive to save the deteriorating pier approach and the dilapidated inverted pyramid. Never mind that it would cost perhaps $80 million to repair the obsolete pier and the city only has $50 million to build the Lens. A divided council will try to write referendum questions this week and vote on whether to put them on the November ballot. It is an impossible task to write one question to cover all of the issues. A referendum now disrespects the open process used to design the new pier and the many residents who participated. It succumbs to the loud voices of a misinformed minority of residents, and it once again suggests a parochialism that undermines St. Petersburg's aspirations for something more.

Signature landmarks and public places that define cities are not designed by voter referendums. They are often criticized at the outset by those who dislike the design, cost or location. The Gateway Arch, Millennium Park, the Space Needle — all were controversial but looked toward the future and created exciting public spaces that will be enjoyed for generations.

St. Petersburg has embarked on a similar effort that reflects its ambition to be distinctive, artistic and accessible. There is more work to be done and time for more adjustments to the vision. The Lens likely even will have a new name. But it would be a mistake to give in to those who fear change, long for the past or cling to the unsustainable status quo. It's time for Mayor Bill Foster and the City Council to lead rather than follow, to confidently continue along the path they established rather than retreat — and to embrace a compelling vision for the future that offers endless possibilities.

   
Comments

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18