With perhaps half of the ballots already sent in by mail, Election Day can seem like an afterthought. It shouldn't be. The outcome of the elections for mayor and half of the City Council in St. Petersburg will set the direction for the city. The result of a Clearwater referendum involving a proposed aquarium also will have a significant impact on the city's downtown. These are short ballots that won't take much time to fill out, and voters should make every effort to make it to the polls today.
Elections have consequences. In St. Petersburg, the results of the race for mayor and four City Council seats will determine how the city proceeds on selecting a new pier design, choosing a new police chief and negotiating with the Tampa Bay Rays about looking for stadium sites. They will determine whether there is an aggressive push for universal curbside recycling and changing the police chase policy. They likely will decide the fate of red-light cameras, the size of the city's marketing budget and the thrust of a new master plan for the waterfront.
In Clearwater, there is just one question on the ballot: whether to allow the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to pursue a long-term lease with the city for the current City Hall site for a large new aquarium. The ambitious aquarium plan could transform downtown, but the referendum is only the first step toward a project that would depend heavily on private fundraising before it could be built.
In the era of mail ballots and floating elections that last for weeks, actually going to the polls to vote sounds quaint and inconvenient. But it is worth the time and relatively little effort to help shape the direction of Pinellas County's two largest cities. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Go vote.