Thursday, December 14, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: New pier needs new push

The St. Petersburg City Council's least worry today is writing the title for the August ballot initiative that would kill the ambitious plan for a new pier. There are several workable options, and those 15 words won't decide the fate of the project. The real issue is the failure of public officials and private supporters to create a campaign to educate voters and vigorously respond to well-funded opponents who are driving the debate, often with misinformation. Voters deserve better before they decide whether to embrace a well-vetted project or kill it and leave St. Petersburg stuck with a closed pier and an uncertain way forward.

Outgoing council member Jeff Danner, a strong supporter of the project, suggested this week that the solution is a public information campaign out of City Hall. His frustration is understandable, but the better solution is a private campaign. Unfortunately, a private group of supporters, WOW Our Waterfront, has failed so far to raise the money needed to launch a major effort.

Then there is the disappointing retreat of Mayor Bill Foster, whose administration has overseen the entire pier design selection process. With his re-election on the line, Foster hedged his bets last week by announcing he is creating a committee to consider what's next after the August primary. His announcement came as mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman announced he opposes the project and would create a similar pier committee if he is elected. And mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford wants to save the rundown inverted pyramid, which is not a viable option. So now none of the three major candidates for mayor is forcefully advocating for an innovative new pier design that is the product of thousands of citizens' input and millions in taxpayer investment.

More helpful is that six of eight council members, despite considerable pressure from opponents, still support the new pier plan as the best solution to a complex problem. They recognize it is financially indefensible to reopen the closed inverted pyramid, with its exorbitant taxpayer subsidies and list of needed repairs that far exceed the $50 million set aside for the project.

Supporters also know the proposed pier is far more than the "sidewalk to nowhere" that the Stop the Lens group claims. There would be restaurants, fishing, boating, trolleys, shaded public spaces and an over-water amphitheater suitable for everything from weddings to concerts to classes. Multiple balconies off the project's so-called tiara would give stunning views both east toward Tampa and west toward downtown St. Petersburg. The annual operating subsidy would be roughly half of what the pyramid has been costing city taxpayers.

The project would be built if voters in August reject the Stop the Lens ballot measure. If they support it, no one knows what the future holds. Mayoral candidates can make promises, but new committees and more plans for a new pier could mean years of delays. The existing pier could wind up closed and fenced off for years like the Vinoy hotel once was, an empty eyesore. Supporters of the new pier design should step up so voters understand the real choice is between a thoughtful solution ready to be built and a gamble that something better might arise for the same cost.

Fifteen words on the ballot won't kill the investment of years of public debate and millions in public money devoted to creating an iconic pier on St. Petersburg's waterfront. What will is inertia from supporters and an information vacuum filled by deep-pocketed opponents rooted in the city's past rather than its future.

Comments

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17