Thursday, December 14, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Pier choice: progress or stagnation

Progress or stagnation. That is the stark choice St. Petersburg voters face in Tuesday's election to decide the fate of the Lens, the city's impressive design for a new pier. Voters should vote against the referendum question that would cancel the architect's contract and trigger another round of fighting over artistic taste. A "no" vote will ensure the pier is built within two years and provide enhanced recreational opportunities for decades.

The Lens would be a natural extension of the city's popular waterfront parks. It's elegant escalating walkways and bike paths would link two restaurants, one over water and one on land. A floating dock marina would offer nonmotorized boat rentals and could accommodate motorized recreation boats. There would be a 285-seat open-air amphitheater, an ice cream shop, areas for fishing, and balconies facing east and west. Half of the half-mile loop would be under shade, and an electric trolley would transport those who preferred or needed to ride.

What the Lens would not have is struggling retail shops with taxpayer-subsidized rents or an aquarium that was already moving to Madeira Beach. Also gone would be about half of the $1.4 million operating subsidy that city taxpayers have spent on the inverted pyramid each year. The new design also would cast a significantly smaller shadow on the water.

Opponents of the Lens have spent months denigrating the project, spreading misinformation and raising one red herring after another. They either don't understand the way the project would be paid for or are intentionally confusing voters. The bottom line: The Lens is financed by the well-established practice of tax increment financing. Property tax money generated from rising property values within the redevelopment district that includes the Pier would pay for the project. The money cannot be spent on other city government programs, and it cannot be spent outside that redevelopment district.

If voters reject the Lens, starting over and designing an alternative will take time and trigger more fighting over what is essentially public art. Opponents of the Lens include those who refuse to accept reality that the inverted pyramid is not worth saving. Even if an agreement is reached on building something new, designing such a complex project takes months, if not years. And that could begin only after officials agreed to a new concept, which could spawn another round of opposition and referendums.

St. Petersburg has spent years reinventing a downtown waterfront that is now the envy of the state. That won't last if the city spends years with a padlocked, derelict inverted pyramid at the end of a deteriorating pier. The Lens will be an asset for both residents and tourists, and the project should move forward.

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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: 22 minutes 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