Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Time for offense on St. Pete pier project

The St. Petersburg City Council took a prudent fiscal and political step this week by scaling back spending on preparations for a new pier in anticipation that opponents will likely succeed in forcing a referendum on killing the project. Now supporters of the New St. Petersburg Pier need to go on the offense. They need to be just as aggressive in spreading accurate information on the project's design as some opponents have been at spreading misinformation or conjecture. If voters are to decide the future of the city's centurylong pier tradition in the Aug. 27 primary election, they need information about the actual options, not just what detractors say they are.

Thursday's 5-3 vote by the council to spend $869,000 is roughly 60 percent of the $1.5 million that would have kept the project 100 percent on track with preconstruction efforts. But heeding opponents' admonishments to not waste more money on a project that voters may reject, the council whittled the spending to specific tasks, including funding wind testing to address one of the critics' frequently repeated but unsubstantiated claims: that the new pier structure will be unsafe.

The council decision came a day after organizers of the Stop the Lens campaign finally made good on their threats to submit enough petitions to qualify for a referendum. The city clerk has roughly two weeks to confirm the validity of the petitions.

Even as the ballot became more assured on Thursday, six of the eight council members reiterated their support for the plan, and Mayor Bill Foster made the most succinct argument in months about why it was necessary to close the deteriorating inverted pyramid and move forward with a new project. Charlie Gerdes, who joined Karl Nurse and Wengay Newton in opposing the plan to spend $869,000, said it wasn't because his support for the new pier had softened, just that he felt the city could spend less in the interim.

All this came against the backdrop of another contentious public forum in which opponents of the plan cast criticism far and wide, with many urging the city to keep the inverted pyramid open until after the referendum instead of closing it at the end of May in preparation for demolition.

But as Foster pointed out, that would mean taxpayers would fork over another $400,000 in operating subsidy for three months, money that has not been budgeted, and would only delay the inevitable need to tear down a structure that would cost an estimated $70 million to renovate. That is $20 million more than the $50 million that has been set aside for both demolishing the old pier and building the new pier that is expected to require half the operating subsidy of the pyramid and have at least a 50-year life-span.

Voters in August won't be deciding to save the inverted pyramid. It will already be shuttered with demolition imminent and no financially defensible reason to save it. Voters can vote to kill the plan for a new pier but without any certainty of what will come next — including the potential for years of stalemate as each new pier effort fails to appease another vocal minority. Or voters can reject the Stop the Lens measure and embrace an innovative design that has continued to evolve over the past year with input from thousands of citizens and a team of experts and shows significant potential.

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Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18