Sunday, September 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: St. Petersburg should set vote on Rowdies stadium

The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday should support a May voter referendum on whether the city should be allowed to negotiate a deal with the Tampa Bay Rowdies for a new stadium on the downtown waterfront — if the Rowdies are awarded a Major League Soccer franchise. The Rowdies make a reasonable argument that the city needs to send a strong signal of support before the franchises are awarded, and the team will pay for the referendum. There is no risk to the city in holding the referendum, and the harder decisions would come later.

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards announced his plans to seek an MLS franchise to great fanfare in December. The league is expanding with four new teams, and two of those could be awarded before the city's Aug. 29 primary election. That's why Edwards wants to pay for a special May 2 voter referendum. He envisions a new, 18,000-seat soccer facility on the site of Al Lang Stadium, the former spring training baseball stadium that is now the Rowdies' home. Renderings show a compact stadium with open views of the water that would fit within the existing footprint of Al Lang. The new structure would not require dredging the bay or rerouting exiting streets, and it should not affect the Saturday Morning Market or the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The most critical consideration for local leaders and taxpayers: Edwards would finance the $80 million stadium and the team purchase privately.

Even with no public money on the line, long-term leases along the waterfront require a voter referendum, a safeguard that keeps the city's greatest asset from being taken over by private development. Council members on Thursday will consider scheduling the referendum, which would ask voters to let the city approve a deal of up to 25 years for an MLS team to play at the Al Lang site. The referendum also establishes soccer as the primary use for the site, and it makes clear that no public money would go toward stadium construction or MLS fees. If the Rowdies do not win an MLS franchise, there would be no long-term city agreement and no new stadium.

Should the referendum be approved by the voters, and should Edwards succeed in luring Major League Soccer to St. Petersburg, the long-term agreement between the team and the city will be another significant issue. Six of the eight council members, not just a simple majority, would have to approve the agreement, another good safeguard. That document should lay out what would happen to the site if the Rowdies were to be sold or the team tried to leave town. The stadium design also would have to be approved. As this process moves forward, those questions should be answered transparently for the public.

An MLS soccer franchise playing in a sparkling new stadium in downtown St. Petersburg would be a valuable addition to the city. Holding a referendum in May is a short timetable for voters to take the first step toward Edwards' ambitious vision to remake Al Lang Stadium into a first-class home field for an MLS franchise. Normally, this could wait until city elections in August, but Major League Soccer's schedule requires moving quickly. Putting the issue on the ballot is a show of good faith with no risk to taxpayers, and the City Council should allow the referendum to go forward and let Edwards make his pitch to voters.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18