Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Talk about Rays — before it's too late

It's time to start talking and quit stalling on initiating public talks about a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. A commonsense legal opinion released Tuesday gives the Hillsborough County Commission all the reassurance it needs to have an open discussion about the future of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay and stadium options. Pinellas County commissioners sound interested in holding a similar conversation, and they should invite St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and the City Council to participate. If Foster continues to bury his head in the sand, the area's elected officials have an obligation to go on without him.

Hillsborough County Commission chairman Ken Hagan asked the county attorney for the legal opinion to make sure commissioners would be on solid ground in talking to the Rays about remaining in Tampa Bay. As Hagan noted, every year that goes by with no discussion clicks another year off the Tropicana Field lease and makes it easier and less expensive for the Rays to leave the area. Foster's threats to sue anyone who talks to the Rays about the future reflect a pinched reading of the lease and a lack of appreciation for the consensus-building it will take to keep the franchise in Tampa Bay.

The county's legal opinion states the obvious. The Rays' lease with St. Petersburg does not prevent team officials from discussing their long-term interests and goals regarding a new stadium. Nobody is talking about negotiating another specific stadium deal or interfering with the city's contract. Besides, as the legal opinion points out, St. Petersburg would have a hard time proving damages if it is paid for its remaining debt service on the lease and other economic losses if the Rays leave. Nobody is talking about the Rays leaving in the middle of the night, sneaking across the Howard Frankland Bridge and stiffing the city.

It's two years and counting since Foster backed himself into a corner and refused to negotiate further with the Rays. The mayor said the team could explore stadium sites just outside the city limits in mid Pinellas; the team predictably wants to look at the market as a whole and both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The Rays have understandably grown more frustrated, and county commissioners on both sides of the bay and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn have signaled they are ready to look for solutions. They understand the clock is ticking, the cost for the Rays to move from Tampa Bay is dropping and the team isn't likely to be playing in the outdated Trop in 2020, much less until the lease expires in 2027.

In case anybody missed it, the Rays' local television ratings are up and the team ranks 29th out of 30 Major League teams in average attendance. The Rays want to talk. The political leaders of both Pinellas and Hillsborough want to talk — except for one who has isolated himself. It's time to start working toward building a consensus for a new stadium and exploring all of the possibilities, with or without the St. Petersburg mayor.

Comments

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís 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 wonít 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, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís 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

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17