1. Tampa Bay Rays stadium
The Rays will play another season in outdated Tropicana Field, and there is every reason to expect low attendance again despite 2019′s play-off run. This is a critical year to make real progress on a long-term stadium solution. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman prematurely squashed efforts by the Rays to pursue a unique proposal to split home games with Montreal. But the status quo is unacceptable, and another year closer to the end of the Trop lease after the 2027 season is another step closer to the franchise leaving Tampa Bay. It’s up to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor now to explore options, and the clock is ticking.
2. Local elections
Much of the political oxygen will be sucked up by the presidential campaigns, and there are no statewide offices on the 2020 ballot. But there will be plenty of key local decisions for Tampa Bay voters to make. There will be rare vacancies for offices ranging from tax collector and clerk in Hillsborough County to public defender in Pinellas and Pasco counties. Expect vigorous campaigns for school board and county commission seats. And watch for amendments to the Florida Constitution, including one that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
3. St. Pete Pier
It’s been in the works since 2013, but in spring 2020, St. Petersburg residents should finally get their first glimpse of the new St. Petersburg Pier District. The $92 million project is set to include a playground, a $1.5 million public sculpture, a marketplace with 17 vendors and a splash pad. The Pier’s waterfront location and amenities give it the potential to become a destination for families and tourists alike. But the question that will be answered in the coming months is whether it will be worth the annual $1.9 million taxpayer subsidy for maintenance, about $500,000 more than what taxpayers paid for the previous Pier.
4. Remaking east Tampa
One pledge unified virtually every candidate for Tampa mayor and City Council in 2019: the promise to remake east Tampa. This economically struggling and largely black community has heard its share of high ideals. Yet despite some spotty improvements, the area still lags by almost every metric - incomes and wealth, job opportunities, even the quality of its public schools. Though not a year in office, Mayor Jane Castor and the Tampa City Council have already made some financial pledges. The Hillsborough County School District is also following through with more early-childhood education programs and a focus on academic achievement at inner-city schools. But this is a long-term effort, and the coming year should show whether local government is committed for the long haul.
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5. USF consolidation
After months of negotiations, the University of South Florida will formally consolidate its three campuses into one major research university in July. The latest version of the changes are more beneficial to the USF St. Petersburg, which is giving up its independent accreditation. But the challenge will continue to be ensuring the consolidation benefits students on all three campuses and preserves the unique identity of the tidy campus on downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront. "One USF, geographically distributed'' has to be more than a slogan.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news