Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Editorial: St. Petersburg's minor league city council

By a 5-3 vote on Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council killed a deal negotiated between Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays to let the team explore alternate stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The team’s lease with Tropicana Field expires in 2027.
Published Dec. 19, 2014

The St. Petersburg City Council succumbed to fear, parochialism and short-sighted thinking Thursday by rejecting a fair agreement to let the Tampa Bay Rays look for new stadium sites in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The five council members who killed the deal negotiated by Mayor Rick Kriseman did not act in the best interests of their constituents, demonstrated a lack of faith in the city's renaissance and jeopardized the future of major league baseball in Tampa Bay.

Council members Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton, Amy Foster, Jim Kennedy and Bill Dudley dealt a serious setback to St. Petersburg and the region by voting against an agreement that took Kriseman and the Rays months to negotiate. They misread the clear message St. Petersburg voters sent in last year's mayoral election that they want the stadium stalemate to be resolved. They have not been listening to Rays owner Stuart Sternberg's consistent request to look throughout the franchise's core market for a stadium site. They turned their back on the region, and they sent a strong signal to Major League Baseball that they would rather the Rays move to Montreal than Tampa.

Kriseman and the Rays could not have been clearer. The agreement to let the Rays look for stadium sites in both counties for three years was a compromise. It required the franchise to pay for every year left on the lease if it left Tropicana Field before 2027, and it required the Rays to pay off state bonds if the state declined to pay them off. The city was adequately protected, and it still could have pitched the Trop site and other city parcels for a new stadium. Instead, five City Council members damaged the city's relationship that Kriseman had rebuilt with the Rays and left the way forward uncertain.

What is clear is that these council members failed to grasp the realities that have long framed this stadium issue. First, the Rays are a regional franchise and have to be able to look throughout their core market for stadium sites. Second, every year that passes without an agreement to let the franchise look in both counties increases the leverage for the Rays. Third, the Rays will not be playing in the outdated Tropicana Field to league-low crowds until the lease expires in 2027. And finally, when the Rays do leave for a city willing to see them as partners, St. Petersburg will not collect nearly the financial damages that some council members seem to think.

Beyond baseball, Thursday's irresponsible vote sent a broader disturbing message about a St. Petersburg City Council that is supposed to be more enlightened, progressive and visionary than some of its predecessors. Foster and others rejected regionalism and talked about acting in the best interest of St. Petersburg taxpayers. In fact, they rejected a fair deal that protected city taxpayers and opened up the possibility of new development on the Trop site that could bring jobs and revenue to the city. They talked about their love of a vibrant St. Petersburg that can compete with any place, yet lacked the confidence to let the city compete for the Rays.

Kornell, Newton, Foster, Kennedy and Dudley are clinging to the past rather than betting on the future. They sided with two former council members and failed mayoral candidates, Kathleen Ford and Larry Williams, and former Mayor Bill Foster, whom voters replaced with Kriseman last year in part because he could not reach a deal with the Rays. These are the small thinkers who have yet to shed the inferiority complex that once hung over St. Petersburg and its leaders.

St. Petersburg is long past that era, and Tampa Bay has grown up as a region. Give Kriseman credit for reaching a fair deal with the Rays. Praise council members Charlie Gerdes, Karl Nurse and Darden Rice for having the courage and the vision to vote for it. If the Rays leave Tampa Bay one day, remember which five council members are to blame.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1.  Jim Morin -- Morin Toons Syndicate
  2. Career Foreign Service officer George Kent and top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, right, are sworn in to testify during the first public impeachment hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday Nov. 13, 2019, in Washington. JOSHUA ROBERTS  |  AP
    Here’s what readers had to say in Friday’s letters to the editor.
  3. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Visitors head to Florida's Old Capitol building on the first day of the annual sixty day session, Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addressed a joint session of the Florida Legislature Tuesday in Tallahassee.  SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Florida Legislature appears determined to pass legislation requiring parental consent.
  4. Some of Tampa Bay's largest companies are being sold or are up for sale. Times files and Bloomin' Brands
    Tech Data is just the latest in a growing list of public companies bought up by out-of-state firms.
  5. A house for rent in St. Petersburg.  [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times] SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN  |  Susan Taylor Martin
    The City Council has afforded renters more protections from discrimination and unjustified late fees.
  6. Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Here’s what readers had to say in Thursday’s letters to the editor.
  7. Leonard Pitts undefined
    No controversy ever ends quietly on social media, writes Leonard Pitts.
  8. In this Oct. 11, 2018, photo, rescue personnel perform a search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach. GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    While it is too late to stop global warming, we can prevent it from getting worse, two scientists write.
  9. Florida's toll roads
    Here’s what readers had to say in Wednesday’s letters to the editor.
  10. President Donald Trump talks to the media before leaving the White House, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) MANUEL BALCE CENETA  |  AP
    President Donald Trump’s conduct is the issue as House begins public phase of impeachment inquiry.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement