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Rick Kriseman’s message to St. Pete City Council: ‘Build a damn Pier’

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman urged City Council to respect the city’s Pier process and let it work.

“Perhaps the public just wants their elected officials to do what they elected them to do – to build a damn Pier,” Kriseman said.

That pretty much summed up the message during Kriseman’s 20 minutes before council members.

“Build a damn Pier.”

Council scheduled a Pier update for Kriseman to issue during its Thursday meeting. In his update, Kriseman took a trip down memory lane and showed a video of his press conference last year announcing the new Pier process.

In the video he laid out a new timeline – one that was longer than he had anticipated during his campaign for mayor. But in that press conference he also reminded that it was better to take more time and get it right.

He pointed out the nonbinding survey was the one key component missing from the previous design competition that yielded the thwarted Lens. Kriseman rifled through numbers – 39 presentations over a two-month period or any number of public meetings – to illustrate his point that the public did weigh-in.

Kriseman’s pitch to council comes as pressure mounts on council members to reject the Pier Selection Committee’s final ranking if it places the Alma design at the top of its list.

Alma ranked number five on the city’s public survey while the other two designs short-listed, Destination St. Pete Pier and the Pier Park, were voted number one and number two respectively. However, during its last meeting, the selection committee indicated through preliminary straw polls that they were leaning toward Alma.

“Not everyone will like the final design,” Kriseman said.

He didn’t indicate which design he preferred. In fact, Kriseman told council he thought any of the three would work out well for the city because the process puts function first.

“This Pier will do what the community asked for it to do,” Kriseman said.

The Pier Selection Committee must weigh a variety of factors in its decision including construction cost, permitability, environmental impact, programmatic details and the public survey.

As Councilmember Karl Nurse pointed out, most of the criteria in those categories have been met by each of the three remaining designs and the one category where there is real substantive difference is in the public survey.

On that note, Councilmember Amy Foster asked if there would be some sort of quantitative way for the committee to rank the designs. For instance, they could assign numeric scores to teams based on delivery in all of the required categories.

That won’t be happening, though.

According to City Attorney John Wolfe, state law requires the selection committee to make its choice based on the qualifications of the design team.

However, Kriseman said he expects the selection committee to provide sound reasoning behind whatever decision it makes.

“I fully expect that they will provide you with a clear reasoning,” Kriseman said.

There were few questions posed to the mayor about the process and his presentation. Kriseman clarified that if City Council votes down the selection committee’s ranking it will start the process over.

He also took a little heat from the council spitfire, Wengay Newton.

“Do you think that that’s not a problem having a committee having their own personal agendas?” Newton asked.

He was referring to Pier Selection Committee chair Mike Connors. Connors is the only member of the committee who is a paid city staff member and he was the most vocal in his opposition to any design that re-used the inverted pyramid, namely Destination St. Pete Pier.

Kriseman fired back that any opinions that were shared during the 12-hour-long meeting last month were the result of careful consideration and based on the criteria defined by state law.

For all the heat Kriseman took from Newton, he seemed to get a little back-up from Council member Darden Rice.

“We’ve got to let this process work,” she said.

The Pier Selection Committee meets April 23 to make its final ranking.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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