Rick Kriseman Archives - Page 5 of 44 - SaintPetersBlog

Proposal for long-term deal between St. Pete, Rowdies likely to go before voters

The Tampa Bay Rowdies are ready for the big leagues, and it appears their shot will be coming sooner than later.

Major League Soccer announced last month that the Rowdies and St. Petersburg will be one of 10 cities under consideration for an expansion team.

Before that happens — representing a considerable boost for both the team and St. Petersburg — the Rowdies will need to show, among other things, a comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the club will provide proper support for fans and players, while also serving as a soccer destination in the community.

For that to happen, the Rowdies would first need a long-term lease with the city, which owns Al Lang Stadium.

But before realizing such an agreement, St. Petersburg voters must step in and approve the deal.

On Thursday, St. Pete City Council members discussed the steps necessary for both a referendum and a possible agreement. If all goes as planned, the vote will be held May 2 to ask voters’ permission to strike a deal to lease Al Lang to the Rowdies for up to 25 years.

Voters must also approve the lease, or some other agreement.

And if approved, a deal could be signed by mid- to late May, just time for Major League Soccer to make its decision.

The Rowdies, ready move ahead on this new phase in their history, agreed to take up all costs associated with the referendum, as well as that of getting the expansion and making improvements to Al Lang.

However, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman gave a caveat. The referendum “doesn’t commit us,” he said.

The mayor explained that what the referendum does is only give the city permission to negotiate a long-term agreement. And it all that rests on the Rowdies becoming an MLS expansion team. If the team doesn’t get the distinction, it would void the deal with St. Pete.

Councilmember Karl Nurse remains optimistic, though: “If we can make this work, it’s a big deal.”

While the Rowdies and St. Pete are one of the cities under consideration, there are others: Cincinnati, Ohio; Detroit, Nashville, Tennessee; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; Sacramento, California; St. Louis, San Antonio, Texas; and San Diego, California.

Interested expansion owners must submit applications by Jan. 31.

Qualified applicants will submit documentation that focuses on the following three areas: 1) Ownership — Structure and financial information; 2) Stadium — details on proposed site, financing, approvals and support; and 3) Financial Projections, Corporate Support and Soccer Support — a business plan, projections and commitment letters for naming rights and a jersey-front sponsor, along with an overview of support from the soccer community.

Three key aspects are considered top priorities when reviewing candidates:

A committed local ownership group that has a passion for the sport, a deep belief in Major League Soccer and the resources to invest in the infrastructure to build the sport in their respective market.

A market that has a history of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events, is located in a desirable geographic location and is attractive to corporate sponsors and television partners.

A comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the club will have a proper home for their fans and players while also serving as a destination for the sport in the community.

 

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Rick Kriseman formally announces he’s running for re-election

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman filed for re-election Thursday.

“I’m asking the citizens of St. Petersburg to continue the progress of the past three years,” the Mayor said in a statement. “Working together, we’ve taken on the serious issues and made a positive impact in all corners of our city.”

The announcement comes nearly three years to the day that Kriseman was sworn into office. It had been mostly smooth sailing for the former city councilman and state representative until issues with the town’s sewage system occurred last summer.

That’s led to some of the toughest criticism of his time in office for how his office has handled the situation.

St. Pete was already on the rise when Kriseman defeated Bill Foster by 12 percentage points in November 2013 and has continued to see unprecedented growth in the subsequent years.

As the Tampa Bay Times wrote in an editorial over the weekend, “No question St. Petersburg is on a roll. Is that because of City Hall or in spite of it?”

The Times also noted the rising cost of the new Pier, the lack of creating jobs in Midtown’s poorer neighborhoods and the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field as issues that voters will need to consider this fall. In his statement issued out by campaign manager Tom Alte, the Kriseman administration is taking credit for moving forward on the issues of the Rays and the Pier.

“Under the leadership of Mayor Kriseman, St. Petersburg has resolved numerous high-profile issues, including resolving the stalemate with the Tampa Bay Rays, moving forward with a community-based plan to build a new pier, hiring a new police chief, and finding the funding needed for construction of a new police station,” it reads.

Since his election, Kriseman has signed legislation allowing for paid parental leave for employees, a higher minimum wage, and second chances for minors.

He’s also elevated the city’s profile through the pursuit of a Cuban consulate, picking up the void left by his friend across the bay, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, after he declined to get involved in that campaign.

“We’ve become the beacon of progress I spoke about on the steps of City Hall more than three years ago — but there is still work to do,” Kriseman said. “We must continue our efforts to combat gun violence and intervene in the lives of our troubled youth. We must do our part to make the sun shine bright on every student in every single public school.

“And we must upgrade our wastewater and stormwater systems as soon as possible if we’re serious about being a true 21st-century City.

“Our residents, business owners, and community groups are interested in action and progress, not politics. They want a mayor who faces challenges head-on and gets things done. I’ve been that mayor,” Kriseman said. “I know that we can solve any issue as long as we work together. I remain optimistic and excited about where the Sunshine City is heading.”

Throughout most of his tenure, the mayor’s poll numbers have been good, with his handling of the sewage system being his only real Achilles’ heel.

While the issues surrounding the Pier and the Rays have yet to be completely solved, they haven’t dented his popularity, which is unlike the case with Foster.

As of today, seemingly the only man in the way of another four years is former Mayor Rick Baker, who led St. Petersburg from 2001-2009. A St. Pete Polls survey conducted last month of 1,100 votes showed Baker with a surprisingly solid lead over Kriseman, 44 percent to 35 percent.

No other person in the poll mentioned — Jeff Brandes, Amy Foster, Steve Kornell or Karl Nurse — came close to defeating Kriseman (None of those lawmakers, it should be noted, have expressed any interest in running for mayor).

Baker has also been circumspect about another run for office. Since leaving City Hall in 2009, Baker declined opportunities to run for Florida’s 13th Congressional District on two separate occasions. Since 2012, he has served as president of The Edwards Group, the umbrella company that oversees all the enterprises of entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

Included in Kriseman’s re-election statement were endorsements from Sen. Bill Nelson and CD 13 Rep. Charlie Crist.

“Our residents, business owners, and community groups are interested in action and progress, not politics,” Kriseman said. “They want a mayor who faces challenges head-on and gets things done. I’ve been that mayor.”

“I know that we can solve any issue as long as we work together,” he added. “I remain optimistic and excited about where the Sunshine City is heading.”

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As 2016 closes, Hillsborough’s transportation problems still mostly unsolved

Another year of our lives is about to become history, and that means another year where little tangible was accomplished in terms of addressing the transportation needs of the citizenry in Hillsborough County.

But a whole lot of people did get angry with each other over the process, anyway.

At this time a year ago, the biggest concern was: What would come out of the Hillsborough County Sheriff Department’s investigation into Go Hillsborough, the two-years-in-the-making transportation plan that called for a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase?

“The Sherriff’s Office has completed most of the work in its investigation of the Go Hillsborough transportation plan but the results won’t be made public until mid-January,” the late and lamented Tampa Tribune wrote in December of 2015.

But it would not be released in January. Nor in February.

When it was ultimately released in March, the 1,974 page-report from the Sheriff’s office and State Attorney Mark Ober found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing in how county staff, commissioner and private consultant Beth Leytham acted in the months leading up to the selection of Leytham’s client, Parsons Brinckerhoff, to the project. But any momentum for what was always a rather large lift had been severely thwarted, thought it didn’t mean it was DOA, at all.  The referendum always required a simple majority of commissioners to vote to put the half-cent plan on the November 2016 ballot.

However, some Tampa liberals – considered to be the base of support for the tax – balked at what they said was a plan with too heavy an emphasis on roads and a lack of transit in the city.

On April 27, after hearing more than 60 people speak during a four-hour hearing, the BOCC rejected the plan on a 4-3 vote. The proposal died after Commission Victor Crist, always considered the swing vote on the seven-member board, said he was going with his “gut feeling” in opposing the measure.

But like Freddie Krueger, Go Hillsborough wasn’t quite dead yet.

Flash forward to six weeks later, when another 67 people came before the BOCC to give their views on a slightly revised measure. In this case, the tax would have gone for 20 years instead of the original 30 year-plan. But the vote tally on the BOCC was still the same. Go Hillsborough was dead. Again.

Several months later, the board ultimately voted to approved dedicating $600 million over the next decade to fix roads, bridges, sidewalks and intersections. But not much for transit, which upset newbie Commissioner Pat Kemp.

There is no talk about a referendum going up anytime soon.

While the county went nowhere on addressing transit, the Florida Department of Transportation’s ambitious plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 275, Interstate 4 and Interstate 75, as well as overhauls to the Howard Frankland Bridge moved forward. Sort of.

Opposition to the $6 billion plan Tampa Bay Express project has come most prominently from the areas that would be directly impacted, in Tampa’s Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and V.M. Ybor neighborhoods, and it’s been lasting and sustaining for more than a year-and-a-half.

The single biggest public hearing on the project took place on a summer night in June, when the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization held a public hearing on whether the TBX plan should be placed in its Transportation Improvement Plan for the next five years.

The 12-4 vote in favor of the plan came after eight hours of public hearing and 180 people signed up to speak, with the meeting concluding at 2:18 a.m.

Considered the biggest public works project in the history of the Tampa Bay area, the vote showed that while there are some lawmakers who strongly oppose the plan, the majority of the political and business establishment still remained solidly behind it.

In December, FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold said that he was hitting the “reset” button on the project, bringing in new staff to manage the project, “and work more intensively with the local communities.”

According to a Tampa Bay Times investigation, 80 percent of the registered voters living at properties that FDOT aims to raze for TBX are in black and Latino households.

Another ongoing story that began in 2014 and lasted through most of this year was the continuing drama playing out at the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

At one point during the acrimonious negotiations regarding the level of severity on background checks for ridesharing drivers, Uber pulled out their “Work with us or we’ll leave” card, which carried some real force after they literally did leave the Austin, Texas market over a similar disagreement with local regulators. And in this seemingly never ending saga, the public has, for better or worse, always been on the side of Uber/Lyft, and against the perceived stuffy bureaucrats not willing to adapt to a “disruptive” new mode of transportation.

At times, it got very ugly – and that was just between PTC Chair Victor Crist and his executive director, Kyle Cockream. Neither man ended up looking great at the end of it all, with Cockream first announcing his resignation, then postponing, then resigning again.

Crist, meanwhile, did a 180 from his previous stance in support of going hard on Uber and Lyft, and seemingly overnight became their ally, much to the consternation of fellow PTC board members David Pogorilich and Frank Reddick.

By the end of the year, the beleaguered PTC was barely standing, after a vote by the Hillsborough legislative delegation may ultimately give the agency just twelve more months to find a graceful way to exit the scene, with presumably the regulatory duties being handled by the BOCC, which is the case virtually everywhere else.

And oh, yes, Uber and Lyft drivers are now legally good to pick up and drop off passengers (not that their illegal stance did much to deter them previously).

And then there was the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project taking residents from Tampa to St. Petersburg and back, a plan spearheaded privately by former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik and publicly by St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who, hat in hand, was able to procure $350,000 each from the local governments of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Tampa and his own City Council in St. Pete, respectively.

And while there was a lot of fanfare when the rides began, with seemingly every local official being captured on Facebook Live taking a maiden journey, WFLA- Newschannel 8 reported in mid- December that one recent day, only two people had taken the ferry, and a week before, only one passenger was on a trip from Tampa to St. Petersburg.

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City of St. Petersburg chooses Capitol Alliance Group as new lobbyist

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has chosen the Capitol Alliance Group of Tallahassee to be the city’s lobbyist in the state capitol.

Although Kriseman has made the choice, details of the contract have not been ironed out, spokesman Ben Kirby said.

Capitol Alliance will replace the city’s current lobbyist, Peebles and Smith, also based in Tallahassee, in the upcoming Legislative Session. St. Petersburg’s contract will Peebles expired Sept. 30. The contract was worth $50,000 last year.

Capitol Alliance has a wide range of clients across the state, including the city of Key West and Leon County. Other clients include the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, the PGA Tour, and Tesla Motors. The Capitol Alliance Group’s team includes Dr. Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl.

Capitol Alliance was one of six firms that submitted proposals for the contract. The others were Peebles; Ballard Partners; Ron Boo, P.A.; Dean, Mead, Egerton, Bloodwork, Capouano & Bozarth of Tallahassee; and Southern Strategy Group of Tampa Bay.

It is unclear when the contract will be final. The 2017 Legislative Session convenes March 7.

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Barclay Harless announces run for St. Petersburg City Council

Barclay Harless, a 31-year-old banker and former aide to state Sen. Darryl Rouson, will be running for District 2 seat on the St. Petersburg City Council next year.

Harless announced Tuesday he will be seeking the seat currently held by Jim Kennedy, who is term-limited out of office next year.

“We have a great city and we want to keep it that way and we want to improve upon everything that’s been built over the past two decades,” Harless said last week as to why he’s running for Council.

Speaking at Hawkers Asian Street Fare in the city’s Edge District, Harless believes millennials like himself are continuing to be a part of the fabric of the St. Petersburg.

“They’re opening businesses. They’re becoming policemen and teachers, and so I want to preserve what we’ve built and fix what’s not working.”

What’s not working?

“We have an infrastructure challenge,” referring to one of St. Pete’s major stories of the year — sewage system problems that has been gripping City Hall for months.

Harless also mentions the continuing work with the Pier. If elected, he wants to amend the city’s permitting process.

“Just naturally being at a bank with a lot of small businesses,” Harless says, “you hear from folks who have opened up businesses in Sarasota and Tampa and elsewhere.

“They’ll tell you that the St. Pete permitting process is challenging, compared to some of the others.”

Another improvement would be on the lack of affordable housing for middle-income people in St. Pete. Harless suggests the city look at changing zoning requirements, freeing up more housing for people without children or pets.

“We need to rezone some of these areas that are maybe single family homes that were made for two bedrooms and one bathroom,” he says, quickly adding that it should be “privately driven.”

“But I think the city can encourage private industry to move in that direction.”

When asked about how he feels Mayor Rick Kriseman has handled the sewage problem, Harless is sympathetic, saying that leaders need to solve problems; he believes that the city now has a set plan going forward to deal with major storms.

However, the closest Harless comes to criticizing anyone on the matter is when he mentions Mike Connors, the longtime city public works administrator who resigned abruptly a year ago.

“I know he had a lot of power in a very central location,” Harless says. “And sometimes in an organization, that can cause fear.”

Crime is a concern that needs to be taken seriously, Harless notes.

“I have a lot of friends who say they’ve been the victim of criminal activity, and they say ‘I’m not going to bother with filing anything,’ and I always tell them, file it,'” he says, adding that with more data, the more likely that city leaders can understand the underlying issues behind such activities.

Running for political office at this stage of his life wasn’t something he was thinking about until about a year or so ago, until officials with both the St. Pete Chamber and some nonprofit agencies suggested he might be a viable candidate in District 2.

Harless was born in Melbourne, Florida, and has lived in St. Petersburg since he began attending USFSP more than a decade ago.

After graduating, his first job was as a legislative aide to Rouson.

“It was a pleasure working for Darryl because he’s just so involved. Not just in the Legislature, but he’s also active on the local level,” Harless recounts. “He has his hands on all types of projects, so even if he wasn’t working on them, he wanted to be informed about them if they impacted his area.”

In late 2013, Harless left Rouson to become a campaign scheduler for Alex Sink, who had just announced her campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which opened after the death of C.W. Bill Young.

Following that campaign, Sink, a former banker herself, suggested Harless get into the banking business,

The “best advice I ever got,” he says.

In May 2014, he was hired by Trevor Burgess, the then-chief of C1 Bank in St. Petersburg, as a business development officer.  In May 2016, Harless was promoted to assistant bank officer, shortly before CI was sold to Bank of the Ozarks.

Harless worries about street parking, saying he knows of some business owners who were forced to leave downtown because it has become too big of a problem for them — specifically Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro, which closed shop this past summer in the Edge District for its location on 4th Street.

Harless’ political aspiration began in college. He was elected student body president at UFSP, but his brief reign ended ignominiously in 2007, after alcohol was found in his campus office.

Facing the threat of an impeachment proceeding conducted by the Student Government, Harless resigned.

“I was 22 years old,” he says deliberately, clearly prepared to be asked the question. “It was after a long day. I invited some good friends of mine back to my office. It was night time. It was after hours. I violated campus policy.

“It’s changed since then,” he recounts, “but back then you have to file for a ‘social’, essentially, and I dealt with it. I lied about it initially, and then I took responsibility for myself and resigned.”

In retrospect, he says that in some ways it was one of the best things that could happen have happened to him. “I hate to say it was a testing phase of my life … I didn’t violate any laws, you know? But it was a lesson I’ll never forget, and it means a lot to me.”

Harless becomes the first candidate to announce for District 2 in the upcoming election cycle, to represent the area encompassing the northern part of the city.

Councilmembers Darden Rice and Amy Foster will also be seeking for re-election in Districts 4 and 8, respectively. The District 6 race will also feature new candidates, as incumbent Karl Nurse is term-limited out next fall.

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St. Pete Pride officials say they intend to move event downtown

The St. Pete LGBT Pride Parade is moving to downtown St. Pete.

But is it a done deal?

Traditionally held in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood and Grand Central District, officials with the annual festival now say the parade in 2017 will move to a downtown staging location, beginning at Albert Whitted Park and proceed along Bayshore Drive to Vinoy Park.

Officials say this route crosses fewer intersections than the current route, which will make it easier to secure and provides fewer points of potential intrusion. They also say it will provide additional space for parade viewing.

“In 2016 we had an independent economic impact survey conducted that found 50 percent of attendees come from outside of Pinellas County and stay an average of 2.6 nights,” says Eric Skains, executive director of St. Pete Pride. “Since the change from a one-day to a multiday event, the economic impact has grown from $10-million to over $20-million. By giving more options to attendees, we hope this impact will continue to grow as the event becomes more accessible to them.”

In a statement issued Thursday, St. Pete Pride officials say that the current parade staging area at 31st St. N. and Third Avenue N. is slated for redevelopment. Multiple new locations were reviewed, including an option utilizing the Tropicana Field parking lot for parade staging.

“With a focus on security of attendees, production costs, and the potential for growth, the St. Pete Pride Board was presented with the downtown St. Petersburg option for consideration at December’s board meeting,” says the statement.

Organizers say the three-day celebration will include a Friday night event in the Grand Central District, a Saturday evening parade along Bayshore Drive, and a Sunday Festival in Vinoy Park.

“It was extremely important to the board that the Grand Central District remain part of St. Pete Pride Weekend,” says Skains. “Grand Central will always be a special place for the LGBTQ community. We fully intend to work closely with the district to ensure the Friday night event is supported by our sponsors and marketed equally with the parade and festival.”

Not everyone is down with the move.

Former City Councilman Jeff Danner wrote on his Facebook page: “It is a shame this Board has abandoned its roots and the community that started Pride. Grand Central and Historic Kenwood supported it back when others did not.”

His page was filled with comments from residents who live in Kenwood and the Grand Central District who are not pleased with the decision, and many apparently will be taking up City Council Chair Amy Foster’s comment that people should contact Mayor Rick Kriseman to oppose the move.

“I recommend everyone make their voice heard on this issue to the Mayor,” Foster wrote. “I have had one conversation with him yesterday, and he opposes the move but needed to have more discussions on Pride’s contract.”

 

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St. Pete City Council raises eyebrows at $14M in Pier ‘enhancements’

St. Petersburg council members had mixed reactions Thursday to a progress report on the new Pier.

They generally liked proposed “enhancements,” including family friendly recreation facilities. But the $14 million price tag for those enhancements was another issue.

So far, the city has earmarked about $12.5 million for the Pier approach and about $33.6 million for the Pier itself. Pinellas County had agreed to kick in about $20 million, bringing the price tag to $66 million. If all the enhancements were financed, the total cost could reach about $80 million.

“I feel fairly certain I will not support a $14 million figure,” council member Steve Kornell said.

Kornell noted that adding $14 million to the price tag would increase the overall cost between about 20 percent to 30 percent. He, like other council members, questioned spending that money on the Pier when there are other needs in the city.

 “As a council member, there’s an entire city to look at,” Kornell said. “We have other needs in our city.”

They were also concerned about the costs to maintain and operate the Pier. Council member Jim Kennedy noted that one problem with the old Pier was the approximately $1.5 million the city had to spend each year to keep it running. He wondered if city staff had estimated the annual subsidy the city would have to make for the new Pier — a much larger space with more activities.

“That subsidy could be a whole lot more,” Kennedy said. “I want to have an understanding of that before moving forward.”

No figure was forthcoming on Thursday.

Staff members and designers said some of the proposed enhancements came from comments the council had made during previous updates. Others came from comments St. Petersburg residents raised during public presentations.

Among the proposed enhancements are a kayak rental site with a boathouse and launch, playground equipment and an upgraded splash pad.

The current proposal would have 12 jets of water that children could run through. The project would improve the splash pad to 36 jets, which could include music and lights.

An estimated cost for the upgraded splash pad is about $300,000.

“We can have a splash pad or we can have a signature water feature,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

If done right, Kriseman said he suspected adults would also want to run through the fountains as they spurted water.

Kriseman told council members that the $14 million price tag was the outside amount for the enhancements. It’s likely, he said, they would not cost that much, but it is safer to have the money earmarked and not need it than to need the money and not have it available.

Kriseman proposed taking the $14 million from the tax increment financing, or TIF, money derived from the city’s downtown community redevelopment area. That’s tax money that is collected in that area that is set aside to be used only in that section of the city.

Council member Karl Nurse said he was concerned that some of the downtown TIF money should be spent on fixing sewer pipes in that area rather than on the new Pier.

But Kriseman said fixing those pipes would not help solve St. Petersburg’s real sewer problem, which is a lack of capacity. Fixing that, he said, requires work on the Albert Whitted and Southwest sewer plants. Both of those are outside the downtown CRA so the funds could not be used there.

Amy Foster was also concerned about having to use TIF money not just for the enhancements but also to make up future costs of the Pier.

“I know you have numbers you’re not showing yet,” Foster said about the price of possible subsidies to keep the Pier District operating.

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.15.16 — Pier politics, part VIII

St. Pete City Council members are scheduled to receive a report on the progress of the St. Petersburg Pier at City Hall this morning.

Architects from ASD Architects, Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers, representing the Pier and W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects, representing the Pier Approach will present updated renderings of the new Pier. According to a news release, City staff will report on timing, budget and next steps.

Not covering St. Petersburg on a regular basis these days, I have to admit I wasn’t aware where we all were in the process. Otherwise occupied, I didn’t realize that there has been an additional $20 million added to the budget from Pinellas County. For years the top line had been $46 million, which it remains in terms of how much the city will allocate to it.

As reported in yesterday’s Times, now Mayor Rick Kriseman wants the county to cough up an additional $14 million that has been earmarked to build an intermodal transportation center for light rail and buses. That now pushes the budget up to $80 million.

“I don’t want us to have any regrets down the road,” the mayor tells Times columnist John Romano this morning. “I want to be able to give the community something really special.”

When I closely covered the saga of the Pier in 2012-2013, I learned that while removes the element of the downtown crowd was all in for “The Lens” and couldn’t be bothered to hear arguments for maintaining the now razed inverted pyramid Pier, many people in the community felt otherwise. Though Councilman Wengay Newton was depicted as just being eccentric in supporting the 1973 model, he was actually onto something with his resistance to making such a change.

So, yes, people, the Pier is a complicated thing.

Like the never-ending saga of the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s still hard to predict how this whole Pier thing is going to work out. Though there is a sentiment within the same circle of folks who liked the Lens to just quash the whole damned thing, that won’t work.

So maybe Kriseman is on to something. It’s hard to say when it comes to the Pier. City Council members in the past year have found their voice in confronting the administration regarding the sewage crisis — will they as a whole resist the urge to keep on spending on something “really special”?

In other news …

In a health care committee meeting in the Florida Senate yesterday, some health care providers say this whole managed Medicaid system isn’t working out so well for them.

While Tampa Bay area lawmakers try to pass a law that removes the suspension of driver’s licenses for a series of crimes unrelated to driving, they don’t do so for drug crime.

Hillsborough County Commission Pat Kemp heard from some Tampa-based constituents not happy with the low salaries that are so prevalent in the area.

The Tampa Bay History Center is about to go through an $11 million expansion.

And critics of the Tampa Bay Express project aren’t surprised to hear FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold call for a ‘reset,’ but they want the whole thing killed.

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By asking for more Pier money, Rick Kriseman misreads political mood

If we have learned anything from the just-completed election, it is this: People are fed up with the political status quo. I mean, isn’t that obvious?

Apparently not to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

He wants to shift an additional $14 million into his city’s Pier project, which could bring the overall cost to $80 million. Kriesman’s logic is exactly the reason millions of people voted for Donald Trump.

“I’m looking at, if we invest some more money, we can have a world-class Pier,” Kriseman said in the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s more taking the elements that would exist in the current budget and taking them up another notch.”

Oh dear.

Grab hold of your wallets when mayors and other elected officials start using words like “invest” and “world-class” because it usually means they’re investing in a world-class monument to themselves.

The money would come from a special tax increment financing plan, or TIF district. That sounds good because it doesn’t sock taxpayers directly, but as city council members pointed out some of the TIF money could be directed to other more pressing projects that aren’t as glamorous as the Pier.

Even giving the good mayor the benefit of the doubt on that one, he surely must know that those words “invest” and “world class” are etched on the tombstones of politicians whose careers died because they wanted to take things “up another notch.”

The more prudent approach would be to take the city’s crumbling sewer system “up another notch” – well, a lot more notches, because no one has forgotten the stench in the streets in September after Hurricane Hermine overpowered the wastewater system and sent ca-ca flowing into the streets.

That is a public safety issue.

The Pier is not.

Whatever happened to holding the line on costs?

This doggone Pier was originally supposed to cost $46 million. Google, a wonderful invention, popped up a Times story from about five years ago, that reported if the city would just throw in a few million more the Pier would be a whole lot better.

Sound familiar?

That same story included a promise from officials that they absolutely, positively were going to cap costs at $50 million. It included a great quote from then-Mayor Bill Foster: “For $50 million, people will get a Pier.”

Oh darn.

Well, it’s already at $66 million and now Kriseman wants more. I suspect he is misreading the mood of the voters on this one. I also imagine they will explain that to him at the appropriate time.

 

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Pinellas County GOP head Nick DiCeglie to run for head of state chairs

After successfully leading his county to go red in last month’s presidential election, newly re-elected Pinellas County Republican Party Executive Committee Chairman Nick DiCigle is thinking ‘bigly’ for 2017. At next month’s state party meeting in Orlando, he intends to run for the Chairman’s Caucus Chairman, the leader of all 67 county GOP leaders from across the state.

“My goal – if successful – is to share what worked for us here in Pinellas County with the other chairmen in the state of Florida,” DiCeglie said last week in an interview at the Pinellas GOP’s offices in Clearwater last week.

Initially elected in 2014 and re-elected on Monday night, DiCigle says that unlike many other county chairs across the state, he has the luxury of being in a large county with a substantial donor base and other resources that he’s been able to adroitly tap into.

“I want to be able to share not on my successes and our successes here in the party, but to share those successes, so that collectively we can come together as a group of chairmen, (so) when these folks go back to their counties, they’re more knowledgeable, they’ve  learned something, and they can improve what their doing locally, that’s the ultimate goal,” DiCigle says.

The Long Island native has been active with the Pinellas Republican Party since 2009. After a stint as vice chair, he was elected chairman of the REC in 2014 when he defeated two other challengers to take the reigns of the local party. His biggest accomplishment to date was leading Pinellas to go red for Donald Trump in last month’s presidential election, a significant development in comparison to 2012, when Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by nearly ten percentage points in the county.

DiCeglie is aware that some of the migration to the local Republican party in 2016 emanated directly from those attracted to Trump, and that some of those voters don’t necessarily have that strong of an allegiance to the GOP. His goal is to make them want to stay in the party.

“I think this is an opportunity for Republicans,  and we have a responsibility as a local party as well to change minds, and as we change minds, and as things improve in this country, we’re going to be able to not only register Republicans as voters, we’re going to bypass the Dems by significant margins,” he says, adding that one of his goals over the next to years is to “identify, engage, communicate and motivate this new electorate.”

The next big thing in Pinellas when it comes to elections is the St. Petersburg Mayor’s race, taking place next November. And while Rick Kriseman has been struggling at City Hall regarding  his handling of the sewage crisis, he still doesn’t appear to be in danger for re-election unless Rick Baker were to leave the private sector and run for the job he held from 2000-2009.

DiCeglie acknowledges that the list of potential challengers to Kriseman begins with Baker, but says if he doesn’t pull the trigger “there are other Republicans that we’re going to be engaging, though he says he can’t say who those people are just yet. He grows impassioned when discussing what he says has been a distressing lack of leadership at City Hall.

The GOP leader scoffs at the idea that the mayoral race is nonpartisan. “Tell that to Rick Kriseman,” he says. “He made that race extremely partisan four years ago,” referring to the tens of thousands of dollars that the Florida Democratic Party contributed to his campaign in 2013.

“We certainly want to play a role,” he says about the municipal election, where four City Council seats will also be on the ballot. “We don’t know exactly what that’s going to be, but there’s a significant concern about the direction about the city of St Petersburg, and we’re firm believers that any leader of mayor, who focuses on limited government and fiscally conservative values is certainly better than what we’re seeing right now.”

Regarding the election for state party chair, DiCeglie is a Blaise Ingoglia man, but says he’s friends with his challenger, Sarasota state Committeeman Christian Ziegler. “They’re both great people, and either way, we’re going to have a very strong party coming into this next cycle, no question about it.”

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