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City of St. Pete email quietly calls for Pier peace

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration is getting out ahead of an expected vote Thursday. City Council will hear a staff presentation regarding the Pier Selection Committee’s final ranking in which Pier Park came out on top.

“We established a pier process that citizens on every side of this issue agreed would result in a fair and objective decision,” Kriseman wrote in a statement emailed to residents subscribed to citywide email updates. “I am proud that we have stayed true to that process and that it has been transparent and open to the public throughout. I thank the Selection Committee for their diligence and their hard work.”

Destination St. Pete Pier was ranked second with Alma rounding out the top three.

Dueling groups are expected to pack the 8:30 a.m. meeting. Among the most likely to attend are those supporting Pier Park’s top ranking and another consisting of residents who prefer the Destination St. Pete Pier design.

Destination St. Pete Pier is the only design in the top three that would renovate the current inverted pyramid. It was also the top-ranked design in a public survey conducted by the city and several others conducted by St. Pete Polls.

Supporters of that design are expected to implore City Council members to reject the selection committee’s ranking in hopes of pushing their favored design forward.

However, in the email the city points out that City Council “must approve the Selection Committee’s final ranking before contract negotiations can ensue.”

This serves as something of a cautionary tale for Destination St. Pete Pier supporters considering a plea to City Council to reject the ranking. The Kriseman administration has largely maintained that if City Council rejects the ranking the process starts over.

However, in a report prior to the selection committee’s ranking, City Attorney John Wolfe admitted City Council could have more options than originally thought. That includes the possibility of rejecting the ranking and choosing a design on their own. The details are complicated, however, and council would still be bound by state law on how to decide on a team.

Regardless, the city is hoping to move forward.

“The iconic St. Petersburg Pier has often been the source of passionate debate in the Sunshine City, but it is also a source of great pride,” Kriseman said. “I’m looking forward to the day we cut the ribbon on a new St. Petersburg Pier.”

St. Pete Public Works Administrator Mike Connors chaired the selection committee. His presence on the committee has been the source of great debate among critics of the city’s selection process. Early on he indicated a clear preference to choose a design that did not re-use the inverted pyramid.

“The Selection Committee has chosen a preeminent architect with their associated team who will advance the detail of their iconic concept as we move closer to construction and the symbol of St. Petersburg’s next chapter. With this selection, we are taking a bold step towards our city’s bright future.” Connors said.

At least one City Council member is expected to vote “no” on the final Pier ranking. Outgoing City Council member Wengay Newton who represents parts of South St. Pete and Midtown is asking his colleagues to vote on a measure that would put the entire issue on the ballot for voters to decide.

The Pier issue is first on council’s list on Thursday. That meeting begins at 8:30. Heavy turnout is expected and people wishing to speak on the matter may have to use the city’s overflow room.

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 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 [email protected]

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