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Concerned Citizens says Pier process is off track

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

When the Lens design for a new Pier was soundly defeated in 2013 it was largely because of the efforts of one group pushing to kill it. That group, Concerned Citizens, had announced its support of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s new Pier selection process.

Today, they are removing that support. Sort of.

The group wrote in a release that they support Kriseman’s vision for a process because it would “rely heavily on public input.” The board-approved statement calls that process “off track.”

They say the process went well until the March 20 Pier Selection Committee meeting in which the board seemed poised to list Alfonso Architect’s Alma design as its top ranked team despite the fact that the design had performed poorly in the city’s online public survey.

“While everyone understood this survey was non-binding, it was described to us as an element that the Selection Committee would carefully consider. In fact, the Request for Qualifications states ‘The results of the Public Survey will be valued by the Selection Committee as additional information in determination of the final ranking,’” the statement reads.

It goes on to point out that “some of the committee members made remarks that can fairly be described as dismissive of the public survey.”

The most notable example would be statements made by the city’s public works administrator and head of the Pier Selection Committee Mike Connors. He called the survey unscientific and refused to hear results from another survey, one that was scientific, conducted by an outside group.

Concerned Citizens also points out that Kriseman’s process included opening consideration for both re-using the current inverted pyramid and not just a complete rebuild.

“At least one Committee member made statements that can fairly be described as being totally closed to a design concept that involved a major reuse of the existing pyramid.,” the group writes. “This suggested that only a new design would be acceptable, and is the second place where the Mayors’ process has not been followed.”

Again, this is likely a reference to Connors, who, on several occasions, made either overtly obvious or theoretical comments showing his disdain toward renovating the current Pier.

Perhaps one of the most notable was when he pointed out that the inverted pyramid is already 50 years old. If it is renovated to last another 75, as the process dictates, the structure will be 125 years old by the end of its life. He pointed out that this could far outlive its appeal.

“It is enormously helpful that all of the surveys have been remarkably consistent,” the group said regarding apparent dismissal of survey data.

All three surveys that have been done so far – the city’s survey and two by St. Pete Polls – have shown consistent support for Destination St. Pete Pier, the design that would most closely resemble the current Pier. All three have also shown a lack of support for Alma.

In fact, in the most recent poll, Alma received less than 9 percent approval among respondents.

“The Board (Concerned Citizens) hopes that when the Pier Selection Committee next meets, they will reconsider these tenets in the process that Mayor Kriseman designed. It is our fervent desire that the first ranked design of the Committee will be one that the community can rally around, and that the Mayor and City Council can readily support.”

Also asked in the most recent poll was whether or not City Council should reject a design if it is not the public’s top choice. More than half said they should.

In separate interviews, several City Council members implied they would have a hard time supporting a design that lacked community support.

City Council will be the last line of defense for teams not ranked in the top spot. Their only power in this process is to vote up or down whatever top-ranked design comes before them.

If they approve the selection committee’s ranking, that gives the mayor authorization to begin negotiations. The second ranked team will only have a chance at getting a contract with the city if those negotiations fail.

If City Council rejects the ranking, the Pier Selection Committee can re-rank teams from the remaining six.

The city has not yet scheduled a new meeting for the selection committee to issue its final ranking. A date is expected to be announced sometime this week.

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 [email protected]

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