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Mitch Perry Report for 4.23.15 — Pier politics returns

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Today is the latest big day for enthusiasts and others regarding the Pier in St. Petersburg, as the design teams for the three finalists will put their best foot forward to attempt to impress the selection panel charged with choosing a team to present to the City Council.

It’s between the designs known as Alma, Destination St. Pete Pier and Pier Park.

You might recall the last time this selection committee got together. That resulted in a 12-hour marathon meeting that showed the selection committee clearly favoring the Alma design, but refused to commit, since there is strong populist sentiment toward the Destination St. Pete Pier model designed by the St. Pete Design Group.

Nothing’s substantially changed since, from this reporter’s vantage point.

If you go by polls from the public, the choice is clearly Destination St. Pete Pier. But as people have told me for years, the St. Pete City Council is a republic, and they are charged with making big decisions, away from the roar of the plebiscite.

We’ve seen this story before, and one of the same players is a driving force once again, Tom Lambdon. Lambdon is a passionate advocate for maintaining anything that resembles the iconic pyramid design. He led the way several years ago to get a measure on the ballot showing there were thousands like him in St. Pete who didn’t want to go to a new design. He won, essentially, and the Lens lost.

But while Alma isn’t the Lens, it represents a forward-thinking concept that many of the city’s elite favors.

Yesterday former Mayor Rick Baker came out in support of Destination St. Pete Pier, writing in an op-ed on this website that, “There is no other group in the competition that has St. Pete Design Group’s combination of deep and long-term ties to St. Petersburg and impressive record of accomplishment. Why would we not pick them?”

Following that, current Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted out his own op-ed that he wrote for the Times last month, in which he wrote that everybody in the city should “respect the process.”

Can this thing survive without being another train wreck? Lots of folks in St. Petersburg will be watching, and apparently many of them will be in the room today, giving public comment. Prepare for another long day in this saga.

In other news…

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor says she doesn’t agree with the thrust of the Tampa Bay Times story on her force disproportionately targeting black bicyclists, but nevertheless agrees to a Justice Department review of how the TPD has been handling such cases (and by the way, nice to see the Tampa Tribune finally write their first words on the biggest story of the week in the city).

Can the Tampa Streetcar ever be more than a glorified trip for tourists? Lots of folks in Tampa hope so, which is why a $1 million grant from the state’s Department of Transportation to study the issue is certainly a good start on expanding the rail line.

We’ve emptied out our notebook from our travels to New Hampshire last weekend for the GOP presidential clambake. Here are our notes on the voices of some voters who attended the two-day summit of Republican presidential contenders.

And there was a modest bipartisan energy bill that’s soon going to go to President Obama’s desk for signature, earning cheers from Tampa’s U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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