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Pier Selection Committee: How they voted the last time

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

With just hours to go until the Pier Selection Committee issues its final ranking of three design concepts, here’s a rundown of how they voted last time.

During the marathon 12-hour meeting last month, the Pier Selection Committee seemed poised to rank Alma as its top pick out of three designs also including Pier Park and Destination St. Pete Pier.

Since that meeting, members of the public have sounded a booming objection to that choice, noting that Alma was not even in the public’s top three choices in the city’s public survey. Instead it came in at number five.

While the results of the survey were non-binding and the selection committee is within its boundaries to choose a design not favored by the public, it has become increasingly clear that casting those votes aside could be detrimental to the process in the long haul.

The question will be answered, will some of the committee members change their preference based on public outrage and comment?

Committee chair and the city’s public works administrator Mike Connors and Tampa Bay Rays vice president Melanie Lenz were the two committee members who voted Alma in the top-ranked spot during a straw poll at the previous committee meeting.

Connors seems unlikely to falter in his support for that design and even less likely to budge on his obvious contempt for Destination St. Pete Pier. Lenz, however, made it clear that she liked all three of the final concepts and even went so far as to say her number one and two picks were nearly dead tied. Her second choice was Pier Park.

Lenz’s third choice was Destination St. Pete Pier. Though she indicated she liked the design, she wondered how the proposal was fixing a failed model.

Michael Meidel and James Jackson both voted Alma in their number two spots, but were on complete opposite sides of the coin when it came to Pier Park, with Meidel choosing it as his top pick and Jackson putting it at number 4.

It’s important to note that Jackson’s top pick, Prospect Pier, was the eliminated Prospect Pier. With that out of the way, Alma would conceivable slide into his top spot with Destination St. Pete Pier behind it.

Pier Park had a second top pick from Gary Mitchum. Destination St. Pete Pier was his second choice.

The St. Pete Design Group’s inverted pyramid renovation concept was only ranked in the top spot by one member of the committee – preservationist Kai Warren. Warren seems unlikely to bend in that support. Pier Park was his fourth choice.

While support for Destination St. Pete Pier and the public survey dominated public comment during the previous meeting, support for Pier Park has increased in the days leading up to Thursday’s meeting.

Supporters of Blue Pier have put their weight behind Pier Park. So too has the Suncoast Sierra Club, though their endorsement is not official.

However, Destination St. Pete Pier also received a boost when former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker issued a glowing recommendation of that design in an exclusive SaintPetersblog op-ed. Baker comes with a wealth of backing in his position as president of the Edwards Group and has strong name recognition as the former mayor. He’s also respected throughout groups in the city as a leader and innovator in St. Pete.

Alma’s supporters seem to have grown quiet in the debate. Casey Gonzmart had spoken on behalf of that design during the meeting last month. While it’s expected he will weigh in again during the upcoming meeting, he hasn’t been heard from much since then.

The Tampa Bay Times also seems to be on the side of Alma, though they have written favorably for Pier Park as well. Destination St. Pete Pier, on the other hand, has been scathed by the Times in two separate editorials.

The meeting begins Thursday at 3 p.m. with the selection committee hearing answers from design teams on questions previously sent. They will reconvene again at 6 to hear public comment and debate their choices.

The final ranking will go to City Council on May 7 for a final up or down vote. If City Council approves the ranking, it will give Mayor Rick Kriseman authorization to begin negotiations with the top-ranked team.

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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