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Rays stadium saga finale: How long will it take?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

If there is one thing reporters and the most civically engaged of St. Pete residents know it’s that high-profile topics coming up at 3 p.m. City Council meetings spell one very, very late night.

I once had to watch my oldest daughter’s school play that she had been rehearsing for months with one eye on my laptop at the very back of the auditorium with one earbud in because an 8:30 a.m. meeting had dragged on well into the evening. That time it was The Pier.

Another time, I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. listening to a tired City Council that had been in and out of meetings since early that morning debate whether or not to make it easier for neighborhoods to kick off the historic designation process.

I can’t count how many times I’ve been up watching City Council well into the late night hours because there were dozens upon dozens of public speakers and marathon debates among disagreeing council members.

So the question I have today, and probably several other of my City Hall brethren, is — how long will I be listening tonight as Council prepares to vote on the latest in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium saga?

I’ve got to say, I’m cautiously optimistic. For starters, one of the most bullheaded council members on this topic, and one known for his ability to ignore the time, is no longer on the dais. Wengay Newton may show up with his two-cents, but this time around he’ll be given only three minutes to speak on the topic just like everyone else who’s not an elected council member.

Steve Kornell and Jim Kennedy may put up a fight, but they probably know they’re outnumbered and unlikely to woo anyone to their side. Certainly, each will offer reasoning for continuing to oppose the Mayor’s latest deal with the Tampa Bay Rays to let the major league baseball team search for alternative stadium sites. They’ll probably say a thing or two about protecting the taxpayer.

Ed Montanari and Lisa Wheeler-Brown have never had the privilege of debating the issue from the dais, so they might have a bit to add.

And I imagine there will be a decent number of people showing up to speak on the subject.

But, while I’m not saying it’s going to be a three-up/three-down sort of inning for Council, I’m also not banking on extra innings this time around.

As always, recognition to various people and groups comes very first at the meeting. This week there are five. Typically speaking, those honors usually take about ten minutes each and then the Rays issue is up.

That is the only item on the agenda. On second thought, maybe someone is anticipating those extra innings after all. Follow me on Twitter to follow along with my banter on the topic and see if my long, but not too long prediction holds up.

For the record, I get funnier with each passing hour.

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

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