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Rick Kriseman op-ed calls for Pier selection critics to embrace the process

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman has an op-ed in today’s Tampa Bay Times asking St. Pete residents to respect the Pier process.

In his op-ed, Kriseman touts a process that was born out of public participation by groups on all sides of the issue. The long process of getting back to the drawing board in the wake of the Lens defeat began with Kriseman’s Pier working group.

It charted a path filled with expert buy-in combined with public participation.

That public piece has been called into question thanks to a presumptive top ranking by the Mayor’s Pier Selection Committee that has one of the public’s least favorite designs with an edge over their favorite.

During a marathon 12-hour meeting on March 20, the Pier Selection Committee had Alma ranked in its top spot and attempted to seal Destination St. Pete, the winning design in three surveys including the city’s, at number 3.

They stopped short of doing that after dozens of supporters begged for a pause button.

“This is the process working,” Kriseman wrote.

“Going forward, I trust the committee will clearly communicate their reasoning behind their selection. The case for the top-ranked design team must be compelling, and I am confident it will be given the time and energy the selection committee has dedicated to this issue.”

Kriseman has continued to insist the process is working, but in a press release from Concerned Citizens, one of the groups Kriseman apparently references near the end of his op-ed as “those who worked with us to craft this process,” the group unilaterally agreed that the process had derailed.

They referenced the selection committee’s apparent disregard of the public’s top-ranked team and comments by Mike Connors, the committee’s chair, when he lamented a renovation of the existing inverted pyramid was a bad choice.

They articulately pointed out that those comments essentially say any design that is a reinvention of the current pier is off the table.

And it’s hard to trust Kriseman’s commitment to public input to begin with. This is the same mayor who constructed a carefully laid out plan to include the public as much as possible in selection of a new police chief.

Kriseman flew in out of town candidates to meet with residents in a different sort of interview and residents were given the opportunity to weigh in on their favorites then, too.

Instead, Kriseman, with no warning to the public whatsoever, scratched the entire list of candidates and went with current chief Anthony Holloway, who he handpicked himself.

Public be damned.

Also worth noting, Kriseman himself has never been a fan of restoring the inverted pyramid. He came on board having included  that as an option in the Request for Qualification, but he stood by his previous assertions that he wasn’t convinced keeping the inverted pyramid was the best choice.

In his op-ed, Kriseman doesn’t ask the selection committee to hear the will of the people. He only asks that they carefully explain their choice. What he does ask of those who have been critical of this process is, basically, to pipe down.

“I expect those who worked with us to craft this process and who stood with me when we announced it to remain true to their endorsement of it, regardless of the final ranking,” he wrote.

And there’s a call to the Pier process naysayers.

“I encourage our community to remain engaged with this issue and listen closely to the selection committee’s counsel and reasoning behind its final rankings, understanding that their collective expertise and experience is impressive and politically objective.”

“My hope is that those so invested in the pier’s future won’t lose sight of our city’s future,” Kriseman wrote. “That they won’t value winning more than moving this important project and our city forward.”

This could stand as a message to those supporting a petition circulating that would place a referendum before voters to require the city to get majority approval from voters before making structural changes to the city’s waterfront.

If such a measure were successful, it would essentially put whatever final ranking is chosen, approved and successfully negotiated before voters to decide one way or another. Just like the Lens.

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 janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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