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St. Pete Pier survey data shows slight growth in “Build a damn Pier” mentality

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Polls can tell a lot about elections and public perception of various topics. Or they can muddy the water. Sometimes, even, they can shape the conversation.

When a candidate polls well, supporters are likely to share that information. When their candidate polls poorly, the data tends to get buried. That trend shows how valuable polling can be.

But the city is ignoring key data provided by one outside company about the public’s perception of three designs for a new St. Pete Pier and how the city should proceed.

At issue, the Pier Selection Committee appointed by Mayor Rick Kriseman indicated during a meeting last month they were leaning toward ranking the Alfonso Architect’s “Alma” in the No. 1 spot.

But the public doesn’t appear to favor that design. The city’s own survey showed it coming in No. 5 out of seven.

Then St. Pete Polls came along with a series of additional surveys. Each one shows minimal support for Alma and consistently puts another design, “Destination St. Pete Pier,” in the public’s top spot.

While the public has consistently ranked Destination St. Pete at the top and Alma at the bottom in three St. Pete Polls surveys and near the bottom in the St. Pete survey, there have been some telling variations.

In a survey conducted on March 22, one day after the Pier Selection Committee failed to issue a final ranking of the three final designs, St. Pete Polls found nearly 55 percent of respondents thought city council should reject the rankings if the committee puts Alma in the top spot and not Destination St. Pete.

Only 32.5 percent said council shouldn’t reject the ranking.

Then in another poll this week the same question was posed. This time the number of respondents indicating St. Pete City Council should reject the ranking if it doesn’t put Destination St. Pete at the top shrank to just 48 percent. Conversely, the number of respondents who indicated they shouldn’t rose to 36 percent.

In a city council meeting this month, Mayor Kriseman issued an impassioned plea to council to “respect the process” and accept the selection committee’s ranking — whatever that may be. In that speech Kriseman infamously said council should “do what they [were] elected to do — to build a damn Pier.”

So, with that controversial statement in mind, St. Pete Polls included the question in its latest survey: “Do you agree with Mayor Kriseman’s statement that the final pier design chosen isn’t as important, and that the city should “just build a damn Pier”

Just shy of 36 percent said no, meaning only 36 people thought City Council should accept the Pier Selection Committee’s ranking no matter what.

That’s a big difference between the 55 and 48 percent who previously indicated council should bounce back a ranking if it was anything other than the public’s top choice.

On that same question 48 percent of respondents echoed the mayor’s sentiment and validated what is more commonly being reported as the public’s “Pier fatigue.”

On one hand, there seems to be a drop in people so stuck on public opinion they would have city council send the process back to square one and the “build the damn Pier” question seems to validate that.

However, there is more information at play that some may not have realized. Up until recently the media, including SaintPetersblog, has continued to publish information about the Pier process showing that if city council were to reject the final ranking, it would seriously delay the process.

They may not necessarily have to start from scratch, but the Pier Selection Committee would have to re-rank designs.

But new information reported last week shows that city council may have more sway in the process than originally laid out.

According to the city’s legal department, city council could choose one of the designs on its own and issue its own request for qualifications. They would still have to follow a state-mandated process that requires teams to be chosen based on qualifications, but they could get the ball rolling in a different direction.

While the Kriseman administration, based on a series of tweets, seems to still be sticking to its guns on the fact that a ranking rejection would start the process over, the new information could potentially change the way voters look at the situation.

Those who would very much like the city to “build a damn Pier” may be more comfortable waiting a little while longer if they fully knew there may be more options.

So, perhaps another question should be posed.

If city council could choose its preferred design, would you support rejecting a ranking that doesn’t put the public’s top choice in the No. 1 spot?

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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