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Toast to the Bay/Dump into the Bay: Jennifer Rubiello and new Pier haters

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Toast to the Bay: Jennifer Rubiello

A fracking bill that would have made the practice legal in Florida and preempt cities and other local governments from passing ordinances interfering with that law died in the state Senate this week. Locally, the biggest champion for that was Environment Florida’s Jennifer Rubiello.

The young environmentalist traveled to Tallahassee to speak with lawmakers about the dangers of fracking. Among her messaging points: There’s no safe way to regulate hydraulic fracturing and it leads to water contamination.

Not only did Rubiello take her message directly to Tallahassee, she spread it via social media, frequent correspondence with press, and an expansive educational outreach explaining the dangers of fracking.

While Rubiello wasn’t alone in objecting to the practice – several St. Petersburg City Council members and Mayor Rick Kriseman sent letters in opposition – she was the face of opposition.

For those who recognize just how detrimental fracking can be, especially in a state with porous limestone, the death of Florida’s bad fracking bill is a win. But for no one is it a bigger win than Rubiello.

Not only did her success lead to an environmental win for Florida, it also represented a professional milestone. Not even close to 30, Rubiello has shown the type of hard-hitting activism often left behind with environmentalists. She showed up in Tallahassee with facts and a feisty bite that certainly contributed to the bill’s death.

We look forward to seeing what else Rubiello has in store in what is likely to be a promising career.

Dump into the Bay: Inverted Pyramid lovers

This group has long gone quiet. Even before a collective hush fell over the group, people seemed to stop listening. This is the group that would have only supported a new Pier that included refurbishing the old. Anything contrary was a no-go.

Well, not only did they lose their battle last year in championing Destination St. Pete Pier, which was basically just inverted pyramid 2.0, now they’ve been punched in the face with an accolade praising the winning design they so loathed.

Rogers Partners architects, the New York-based firm behind the New St. Pete Pier design formerly known as pier Park, won the A1A New York’s merit award for urban design for it’s St. Pete Pier concept.

This flies in the face of everything they’ve been saying – that the design is a disaster that can’t be permitted and that no one will want. The A1ANY award is highly coveted in the architectural world and shows a firm’s work most definitely holds merit.

Of course, the group will explain away the award probably saying the honor represents only a small portion of individuals not the whole of St. Pete, but what it really boils down to is one more reason the group’s attitude of “No” should be ignored and maybe even shamed.

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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