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Editorials

Editorial: Moving St. Petersburg beyond the Lens

Published:   |   Updated: August 28, 2013 at 09:40 AM

Now that voters have rejected the Lens design, the city needs to move with deliberate speed to find an alternative for St. Petersburg's aging pier.

Mayor Bill Foster, who narrowly led Tuesday's primary, can look for guidance to the 828 Alliance, the committee he formed for just this eventuality.

His handling of this difficult issue could help build the voter confidence he'll need in a tough runoff.

The committee has discussed the need to determine which amenities might work best, and which of those the public wants. It has also suggested the formation of a selection jury of local professionals to rank designs and send recommendations to Foster. Ultimately, the public needs to have a say on a final design.

That framework appears sturdy. Many people felt the public didn't have the input it should have when the key decision was made to select the Lens. However, the city needs to avoid an over-correction that would poll the public every step of the way during this new process. It should identify key moments to gauge popular support and make sure the public is heard at the end.

We trust the hard feelings can be put aside, and that the city can settle on a pier design that is enticing, within budget, and that has the features the public wants in their pier without the potential for costly subsidies down the road.

During this process, Foster needs to demonstrate the leadership his opponents say is lacking.

His challenger in the Nov. 5 general election, Rick Kriseman, has been telling voters he can bring more direction to City Hall, but he's been vague about details.

With the field now trimmed to just two candidates, we hope the mayoral race will move beyond the generalities that have so far dominated the race.

Foster, whom we endorsed in the primary, is presiding over a building boom that is certain to bring better economic times to the city. He should spend the next two months talking about his plans for investing that momentum in the city's future. And he should work to advance discussions with the Rays, and keep plans for a new pier on track.

Foster is not the most polished politician but he is trustworthy and diligent and the city has progressed under his watch.

He needs to be more effective highlighting his accomplishments and future plans during the general election against Kriseman, a capable former lawmaker who so far has failed to clearly articulate much of a vision for the city.

We think the two best mayoral candidates emerged from the primary. But both need to do a better job defining their plans to voters before the final vote.

In the races to fill three city council seats, the primary results showed the voters in the respective districts favor Amy Foster, Karl Nurse and Darden Rice. We're not surprised. All three showed a command of the issues and shared a vision for St. Petersburg that includes transit improvements and economic growth.

The three must now win the support of voters across the city in the citywide general election Nov. 5.

Voters may have decided the fate of the Lens, but critical decisions remain.

The public needs to stay engaged.

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