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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014

Girardi: No crystal ball for future of District 13, Pier


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Considering I can’t even tell you what we’re having for dinner tonight, and as far as I know I’m cooking it, I won’t try to predict what will happen in 2014. Instead, I’ll settle for “time-will-tell” and look ahead to a few things we might know next year that we didn’t know this year.

A special election, indeed. For the first time in 43 years, we don’t know who will represent the good and otherwise people of District 13 in Congress. The October passing of Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young caused the need for a special election to fill the seat he owned since 1970. In this bonus campaign, enthusiastic Republicans Kathleen Peters and David Jolly have provided frequent assaults upon each other — something about this Obamacare thing – as they, along with Mark Bircher, try to charm GOP voters before the Jan. 14 primary election. Awaiting the survivor are Libertarian Lucas Overby and, more substantially, former Florida Chief Financial Officer and ex-gubernatorial candidate Democrat Alex Sink.

After the election on March 11, we will have a new Congress person, and political analysts everywhere will have another reason to wring their hands over the deeper meaning of Republicans vs. Democrats. The rest of us can only hope whoever wins doesn’t stay for 43 years.

And the answer is...

Well, when it comes to the St. Petersburg Pier, we don’t know what the answer is, but we might expect another poll or two on it. So far, we know what the people of St. Petersburg don’t want. They don’t want the 40-year-old inverted pyramid being held captive behind a metal fence. And they don’t want the so-called Lens project, which, according to a referendum, they decided was just too darn loopy. They do want panoramic views, fine dining, fishing and a place to walk, run or bike. Incoming Mayor Rick Kriseman has said he, too, favors demolishing The Pier building and making a new one by the end of 2015. He also has said he’s open possibly of renovating it. Maybe by the end of 2014 someone might at least choose one or the other.

What’s the Capitol of Clearwater? Nah, that’s not a trick question. It’s the reopening of the renovated Capitol Theatre, Clearwater’s latest hope to stir up nightlife in its moribund downtown. The 92-year-old theater underwent eight months and $8 million of renovations and reopened in December with singer Michael McDonald, of Doobie Brothers fame. Ruth Eckerd Hall, which runs the theater for the city, has another 30 acts or so coming up, including Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Michael Bolton, Judy Collins, Don McLean – and B.B. King on New Year’s Eve because, as Ruth Eckerd CEO Zev Buffman said: “He’s 88 and he said he wanted to play in a building older than he is.” OK, so rule out the under-30 crowd (under-40?). But will the historic, intimate theater coax older audiences back to downtown Clearwater? And will they need a map to remember how to get there?

You can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay

As the Tampa Bay Rays inch closer to leaving St. Petersburg, and the Toronto Blue Jays are perched to flee Dunedin, might we learn who’s going where?

The Jays want what other teams have – a ballpark and practice facilities all in one spot, like the Phillies in Clearwater. Dunedin has neither the space nor the inclination to make that happen, but, wouldn’t you know, Palm Beach Gardens does and is looking for a team. Yet even before the Jays pack their first pair of cleats, the Washington Nationals and the Milwaukee Brewers, either unaware or undeterred, already are rumored to be interested in Dunedin. The Jays’ contract with Dunedin expires in 2017. Palm Beach Gardens is ready to go. Perhaps the Jays are, too.

Meanwhile, at Tropicana Field, the Rays continue to win, people continue to stay home. Not good. The Rays say they gotta go, the city says they gotta stay. Again, not good. Now St. Petersburg has a new mayor with a bit of a mess to clean up. And Tampa has a red carpet ready for when the dust settles. Kriseman, who replaces Mayor Bill Foster, vows to be more realistic about the possibility of the Rays leaving town. And if folks were worried about them going to Tampa, sacre bleu!, how does Montreal sound? OK, nobody really believes the Rays are going to Montreal. Anyway, might the city and the Rays finally make a deal, and might Kriseman make a new best friend in Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn?

Speaking of the mayor’s new friends ...

Kriseman’s transition to mayor got off to an awkward start with a friendly – and private — conference call with his city council members. Now, Florida’s Sunshine Law says council members can’t meet privately to discuss city business. No problem. The mayor-elect, who isn’t a council member, said they didn’t discuss city business, which makes you wonder, what else do they possibly have to talk about? Grandkids? The price of oysters? Miley Cyrus? Meanwhile, when the new guy said he wanted to run St. Petersburg like a big city, who knew that meant hiring a chief of staff, a deputy mayor and six other aides at an approximate retail value of $750,000 — all before he took office. Add a few relatives to the payroll and it will look a lot like Boston. And with all that hired help, what exactly is the mayor going to do?

Happy New Year.

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