Friday, February 27, 2015

Tampa Bay Rays Top of the second or bottom of the ninth?

Atlanta - Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb, PhD

It’s hard to tell where the Kriseman administration is with the Rays deal. 

Probably the most concerning is the decision to negotiate with the City Council out of the Sunshine.

The hallmark of the Kriseman candidacy was the promise to be transparent. Apparently that promise does not completely apply to the Rays.

While it is not uncommon for City administrations to assure they have the necessary votes to get an item passed, the profile of the Rays and the Trop make this behind the scenes dealing feel a bit uncomfortable.

Following the Mayor’s thumbing of his nose at the City Council workshop on a new stadium, it seems a bit problematic to be slinking around from council member to council member trying to build consensus without a public discussion.

Let’s hope the Kriseman Administration makes the details of this new deal available to the public before springing it on the City Council for a vote. In fact there will be a public discussion before a vote is taken, and once the discussion begins the outcome remains up in the air.

The Rays decision to shun the City Council meeting to me speaks volumes about how the team feels about the group that has the final say on their immediate future.

If the objective is to not look like fools or not get their feelings hurt too late.

Sooner or later the Rays are going go have to show up and face the real decision makers or go quietly into the night and play till 2027 or someone steps up and buys out the Trop lease.

They don’t want to play in St. Petersburg and they send that message louder every time they speak publically.

The administration has already burned a lot of political capital on the Rays and the Trop. Pressing issues are taking a back seat to baseball.

Baseball will not bring significantly more jobs to St. Pete.
Baseball will not solve the problems in South St. Pete.
Baseball will play little or no role in the Pier decision or outcome.
Baseball will not fix the homeless problem in St. Pete.
Baseball will not contribute to the building of a new Police Station.

It is time to focus on what really counts in St. Petersburg and quit playing at baseball. Mayor Kriseman and the Dream team need to get on about their business and let Mr. Sternberg worry about his team.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

CONCERNED CITIZENS OF ST. PETERSBURG - STATEMENT ON NEW PIER DESIGNS


Please see the following:

***** PRESS RELEASE *****

Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, Inc.
Contact: Gene Smith 727-385-4824
gatordem@gmail.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 25, 2015

CONCERNED CITIZENS OF ST. PETERSBURG STATEMENT ON NEW PIER DESIGNS

February 24 , 2015

Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, the group that led the campaign to stop the Lens, has followed the New Pier design process with great interest. Our slogan has been “St. Petersburg Can Do Better”. We have consistently advocated for establishing a transparent process in choosing a new Pier. This process focuses on the desires of the residents and the recommendations of the Pier Task Force and the Working Group/City Survey. We support Mayor Kriseman’s plan to establish just such a process. We stood with the Mayor and endorsed this process when he announced it, and we do so now. The process has worked well so far, and we are now at the point where the residents are to record their opinions regarding the remaining designs.

In this process form follows function. These functions have been identified using extensive public input to the Pier Working Group, which built on the prior conclusions of the Pier Advisory Task
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday February 22, 2015 Is a Gas Tax to fund PSTA a good idea?



Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb, PhD

Last week, Commissioner Ken Welch, who seems to have never met an opportunity raise a tax for PSTA he didn't like, proposed the County add a 5 cent gas tax which would produce between 16 and 17 million dollars. A portion of the revenue, 3 to 4 million dollars would go to PSTA, the rest going to the transportation trust fund for road and infrastructure improvements.

Since gas prices have been dropping, politicians all over the Country have been eyeing gas taxes as a way to raise revenue. They haven't seemed to notice gas prices are going back up.

Problem is lower gas prices are not a given, and we have already seen what a drag on the economy fuel prices can be. As gas prices start to rise again the thought of adding 5 cents to the price of a gallon of gas for any reason seems a bit impractical.

The problem is the additional gas tax revenue that would actually find its way to PSTA is really quite small compared to the looming budget deficits that PSTA has recently predicted.

Therein lays the problem. Can the public trust the PSTA Administration with their gloom and doom predictions and the PSTA Board?

The PSTA Board has not made a single change in management since the GreenLight defeat. I am not sure how much confidence the public will have in PSTA and its Board until the Board steps up and makes some significant changes.

I for one am not in favor a single dollar more of tax payer money being sent to PSTA until the Board of mostly elected officials has the backbone to replace the CEO, and give a new CEO the authority to build a new senior staff to run PSTA in a professional and ethical manner.
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Friday, February 20, 2015

The Mayor, City Council and the Rays



Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb

Thursday's St. Pete City Council workshop to discuss a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays seemed to go really well. You can read all of the details on saintpetersblog in Janelle Irwin's Post: St. Pete City Council to independently evaluate Rays Economic development.

Everything seemed pretty cordial, given the fact that Mayor Kriseman had sent a letter to staff and employees indicating they should not do anything to support the workshop, until Council member Wengay Newton questioned City Attorney John Wolfe as to his ability to give the Council direction given the Mayor's order.

 Mr. Wolf made it crystal clear he does not report to the Mayor and the office of the City Attorney serves both the Mayor and City Council equally.

I was with the City about 28 years and I can't recall any time where a strong Mayor directed staff not to support a City Council effort.
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentines Dinner at Ruth's Chris



A day or so after the new Ruth's Chris opened in downtown St. Pete at Sundial I called and made reservations for Valentine's Day, Saturday, at 7:00PM.

I have been a long time Ruth's Chris fan for years so; I have been anticipating the opening of the new location in Sundial and Valentines Day seemed like the perfect excuse to enjoy some fine dining.

We showed up at Sundial a few minutes early and looked around a bit, Sundial is really breath taking, if you haven't been there yet take some time and drop by.

We walked into Ruth's Chris at 7:00 and it was almost immediately obvious all was not well. There were two couples ahead of us and there were 6 employees in the small greeting station pouring over the reservations system. Everyone looked a bit confused. After a 20 minute wait, it was now almost 7:30, one of them looked up and noticed we had not been seated, 10 minutes later we were lead to our table.

Our waiter showed up looking a bit frazzled, took a drink order (Water) and returned about 5 minutes later. As we sat there waiting to place our dinner order, it became clear the place was in a complete state of panic. There were waiters, servers, mangers all running frantically around the restaurant delivering bread and water, but almost no food was coming out of the kitchen.

It was really a bit comical, given the normal buttoned up service you find at a Ruth's Chris.

Our bread and water arrived and our waiter took our dinner order. It was now about 8:00 PM and the table next to us called over the waiter, same as ours, and announced in a not too quiet voice, "we have been here since 6:15 and our food has not showed up, so can we see the manager?"
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday February 15, 2015 The St. Pete Pier - Information Overload and General lack of interest



Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb, PhD

There seems to be a general conclusion that this week's two day meeting marathon on the Pier was a major information overload for the public.

Here is a rundown of local media comments:



No doubt that as the various proposers tried to cover all the bases for the committee, the public got lost in the weeds.

Probably most disturbing is the general perception, as reported in the media, that some of the public thinks the City should start over yet again.

I feel that comes from a basically wrong approach to planning the new pier.

Looking at the designs it appears the architects and engineers started with producing an "iconic" design and are now trying to figure out how to make it functional and cost effective. In other words, they put form over function, pretty pictures over reality which is exactly what the public indicated they did not want.

A much better approach would have been to come up with a highly functional, more than likely less visually exciting design and then spend the follow on effort making it more visually impressive.

The really big trap for the Kriseman administration is to get a ranking from the public and the Committee only to find out after adding the needed functionality, what is being proposed by the first place contractor is way outside the budget.  They are then faced with falling back to the next in ranking, which is obviously not the public's choice, and trying to force fit whatever limited functionality that can be accommodated by the budget. Not a good outcome and it could lead to another public revolt.

I am not ready to start beating the drum for a redo, but the Kriseman team needs to proceed with great care. Paring back some of the esoteric design and putting significantly more functionality in place may be a valuable approach.

There will be a push to put "none of the above" on the upcoming survey, and the Kriseman team needs to tread carefully on this one. Rejecting the request may rile up the people who were so vocal about the LENS, while including the "none of the above" option could easily send the Kriseman administration right back to square one.

Let's hope Mike Connors and the Pier Committee are listening to the drums and are prepared to make some mid course corrections,

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Fog is lifting over the New Pier




 Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

Today and tomorrow seven design firms present their plans for the new Pier at the Coliseum in Downtown St. Pete.

On the surface, this might appear as a simple dog and pony show, but in reality it is a critical step in the new Pier Process. There are total of seven presenters with four presenting today and three tomorrow. Presentations start at 9:00AM each day.

The selection Committee consists of:

Kai Warren - A former president of the Historic Roser Park Neighborhood Association and a former board member of St. Petersburg Preservation.
 Gary Mitchum - Associate dean of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science.
Melanie Lenz - Vice president of development for the Tampa Bay Rays; managed the design and construction of the Rays' spring training facility in Charlotte County.
James Jackson Jr. - Architect for the city of Tampa and a St. Petersburg resident,
Michael G. Meidel - Director of Pinellas County's Economic Development department and past chairman of the Florida Economic Development Council's executive committee.
Michael Connors - St. Petersburg's public works administrator; the group's chairman

Following these presentations there will be an on line Survey beginning February 23 to March 6 where the public can indicate their preferences. Following the Survey, the Selection Committee will
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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday February 8, 2015 A Visit to the 2015 Florida State Fair



Friday was a perfect day to go to the Fair. The weather was great. We arrived at the fairgrounds around 11:30 and spent the next few hours thoroughly enjoying all the fair has to offer.
                                              
The front exhibition hall is full of vendors and exhibits and be sure to check out the Alessi Bakery booth. Don't miss the Strawberry Shortcake

Back in the live stock exhibition area are plenty of animals for you to see, pet and feed. Being an Indiana farm boy, Theresa had to drag me out of the steer judging arena.

Back out on the midway I captured our walk in a photo gallery you can see all of the pictures at 2015 Florida State Fair. Be sure to click on the link.

There is a lot to see and do at the Fair this year. If you planning on heading over to the fairgrounds here are some tips:

1. Those discount coupons at Walgreens are no longer available once the Fair opens.
2. You can buy your tickets on line at Florida State Fair they are $13.00 General Admission.
3. Senior discounts are only available on February 9, 10, 11 and 12.
4. The Web site is easy and works really well, buying your tickets on line will save you a wait in the ticket line. Don't forget to print the tickets and take them with you.
5. Parking is free.
6. Taking some sun screen might not be a bad idea if you are visiting during the day.
7. Comfortable shoes are a must and there are a limited number of places to sit.
8. Water is widely available and not over priced.

You can easily spend an entire day and maybe two at the Fair. It is a whirlwind of activity with rides, food, exhibits, live entertainment and some of the best people watching around.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
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Friday, February 6, 2015

City of St. Pete and the Arts at a Crossroad



Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

Thursday Wayne Atherholt presented his plan for the $200,000 for Arts funding. It met with mixed reviews from City Council.

It would appear that the Kriseman administration would rather move to a sustainability model as opposed to a subsidy approach. Several times deputy Mayor Tomalin reiterated the Administration's position of developing sustaining models which will bring customers to artists and the arts community as opposed to supporting individual artists.

City Council has complained in the past about a steady stream of requests from the arts community for money and funding. Nothing will serve to continue the stream of artists and art projects with their hand out than a continuation of subsidies.

Essentially giving public funds to artists who create art, pile it up in a corner of their studio hoping someone will wander in and buy it is just not a sustaining model. Not for the arts community and certainly not for the City.

Atherholt's plan, with some reasonable tweaking, will do much more to serve the arts community than doling out money through some arts group that will, 1) not really resolve the arts business problem and 2) will likely lead to complaining, controversy and misuse of the funds.

It will be a tough sell to switch the focus from supporting starving artists to a mechanism that will cause them to be successful business people as well as artists. There are several on City Council who are pushing to continue the subsidy approach to dealing with the arts. Some of it is genuine concern, some with an eye toward the upcoming election.

Creating a community of subsidized artists doesn't really address the concept of an arts community or an arts "destination". It just creates another group of people getting a government handout. The whole concept of "starving artists" is that they will finally get hungry enough to create something that will sell and work to sell it.

Kriseman and his team are trying to head in the right direction. City Council needs to carefully think through their approach.

If the arts as a community and a business is to thrive in St. Pete the best thing the City can do is to support the arts community and the arts business. Not give money to people to create art that has no market.

E-mail Doc at: mailto:dr.webbsmail@gmail.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter.
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Monday, February 2, 2015

Sometimes PSTA just can’t seem to get out of it’s own way

On my way home Saturday I was driving down 83rd Avenue North. When I got to 9th Street, where there is a light, there were two PSTA buses one on each side of the light on 9th Street.
When the light changed the bus going north moved quickly across the intersection, only to realize that there was not enough room for the two buses to pass side by side.
They kind of got wedged in and neither could move.
As traffic backed up, the bus drivers surveyed the situation, blocked drivers got out to help. For a few minutes things looked a bit hopeless.
Finally with a little help from the public and some careful maneuvering both buses escaped their plight and made it down the road.
There was a small traffic jam but that cleared in just a few minutes.
In the interest of full disclosure, there is some construction at the 93rd Ave. and 9th St. intersection, which has narrowed the lanes.
There was really no harm, no foul and the wedged buses brought smiles to most faces.
The situation does beg the question of whether PSTA should be looking at smaller buses, since both of these appeared to be pretty much empty.
It does reinforce the point that these big buses are well…big. There needs to be a lot of careful planning if we ever really start considering special bus lanes.
E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc’s Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday February 1, 2015 PSTA a bleak future



Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

This past Wednesday Brad Miller, PSTA CEO, laid out the PSTA fiscal forecast for the next few years. Things are dismal to say the least.

By fiscal year 2018, PSTA faces an almost insurmountable capital and operating budget deficit.

In many ways this is a self inflicted wound.

At this point, given the horrendous defeat the Greenlight plan took at the poles and all of the improper and inappropriate activity of PSTA leadership and its supporters to get the Greenlight plan adopted, it is hard to say that a more conservative approach might have worked.

PSTA and its Board would like the voters to believe they are responsible for the current PSTA plight and that Greenlight was defeated because voters were greedy and didn't want another tax.

I for one don't buy that for one minute.

As I have stated before, the Greenlight Ordinance was the worst tax initiative Ordinance I had every read. You can go back in my Posts and refresh your memory about the Greenlight Ordinance at GreenLight Pinellas - An Analysis of Ordinance 13- 34 .

As I sat through the Wednesday PSTA Board meeting, it was hard to feel very sympathetic for an administration and a Board that tried to put one over on the public and got their hands slapped.

Public transportation here in the bay area is in real trouble. In Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee County voters have rejected grand plans to build transit systems. I don't know how many times public transportation authorities and their Boards of directors have to get boxed about the ears before they realize a more conservative approach is more likely to work.

In his comments to the Board, Miller mentioned a more "regional" approach, that is simply political speak for we have to get these funding issues out of the reach of actual public approval. Those watching PSTA, Hart and other transit authorities must remain diligent.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn's public transit funding idea of a "local taxing district", Saintpetersblog, Janelle Irwin: Tampa Mayor’s push for special taxing district could be St. Pete transit win, is not likely to fly either since it would tax a small area and apply the tax to a county wide problem. Not the brightest idea for a guy thinking about running for Governor.

Miller proposed some ideas to smooth out the PSTA budget problems, and the whole issue of Federal and State funding remains a big unknown.

The PSTA Board has three new members and a new Chairman. On February 18, they will take up the PSTA funding issue in a budget workshop. They have a lot to chew on.

Where will PSTA go, how will it get there and where will the money come from? The PSTA Board has some tough decisions to make, and so far this Board has been lackluster at best.

Let's hope that some new blood and a new Chairman can make a difference.

E-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net. Or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Twitter@DOCONTHEBAY. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos
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