Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How do you treat an Icon?

Opinion By: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want to Blog

What will St. Pete do with its Pier? Turn it into a park?

I have spent the last few days in Flagler Beach and Daytona Beach at an event called Jeep Beach. Think of Bike Week with Jeeps instead of motorcycles.

Most of the 5-day event takes place at the Daytona International Speedway.

I was struck by the sign above, that appears all around the speedway, which is currently under a major renovation.

It seems the leaders of some communities appreciate their icons and the visitors they draw and some apparently do not.

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Political Correctness and the St. Pete Pier Selection Committee

Opinion By: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want to Blog

There is an old axiom in psychology research that says when faced with deciding between two options that both have negative outcomes, the decision maker will either make no decision or seek a way out of the situation.

It seems the St. Pete Pier Selection Committee has taken such an approach. Rather than stand their ground and recommend Alma or go with the will of the public and select Destination the Committee after hours of wasted time picked the middle ground and ranked Pier Park as number one in their final rankings.

I am not so sure the pier design was as critical in the final decision process as was not angering the intrepid chairman of the committee and the Mayor, or facing the obvious wrath of the public.

Assuming it can be permitted and constructed within the budget, I don't think it Pier Park meets the real objective. There has been a lot of talk about Pier Park appealing to the millennials as a place to play, but not much talk about the Pier Park as a tourist draw.

Even at the end the old Pier was drawing over a million visitors a year. So the question becomes if I am a tourist staying out on the beach will I drive or take a bus to downtown St. Pete to go to a park? Probably not.

I am not sure the committee was looking at all of the right issues at the end of the process.

For me, I think it was the wrong ranking for a lot of wrong reasons.

Council has a few more options than the Kriseman administration would like to admit. I know there is a real desire to get this one off the plate, but Council Chair Gerdes is a smart guy and he knows the rules. A rush forward here could be a big mistake.

Maybe its time to "receive and file" the Committee's report a let the pot simmer just a bit.

I for one am not thanking the Pier Selection Committee for their service. I think they wasted a lot of time, suffered from poor leadership and in the end did not have the courage to stand for their convictions or the public's.

That's what happens when you establish a committee of citizens' lead by a member of the administration who has an agenda to push.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Former Mayor Rick Baker Speaks to the Pier Selection Process

By: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Coauthor of:
So You Want to Blog
In an impressive op-ed in saintpetersblog, Rick Baker op-ed: Build Destination St. Pete Pier, former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker lays out the case for selecting Destination St. Pete Pier.

"Rather than selecting a design that falls short of our city’s expectations, the Pier Selection Committee should embrace the public input required by the mayor, listen to the clear will of the majority of St. Petersburg residents and move forward with the development of Destination St. Pete Pier," Rick Baker.

This op-ed is a must read if you are following the St. Pete Pier drama.

Elsewhere on saintpetersblog, Janelle Irwin's post: Former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker breaks the silence on Pier debate; endorses Destination St. Pete Pier is an equally important read.

Whether your a Rick Baker fan or not, almost everyone agrees the former Mayor has his finger on the pulse of the City.  Baker and lot of other people don't want to see St. Pete torn apart again over the Pier because of special interests on the Committee or a Chairman who wants his way.

We could also use a little more leadership from the current Mayor than ,"Build the damn Pier."

If you're looking for the op-ed in the local newspaper, you won't find it.  Baker's op-ed is a saintpetersblog exclusive.

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Pier design selection - How does the process work?

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

Here is the Florida State Statute that the City is operating under regarding the Pier Selection process.

Title XIX Chapter 287.055

Section (4) Competitive Selection (a, b)
(a)   For each proposed project, the agency shall evaluate current statements of qualifications and performance data on file with the agency, together with those that may be submitted by other firms regarding the proposed project, and shall conduct discussions with, and may require public presentations by, no fewer than three firms regarding their qualifications, approach to the project, and ability to furnish the required services.
(b) The agency shall select in order of preference no fewer than three firms deemed to be the most highly qualified to perform the required services. In determining whether a firm is qualified, the agency shall consider such factors as the ability of professional personnel; whether a firm is a certified minority business enterprise; past performance; willingness to meet time and budget requirements; location; recent, current, and projected workloads of the firms; and the volume of work previously awarded to each firm by the agency, with the object of effecting an equitable distribution of contracts among qualified firms, provided such distribution does not violate the principle of selection of the most highly qualified firms. The agency may request, accept, and consider proposals for the compensation to be paid under the contract only during competitive negotiations under subsection (5).

The first question that comes to mind is, can the City Council or the Administration delegate away the City Council's responsibility as defined in the State Statute? I do not see in the Statute anywhere the "Agency" is allowed to delegate their responsibility.

Second, did the City Council actually, by formal vote, delegate the final ranking of the top three Pier designs to the Selection Committee? Or is the Selection Committee's final output simply a report for

Saturday, April 18, 2015

St. Pete City Attorney to retire in January 2016

The St. Petersburg Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times are reporting that John Wolfe, St. Pete City Attorney, will retire in January 2016.

Chief Assistant Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch is Wolfe's recommendation for the City top legal position.

John has been with the City Legal Department since 1975 and became City Attorney in 2000.

Besides being an outstanding attorney, John has been a good friend and advisor to many on the City staff including me.

Jackie Kovilaritch, whom I have also had the opportunity to work with, is an excellent recommendation to lead the City’s Legal team. The City Legal Department will be in good hands.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

The St. Pete Pier Selection Committee is in a tough spot

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of:
So You Want Blog .

The way I see it the five members of the St. Pete Pier Selection Committee, Kai Warren, Gary Mitchum, Melanie Lenz, James Jackson Jr. and Michael G. Meidel are in a tough spot.

Part of their dilemma is of their own making. Had they just ranked their three selections, regardless of the ranking, the spotlight would now be on City Council. Instead, as they did in the meeting where they could eliminate proposers, where they whiffed on the job and let way too many pass through to the next phase; they could not come to a decision at ranking time.

Now they are faced with a Mayor who wants to "build the damn Pier," a Chairman who figuratively jumped off the exiting Pier with his anti pyramid rant and the firestorm they created by at least hinting they are leaning toward ranking ALMA first the least popular design among the public.

There are a host of problems.

Some if not all of these Committee members may have to deal with the Chairman on future City projects or requests. As one who personally knows the Chairman, Mike Connors, has a long memory. Some Committee members may be looking past the Pier to the future.

The Mayor has, so far, stood behind the Connors' comments and he may be sending a message to the Committee or he may not, but it is clear the Mayor would not be disappointed to see the inverted Pyramid go. So do you buck the Mayor? Same problem as above.

Although the volume has died down a bit, a significant portion of those focused on the Pier are ready to pounce if the Committee's decision seems way off base to them.

The Committee, which seemed to be a bit hamstrung by the selection process, may be receiving some ease with comments from the Public and to some small degree the City Legal department. It will be interesting to watch the Chairman if the Committee begins to take a more liberal interpretation of the selection/ranking process, and what if any questions the Committee may have for the Legal department.

All in all a tough spot for five people who I believe genuinely wanted to be part of the Pier selection process.

This time around they need to have a short discussion; the less said the better, rank three and adjourn the meeting. A long winded rehash of the designs and any "new" information presented by the proposers or staff is a waste of time. It will just be fodder for what is likely to follow.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Pier Process a way to the end

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog

Mayor Rick Kriseman's crass statement "build the damn Pier" is a testament to how little he and his deeply inexperienced senior staff fail to understand the office of a strong Mayor. Faced with the very process he created crumbling before his eyes the Mayor is frustrated and his staff is clueless.

This is not the time for barroom rhetoric; it is the time for insightful leadership. It's time to calm the waters not stir the pot. It's time to be a leader.

We will never know for sure whether Kriseman's handpicked Selection Committee Chairman Mike Connors screwed up with his rant against the current pier or was simply following orders like the good solider he is.

What is obvious is the Mayor's failure to step in and do some damage control regarding the Connors' rant and reassure the Selection Committee that they have his full support has left the people serving on the Selection Committee in a very difficult spot.

There has been a lot of talk about how the Committee can only evaluate on the merits of the proposers.

The objective of this formal selection process is to get a project built. One of the merits must be how the customer views the quality, suitability and functionality of the proposed design.

One Survey and two polls provide the answer.

The thing to keep in mind is the customer for this project is not the Mayor, not the Selection Committee, not Mike Connors, not the Mayor's Dream Team, not City Council; it is you the citizen and taxpayer. The Selection Committee must accord your opinion the merit it deserves.

There seems to be general agreement that all of the remaining designs can be constructed. The bigger question is which one can actually be approved and actually built?

The Selection Committee has a responsibility to evaluate all of the merits including the public's opinion, which is a functional merit, and that merit is simply acceptability.

It is unreasonable for the Selection Committee to rank a design team first when it is highly unlikely the project with that team will actually be approved due to lack of public and/or political support.

The five people on the Selection Committee have the opportunity to make a historic decision that will allow City Council to move St. Pete forward or create a firestorm which will distract the Kriseman administration, the City Council and the community for months if not years to come.

The Selection Committee can do the City of St. Petersburg a great service by simply following the rules and looking at all of the merits.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

There may be more options for City Council on Pier decision

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of:
So You Want Blog .

Steve Nichols Channel 13 has raised an interesting question in his Fox News 13 piece: What Happens if council can't agree on a Pier design?   

Steve explores the issues raised by William Ballard in his Letter to City Council which is reproduced in its entirety below.


To:  The Honorable Charlie Gerdes, Chair, and Members of City Council of
        St. Petersburg, Florida                       

From: William C. Ballard, a resident and registered voter of the City

Date: April 9, 2015

Subject:   Options for City Council in the event the pier design selection committee report   to Council accords the number one ranking to a design concept which was not  favored by the City’s voters (as determined by the City’s own non-scientific  survey and confirmed by St. Pete Polls scientific survey)

The writer is a licensed attorney in the state of Florida, but he is writing only in his capacity as a citizen urging a course of action upon his city’s governing body.  No reader should regard the writer’s statements or opinions as legal advice directed at him or her.  For advice on the legality of the courses of action discussed in this memorandum, consult your own attorney.

Under Article III of our municipal charter, all legislative powers are vested in City Council.  The Mayor is the chief administrative official.  City administration can recommend, only Council can legislate.  Based on the conduct, on March 20th, of the City administration’s representative, who chairs the pier design selection committee, it appears obvious that City administration is determined that the inverted pyramid will not remain on our waterfront and that the selection committee is being steered to achieve that result.  The committee chair’s dismissal of all pier businesses other than those operated by the Gonzmarts as “unsuccessful” despite many of them having sustained themselves,

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lunch at the Rowdies Den

I was in downtown St. Pete on Tuesday about lunchtime so I dropped into the new Rowdies Den, a Rowdies/soccer themed sports bar. The Rowdies Den is located at the corner of 1st Ave South and Second Street. That's the former Midtown Sundries location.

If you are expecting a typical Bill Edwards do over, you're in for a surprise. It looks like they closed the deal, got the keys, walked in, dusted every thing off, painted the vertical walls green, put up some Rowdies memorabilia and hung out the "open" sign.

Everything else is pretty much vintage Midtown.

There is a really neat soccer ball mural on the wall in the main dining room.

The menu is typical bar fare; prices are pretty much in line with downtown St. Pete. 

I had a Bills Burger($9). It came with homemade chips. The burger was big and good, done just like I ordered it, but the chips were a bit over cooked.

Biggest issue was the service. There were a only few people having lunch and it shouldn't take 20-25 minutes plus to get a burger and chips on a weekday when most people are on a workday 1 hour or so lunch. The guys down the bar from me, who already there when I walked in and had ordered, finally got their orders. They wolfed down some of it and had to leave.

Midtown was never noted for its speedy service at lunch so maybe it's the kitchen layout.

Given what I would expect to be really big game night crowds (ala Fergs), the Edward's team better take a close look at the kitchen and the kitchen help. If they picked up the old team, it may be time for a little recruiting.

The Den has only been open for a few days' maybe things will pick up. 

Some things that would help and not cost much: change out that really ugly hostess station and put in an actual ticket window, maybe a replica from Al Lang and actually sell tickets.

It could be open every day, would add a real "game" feel to the place and would probably put a few butts in seats.

Given the way things are going, if Bill and Stu are on speaking terms, they might even be able to sell some Rays game day tickets too.

It would be kind of neat to stop by for pregame, buy your tickets and head over to the stadium.

If they are going to keep the big room game area, which I have always thought was a huge waste of space, at least get a couple of soccer themed games.

Finally some of the old Midtown furniture could stand to be replaced to give the place a fresher look and more millennial appeal.

Edwards also picked up the parking garage above and behind the Den. It is well signed and will be open to provide additional parking for Rowdies games.

The menu is cute, the food pretty good the prices are reasonable, but service, as in all sports bars, is going to be the key. I doubt the Den can make it on game night business alone, and week day lunch and happy hour will be critical.

If things don't improve the Den could be lonely place when the Rowdies aren't playing. 

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mike Connors should be removed from the St. Pete Pier Selection Committee

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

The level of concern surrounding the St. Pete Pier Selection process continues to grow. So far Mayor Kriseman has not distanced himself from any of his hand picked Selection Committee Chairman's comments made during the last Selection Committee meeting.

His recent well crafted comments are merely a thin veil over the desired replacement of the inverted pyramid.

Process is an important factor in the selection of a new Pier design. Last time the process was hijacked by the artful, but I must admit I didn't expect this Pier selection process to be so openly hijacked by the Kriseman administration.

The Selection Committee must feel a bit estranged at this point.

It is becoming hard to take the Selection Committee process seriously since it appears that the Mayor has loaded the deck in favor of doing away with any semblance of the inverted pyramid.

With all of the Kriseman talk about being an open and inclusive process the reality has been less than the promise.

From his style to his attitude Connors can be extremely intimidating. It seems to me it will be all but impossible for the Selection Committee to function openly, fairly and effectively with Connors sitting the Chairman's seat.

Connors may use his colorful prose to try to talk his way out of the mess he created, but no one seriously following this train wreck will buy it. He is there to shill for the Mayor and shill he will.

Kriseman has a big decision to make. If he leaves Connors as Chairman of the Pier Selection Committee, and the Committee with Connor's urging ignores the public's preference ranking ALMA first, it would give the appearance that the Administration stacked the deck.

Obviously City Council can undo the Selection Committee's decision by simply not accepting the Committee's ranking, but that could lead to a restart of the whole Pier process and delay things for another year or so.

City Council could simply accept ALMA and let negotiations begin. One can rest assured if the Kriseman administration gets ALMA to the negotiation phase there will be a deal no matter how much it costs St. Petersburg.

Should the selection of ALMA become a reality, you can expect a significant public outcry. There is already one petition drive under way and it would seem likely an attempt would be made to put ALMA up for referendum consideration.

It is quite probable that a sufficient number of signatures could be obtained to put the issue on the ballot. The vote would not be as much about the Pier design as it would be about the process and a St. Pete Mayor failing to be true to his promises and failing to provide leadership based on the public's wishes.

That scenario could very likely lead St. Pete to its second one term strong Mayor.

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