Friday, December 9, 2011

The Pier What Happened?

My Post Sunday on the Pier resulted in some comments and some e-mails. These Comments from Linda say a lot. 

 "My perspective is actually that of a tourist, I do not live in St. Pete area, but my parents do and we visit 2-3 times a year. I think the city should really find out what TOURISTS are looking for, also in the pier, because, after all, tourists/visitors/snow-birders contribute largely to Florida's "income."

For those of you new to the whole Pier Process, here is a link  to the Pier Advisory Task Force. This is the outline and these are the people that brought us to this point in the process. The Minutes section of each meeting is a hyper link and you can read how the process unfolded. 

If you take a few minutes and look through this information you will see the amount of effort has gone into the Pier process up to this point and how much input the general public really had.  The question of a public referendum surfaced early and was downplayed from the very start.

So the question is what happened? All of those high end people, a bunch of money for consulting, visioning and planning, a whole raft of meetings how did we end up with the public so upset at the process?

A partial answer may be in the comments by the City's staff architect In a June 8, 2011 article in J. Raul Quintana, the city's staff architect, acknowledged that, after all the money spent, the city is no closer to "a visual solution" to The Pier than two years ago. "In a way we're asking the same questions we asked back then," he said.

If you give a bunch of guys with rooms full of computers, egos the size of all outdoors,  that live thousands of miles away from here 50 million dollars to play with, and ask them to design something they can have their name on and not live next to,  you will get what we got. I am not sure what we expected, but we should have expected what we got. 

It is fascinating to listen to the St. Pete elite fawn over these architectural nightmares.  It's kind of like going to a wine tasting and listening  to some gal who showed up in a BMW go on and on about a glass of wine that tastes like the cat took a whizz in it. 

Quintana's comments still stand.

I think the real problem is that there is a group of movers and shakers in St. Pete that have never been happy with who and what St. Pete really is. They think we need a major league team or a monstrosity the water to define us. I think our quality of life defines us.

Look at the names on the Task Force and if you follow things closely a lot of them will look familiar. 

They know what's best for St. Pete and they are not about to be discouraged by letting you vote on their ideas

 All they need you to do is pay the tab.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Pier - Decision Time

There are plenty of comments out there about the proposed new Pier designs. Mine probably wouldn't add much. What we do need to think about now is the process and the impact.

The designs are interesting. It is notable to me that there is not a firm Florida, one that might actually understand our community and environment, that could design the new Pier. I guess they're just not "artsy" enough.

This is a big decision for St. Petersburg. If you haven't noticed, things are not going all that well. The news paper is abandoning the City as a name sake, like it or not it is probably just a matter of time before major league baseball takes their game elsewhere and we were just awarded the dubious distinction of being one of the saddest Cities in the nation.

There are a lot of questions to be asked and answered before the City commits to a project of this scale and impact. There is a fine line between artful attraction and something that becomes a eyesore.

The last thing we need is new Pier that becomes a laughing point, object of bad jokes, or that ultimately ends up on Spa Beach as a tangled mess when the hurricane finally gets here.

We may have been a bit too preoccupied with touting St. Pete as an "ART DESTINATION". I enjoy molded glass and the occasional clock dripping off the edge of a table, but something that is inordinately expensive to build, exorbitantly costly to insure and maintain, that most visitors stand on the shore and laugh at is not where we need to go.

Fifty million is the opening price. That is nowhere near what the final price tag will be if it is anything like the Dome and the International Museum projects.

Add to all of that the effort to prevent the people from actually having an opportunity to vote on what is done at the Pier and you have the makings of a real disaster.

From my perspective the Arts Council, the Chamber of Commerce and a few well connected downtown players have way to much say in this whole process. They don't want you to be able to vote because they know how it will go.

What does West St. Pete get out of this other than a bigger tax bill?

After a long time in the City Administration, I finally figured out the people got it right a lot more often than we did.

The public needs to push hard for a Pier Referendum.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pinellas County Schools - Epilog

I have watched with interest over the years as the Pinellas County school system wrestled with first one mess and then another. I had some distant contact with Clayton Wilcox, the past Superintendent. I had hoped that bringing in a talented outsider would begin to make some difference in the both substance and the stature of the school system. From the very beginning Wilcox was in a pitched battle with the administration and the teacher's union. Soon, thanks to some clever politicking by teachers and administrators and a gullible School Board, Wilcox was on the defensive having issues with the School Board. One of the big problems was Wilcox liked kids. He had a passion to see that education was provided to everyone in an effective way. He wanted teachers to teach. Heresy.

Clayton, like all of us, had his problems, lots of ego, aggressive and not real patient. As support for Wilcox eroded he decided to move on, motivated I am sure by some well meaning School Board members. The elected brain trust selected Janssen as the new person to head a troubled school district, an easy decision for the pseudo politicians that set on the School Board. No push back from the teachers or the administration. The reason? Janssen was an insider it would be business as usual. A classic case of in breeding. So it has been. The most condemning reference was "she had grown up in the Pinellas County school system". A product of the very culture she would be asked to change. It was like reaching into a boiling pot and trying to find the solution to what's making it boil. A poor choice that has come back to haunt them. The School Board has given Janssen 60 days to clean up her act, a seemingly impossible task. She could do everyone in Pinellas County a favor by simply resigning. Not likely. Janssen was never a class act and nothing has happened to change that.

The current question on the table is will the School Board finally have enough courage to take a stand, fire Janssen and go get, and support, someone who can reform the school system? Based on past history it seems unlikely. In any event we need to look carefully at who runs for School Board in the next election cycle. Let's try voting in some people who are not tied to the school system. Some independent thinkers with some backbone for a change.

Sixty days and Counting…Can Janssen Clean up her act?

The Pinellas County School System has been troubled for years. Maybe they should hang out a sign "Reformers Not Welcome"

I think school systems in general have missed the mission. Today we spend way to much public education money on athletic fields, stadiums, team uniforms, high paid coaches and not enough on teaching students how to read, write and add. The chances of a Pinellas County School student punting, passing, hitting, slam-dunking, swimming, or catching his or her way to success is a real long shot. Don't believe me, check the number of professional athletes in the major leagues and their salaries. Yet we spend a disproportionate amount of money on these programs. A school Board worth its salt should recognize this and do something about it.