Friday, November 14, 2014

St. Pete Waterfront - The people want it remade for them

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb

AECOM, the consulting firm picked to develop the public input portion of St. Petersburg's waterfront plan presented a summary of its findings Thursday at the Vinoy Renaissance resort.

Charlie Fargo, Tampa Bay Times staff writer has a nice over view in his article: St. Petersburg public shows interest in only small changes to waterfront .

The public does not appear too interested in a massive overhaul of the downtown water front. The consultants seemed to have grasped that desire.

Waterfront redevelopment is now at that critical juncture where all major redevelopment projects arrive.

There is a general consensus from the public about where they would like the effort to go.

Enter the special interests. The public's view does not really mesh well with where the big downtown players would like to see the waterfront go. They would like to see some development opportunities.

The Kriseman administration will now have to navigate the master plan mine field as the special interests try to once again hijack a major downtown effort.

Dan Harvey Jr., who has long been a strong voice in downtown affairs said, "All these guys are smart enough to see through the group interests or individual agendas".

Let's hope so.

The consultants also expressed concern about the failure of GreenLight to garner public support and cited transportation as a major concern in the waterfront plan.

The whole project covers about a seven mile stretch along the water front. If the planners and the Kriseman administration can't figure out how to transport the public around a seven mile stretch then the waterfront plan is in real trouble.

Key to all of this is who the mayor puts on the final committee that will make a recommendation to City Council. 

It would be a good idea for the Kriseman administration and the City Council to remember the LENS and the GreenLight debacle and not create another over bloated project packaged up by the downtown power players that the public will not support.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

GreenLight the Postmortems Continue

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
The postmortems over the GreenLight sales tax referendum continue. A typical example is Tampa Tribune writer Josh Boatwright's article: Greenlight defeat likely means less walkable City, more sprawl.

Boatwright lays out a scenario that blames voters for rejecting a horrible Ordinance, and an ill conceived plan called GreenLight and hints that defeat will lead to  most of the development problems the County will see in the next century or so.

Let me burst the bubble of those who would lay the blame for all things bad in Pinellas County at the feet of those who voted down GreenLight.

Those to blame for any transit oriented problems Pinellas County may endure in the short term future are those who developed the GreenLight plan, not those who recognized it for what it was a get rich scheme for a select few funded by a never ending flow of tax revenue.  

If the objective of the politicians, the Chambers of Commerce and the big power players who wanted redevelop south Pinellas County is to make those of us who worked to defeat GreenLight and those who voted with us feel bad, sorry that dog does just not hunt.

If those folks really want to know who screwed up Pinellas County Public transportation, all they have to do is take a short walk down the hall to the smallest room in their house and look in the mirror.

Boatwright rambles on about the sea of parking lots and how in some way this referendum would have changed all of that, all the while the auto industry is having its best year ever. Obviously not everyone wants to ride a bike, bus or train.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the Countryside Mall, which is mentioned as an example of large surface parking, is miles from the GreenLight proposed rail route which is indicative the how ill conceived the GreenLight plan really was.

If you voted NO on GreenLight don't let the naysayers make you feel bad, they're just trying to butter you up for their next attempt fleece to public.

For now take comfort in the knowledge that your NO vote on GreenLight probably saved Pinellas County from one of the most ill conceived tax referendums every put forth in this County.

E-mail Doc at: 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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Box Score O for 2

Opinion by:  E. Eugene Webb PhD

St.Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Mission Statement:

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce shall be the preeminent leader of business in order to ensure the economic growth and vitality of our community.

Notice the mission statement does not call for a political agenda.

Since the day Chris Steinocher arrived as president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce he has wanted to be a big player in City and County politics. Problem is under Steinocher’s leadership the Chamber can’t seem to get on the right side of the major issues.

First there was the LENS, which the Chamber backed to the hilt and the public soundly rejected.

Now there is GreenLight, which Steinocher co-chaired and pulled out all the stops for, soundly defeated at the polls.

There has always been a question in my mind as to whom the St. Pete Chamber really represents. When you look at the Board of Directors it looks like the name would more correctly be The St. Pete Corporate Chamber of Commerce. Small and medium sized business seems to be somewhat under represented on the Board.

That could explain why the Chamber is so out of touch with their members clients and customers - the public.

The St. Pete Chamber has been handed its hat twice now in major ballot initiatives. We may be approaching the moment where the Chamber’s endorsement and/or support are more of a curse than a blessing.

It’s also way past time for St. Pete City Council to turn to Steinocher and the Chamber every time they have a question about the pulse of business in the City. Looking at the recent record one could assume the Chamber doesn’t have a clue.

The time has come for a little soul searching among the Chamber membership and their leadership regarding their political role. Just because it’s big, bright, shiny,  expensive,  has high political exposure and is paid for by tax dollars does not mean it will pass public muster based on the Chamber’s endorsement.

It’s time for the St. Pete Chamber to get back to their stated mission. 

E-mail Doc at: 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