Following is a Guest Editorial on the Pier Debacle. The City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on the $50 million contract for the $150 million pier. The Tampa Bay Times and the St. Pete political class is cheerleading the effort. If you want the Council to STOP, TAKE a BREATH and vote NO, you need to show up today at City hall at 3 pm at 175 5th St. N. Sign a yellow card and get up at the microphone. There is a better way: Privatize the Pier with some public use requirements. This will take it off the back fo the taxpayers and produce a functional and beautiful peir that everyone likes!
Gary West (see profile below)*
In just a few days the mayor and city council of St. Petersburg will dive into a septic tank of financial irresponsibility and the taxpayers will be forced to join them. These elected officials will approve 5 million plus dollars initial costs for their pier with much more of our money to follow. Once that step is taken there will be no going back. The excuse will always be….”Well, we’ve spent this much so, if we don’t keep spending then we’ll have wasted the initial amount.”
This mayor and council refuse to acknowledge, accept or consider the following facts:
1. The city cannot afford such a frivolous financial obligation. By their own admission a build cost of 50 million dollars is a false number. In actuality the total cost will be closer to 150+ million dollars.
2. WTVT-Channel 13 poll (of which the mayor and council are aware) reveals over 70% of those polled either don’t want a pier or want a pier built that resembles & functions what we have now. Council, the news media and the local paper admit much opposition to the pier. The mayor and council have admitted they “have to sell the pier.”
3. Mayor and council ignore the fact that our police station is beyond disrepair. If financial obligations are to be incurred, should it not be to replace a woefully inadequate police station? Were I a St. Petersburg police officer this total disregard by my elected officials would tell me all I need to know as to where I’m slotted in their thought process.
4. The pier will serve no purpose. It does nothing. It’s a sidewalk to nowhere. No attempt has been made to create a pier with function. Stunning examples exist showing a diverse use of waterfront such as the Embarcedero in San Francisco, The harbor area in Baltimore, Pike Place Market and the Alaskan Way in Seattle. and the Freedom Trail (and attendant markets) in Boston. The area from the Vinoy all the way south to the Dali is a vibrant commercial tourist AND native-friendly area. This lump of concrete water pollution adds nothing to the ambiance of the area. I can hear the first tourist now saying “What the hell is that?” Even Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano has recently written a column questioning the use and purpose of this overpriced over-water walkway. (As an aside, the Tampa Bay Times has tepidly given approval to the pier so it’s a bit surprising they’ve allowed one of their employees to criticize the pier in print.)
5. If you attempt a dialog, as I have, with the mayor or council the end result is a stone wall of non-communications. The initial response is always “we respect your opinion and we’ll take your thoughts into consideration when we make a decision.” Any further discussion results in silence or an attitude. It’s patently obvious that these people, whom we’ve elected to do our bidding, have decided among themselves that only they have the sophistication to determine what is best for us. At least two have not been shy it advising us that only they have the architectural acumen to decide the piers shape and structure.
6. Now two council members Nurse and Kornell, want to take/borrow/find an additional 10 million dollars to add a kiddie Splash Pool. A WHAT? We’re surrounded on three sides with salt water and we need 10 million dollars to build a splash pool in Tampa Bay? WHAT?
This is a city that, in the distant and not-so-distant past, has made financial blunders and react with the “my bad” response. Remember Bay Plaza? How ’bout the $187,000 dog park nobody uses? The police cars bought because one council member wanted to “be green” but the cars were totally inadequate for police use? It’s an old saw but constantly forgotten by these people….”It’s not your money!”
These politicos will sooner or later be out of office but we, the taxpayers, will be left weighted down by the yoke of their financial irresponsibility. They will leave us with debt for their thoughtless decision making and a plaque with their names upon it. Perhaps they can leave us their forwarding address & phone number so we can remind them of their mistakes.
If you believe, as I do, that this whole concept is an affront to common sense and financial responsibility then the mayor and council have to be contacted and your displeasure made known. Will it help? Probably not as all of these people envision this as a monument to themselves. If the impossible happens and these people listen to and respect our wishes then fine. Otherwise our only hope is to use the electoral process to but responsible people in office and, hopefully, in time to stop this madness and stem the financial drain to our citizens.
In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with a new pier. It’s emblematic of St. Petersburg but we have to build a pier that contributes a visual and financial flow to our area plus ties the present to our past heritage. All this proposed pier does is resemble an orifice.
*Gary West is a 65 year old retired Navy Torpedo Man from St. Petersburg. He is als a retired GTE line man “after a few decades of cable splicing, Line crew work, T1 and fiber optic operation“. He states: “firm believer that everyone should have two hobbies, the one they choose to enjoy and the second one being that of keeping one eye focused on their elected officials……proud moment: When my now voted out of office representative called me his “biggest pain in my ass.” I burst with pride.”