Nearly all of the City of St. Pete’s elected leaders have a vision: A giant white elephant pier that is heavily subsidized by the taxpayers, requires taxpayer interest payments to a few bond holders and amounts to a looping service road over the bay with a few amenities. They call it “the Lens” or the new St. Petersburg Pier. They should call it the giant money pit because that is what it will amount to for taxpayers. The City Council heard a presentation from the lead Architect Michael Maltzan last week about the latest features. There will be the looping service road/sidewalk, city run boat docks, three city run public restrooms, a burger and beer joint at the end, a gelato stand somewhere. Also, right at the entrance of the whole shebang will be “the hub”. A city built restaurant and retail site – what could possibly go wrong?
Michael Maltzan presented his latest vision at the request of the City leaders, and this includes a “Waterside retail and Commercial Anchor” (formerly “the hub”). This will be a commercial space built by – the government! It seems an odd venture for an entity that was established to protect public safety, manage and build roads, ensure civil justice and the like, but these politicians seem to think they can do anything. That includes designing, planning, financing and managing the commercial infrastructure for a restaurant and “commercial anchor” activities they don’t even know will exist. Currently the businesses on the pier are successful financially largely because of the heavily subsidized rent of their locations. In other words, the taxpayers help the bottom line of these private businesses. Such will be the case of any entity that decides to move into the new “hub”. The taxpayers will build the facility, pay the upkeep, take the liability for problems and the private entity lucky enough to land there can enjoy the profits. That is how this city operates and is the way they help create artificially high profits for entities like “The Rays”, SRI, the Honda Grand Prix, the Dali and the rest. Taxpayer burden+ private gain = crony capitalism. Those supporting the new Pier will admit that there will be no end to the subsidies for the new Pier, it will just go to a prettier structure.
It is good to see that some other influential community leaders are banding together to try to stop this corrupt and feckless enterprise of a new “pier”. The only way citizens are going to change the behavior of these politicians is to vote them all out…all except Wengay Newton who has steadfastly opposed this from day one.