The City Council seems intent on spending more money they don’t have. They also plan to build another luxury item the taxpayers don’t need to fund and can’t afford. The latest project: a regional waterfront skateboard park designed to attract skateboarders from all over the Tampa Bay Area to downtown St. Petersburg. The City is considering taking money from the $14.6 million Weeki Wachee Fund to construct a third public skateboard park in addition to the ones at Fossil Park and Lake Vista Park. The city is seriously considering placing this large skateboarder park either on the Pier or Spa Beach. City Council members are tripping all over themselves to claim that this will solve far more problems than it ever could: crime, poverty, economic stagnation, community integration and more. If only it were so easy.
In its initial discussions, the city council members did not even consider the concept that a private investor could do this on their own and make a profit in the process. The Council seemed to feel that such ventures can only be built with taxpayer dollars based on a bold government initiative. Surely they have visions of ribbon cutting ceremonies dancing in their heads.
” If a skate park won’t support itself it should not be built by taxpayers or a private investor.”
The City Council’s skateboard park vision would also include adding more city workers to constantly maintain and operate the skate park. This will surely add to the city’s pension and retirement health benefits funding woes which currently have a $350 million shortfall, with only about 80% saved for pensions and 0% saved for retiree health insurance. The skateboard park may also be attracting skateboarders to the downtown where skateboarding is currently banned. Will businesses and pedestrians have to contend with a new presence of skateboarders on the sidewalks on busy Beach Drive? Will the City Council decide it is best to change the laws as a means of “equity” to allow skateboarders “equal access” to sidewalks downtown? Will there be lawsuits prompted by regional skateboard park users to demand their “rights” to blow by a couple strolling downtown to a restaurant?
” …put to referendum (vote) a proposal to liquidate the Weeki Wachee Fund (now at about $14.6 million) and distribute it back to tax payers and utility bill payers as direct rebates. “
It was interesting to see the well organized effort of proponents for the skateboard park. This is part of the new “community organizing” model that serves as political cover for the City Council members (“our citizens asked for it” – well maybe some of them). The community organizers will soon transform to a hammer, forcing the city to implement all sorts of bad laws, costly investments and encroachments on freedom in the name of “social justice” and “social equity”. One speaker, an alumnus of “Occupy St. Petersburg” named Maria Jose Hays is a “community organizer” for the “Florida Public Services Union”. Maria Jose Hays was not a US citizen as of 2011 (and still lists herself as an “international resident”) and is a publicly proud and avowed socialist. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the skateboard park although could not offer cogent reasons why, except skateboarding would be fun. She then began to push her “progressive” agenda through passage of this skateboard park project, and was receiving affirmative, admirable nods from City Council members. Her agenda: this skateboard park will be a means of promoting “social equity” and must be built with environmentally friendly materials because “they are cheaper” (not usually true). Let the games begin as every issue in the city is politicized by the “social justice” crowd to push their extremist agendas.
A waterfront Skateboard park may be a great idea. Putting it on the pier may be great. But why must the taxpayers always pay for these grand visions and luxury items? St. Petersburg’s taxpayers are hurting. Their utility fees and property taxes keep going up and the city keeps wasting their money; all while on the verge of bankruptcy in five years from union pension payouts. This government burden on citizens is occurring as they must live in an economy of austerity created by progressive politicians! Let a private investor fund a skateboard park. There was a presentation from a private skateboard park builder from Orlando extolling the virtues of him getting rich with public funds to build a skate park. It would be better for him to raise the money himself, build the park and charge admission if he thinks it will be profitable. If a skate park won’t support itself it should not be built by taxpayers or a private investor. The City can’t justify this as yet another engine of “economic development” as that is not proven, likely will redistribute money that would be spent elsewhere in the economy, and most importantly, economic development is not the job of government!
If the City Council is so intent on taking some of the money out of the Weeki Wachi fund, it may want to consider doing something other than building a major skateboard park that will require annual operating costs. The City Council should instead use Weeki Wachee Money it to cut utility bills, property taxes and sales taxes. What a concept: giving the money back to the taxpayers who earned it in the first place! The way to accomplish that would be to put to referendum (vote) a proposal to liquidate the Weeki Wachee Fund (now at about $14.6 million) and distribute it back to tax payers and utility bill payers as direct rebates. That would be in keeping with the “direct democracy” model of the People’s Budget Review, of whom Maria Jose Hayes is also an “Organizer”. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the People’s Budget Review to do anything to put taxpayer money back into the pockets of the people who actually made the money to pay the taxes. That wouldn’t be very “progressive”.