Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Baseball The hand writing is on the wall

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

The Rays attendance problem continues to worsen. They are now last in league attendance with even the usually high draw games seriously lacking.  As I have often quoted Bud Selig, "St. Petersburg is not a major league baseball market."

 It remains unclear to me why it is so difficult for the politicians to accept the fact Selig was right.

The Kriseman administration has put together another version of the now famous Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which addresses the development rights issue that seemed to be the reason the last MOU went down the toilet.

 Payout money for an early move was also a big issue.

Kriseman has been playing it a bit coy with Council saying he does not want to bring his latest MOU forward until he has enough committed votes for it to pass. Not exactly the way a representative government works.

What he is really saying is he does not want another embarrassing discussion where he gets a bunch of questions he does not want to answer.

Kriseman has refused to conduct the economic impact study Council member Kornell asked for the major reason likely being the only really serious economic benefit has probably been for Fergs Sports Bar.

It's time for a Mayor and the City Council to just fess up to the fact major league baseball will not work here. Selig was right.

For now, if the money portion of the MOU is still the issue with Council, how about a counter to the Mayor's most recent "offer": Rays give up all development rights, construction can begin any time, City agrees to keep 1,500 parking spots on the site, payout to move is set at $50 Million this year, reduces $4 million every year with the payout portion of the MOU sun setting in 2026.  

It is time to let the Rays look any where they want because unless there is someone in Tampa with a big ego and really deep pockets I don't think there will be a Tampa stadium deal.

With two major league sports teams in Tampa, rising ticket and concession prices and the history of baseball in the bay area, it is hard to imagine a new stadium will simply make all of that go away.

E-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos


Friday, May 22, 2015

City Council makes a valiant effort to fix a flawed Waterfront Master Plan

Opinion By: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want to Blog
  
In what seemed to me a heartfelt attempt to get to an acceptable Downtown Water Front Master Plan City Council labored until they just couldn't go any longer Thursday night.

At question was the inclusion of hotel/convention center and a host of areas all along the water front designated as "Development Areas"

The Hotel Conference center seemed to be a no brainer, with consensus it should be pulled from the Master Plan but the rest of the development parcels designated in the plan became much more difficult to deal with.

At one point there was a suggestion that all of the development areas be pulled from the Plan but that seemed too draconian to the Council.

What struck me was the tenacity that the Consultant and the Kriseman administration held onto the development portion of the plan. Struggling to keep the possibility of a Plan with massive "development opportunities" alive, both the Consultant and the Administration spoke repeatedly in glowing terms of the hotel/convention center, retail along the west side of Al Lange and other possibly wonderful commercial ideas that might evolve.

Council, concerned that future Administration's or Councils might not interpret the plan as they see it, struggled to make changes that would clarify the intent of the plan only to be rebuffed by the Administration's team.

In the end the Council continued the discussion to the next City Council meeting with instructions to staff that removed the hotel/conference center, took the "Development Areas" out of the South Basin and provided some additional language changes.

The administration will bring back a modified plan.

If all of the Council recommended changes are actually made there will still be a lot to be concerned about in the DWMP. Far to many undefined "Development Areas" remain; the approach to Bayboro Harbor seems completely impractical to name a couple.

The administration harped on the fact that the plan is "conceptual" but defined areas highlighted in red "Development Areas" are a bit more than conceptual.

Even in it's revised form the DWMP is likely to be the biggest threat to the Waterfront ever approved by a City Council.

E-mail Doc at: mailto:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want to Blog
  
The Downtown Water Waterfront Master Plan in it's current from can best be described as the camel's nose under the tent, the crack in the ice, the toe in the water; pick your metaphor.

Had the emphasis on "development areas" been omitted, or at least toned down significantly, it would have been a masterful Master Plan.

In the current form, the DWMP sets its self up as the lever to begin the systematic commercialization of waterfront.

Required by Charter Amendment, using a process required of and approved by City Council including well-documented public input, the DWMP is exceptional in form, context and content.

The DWMP treats the more esoteric issues of the waterfront with great care, carefully documenting the massive public input effort into these sections of the Plan.

The commercialization portion of the plan or the "development areas" as the Plan refers to them, seems to be carefully woven into the fabric of the Plan with little public input to support them.

The DWMP deftly bows to the City Charter in the Legal Context Section, but does it really?

From the DWMP
In January 2011, the city’s Charter Review Commission (“CRC”) convened with the purpose of proposing amendments to the City Charter, to be voted on by the city’s electorate in a referendum in November of that year. Among several proposed amendments that came out of the CRC’s deliberation was a proposed amendment for the development of the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan (“DWMP”). On November 8, 2011, St. Petersburg voters approved an amendment to the City Charter creating Section 1.02(g) and requiring the City Council to approve a DWMP on or before July 1, 2015. The charter amendment also compelled the City Council to adopt an ordinance setting forth the procedures for the adoption of the DWMP. The amendment required the City Council, prior to July 1, 2012, to adopt by ordinance, a process to create an inclusive master plan for the Downtown Waterfront, the criteria to be addressed, the manner of adoption and a process to assure that adequate inclusive public input is obtained prior to adoption and a requirement for review and update. The ordinance was adopted by City Council in June 2012, and created a new section of the City Code, Section 16.08, which governs the DWMP’s seven-year review and update procedures. The DWMP shall be amended by ordinance, with notice given to the public and at least one public hearing before City Council.

Note in the final sentence above, the DWMP shall be amended by ordinance. This makes the DWMP very easy to modify. A development centric or cash hungry City Council could have a field day.

From the DWMP
The DWMP is a conceptual planning document intended to provide guidance to the city and its people in their stewardship of St. Petersburg’s singular Downtown Waterfront environment, parks and amenities. The DWMP is subordinate to federal and state law, the City Charter, the City of St. Petersburg Comprehensive Plan, and the City Code of Ordinances. Therefore, specific recommendations contained within the DWMP may require a vote of the city electorate in a referendum, or other acts of city government and public input, before implementation of plan recommendations may occur. The Charter embodies the long-held core values of St. Petersburg’s citizens and, in particular, their shared desire to protect City- owned park and waterfront property. The Charter further outlines the City-wide referendum procedure required of any permanent disposition of public park or waterfront property, including the sale or lease of such property to private interests. Through this referendum provision, the public’s role in a debate on the future of its waterfront park property is fundamental and will be preserved in perpetuity.

Note the reference here: "Therefore, specific recommendations contained within the DWMP may require a vote of the city electorate in a referendum, or other acts of city government and public input, before implementation of plan recommendations may occur."

The key word here is may, not shall.

From the DWMP
The city shall perform a consistency review of certain projects in the context of the DWMP, including but not limited to, capital improvements and programming proposed for the Downtown Waterfront area. The DWMP shall be interpreted broadly to accomplish its purpose and intent. The DWMP shall be read in its entirety, with no single facet to be construed in isolation of the remainder of the document. After development of the DWMP and other documents that may from time to time be created to implement this plan, the administration and enforcement of the DWMP shall be performed by the city in its sole discretion. The provisions of the DWMP shall be effective upon adoption by the St. Petersburg City Council.

Note that the Plan indicates that once it is adopted it shall be "interpreted broadly to accomplish its purpose and intent."

One of the primary purposes seems to be commercial development of the downtown waterfront and the intent is pretty clear.

OBSERVATIONS
The question becomes in a scenario where a property on the waterfront designated as a "development area" has been singled out by a developer for say a hotel or a condo, the developer offers to pay market value for the property, the basic design is complementary to the waterfront and meets the requirements of DWMP.

The City decides to take the question to a referendum and the developer sues claiming no referendum is needed.

The Charter requires a vote on the sale of waterfront property, but the Charter mandated DWMP says implementation of Plan projects MAY require a vote.

Who wins? 
As a very good lawyer friend of mine said to me on a number of occasions: "On any given day you never know what judge or a jury may do."

Therein is the problem. One successful legal challenge based on the DWMP could start a land rush on the waterfront.

Some careful tweaking along with a moderation of the "development areas" should eliminate these concerns and put the DWMP in it's proper perspective to the City Charter.

E-mail Doc at: mailto:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tampa Bay Times questions St. Pete Waterfront plan

By: E. Eugene Webb, PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want to Blog

Rarely do I find myself on or close to the same page as the Tampa Bay Times.


The Times Editorial recommends, " One unnecessary concept — a hotel and conference center — has provoked criticism and suspicion among a citizenry that has repeatedly rebuffed such for-profit intrusions onto the waterfront. The council should approve the plan but reject the hotel idea."

I certainly agree but City Council should go even further and make it clear that the large number of "development" sites I pointed out in my Post St. Pete's Waterfront Master Plan...... "It's Like Hitting the Lotto" ..... Take a look at the Pictures and note the areas flagged as "Development" sites does not constitute a change in direction for the downtown waterfront.

The Times Editorial takes a shot Councilmember Steve Kornell's position that he will vote against the plan if the hotel stays in the plan. Putting aside the fact that Steve is up for reelection, it will likely take a strong stand from not only Kornell but also several other Council members to get any significant change to the Waterfront Master Plan.

While it is true that the Waterfront Plan is simply that, a plan, once adopted by City Council it will become the reference point for all challenges to the use of the waterfront.  The development emphasis of the proposed plan could be toned down considerably without having a negative effect on the plan's viability.

I am sure the Times and a lot of other downtown power brokers are concerned about the pending waterfront referendum and toning down the Waterfront Master Plan may take a little steam out of the referendum effort.


I still remain convinced that the only way the citizens of St. Petersburg can assure their waterfront is protected is by having say through the referendum process.

You can check out the Referendum petition at Waterfront Charter Amendment.

E-mail Doc at: mailto:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook and Twitter. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday May 17, 2015 Pinellas County Arts Funding May Increase

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

This past week it looked like a window for more Pinellas County funding for the Arts may be opening.

 Creative Pinellas, the county-funded arts agency, is seeking $300,000 a year to promote the arts and to fund local artists and programs for the next three years.

You can read more in Steven Girardi article in the St. Pete Tribune Pinellas leaders see value of arts, seek more information.

County funding for the arts dried up when the County Office of Cultural Affairs was shuttered five years ago in the midst of the financial downturn.

This is the moment when the arts community should be fully prepared with a program and details. County Commissioners want to know where and how any funding increase will be spent.

Publically funded arts programs have a tendency to become cliquish. A broadly based program and accountability for how public art funds are actually spent is a necessity.

The $300,000 is a reasonable sum if Creative Pinellas can produce a plan with sufficient detail to make Commissioners feel comfortable. Beginning with a modest working budget line item in the new budget, the arts community should be encouraged to return in the next budget cycle to report on their success and the County Commission should be open to additional funding.

The County Commission should avoid throwing a ton of money at the Arts only to be disappointed when the outcomes don't meet expectations or controversy arises over the program.

In St.Pete they have begun to realize throwing money at arts programs and using public funds to support individual artist or groups of artists does not produce a sustainable arts community.

The St. Petersburg approach to the arts community is one the County should consider. St. Petersburg is moving toward a sustainability model which brings customers to buy local art to support its growing arts community.

You can read about the Saint Petersburg approach in my six Post series A Casual Conversation with Wayne Atherholt St. Petersburg's Director of Cultural Affairs .

For now it looks like the County Commission is poised to renew its commitment to the arts and they should.

 The Arts community should also realize that what comes from the public trough can just as easily disappear as it did 5 years ago. Moving from subsidy to sustainability is a model the arts community should embrace.

E-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

St. Pete's Waterfront Master Plan...... "It's Like Hitting the Lotto" .....Take a look at the Pictures and note the areas flagged as "Development" sites.

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

St. Petersburg's New Waterfront Master Plan and the Ordinance adopting it was up for first reading at last Thursdays City Council meeting.

The St. Petersburg Waterfront Master plan is exquisitely done. It details the process, the participants, the stake holders, the objectives and the plan. You can see the whole plan at Downtown Waterfront Development Plan .

“It’s like hitting the Lotto,” Steinocher, president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said this past week. “It’s going to be transforming in front of our eyes.”

You can read more in the St. Petersburg Tribune, Steven Girardi, New pier is start of big changes for downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront.

Steinocher's reference is not without merit, problem is the LOTTO winners will not be the citizens of St. Petersburg. The winners will be the developers who will use the Waterfront Plan to get access to property that normally would be out of their reach.

Why such enthusiasm by the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce?

If you read carefully the plan would be more accurately titled the "St. Petersburg Downtown Waterfront Redevelopment Plan. Neatly tucked into this plan is the proposed commercial development of a significant part of the water front. 

Take a look at the Pictures and note the areas flagged as "Development" sites.

There will be a lot made of the fact this is just a "Plan" and it all requires approval but the problem is the "Plan" will be trotted out as justification every time some developer wants build on what is now protected waterfront.

All of this should be enough to send you screaming to the Waterfront Charter Amendment Web site to get a Petition sign it and mail it in.

That's the only way you get a Ticket in this LOTTO.  

From the Water Front Plan
"The waterfront should continue to be an asset 
and venue for economic vitality for the entire community. Access to the water should be a source of social and economic value to the residential neighborhoods. The waterfront should be a place of economic activity for small business in niche locations to energize events and provide limited day to day comfort such as recreational rentals and sundries. And the waterfront should be leveraged as an opportunity
for job creating economic development to support the recreational marine industry, scientific research, education, transportation, and cultural tourism."
Economically Vibrant Downtown Places
·         Al Lang Field redevelopment
·         Pier uplands with restaurants and entertainment
·         Large covered market pavilion
·         Conference/Hotel destination near the South Basin
·         Arts destination - art trail & art “anchor pieces”
·         Leverage USFSP and other Innovation District institutions to improve K-12 opportunities.

A couple of the bullet points don't quite seem to fit the "small business" profile.

As I said above this is an exceptional plan. And the plan is needed. It's just like most of what happens when the waterfront is the issue, good intentions and hard work of volunteers is quietly hijacked by special interests.

As we have seen twice with the Pier, the public cannot trust the Administration or City Council to look after their interests on the water front. This Referendum puts you in the driver's seat.

There will be a lot of bleating about how this Charter Amendment will stifle growth and make things too complicated. My answer is that's simply not true.

What it will do is force developers to produce projects that will meet with public approval and that is a good thing. 

E-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos

The Incredible Shrinking Pier

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Coauthor of: So You Want Blog .

It was somewhat amazing to watch at Thursday's St. Pete City Council meeting as Pier Park simply shrank right before the City Council's eyes and no one even mentioned: bait and switch, change of scope, what will it really look like or can we have a look at what the real renderings will look like.

The footprint had already shrunk by almost 25% or so to get some hope of permitting and those towering trees that looked like 30 foot Oaks, quietly shrunk to 30 foot native plants, make that palm trees.

The real issue here is City Council may have bought themselves a $33,000,000 pig in a poke. Forget the inverted pyramid, what will this thing really look like?

Here is a given.

The Kriseman administration will get a deal on Pier Park if Mike Connors has to unload the dirt for the event field from the truck himself with a shovel and a wheel barrow to make the budget.

Under no circumstances, at any cost, for any reason, no matter what, come hell or high water these negotiations with the Pier Park group cannot fail because the State Statute requires that if they do the City MUST negotiate with the second ranked and that is Destination Pier.

From the Kriseman administration's position that cannot happen!
 
This deal will be filled with enough holes to embarrass a sieve.

 The City will pony up "in kind" services, provide "staff support", agree to "finish" certain parts of the structure, "haul away debris at City cost or no cost for undefined "City Purposes", waive permitting costs on an on the list will go.

Pier Park could not be permitted and most likely not built within the budget as originally designed. As the wheeling and dealing begin in the design phase the real question is who is watching the chickens and the answer is the silver haired fox.

E-mail Doc at mail to:dr.gwebb@yahoo.com or send me a Facebook (Gene Webb) Friend request. Please comment below, and be sure to share on Facebook. See Doc's Photo Gallery at Bay Post Photos