With big issues looming, election to have ripple effect - FOX 13 News

With big issues looming, election to have ripple effect

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One does not have to be a city hall insider to grow weary of 2013 mayoral election cycle.

"I want the election over and I want a new Pier fast," says Lucinda Johnston, who moved to St. Petersburg earlier this year with her husband.

The city's downtown waterfront was the primary attractor, and the fate of the St. Pete Pier has been dangling since a referendum in August.

"Understandably people don't want to move forward with an initiative that could possibly change, even if Bill Foster is re-elected," Johnston observed. "There does seem to be an air of anticipation that something's going to be different."

Voters are heading to the polls today. Foster has said he supports replacing the Pier, saying from a public safety standpoint it needs to come down. On the Rays, he's worked in the past to make sure they stay in St. Petersburg.

For Kriseman, he opposed the Lens design, saying whatever happens there impacts the waterfront and city immensely, so the city needs to get it right. For the Rays, he said he too will fight to keep them in St. Pete.

If re-elected, Foster might change the course he set for some projects. If challenger Rick Kriseman wins, he will not take office until early 2014, and may change some key city managers.

At least two members of the eight-person city council will also change.

"Staff has, in all candor, tried to push things back to wait until the silly season is over," city council chairman Karl Nurse told FOX 13 News. "I would say anything that in the last 60 to 75 days could be postponed has been postponed, just because everything became so electric."

The Pier is undoubtedly the highest-profile project on hold. Voters soundly rejected a proposed replacement for the existing inverted pyramid, and the city council soundly rejected Foster's plan for coming up with another replacement Pier.

Other major decisions include selecting a new police chief to replace Chief Chuck Harmon, who retires in early January; deciding how to replace a decrepit police headquarters; and negotiating stadium issues with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Other initiatives are less visible to the public, but critical to the city. For example, the Chamber of Commerce proposes a more pro-active approach to economic development.

"They're prepared to raise private money, match us dollar-for-dollar, for us to begin to hiring a small sales force, for us to begin selling St. Pete," Nurse explained.

However, he deliberately scheduled a city council workshop on that subject for the Thursday following election day.

"I candidly didn't think we could have a calm, adult conversation a week or two before the election," he said.

The City of Lakeland is also voting on a new mayor today. In Clearwater, people will vote "yes" or "no" on a new state-of-the-art Clearwater Marine Aquarium and City Hall building.

Polling locations:

St. Pete: https://www.votepinellas.com/ew_pages/files/Elections/2013/November2013MuniElections/polling_place_list__general_election__1152013_st_pete.pdf

Clearwater: https://www.votepinellas.com/ew_pages/files/Elections/2013/November2013MuniElections/polling_place_list__general_election__1152013_cl.pdf

Lakeland polling places: http://www.polkelections.com/content.asp?c=32&event_id=77

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