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St. Petersburg City Council - Save each of our families $24,000.

$24,000 per family - $6,000 person - $1.6 billion in total. That's the cost of the Rays stadium deal to all of us in St. Petersburg. We can keep baseball, but we need - and can - get a better deal - saving each of us $6,000.


I have more than 30 years of experience evaluating and negotiating thousands of multimillion-dollar real estate deals for Raymond James. I also founded Pinellas County Schools Lunch Pals mentoring program. I know about deals, and I care about St. Petersburg for everyone. I am now retired. There is nothing in this for me - no matter how this deal turns out. Here is my background.


At the most recent City Council meeting, I spoke to the Council Members about the Rays/Hines deal to build a new stadium and develop the rest of the land for offices, apartments, and other uses. At a cost of $6,000 for every man, woman, and child in St. Petersburg, we don't think this is fair.


I want to share the thoughts that I provided to City Council members.


I have met with most of you, and I am sure you know that I am involved with an informal group No Home Run.  We believe that while baseball is a nice attraction to have in St. Petersburg, a new stadium is not needed to successfully develop the Gas Plant site.  It is especially not needed if the city and county are going to transfer a huge amount of publicly needed resources to the effort. 


Some people have suggested that I have a personal agenda, that somehow, I will benefit from seeing the current proposal either changed or defeated. My only interest is that the City of St. Petersburg continues to grow and thrive for my children and grandchildren and everyone's children and grandchildren. As a result, I am focused on spending our limited city resources on what matters.  That's it.


In addition to providing you with our comments, I am also linking to my recent Blog post – Let's Have a Fair Deal – We’re Smarter Than This, in which I have commented on the Tampa Bay Times editorial by Graham Brink, Editor of the Editorial Page.  

 

I want to emphasize several points relative to your due diligence.


  1. We believe it is undeniable that the property can be developed successfully with or without baseball.  If you have any doubt, talk to area developers who are already building in the area as to what factors are influencing them to develop.  Ask them where on their list of reasons is baseball?  When we have asked, they say it is the vibe in the city, nearness to the beaches, the museums, the pier, and the restaurants. The same results as the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater survey.

  2. We strongly believe the Rays are not leaving Tampa Bay.  This deal can be renegotiated to be fair to taxpayers. Don't be intimidated - get input from others. 

  3. As I point out below, consider what are the true economic drivers in St. Petersburg. Talk to the experts.

  4. We believe the 64 acres is being sold well under value - an opinion shared by many in St. Petersburg.  Shouldn't there be a current appraisal completed, based on the planned zoning and density, before any decision is made?  (The city's appraisal is not current, does not consider recent sales prices, nor the property as planned.)

  5. We strongly believe the city could work with any number of other major developers who would pay fair price for the property - and pay for the infrastructure.  Call some of them or hire someone to help you gather information.

  6. Consider the city's many other high priority needs.

  7. Historically once teams get a new stadium, the team value increases substantially.  As part of a fair deal, since the city and county are paying for almost half the stadium, any deal should include sharing in the increased value if the team is sold. 

  8. Since the city and the county are paying for almost half the stadium cost, shouldn't the city and county share revenue?

  9. The Rays should pay rent to offset the lost property taxes on the stadium property. 

  10. St. Petersburg is a big-league city. We need to stay focused on what we need to do to keep us big league. 


The following are the comments I presented to the City Council members at their last meeting:

 

We are here to discuss the Rays/Hines proposed deal and ask the City Council to prevent a monumental $1.6 billion rip-off of city resources that we need for what matters.  - A gift to billionaires with no return.   


Our city needs to focus on the facts and what matters - the need for funding stormwater and sewer repairs and improvements. In the last few days, City administrators presented to City Council “The Discussion of Known Capital Improvement Need - 30-year Forecast.”


The forecast includes over $5 Billion of needed improvements and repairs to the city’s water, sewer and stormwater systems - six times larger than the city’s total current $826 million operating and Capital Improvements budget - 6 times greater!  And Only 2/3 of that $5 billion will be addressed in the next 20 years. And even so, the plan calls for tremendously increasing utility bills for city residents.   


What about the other 1/3 - $1.6 billion of repairs - coincidentally the amount the city proposes to give away to Rays/Hines - billionaires. How and when will they be funded. What if your house needed a new roof and you only had the money to pay for 2/3 of the roof? 


Not only will residents and visitors face increasing flooding issues, but this funding burden alone may push the cost of living in St. Petersburg to the point where, for many people, remaining a resident is impossible and moving here is out of the question.  


What else matters – affordable and workforce housing – that the current proposal allows Rays/Hines to default on for a very small penalty.  With $1.6 Billion we could underwrite so many housing opportunities.


What about intentional equity.  Hines/Rays calls for $50 million. $1.6 billion is 32 times $50 million. 


What about underwriting days care costs. Even today the Tampa Bay Times writes that Pinellas County Schools are going to provide day care for their staff to help offset the ever-increasing cost of living.  With $1.6 billion the city could help to underwrite that cost for others, allowing single parents to go to school and get good paying jobs.   


What about ensuring environmental issues are addressed – a concern of the Sierra Club?  If the city took more control, they could ensure that environmental conditions were enforced.  


We love baseball and want to keep it in Tampa Bay but if it wants to be at the Gas Plant we need a fair deal - fair rent to reimburse lost real estate taxes, fair split on revenue as we are paying for 1/2 the stadium, and a fair price for the 64 acres. - leaving us with the $1.6 billion that we need for so many other high priorities.   

Baseball is not the economic engine, nor do we need it to activate the Gas Plant property or be the anchor. The property is so attractive because it adds to the live work play that everyone loves here. It is ready and the city can make it happen with or without the Rays or Hines. The property will be developed either way and the city will see those taxes either way. Developers would be standing in line to help.  


What drives our economic engine is tourism - beaches, museums, the pier and the restaurants.  Pinellas County’s own study shows that this is why 40% of the people come here. And only 3% come for sporting events.   


What also drives our engine are knowledge-based businesses - financial services, tech, health care and our universities.  And of course, retirees - especially affluent ones.  


We need to focus our resources on what drives our engine.  And if we really think we have the money to do it all and funds left over - then we should reduce taxes. 


We need to focus on what has made St. Petersburg a great place to live and what we need to sustain that - a place everyone can afford and enjoy and have opportunities to succeed.  

City Council - We need you to prevent a rip-off - a profound mistake that the city will face for decades - that we will all remember for decades - and if you vote yes that you will be remembered for - for decades. 


The Rays are not leaving Tampa Bay.  Where will they go?   


They will go right back to the negotiating table. 


Be the Council Member that voters will say took a billionaire’s hand out of their pocket and got us a fair deal.  The city and voters will thank you.


What do you think? If you agree and want to help:

 




  

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