Ever since he was elected mayor nearly four years ago, Bill Foster has appeared to have his head in the sand when it comes to the demands of the Tampa Bay Rays ownership, who have made it clear in recent years that they don't want to play in downtown St. Pete, and would really like the opportunity to speak to city leaders in Hillsborough County about a possible relocation.
Kathleen Ford popularized the legal phrase "tortious interference" in her 2009 campaign against Foster, saying she would never allow the Rays to speak with Tampa, and Foster has maintained that same stance, until a recent impasse (which was initially made public in Boston a couple of weeks ago by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg).
John Romano of the Times writes today that "the pressure is about to rise in Tampa." Really? I don't see it that way.
The Rays aren't the city of Tampa's team, they're St. Pete's. Mayor Bob Buckhorn has liked to joke about how wonderful a stadium would be in Channelside, but neither he nor County Commission chair Ken Hagan have ever said anything about having sufficient public funds being available to construct a facility. Hagan in particular has said that he cares about keeping the Rays in the region, and if that meant giving Stu Sternberg the opportunity to speak to officials here, they should be allowed to do that.
But while the main story has always been about where a new park would be located, the real question is who is going to pay for a $600 retractable domed stadium?
All I'm saying is, I don't see this as being such a sly move by Foster. It's something he could have done years ago. Oh, there's an election happening, you say? (we'll have a post later this morning on last night's debate) I suppose it's good timing. But whenever he allowed the Rays to speak with Tampa would have been received positively, and thus would be well timed.
And by the way, the best line that Foster says in today's story is when he reflects on the sad fact that one of the best teams in baseball again is floundering in home attendance. "Are we a major league region?" the mayor asks. It's a good question, with no guarantee that the answer would be different if the ballpark was located in Tampa.
Moving on: We attended yesterday's HART meeting, where board members again rejected a proposed ad by the Council on American Islamic Relations, saying that they're policy doesn't allow them to work with religious groups.
(CAIR responded last night).
Tonight there will be a meeting held by "The leadership group," a group of Hillsborough public officials discussing transportation. One major critic of light-rail, HART board member Karen Jaroch, is worried that the aim is all about going back to light rail soon.
Republican state Representative Matt Gaetz is scheduled to host a hearing on Stand Your Ground next month, and isn't it sad that nobody expects anything substantive to change with that law, based on Gaetz' own comments. At least his scheduled debate with Dream Defender Phillp Agnew on the law should be entertaining.