"Regional" politics a big thing this week for Tampa, St. Pete

Every once in a while, you'll hear someone whine about how we can't say we live in Tampa Bay unless we're a member of an aquatic species currently residing in the large body of water separating peninsular Pinellas County from Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

So, not being a dolphin (which would be sweet!), we have to drag out the moniker of our metropolitan area a whole four extra syllables and say "the Tampa Bay area." Happy?

As major cities in the area grow and recognize how integral to (and competitive with) one another they are, things have gotten weird — mostly good-weird, but weird.

This week, officials from Tampa and St. Pete are going to be seeing a lot of one another as they try to move forward on some pretty substantial issues.

The first of which is a St. Pete-to-Tampa ferry pilot project, which would initially use $350,000 in BP settlement dollars to set up a ferry boat linking the two cities' downtown waterfronts by crossing, yes, Tampa Bay.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the pilot project would use a chunk of the $6.5 million the city received from oil giant BP as a result of the 2010 oil disaster. There have already been questions on the bidding process, namely on whether an early bidding deadline essentially "rigged" it to favor a specific ferryboat company.

Kriseman is scheduled to cross the bay himself later today to meet with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on the proposal, and will again head to Tampa Wednesday to pitch the idea to the Hillsborough County Commission. That meeting starts at three.

For those of us who have to cross a bridge multiple times a week to get to and from work, major attractions and Rush concerts, a ferry sounds like a fine idea, at least once in a while.

But there's concern Buckhorn's not going to buy it, ostensibly because, the Tampa Bay Times reports, he says he'd like "to see the business plan." Translation: how will this affect my likely bid for governor, and have you done anything to piss me off lately?

It's unclear how well the pitch will go over on the Hillsborough County Commission.

But then, on Thursday, there'll be an even bigger, much more slowly moving and convoluted issue (maybe) coming to a head: the Tampa Bay Rays.

St. Petersburg City Council might weigh a proposal to let the team explore stadium sites in Hillsborough County with the promise that the team will give St. Pete a bunch of money if they cease playing on the city's soil ahead of 2027, when the team is scheduled to cease playing there.

This would be Round Three-ish of that debate. In December 2014 Kriseman proposed a deal that didn't quite pass muster with the council, but things could be different this time around.

After all, in November, one council seat essentially flipped in favor of the deal with the election of Lisa Wheeler-Brown to the council's District 7 seat.

Finally, on Friday, Buckhorn comes to town for a joint "State of the Bay" talk with Kriseman at a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting at the St. Pete Yacht Club.

Given all that's been happening, local politicos won't want to miss it.

Likely topics of the probably-raucous (in relative terms) discussion include the Rays, obviously, as well as the ferry project. Depending on the events that take place earlier in the week, debate should be lively and possibly a tad awkward.

Cuba, a subject on which the two mayors very much disagree, will also probably be a subject of debate. Buckhorn purports to not be open to warming relations between the region and the island nation; Kriseman would like to see St. Pete become the site of a Cuban consulate.

That members-only discussion happens at noon. (Don't worry, we'll give you a recap here.)

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