Whitted supporters are quick to paint the Times as an evil empire, to which its CEO Andy Barnes responds, "The airport backers want to cast us as antagonists and I don't want to play. Our purpose is to reflect what's going on in the community. Ultimately, it means more to them than it does to me."
One thing's for certain: St. Petersburg voters are in for a doozy of a referendum — it will include several questions, including some potentially confusing tiebreakers (see sidebar).
To further complicate matters, Mayor Rick Baker has touted a compromise plan that would close the airport's main east-west runway, extend the north-south runway into Tampa Bay and free up some of the land for commercial development and a public park. Baker's plan recently earned the endorsement of a Tampa aviation company that was paid $80,000 to study its feasibility. Referendum language does not leave room for the Baker blueprint, however, and neither the park nor airport people think much of it.
The time for compromise has passed. A concrete decision on Albert Whitted Airport is in the offing. The Weekly Planet believes the airport should stay. St. Petersburg would be unwise to get rid of one unique asset in order to get more of what it already has in spades.
Senior writer Eric Snider can be reached at 813-248-8888, ext. 114, or by e-mail at [email protected].