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St. Petersburg City Council rejects 'pay to talk' plan for Tampa Bay Rays

5:56 PM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - At St. Pete City Council Thursday there was a lot of talk about talk. Here are just a few of the comments:

"I think there's a lot of things I can talk about."

"Sometimes I feel like we're in a one person relationship."

"I think it's clear we have to find a way to get this conversation started."

All this talk about talking with Rays stems from a proposal by Councilman Charlie Gerdes. His plan was to let the team explore new stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough in exchange for a cash payment of $1.4 million a year.

"This amendment allows them to look-not to leave. It doesn't intend for them to leave," Gerdes explained to the council.

But right off the bat City attorney John Wolfe cautioned the council to not let their talk get out of hand.

"What you say can and will be used against you," he warned. "I just think you're almost in the position of negotiating against yourself with this thing.

Mayor Bill Foster also urged caution. He fears opening this door for the Rays will weaken the city's negotiating position--perhaps costing citizens millions down the road.

"Don't screw this up; you have to get this right," Foster told the council. "Listen to your attorneys. I can assure you the Rays are listening to theirs."

While all the council members spoke about somehow improving the city's relationship with the Rays, the Gerdes plan failed to pass by one vote. But he will keep on talking.

"I'm disappointed that I was unable to remove that impediment, but I'm not going to give up," Gerdes said after the vote.

In a written statement, the Rays Senior Vice President Michael Kalt had this response to the day's developments.

"We thank Councilman Gerdes for acknowledging that steps must be taken to ensure baseball's long term future in the area. Today's proceedings highlight the need for conversation between the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg, and we would welcome that conversation with any and all interested city leaders," said Kalt.

And there are perhaps signs that the frosty relationship between the city and the Rays is thawing. A meeting between the Mayor and Rays executives has been tentatively scheduled for February 15th.

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