An open letter of protest to the mayor of St. Pete


Dear Mayor Kriseman,

This is a letter of protest regarding your announcement on Friday, Aug. 18 of the selection of the Callaloo Group to run the Manhattan Casino in Midtown. I do, however, have a suggestion at the end of this letter. I disagree strongly with your selection of the Callaloo Group over the Manhattan Casino Legacy Collaborative (MCLC).  I disagree strongly with your timing, the selection based on your stated criteria and the process by which this award was made.

Your Timing: On Aug. 9, you stated: “…most important [is a bid] that honors the history of the community.” On Aug. 14, your spokesman stated: “[there is] no timeline [to decision]. [We] just want to get it right.”

Well, time does suddenly seem more/most important, with the Primary less than a week away. That’s the logic that I read into it – timing now seems much more important than doing it right or honoring the history, heritage or the wishes of Midtown.

Your Stated Selection Criteria: Your press release on Aug. 18 stated the reasons for your selection of Callaloo vs. MCLC. These are listed below, with a short comment following each item:

• Restaurant/Event Experience: Both proposals show business/restaurant experience. MCLC shows direct experience in African-American food and links with icons such as Geeches, Sno-Peak.

• Financial Strength: Both proposals describe planned financing sources and Pro-forma revenue and expenses. Neither provided nor were they asked for financial details or commitments.

• Hiring within the Community: Both proposals mention local hiring. Neither provides specifics or commitments; again, there were no format/required points requested by the city on this.

• Willing to collaborate: Community, History/Legacy: Both proposals indicate willingness. MCLC described programs with direct links and a team with direct links to Midtown history/heritage.

The “Proposal” Process: (not a “bid” process) The process began with an unsolicited proposal from Callaloo Group; in accepting this proposal, the city, rightly, invited others to propose. The only guidance was to “follow” the form/rough content of the Callaloo proposal. Although both proposals contain names of partners, projections for start-up, estimates of revenue/expense and comments on hiring local residents, none of these, from either proposal should be considered official or binding responses, as specific data/ format/commitments were not requested.

The data submitted to-date should not, in my opinion, serve as a basis for making a final decision on your stated reasons (above). To obtain real/committed data, I strongly suggest that the city select two or more finalists and ask them to respond to a proper bid cycle with an RFP containing specific instructions, description of the selection criteria and any specific commitments required.

Your selection of the Callaloo Group over the MCLC group is, in my opinion, a slap in the face to the Midtown community; it shows a gross lack of listening to the wants and needs and the capabilities of this community.

From the outside, it looks lousy—from the inside, I am sure it feels a lot worse. Time now is of the essence! Asking two-plus finalists to respond to an RFP would be the right thing to do, and if asked before the Primary, would influence one voter and perhaps many, many more – both inside and outside of Midtown and SSP. No action would, in my opinion, also influence votes.

Dick Pierce

Citizen of St. Petersburg

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