Pier debate dominates Tiger Bay City Council candidate forum
Tired of hearing about the Lens? Too bad. Attendees at Wednesday's Tiger Bay candidate forum were not tired of talking about it.
The fate of the city’s Pier, and whether the Lens is a viable replacement for the aging structure, dominated the candidate forum, as it has for most of this election cycle despite several candidates' attempts to minimize it as an issue.
"Lens: Keep it? Stop it?" asked one Tiger Bay member. If only the actual ballot language were as straightforward as that question, posed to the City Council candidates running in Districts 4 and 8. Only one candidate, Amy Foster, said "keep it." Five others went with "stop it," and Alex Duensing, who is running in District 8, said voters should decide.
Another audience member asked the candidates opposed to the Lens what they’d like to see at the end of a pier, if anything at all.
The tax money that would have gone to fund the Lens should be returned to voters, said two District 4 candidates, Carolyn Fries and David McKalip. Doing that is “kind of tricky,” Fries acknowledged, as it would mean giving back money that was collected through a special taxing district and some of which belongs to Pinellas County. But residents “don’t want to spend $50 million on the pier right now, the timing is not good,” she said.
Darden Rice, also running in District 4, is not a fan of the Lens either. She’d like a "scaled down version," she told the group. One that "reflects our heritage."
In District 8, Duensing said he’d like to put the project in the public's hands and let residents vote on each aspect of it. Steve Galvin said the city should rebuild the approach and make it narrower, but the inverted pyramid structure is sound, he said, and would become lively with a better mix of shops and restaurants. Robert Davis argued, vaguely, for "building a new consensus."