Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former St. Petersburg council member Kathleen Ford backs group fighting to save the Pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Former mayoral candidate and council member Kathleen Ford has joined a group fighting to save the Pier in a lawsuit against the city.

The suit seeks to force the City Council to allow a referendum on the inverted pyramid that has served as the city's Pier since 1973. It also asks for a temporary injunction to stop its demolition pending the court's ruling and the outcome of a vote.

The group, which had collected more than 20,000 signatures in an effort to put a Pier question on the Nov. 6 ballot, saw its hopes dashed early this month when council members denied the request.

City Council member Wengay Newton, a staunch supporter of the voteonthepier effort, learned of the suit from the Tampa Bay Times.

"I am not surprised. Whenever you get voter suppression, you're going to have lawsuits," he said. "It's a shame that it had to come to this."

Council member Karl Nurse, who voted with Newton to allow a Pier referendum, also was not surprised. "I think that disregarding all of those petitions was a mistake," he said.

"As to whether it's a legal mistake or not, that will be for the lawyers to tell us."

"We are confident in the appropriateness of the city's actions and we're looking forward to showing that in court," Joseph Patner, head of litigation for the city, said shortly after the city was served Thursday.

Meanwhile, another group of residents is preparing to take action against the city's plans to demolish the Pier and replace it with a new structure. William Ballard, a retired construction and banking lawyer, said his group's response will probably not take the form of a lawsuit. He praised Ford's efforts.

"We think Kathleen has hit the legal points quite well. I won't tell you what we are thinking about, because we have not worked through it yet," he said, acknowledging only that Bud Risser of Risser Oil Corp., who gave generously to the petition drive, is part of the yet-to-be-determined action.

Ford's lawsuit, filed on behalf of herself and those who signed the petition, states that the council's 2010 vote to demolish the inverted pyramid — "the utter and complete destruction of a significant part of the city's waterfront property" — conflicted with an earlier ordinance that called for its restoration.

The suit seeks to get the city to place "mandatory referendum language" on the ballot in the next general election or at a special election. The city's charter, it notes, states that "no waterfront or park property owned by the city may be sold, donated or leased without specific authorization by a majority vote in a citywide referendum."

City Attorney John Wolfe had advised the council that there was no legal obligation to hold a referendum based on the petitions. The city's charter, he said, addresses petitions only for a proposed ordinance or repeal of an ordinance, whereas state law refers to petitions only in relation to changing a charter.

Ford's complaint takes a different stance. It states that petitioners could not use the referendum process under the city's charter because the ordinance they would have proposed — restoration of the Pier — was already in place at the time the council passed a resolution to demolish the structure in 2010. "Petitioners acted in good faith," the suit says.

Despite 15,652 certified petitions and thousands more, council members voted 6-2 against a referendum.

Council member Jeff Danner said he and his colleagues "really weighed all the input from all the citizens, and that's why we voted the way we did."

"This was one group, and there wasn't even a clear consensus among the group about what they wanted," he said. "I am confident the council made the right decision."

After reading the complaint, council member Charlie Gerdes, a lawyer, said he has confidence in the city's legal position.

"I admire very much Kathleen's passion and commitment to the city she loves,'' he said. "I just think, legally, that the city did everything correctly."

Council member Steve Kornell is content to let the legal action take its course. "Hopefully, when the judge makes a ruling, people will come together and move on together."

Mayor Bill Foster could not be reached for comment.

The city, meanwhile, has signed a contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture, a Los Angeles firm, to design the inverted pyramid's replacement.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.

Former St. Petersburg council member Kathleen Ford backs group fighting to save the Pier 08/23/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa man arrested for killing man in his USF-area home


    TAMPA — A Tampa man was arrested Monday in the death of man found killed at a home in the University of South Florida area last week, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

    Kadeem Dareem Archibald, 26, was arrested Monday on a  second degree murder charge in the University Area killing of Khando Kerr. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence


    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  3. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  4. Romano: Time is up chief, make a call on police body cameras


    Excuse me chief, but it's time to take a stand.

    St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway
  5. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.