Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

If Lens goes away, opinions vary on what's next

ST. PETERSBURG — With a referendum aimed at canceling the contract between the city and Lens designer Michael Maltzan Architecture in little doubt, City Council members are being asked to add ballot language of their own to the citizen-instigated public vote.

A scheduled Thursday discussion could be prolonged and circuitous, starting with Mayor Bill Foster's trio of suggestions to gauge the desires of residents about the next phase of the city's 114-year Pier tradition, if voters make it clear they don't want the Lens.

At least one council member is not in favor of adding questions to the Aug. 27 ballot, which centers on an ordinance proposed by Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg that would terminate the contract with Maltzan. The group collected more than 20,000 signatures, currently being validated by the city clerk.

As proposed in a memo from City Attorney John Wolfe, voters would be asked nonbinding straw vote questions concerning whether they want to build a publicly funded municipal pier; have it built and operated by a private company with a 99-year lease; or whether they would prefer a flat, wooden fishing pier with basic amenities.

"I don't see the need for any more questions," council member Jeff Danner said.

"Nowhere did I see strong support for a wooden Pier. Why would you ask that question? I don't see those questions as solving anything. . . . You are never going to reach a consensus of design by referendum."

Council member Bill Dudley agreed.

"We are never, never, ever going to get a large plurality of people that will be in favor of something," he said. "They didn't like the inverted pyramid either when it was put in."

Council chair Karl Nurse said the questions could be better worded.

"I think the idea of something that says effectively, if we are not going to build the Lens, then give us an idea of what you want us to do going forward would be a good idea."

"I think the privatizing thing is such a horrible idea," he said, adding that he would oppose such a question.

"I would be happy to have a question saying essentially, would you like one of the options that the Pier task force recommended? There were four different designs that the Pier task force came up with," he said, expressing a preference for option four.

That option suggested a new building in the upland and a new, narrower pedestrian Pier structure.

Bud Risser, a leader of Concerned Citizens, is not impressed with the mayor's questions.

"If the mayor wanted to have a vote on the Pier replacement, the time to do that was last summer," he said, referring to an earlier petition from the group Voteonthepier.com.

"When you look at his proposals, it's clear that he really isn't asking for what the people want. He has trivialized the process by the choices he's offering. If he really wanted to know, he would have included several obvious alternatives," Risser said.

Anthony Sullivan, founder of WOW Our Waterfront St. Pete, which backs the Lens, said he thinks the mayor "is insuring himself" in case the Lens is rejected.

"I think the sad part is that the Stop the Lens people have offered no alternative, so right now, waiting for them, there is no Pier at all," he said. "Maybe it has to be handed over to the private sector, or we have the option of a wooden Pier, which will send the wrong message. I think St. Petersburg needs an iconic Pier and the Lens passes the test."

Danner said he believes the Lens has a good chance of winning.

"I think people like what it offers," he said.

Both Danner and Nurse said the city has not done enough to explain the proposed Pier design, which was chosen through an international competition.

"I think that to our detriment, the city did a horrible job of promoting it once it was picked,'' Danner said. "We have to keep explaining it to people."

"The continuing evolution of the project has been confusing to the public, even though in many respects it was to try to stay within budget and respond to what the public wants," Nurse said.

Dudley said he is frustrated. The process of what to do with the Pier has been ongoing for years, he said, and dozens of public meetings were held.

"I know where the mayor is coming from," Dudley said. "I know people are saying that the questions are lame. Has anybody else offered anything? Right now, these are three ideas. I think the three questions have got some legitimacy to them. The wooden pier, there are people who have actually said that."

Following its discussion Thursday, the council will vote on the ballot questions at its June 6 meeting.

Wolfe said the language for the Aug. 27 ballot must be submitted to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections by June 28.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.

Comments
Stock up for hurricanes, Buckhorn warns, or ‘we may be coming for you in a body bag’

Stock up for hurricanes, Buckhorn warns, or ‘we may be coming for you in a body bag’

TAMPA — Stuff that hurricane kit full of batteries, pen that emergency plan and get as many gallons of water stored in that garage while the skies are blue and clouds are fluffy white. That was the message Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other city off...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Bucs bring back Lakewood’s Bernard Reedy to compete for WR/KR job

Lakewood grad Bernard Reedy, who handled the Bucs' kickoff and punt returns for much of last season, is back with Tampa Bay again.Reedy, 26, was signed on Wednesday, one day after the Bucs began OTA workouts. Thomas Sperbeck, the former Boise State r...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

John Fogerty, coming to Clearwater, isn’t backing down on protest songs, Parkland and #MeToo

It’s been 50 years since John Fogerty wrote Fortunate Son, one of the most scathing protest songs from the Vietnam War era. Writing another one with that kind of impact has been a challenge ever since. "Back in the ’80s, I had a couple o...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

Updated: 27 minutes ago
Ex-wife said heart attack, but court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

Ex-wife said heart attack, but court record says Hillsborough developer was strangled in North Carolina home

A prominent Hillsborough County developer who died last month in North Carolina was strangled and police are investigating his death as suspicious, court records show. William "Bill" Bishop died in a hospital three days after his 16-year-old son repo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Archer facing Price

For starters: Rays vs. Red Sox, with Archer facing Price

The Rays are set to take on the Red Sox again tonight with a bit of a student-mentor framing as Chris Archer takes on former Tampa Bay ace David Price.The Rays announced they are putting RHP Jake Faria on the 10-day DL due to the oblique strain he su...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘I didn’t care if they cut my leg off or not’: Kilauea lava bomb survivor describes agony

‘I didn’t care if they cut my leg off or not’: Kilauea lava bomb survivor describes agony

The sheer force of the lava bomb was what Darryl Clinton remembered feeling first, more powerful than any waves he had ever encountered in the ocean surrounding Hawaii.It knocked him backward on the third-floor lanai of his neighbor’s home on the eas...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

Mother fatally struck while pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa

TAMPA— A mother was killed Wednesday when she was struck by a vehicle while pushing a stroller on Bayshore Boulevard, according to the Tampa Police Department.The mother and 2-year-old girl were struck by a northbound car around 11:43 a.m. near W Kni...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State baseball: Carrollwood Day comes up a run short in semifinals

State baseball: Carrollwood Day comes up a run short in semifinals

FORT MYERS — One swing.That's all it took for Carrollwood Day's historic season to come to an end.With two outs and two runners on in the third inning of the Class 3A state semifinal against Tallahassee North Florida Christian, Patriots starter...
Updated: 2 hours ago
No. 2-seeded USF falls to Wichita State in AAC tourney opener

No. 2-seeded USF falls to Wichita State in AAC tourney opener

Second-seeded USF was greeted Wednesday morning at the American Athletic Conference tournament by a bright sky and bracket poised to burst.Yet on a day the Bulls (32-19-1) could've made real noise in this eight-team event, their bats elicited nary a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago