Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg leaders buy another two weeks to decide on Pier

ST. PETERSBURG — After procrastinating Thursday, City Council members have two weeks to make up their minds about what to do about the proposed $50 million replacement for the city's Pier.

The 5-3 decision to postpone a decision on whether to spend another $1.5 million and move on to the next phase came amid confusion and maneuvering over legalities and time constraints involved in scheduling an almost certain referendum about the project.

The delay is a victory for Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, a group that is opposed to the project known as the Lens and that says it has enough petitions to force a referendum to halt the project.

Bud Risser, a prominent St. Petersburg resident and leader of the group, lobbied council members this week to dissuade them from spending additional money before a public vote.

Risser said he didn't want to take credit for Thursday's developments.

Still, perhaps he had persuaded the council to consider the Lens "carefully and thoroughly," he said.

Hal Freedman, a Realtor and financial services consultant who wore a turquoise "Make Lens not War" T-shirt symbolizing the pro-Lens group WOW Our Waterfront St. Pete, was disappointed.

"I think we'll win the vote," he said of a referendum.

Despite Thursday's action, Mayor Bill Foster remained optimistic.

"I currently believe we're moving forward," he said, adding that he will make sure council members get the information they want before they meet in two weeks.

By then, he expects Concerned Citizens to have deposited its signatures with the city clerk.

"The signatures need to be turned in,'' he said. "That removes any uncertainty"

But Risser said his group will not turn in the petitions until the end of the month. Concerned Citizens wants to make sure the Pier vote coincides with the Aug. 27 mayoral and council primary, he said, because the group wants to spare the city the $250,000 it would cost for a special mail-in ballot election.

"I think spending $250,000 for a mail-in ballot is a bad use of money," Foster agreed.

Turning in the petitions would start a clock that would require an election no more than 90 days after they have been verified by the city clerk, city attorney John Wolfe said.

An email from Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark to Foster warns of a complicated situation.

"There are very real concerns about scheduling a special referendum election prior to your primary election if it results in overlapping time lines," she wrote.

"The most important concern is the confusion it could create for your voters," she said.

Mail-in ballot elections also require voters to take extra steps, Clark said, adding that her office would work with the city if it decided to move in that direction.

The discussion apparently began in early April, when city clerk Eva Andujar called the supervisor's office to say that the council might want to schedule a mail-in election. The deadline for providing the final ballot language for the primary is June 28.

Council member Jim Kennedy made the motion Thursday to postpone the Pier vote. He said it was based on receiving the latest report about the project, all 400 pages, too late to ask staff questions about maintenance of the Lens' iconic canopy.

Other council members also wanted additional information.

Council members Leslie Curran, Jeff Danner and Wengay Newton voted against the delay.

Danner and Curran said they did not understand how a delay and more information will move the project forward. Newton, a staunch opponent of the Lens, wanted the council members to decide Thursday.

The council's decision was preceded by speakers for and against the project. Howard Taylor, who recently moved to St. Petersburg, arrived with a PowerPoint presentation to convince the council the Lens is unworkable and even unsafe.

Anthony Sullivan, founder of WOW Our Waterfront St. Pete and a TV pitchman, made a video appearance.

If the council decides to go forward two week from now, it will have another decision to make in August or September, when another $1.5 million to $1.6 million will be due.

In the meantime, Michael Maltzan Architecture, the designer of the Lens, has pledged to continue its work.

"Regardless of the decisions pending, we will continue to move forward through the summer," the design team wrote in a letter to Foster and council members on Wednesday.

Wolfe, the city attorney, urged caution.

"We need to make clear" that what they do is "at their risk, not ours," he said.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente..

     
Comments

Leonard Pitts Jr.: One year later.

And here we are, one year later.If you are groping for markers by which to measure how profoundly we have been changed since Inauguration Day, here’s one you might want to consider:In January of 1998, reports surfaced of a sexual affair between Presi...
Published: 01/21/18
Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning said all the right things about needing to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching during its recent funk. Veterans said they had to lead the way. Coach Jon Cooper believed this eight-game trip would "show us wha...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jalen Hudson came off the bench to score 17, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64 Saturday night. "We were able to win it jus...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week to install a playbook, offenses can have it tough in college showcase games.And for 58 minutes on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, the teams combined for just one offensive touchdown.But...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

For years, Edward Peachey has bragged about the number of jobless people he has helped find work.As president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, he’s in charge of the two main government agencies that provide training to the...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost th...
Updated: 12 hours ago
More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

Florida’s dip into frigid temperatures did more than just stun humans unused to such cold air. This month scientists and volunteers have rescued more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles from a single bay in the Florida Panhandle.The U.S. Geological S...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

TAMPA — Many times during Sinfonietta, Leoš Janácek’s notoriously difficult but joyous work, it was impossible for a regular patron of the Florida Orchestra to escape this observation: They have never sounded quite like this.This isn’t to say musicia...
Published: 01/20/18
The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The early days of the federal government shutdown won’t slow the U.S. economy much. No workers are missing paychecks yet, and because it is a weekend, few businesses expect to feel the effects of lost customers or suppliers.That could change, quickly...
Published: 01/20/18