Wednesday, April 18, 2018
News Roundup

Voters won't have a say on fate of Pier, St. Petersburg leaders decide

ST. PETERSBURG — Voters will not have a chance to save St. Petersburg's Pier.

There will be no question on the Nov. 6 ballot about whether the city should keep its iconic inverted pyramid. Nothing about whether to replace it with the winning design from an international competition. And no suggestion that the city simply start from scratch, again.

In a 6-2 vote Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council decided not to hold a public vote on the Pier after listening to pleas from both sides. It had been something of a cliffhanger as council members vacillated over the issue in recent weeks, eventually deciding to put it to a vote and then getting mired in what the ballot question — or questions — should be.

Council members Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse were the only ones who wanted residents to weigh in on whether to save the ailing Pier.

Before Thursday's meeting, Charlie Gerdes, Steve Kornell and Bill Dudley also supported the referendum while Jeff Danner, Leslie Curran and Jim Kennedy wanted to move forward with the new Lens design.

A petition drive launched almost two years ago was the catalyst for the proposed referendum. Voteonthepier.com amassed more than 20,000 signatures from people seeking to save the city's 1973 Pier. City Attorney John Wolfe repeatedly said that the city had no legal obligation to create a referendum based on the petitions.

On Thursday, Kornell was the first to indicate he was switching sides.

"There has to be some clarity," he said. "You can't keep discussing things over and over . . . a referendum is not going to bring any clarity. I've listened, I've thought about it carefully. I cannot support a referendum."

Dudley said he hardly slept the night before, just like nights before he would coach a big game. Ultimately, he too decided not to support a public vote.

"I am very eager to move on, to move forward," he said. "I know people don't like change. . . . People didn't like computers. They didn't like cell phones."

Newton, who aggressively campaigned for a vote, was visibly upset.

"In 16 months, the mayor and half of the council will be up for a vote," he said, reassuring those who fought for a referendum that ultimately they will be heard.

In 2014, Mayor Bill Foster, Kennedy and Nurse will be up for re-election. Danner and Curran's terms also expire in 2014, but they won't be eligible to run again because of term limits.

Tom Lambdon, the Safety Harbor man who led the petition drive, did not return calls for comment Thursday.

This response was posted Thursday on the group's Facebook page: "The political process in St. Petersburg has been BROKEN .... NEVER, in my life, have I seen such disdain for the will of the people that elected these to office. It's a sad day for democracy in St. Petersburg."

Many hours and thousands of dollars went into the referendum effort.

Bud Risser of Risser Oil Corp., who does not want the city to borrow money for the $50 million Pier, gave $9,595 to the petition drive.

In the days leading up to Thursday's meeting, Risser sent out an email blast to rally support.

"I can tell you that most of our Council members are terribly conflicted," he wrote. "We risk that they may decide Thursday that they can change our waterfront without a referendum, and commit us and our children to an $80 million bond issue to build something three-quarters of us don't want."

Thursday afternoon, he pledged to continue the fight.

"My mission has been and continues to be to stop the Lens and find a solution that has broad community support," he said.

Thursday's public hearing drew St. Petersburg natives and business people, young professionals and retirees, environmentalists and local politicos.

Hal Freedman, a downtown resident, sees the Pier every day. He urged the council Thursday to move forward with plans for a new one.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there," he said. "It's easy to sign a petition if you have no idea what it's going to cost you."

Before the council's vote, Foster maintained his position that the successful petition drive should be rewarded. "I think that this group earned something on the ballot," he said.

Even as the controversy raged, plans for the new Pier designed by Los Angeles-based Michael Maltzan Architecture continued. A city committee has recommended that Skanska USA Building, which has an office in Tampa, manage construction. A contract already has been signed with Maltzan, though exit clauses exist.

In recent days, the Maltzan design team offered the first refinements to the original concept in response to public feedback. Designers also said they will work with experts to come up with a replacement plan for a pristine underwater garden, which marine scientists concluded would be impossible in Tampa Bay's murky waters.

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

Comments
Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

Lightning stands up to Devils, pushes its way to 3-1 series lead

NEWARK, N.J. — Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Taking Care of Business shook the walls of the Lightning locker room not long after it dispatched the Devils in Wednesday's Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.The 3-1 win was sparked by Nikita K...
Updated: 2 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 18

Wednesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 2, Boca Ciega 1Springstead 10, Nature Coast 4
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Lightning-Devils: How Tampa Bay worked its way to a 3-1 series lead

Times columnist Tom Jones gives his thoughts while watching the broadcast of Game 4 of the series between the Lightning and Devils:Hard work beats everythingWe watch the Lightning all season long and marvel at its skill. Nikita Kucherov, Steven ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

Political skirmish erupts over plan to revamp Hillsborough commission

TAMPA — A political fight over the makeup of Hillsborough County government could be heading to voters to decide.After a discussion divided along party lines, commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to move ahead with a plan to overhaul the structure of th...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

Largo police release video as State Attorney clears officer in shooting

LARGO — The Pasco-Pinellas state attorney cleared a Largo police officer who fatally shot a 30-year-old man last month.The letter from State Attorney Bernie McCabe said Officer Matthew Steiner was "in imminent fear for his life" during the March 23 e...
Updated: 4 hours ago
2 men spread affirmations in New Hampshire; bipartisan bill calls for VA to study pot; 3 men convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees; more in U.S. news

2 men spread affirmations in New Hampshire; bipartisan bill calls for VA to study pot; 3 men convicted in plot to bomb Somali refugees; more in U.S. news

New HampshireWe need more of these signsTwo men are trying to spread some positivity with their feel-good signs. NH1 reported Greg Amaral and Wendell Walker have stood in downtown Nashua with signs carrying positive messages each weekend since Easter...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. aren’t available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., April 18, midday:15 112 6177e_SRit28928Wed., April 18, evening:11 318 7120e_SRit93676LottoWed., April 18:...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Diamond shines light on ‘lost planet,’ says study; Merkel condemns attack on 2 men in Jewish skullcaps in Berlin; more in world news

Diamond shines light on ‘lost planet,’ says study; Merkel condemns attack on 2 men in Jewish skullcaps in Berlin; more in world news

WorldDiamond sheds light on ‘lost planet’Fragments of a meteorite that fell to Earth about a decade ago provide compelling evidence of a lost planet that once roamed our solar system, according to a study published Tuesday. Researchers from Switzerla...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Anonymous Rays rally to beat Rangers 4-2, win series

Anonymous Rays rally to beat Rangers 4-2, win series

ST. PETERSBURG — Even before they lost several of the hitters they were relying most on to injuries, the Rays did not exactly have a lineup built on intimidation.Their own owner said opening day that he expected them to rank among the least pro...
Updated: 6 hours ago