Mayor Bill Foster and the city announced that Vote On The Pier has until June 11 to submit the number of required petitions to force a citywide vote on the Pier's future.
For Vote On The Pier chairman Tom Lambdon, June 11 is just another day.
Friday, Lambdon said his group has collected more than 14,000 petitions but still needs nearly 16,000 petitions to force a vote on the future of the inverted pyramid building.
He believes that the Pier should not be demolished to build the "Lens" unless the public votes to spend $50 million to build it.
“For the Mayor to arbitrarily come up with this deadline is ridiculous,” Lambdon said in an interview with Patch. “It’s clear why he wants to do it. To try and promote an ill-conceived and unsupported “Lens” pier.
"The date of June the 11, 2012, means absolutely nothing to us regarding our citywide petition drive to obtain the remaining required petitions to apparently now force the mayor and council to keep their recent promises made to taxpaying residents and registered voters of the City to allow their voices to be heard through a referendum vote on the pier’s fate," Lambdon added.
The Pier is tentatively set to close on May 31, 2013, with demolition expected to start in August 2013.
Lambdon received a letter from the city, dated May 24, that said petitions must be submitted no later than June 11 in order to ensure a question gets on the ballot on time.
The Supervisor of Elections needs to receive ballot language by Aug. 3 to get it on the Nov. 6 presidential ballot.
"In order to place your question on the ballot, council must conduct first reading and second reading/public hearing on the ordinance. Per the council meeting schedule, first reading of the ordinance would (potentially) occur on July 12 the first meeting in July, with public hearing on July 26."
Foster told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday that, "It's either put up or shut up.''
“While the mayor suggests we have been at this for two years already, that is not true,” Lambdon said in an interview with Patch. “It’s (been) a year and a half. Our signatures do not begin to expire until Nov. 8 of this year.
Lambdon said the deadline is a tactic by Foster to scare off voters from signing the petitions.
"City leaders have said repeatedly a vote on the Pier will not happen unless and until we chase their carrot by going out to get 15,648 audited and certified petitions from 10 percent of registered city voters," Lambdon said. "Now that they fear we are getting very close, Foster apparently believes the simplest thing to do is try to intimidate and stop us from continuing to the finish line. Well, that is not going to happen."
At the May 17 city council meeting, the council voted 7-1 to approve the design contract with Michael Maltzan Architecture to build the “Lens”.
During that meeting, council member Steve Kornell suggested it would be beneficial to Vote On The Pier and the city to set a deadline to receive the petitions.
That way, Kornell said, Vote on the Pier knows it has a certain amount of time to force the city's hand and the Maltzan architecture team knows it has a project. He did not suggest any specific date, however.
The city's contract with Maltzan includes five design phases, including the most crucial phase, phase I, which is also called the basis of design. The goal during phase I is for a refinement of the conceptual design. During that phase, the Maltzan team will have meetings with the public and the council to solicit input.
It is during those meetings where the design will take shape and pubic enthusiasm for the project will increase, according to Council Chair Leslie Curran.
"Once people start understanding what it is and having input, they’ll realize that this is something that is going to be good for the community," Curran said at the May 17 meeting.
Four public meetings have been set in June for the public to give input on the design of the "Lens".
- Thursday, June 7: 6 p.m., Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.
- Tuesday, June 12: 6 p.m., Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S.
- Thursday, June 14: 6 p.m. J.W. Cate Center, 5801 22nd Ave. N.
- Tuesday, June 19: Lake Vista Center, 1401 62nd Ave. S.
City Attorney John Wolfe has said that even if the group gets enough signed petitions, he does not think the way the petition is worded would legally require the city to hold a vote.
"It’s just a petition ... I don’t think it (legally) requires you to do anything," Wolfe said at a February City Council workshop.
Foster, however, said that while there might be no legal requirement, there certainly would be a political requirement.
"We, as elected officials, can’t ignore it," Foster said. "If they are successful, you will have to put that on the ballot."
Lambdon said he and his group would not tire until the petition drive is complete.
"We are focused ... and will not be bullied with inappropriate distractions by any individual city leaders, including the mayor," he said. “He is the one that will need to ultimately answer to his previous supporters for his actions, not us."