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The Pier, The LENS, The People

What will Bill Foster do about the Pier vote?

It looks like the stage is being set for major confrontation on the Pier. If Vote On The Pier has enough verified petitions then what?

The safest approach for the Mayor would be to ask the Legal department to quickly draft an ordinance with ballot language and present it to City Council. If they vote it up the Mayor wins big time, if they vote it down the Mayor can just shrug his shoulders and blame it all on the City Council. 

The key lies in how the ordinance, should we get to that point, is drafted and what the proposed ballot language is. Since the City attorney has already indicated he does not feel the petition drive is legally binding, he may not feel compelled to structure the proposed ballot language directly in line with the petition language. Then again he may.

If the language closely parallels the save the Pier petition, it gets voted down by City Council and the City is stuck with the LENS.

If the language is more along the lines "do you want to continue with the LENS or start over", then it will be a close vote with Nurse or Gerdes being the swing vote.

Will the Mayor give Legal any "direction" regarding the ballot language? Other than asking them to make it clear and legal, and adding in some sort of reasonable financial cap so the City doesn't get trapped into a voter mandate with no financial limit, probably not. 

There will be the threat of lost sunk money  and maybe even a thinly veiled threat of legal action from the current contractor.

Staff will go on and on about the Pier Visioning, the meetings ad-nausea while carefully avoiding talking about how they controlled citizen input.

All red herrings, but none the less effective.

All of this will get really confusing. if the Ordinance makes it to City Council.

Look for some double-entendre motions (those where when you vote yes, you are really voting no, or vice versa). Great whining and bleating from the arts segment on Council: Curran, Danner with some convoluted support from Kennedy.

Resolve from Nurse, firmness from Kornell and Newton and a worried and stressed Charlie Gerdes. Gerdes has done a great job so far, but if he bobbles this one it could be the end of what is turning out to be a great political career.

It will be great theater if it actually plays out.

Remember this, the Mayor can receive the petitions, have them verified and "take the whole thing under consideration" for future action since there is just not enough time to get the issue on the November ballot.

If that happens. Game over. LENS on.

email doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net or send me a Facebook Friend request.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

CJ July 09, 2012 at 08:39 PM
NAW...oops...I put this reply to you in the wrong place before: N.A.W. That was a very interesting and fine comment. I realize my suggestions are something that will never happen, but you caught and helped make my point...that thinking outside the box could help on this topic. I am not sure the city officials who are in on this can do that...they are in thier own little world..and it is definitly ''in a box'' they can't seem to get out of.
Bill H. July 10, 2012 at 12:55 AM
CJ, Let me put it this way, we have 50 million. It will cost, at least 50 million to demolish the pier and build the Lens. It will cost, at least 50 million to renovate the current pier. 50 plus 50 is 100, right? Agian, we have only 50 million, so how do we do both??? Maybe you can paint a picture in your imagination that has both, but it is not based in reality. I am for a vote. I believe the vote would be to save the current pier, If there are only two options. If more than that, I don't know that anything gets over 50%. I also don't mind the subsidy. Some things need to be and I understand the money multiplier. I also wouldn't be opposed to selling the pier to a private investor.
Joshua Streeter July 10, 2012 at 07:02 AM
There have been votes by elected officials. That IS how democracy in this country works; it's a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. If you'd like to see how nothing gets done in a more direct democracy, study California's ballot initiatives.
N.A.W. July 10, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Our representatives should know better than to vote on huge waterfront expenditures without the support of the people backing them up. The waterfront is sacrosanct. If you know anything about this city, and it's history, the founding fathers of St.Pete deemed the waterfront the people's waterfront, and they deemed it should always remain so. There have been multiple attempts over the years, with different administrations, to "knock the door down" to developing the waterfront. That's why this is such an issue. The city had to have a referendum just to spruce the pier up back in the 80's, yet needs no referendum to demolish it, and severely affect the waterfront? The Pier is a municipal pier, with a subsidy paid for by the taxpayers, and taxpayers should have a vote on this important, historic, iconic, stand alone feat of engineering. No representative voted in by the people, should ignore the very people that voted them into office. If the petition campaign only collected 5,000 signatures, well, then you would wisely come to the conclusion that it wasn't very successful, however, that isn't the case. About 75% of the petitions were collected by volunteers citizens, handed in two at a time, 6 at a time, 20 at a time. A non funded(until the last week or so) campaign. That speaks volumes...anyone with money can pay to have signatures collected, but for it to come freely for the most part, represents a true consensus from the population.
Joshua Streeter July 10, 2012 at 01:32 PM
So tell me how this plays out, and the costs/timeline involved.
N.A.W. July 10, 2012 at 02:20 PM
If I had a crystal ball, I would be glad to oblige an answer to your question Joshua.
N.A.W. July 11, 2012 at 11:49 AM
I have decided to become a total political robot yes man. No matter what the "leaders" decide, I will never have an issue with it because we live in a representative democracy. Whatever decision the "leaders" make, I am good with. My brain has now been programmed to accept with joy, and decision they make. No, I will never use my brain again. I am turning it off, and letting them do the thinking for me, because, after all, once one is elected into office, a transformation occurs, rendering the once citizen into an omnipotent, all knowing force of nature... infallible, inscrutable. Citizens should never have any say in what our esteemed elected officials say or do while in office, how dare the people even think for one second that they know better, after all, they are simply the droning masses. I am happy, once the citizen has been elected, to follow every direction or order they hand out, never once analyzing it in any fashion. If I ever get it into my stupid drone brain that they are doing something they shouldn't, or making a huge mistake in policy, I will keep my mouth shut and let it continue, for my only recourse is to vote them out, and vote someone in that will not make mistakes. So I wait four years, keeping my mouth shut, and then somehow,all by myself, I will vote that new person into office and then turn my brain off again as they make all the decisions for my life for me. Again,if they ever make mistakes,or use bad judgement,I only have 4 yrs to keep my brain off.
CJ July 11, 2012 at 12:52 PM
...uh...sounds good..just don't call me Surely...but if you are going to do all that, you better learn to keep your shoes tied...ha ha...made you look...
N.A.W. July 11, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Losing money? How is that? The Pier was never intended to make money, it is a municipal people's pier, an attraction designed to bring tourists into, and through the city, which it does. Someone recently tried to buy the pier for 30 million, and it was rejected. It was good that it was rejected, because a private enterprise should never own what has always belonged to the people. The subsidy people carp on and on about amounts to a little over 6 bucs a year, and that's with it inflated as much as the city can manage without being overly obvious, like the 25 year roofs they just installed on the two outbuildings that are supposed to be demolished in a year. The taxpayers "throw money" into The Pier because of the return to the region. The same as the coliseum, or sunken gardens, or Mahaffey, the Dali, all assets. Why not demolish the coliseum? When was the last time you went to the coliseum? And it is much older than the inverted pyramid. Corroborating data? It's simple. You have a 20k single bedroom house. It's worth 20k instead of 40k, because it is a fixer upper. You put 20k into the house, making it all new. Then you have a house worth 40k or more. You put 150k into the house, and wow! Amazing. You now have a 4 bedroom, 2 story house worth 170k. Added value. Say you have that same 20k to spend. You have your same house worth 20k, and you demolish it, costing say 5k, leaving you 15k to build a new house. Then you are stuck with a 15k house. Take what you have and use it.
N.A.W. July 11, 2012 at 01:00 PM
*6 bucs per resident of st.pete, per year
CJ July 11, 2012 at 01:11 PM
You need to go read the Dick and Jane books a little slower, because ''your'' 1 plus 1, is not the same most people use. You missed the point about how I was saying, like so many others have...that The Pier does not need near as much sprucing up as City officials want everyone to see. Frankly, even 1 million dollars ought do do a lot of what it needs. It ''is still'' a ''very nice and fun'' attraction ''just the way is sits right now''. Do you ever go down to it?!?? The place is awesome when you are on it...and it is awesome when you view it from a distance!! Excuse my, though...because I just happen to love my new home hwere. Sure..millions ''could'' be spent on it...but as a newcomer to this city...I don't see it needing hardly anything at all. Getting rid of ''The Pier'' would be like New York City demolishing the Statue of Liberty...and then replacing it with a big fancy dock..which all ''The Lens'' project is. It is one big fancy dock. I happen to own a dock, so I know. On a positive note, it could then be used to make a huge over-the-water Hooters....and that is about all it would be good for. Seriously, how does going out on something called ''The Lens'' make you feel in the hot sun we have around here? If makes me think of a 5 year old with a magnifying glass in his hands and some ants to mess with.
CJ July 11, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Yes...just to clarify...I am for saving the current Pier. Any lavish project, such as The Lens, should be tabled for a while until the economy is in a more solid positive direction. When that time comes, any new project that is considered should be a stand alone project that does not depend on the present Pier being destroyed. All projects done in the downtown area should be done to enhance all the ''existing'' venues already down there. ''Add'' things...but don't take away things that are already in place...especially something that is such a city landmark as The Pier is. For now, the city should just do some modest repair work on ''The Pier''. The city needs to continue and build on the present ongoing feeling of safety in the area...and maitain it at this level and above. Never let is go back to where people are afraid to come down there. If they can't do that, then nothing else matters. The present views of the improvement in the Baywalk thing is encouraging. I would like to suggest more lighting in the park areas and all the dark areas in general. Brighten it up down there at night! That single improvement would greatly further improve the ''perception'' of safety...and even go beyond that..it would actually truly be real. Crime does not like light. yeah...the lights may detroy the ''ambience'' down there...but something has to give somewhere...and lights would only make more things still be fun to do once it gets dark.
Joshua Streeter July 11, 2012 at 01:49 PM
N.A.W. You provide no data on the cost of restarting this project, but you did provide take up a lot of space with a rant. Cute. You're the reason why I would trust those in office vs. the general public with this decision.
CJ July 11, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Joshua, you must make so much money that taxes and money spent are non issues with you. You should move to Dubia, where they spent money like water. I don't fault your successs...and ''good for you''. If I had a lot of money, I would probably think just like you...afterall...any taxes, etc, that spur from this or any project are just petty expenses for you. Nothing wrong with that. I think an important point here is that even though succesful people may not be effected one way or another by much of ''anything''...becasue they are so secure finacially and nothing is going to tip that boat....others don't have it that easy. With all the news stories about the terrible financial conditions of many American ciies ..and how these cities are bankrupt....it is not prudent or wise of The City of St Petersburg to pursue this project right now. A lot of people's jobs depend on our city not going bankrupt. Our city is holding it's head above water, so lets not destroy our cushion with a controversial project like ''The Lens''. Let's wait until city finances remain stable for a longer period of time. Then...let the city official play with the money, as you suggest, and build more toys. NAW (forget those annoying periods) has made excellent points.
Bill H. July 11, 2012 at 04:51 PM
CJ, you can't just do modest repairs on the pier. It's almost all or nothing. Do a little studying please. The pilings that are holding it up are crumbling. The entire approach needs to be rebuilt so cars and trucks can safely go out there. The $50 million is there. You can't stop building until the economy comes around , because that is exactly what spurs it on. They did add lights to the trees and it does help.
Bill H. July 11, 2012 at 04:52 PM
CJ, The city won't go broke unless the whole country collapses. They have to submit a balanced budget each year. That keeps them from going to far a field.
N.A.W. July 11, 2012 at 05:05 PM
And what makes you think I have the data to give to you? I would think you would have better luck first asking a city official these questions. I'm glad you thought my rant was cute, it was to the point I think. What makes someone in office more qualified than anyone else? Because they got elected? They were citizens once don't forget.
N.A.W. July 11, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Why do people ignore that fact that the 2005 agreement put together by Rick Baker for the 50 million in TIF financing was for REFURBISHMENT? Why do people act like this funding was for any pier idea? Most people don't even know that there isn't 50 mil in a vault somewhere, that the money doesn't exist, much less knowing what it was originally intended for. Why would the ex mayor set up a refurbishment agreement in 2005? Is it because he knows full well it can be refurbished for that amount, and that's why it's 50 million in the first place, and not 100 million, as would be needed for demolition and building new? Why go for years letting people believe it will be refurbished, only to flip at the last second? Mayor Foster has said on camera that the money "set aside"(as he says), was for "A" pier, and not "this" pier? The agreement clearly states that 4.3 million dollars would be used to "refurbish the inverted pyramid". How does one infer that the agreement is for "A" pier? Some fancy legal speak is what it looks like to me. Confuse the public and they won't know which way is up, while you continue to "move forward" to a point where it becomes very difficult to untangle. Not a new, or unknown practice in politics. I have been following this fiasco from the start and I am amazed at the kabuki theater. These guys made a costly mistake by disregarding the public on this very important asset. Ignoring a large portion of the registered voters in this city is not a wise move.
CJ July 11, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I agree that our city seems relatively stable compared to many cities, but you are exageratting how well things are going in St Petersburg. I am just saying that ''now'' seems like a bad time to be doing a venture like this...but I can see that things are looking encouraging also. it's a hard call, but it is obvious many citizens are leery of proceeding..especially at the consequence of losing The Pier. This problem would be so much easier if the city would back off getting rid of the inverted pyramid. It is funny how you ealier were so vehement about how there is no money to do both projects, but now you brag about how well the finances are for the city. You are just arguing for the sake of arguing and it appears as if few people here stand by you and your opinions on this matter. You are all over the place, and not listening to anything anyone else is trying to tell you. It sure sounds like you are one of the city officials directly behind and in support of this project...but are here to simply play both sides towards the middle.
Bill H. July 11, 2012 at 08:56 PM
CJ, You write:''now'' seems like a bad time to be doing a venture like this...but I can see that things are looking encouraging also." So who is all over the place??? There is 50 million set aside for this. That is all they are willing to spend. There is not enough for both whether the city is strong or weak. Can't you see that? It is you seems not to do any research or to listen to those who have. I am hardly in the city's pocket. I signed the petition and wish for a vote as i believe we should refurbish what is there. If not, i don't want the lens.
N.A.W. July 11, 2012 at 09:21 PM
I agree with you Bill, I also signed the petition, and also favor a refurbishment option. However, I would like to correct one point you wrote, that "There is 50 million set aside for this." I wish that were true, unfortunately the 50 million is a bond issue, with interest. The 50 million is not set aside, it is basically a loan to be paid back over 25 years. By that time it would be about 80 million paid back. If only there was 50 million in a vault somewhere, at least we wouldn't have to pay interest on it. And if that 80 million only gets us the walkway to nowhere, with nothing to do, closed most of the rainy summer afternoons, what a travesty it would be, and is, should it be forced on St.Pete.
Bill H. July 12, 2012 at 12:40 AM
N.A.W. "n 2005, the City Council and County Commission agreed that $50 million in TIF funding would be used to build the new Pier, which sits in a TIF district running roughly from Fifth Avenue N to Fifth Avenue S and from the water to 16th Street. Almost $69 million in TIF funding is available for capital improvements in the area. Besides the Pier, $14 million has been designated for construction of a garage and transportation hub and $2.5 million for waterfront park improvements." In 2009. the City and County have identified Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds for the future renovation or replacement of the Pier. The amount of TIF funding earmarked for the Pier project was $50M. Of that amount, $5M is now available for the design phase of the project, including funds to support the visioning phase of the project. The remaining $45M will be available in 2012 for the construction phase of the project. I thought/believe the money has been collecting since then to be used now.
N.A.W. July 12, 2012 at 12:18 PM
The remaining 45 will be a bond with interest. I am definitely not a financial expert, or politician, but I have seen the 2005 agreement that states "4.3 million to refurbish the inverted pyramid", it was not to build a new pier. I'm not sure what kind of political maneuvering was done since then to set the stage for changing the use of the funding. I do know that the agreement also stated that any changes to the agreement had to go to the county commissioners for approval, in conjunction with a county wide public hearing. Changing the agreement from refurbishing to demolishing is quite a change, and I think foster quietly got permission from the commissioners, and held a public hearing to satisfy the stipulations in the agreement, but I'm not positive. Do you know that The Pier had record sales in all of its history in 2005? People think it's dying, but that is simply the perception the city, and the St.Pete times would like you to have. 65 million people have been through the doors of The Pier since 1973....and those visitors left money behind in St.Pete one way or another. I speak to people from all around the world that are amazed our city wants to get rid of it. Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, England, Russia, Colombia, Ukraine, Poland, Korea, China, Japan, Greece, Spain...these are just a few of the international visitors I see regularly, and all come from places with amazing architecture, but nothing like The Pier. Let's help people to stop taking it for granted. :-)
CJ July 13, 2012 at 04:25 AM
Frankly, Bill, it does not seem like you read anything that anyone else writes here. Of all the people here to try and engae in a civil disussion with here, you seem about the hardest one to make any sense with. I ''see'' just fine, but you need to read more of what people are saying here. You simply don't ''get'' the main thing that has people riled up on this topic. It's not so much the ''money'' with most of us...it's the elimination of The Pier. People don't want to see it go..and that is a very valid wish. It really pains me to visualize it being gone. Why even bother getting deep with you on this..you are not listening. Now days, in any big city...if a large project get approved...mpost people know the cost will probalby de double what they say...or more. Shut up about the 50 million already. You sound like you are in a loop.
S. Ripley July 13, 2012 at 12:58 PM
If only people got so interested, vocal, and involved about this 7 years ago- when it would have made a difference. Let this be lesson to all of us- if you wake up in the final quarter of the game, your chances of wining are extremely poor.
N.A.W. July 13, 2012 at 05:16 PM
S.Ripley the decision to demolish The Pier was only made in August of 2010, so how could people have acted any sooner than that? The option to refurbish was promised to be a part of the process all the way through, and it was not. Ed Montinari was quoted as saying a refurb option would always be an option. Let this be a lesson to all of us- if you stand up when you see something wrong in official policy, immediately stand up and do something about it. That's why the petition drive started, the decision to demolish The Pier was made without the consent of the voting, tax paying residents of St.Pete. Part of the lack of interest you speak of is a direct result of city planning. Do you seriously think they want the p[ublic involved in decisions they make? The demolition of The Pier was a forgone conclusion long ago in some people's minds. The backlash they are receiving is a direct result of going at this the completely wrong way. Ask the residents FIRST, then make a decision based on that. Do you want to refurbish what we have, or demolish and start new(lens)? Do you want to demolish and have nothing? These questions were never asked, and all of the recommendations of the Pier Advisory task force?All those years of meetings?The city totally disregarded their findings. Yes this has been a waste of money, close to 2 mil so far, and it is councils fault for not going about this the right way from the start.Lesson learned-always ask the public on giant, regional life changing ideas
S. Ripley July 13, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Perhaps the formal decision was made in 2010, but the wheels where set in motion long before then. As soon as large chunks of money are involved, screwy things start happening. Local politics rarely attract society’s best & brightest, but once those folks get into office, they figure pretty quickly how to get what they want. It takes a very keen eye foresee potential problems before they become obvious- and this is a great example. I recall when pier redevelpment got some coverage back in 2005- a real estate developer acquaintance of mine remarked “this will get awfully ugly before it gets done”.
HANI F MATTA July 16, 2012 at 01:26 AM
first principle in architecture is " form follows function "......the lens has no function , just a lifeless form ...it is therefore a sculpture, a long track for the daring athletes who will dare to walk, run and sweat exposed to our hot , humid and stormy weather. what people need is functions that bring life to a climate controlled building.........we need restaurants , food, drinks, beer, cafes, shopping ....etc. same as in the existing pier. so stop. cut our losses and go back to serious programming effort based on residents desires and input once we have a mature program , advertise for an open competition to remodel/expand the existing building or to build a new facility, whichever will satisfy our approved program an open competition will bring the talents of many florida and national architects so we can have on hand tens of ideas to chose from........only then we will be certain we made the right and wisest choice otherwise we will end up with this dead elephant they call the lens , a $ 70000000 useless sculpture that we will visit probably twice in a life time Hani f Matta architect elmasry73@aol.com
CJ July 16, 2012 at 01:49 AM
The more I read on this, the more it seems clear that obviously the main reason people have against demolishing The Pier is the destruction of the beloved Inverted Pyramid design. It is what put The Pier on the map. Every travel/tourist book, etc, written on St Petersrburg since 1972 features The Pier and it's Inverted Pyramid. Why have I not read much about simply building a new, improved , more awesome version of the same thing? Isn't this a no brainer idea? I don't get it..why don't the city people see that ''if'' they are going to do this big expense...then the way to win the hearts over of vitually everyone..is to simply do a ''better'' one. This would take care of most arguments from practically every opposing party here. It would appease those who think the old one is structurally falling apart. It addresses the people who want something new and excitingly different, but the same. And... it pleases those who absolutely don't want the REALLY COOL Inverted Pyramid gone forever. I have sort of changed direction on my thoughts on this...but I think this idea is one that would satisfy more people. Then all that is left is the other issue. The money.
Bill H. July 23, 2012 at 07:26 PM
N.A.W., you are right. Only 4 or 5 million is ready now. The rest must be borrowed, so the bill goes up either way. Still favor refurbishing if it can be done, compared to doing the Lens.

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