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Kathleen Ford Offers Sample Ballot Pier Questions

'The thousands of voters who took the time to sign the petition deserve the exact language they approved of on the ballot.' – Kathleen Ford.

Former City Council Member and Mayoral candidate Kathleen Ford has provided the following sample ballot language to the city's legal department.

Posted here with permission:

City of St. Petersburg Pier Issue

1. The bridge to The Pier in the City of St. Petersburg will be demolished because it is no longer safe for vehicles. The City formed a Pier Task force to consider options and City Council chose an architect and construction manager to build a new pier structure. For an amount not to exceed $50 million for demolition and new construction, please vote yes or no to:

Replace the existing bridge and refurbish the inverted pyramid now known as The
Pier
___yes   ___no

2. Construct a figure eight looping sidewalk with interior boat docks and a crown shaped monument known as The Lens
___yes   ___no

3. Start over and seek a design that is integrated with the Waterfront Master Plan to be developed and which meets the criteria established by the Pier Task Force of a 36,000 square foot building with 26,000 square feet of restaurant space in a creative design

___yes   ___no

4. Demolish the bridge and Pier head and restore the entire area to waterfront passive park

 ___yes  ___no  

5. Demolish the bridge and Pier head and restore the entire area to waterfront active park

___yes   ___no

6. The City of St. Petersburg Florida has approximately $190 million in unrestricted assets (Comprehensive Annual Financial Audit 2011, p. 197). Do you support the City using $50 million dollars of these funds for the demolition/reconstruction/renovation/restoration project of the City’s waterfront Pier?
___yes   ___no

7. The Pier is located in the Intown Redevelopment District, do you support the City borrowing $50 million dollars and incurring borrowing costs of approximately  $3 million per year for ___ years for the demolition/reconstruction/renovation/restoration project of the City’s waterfront Pier?
___yes   ___no

Kathleen Ford's Letter to the City

Regardless of whether you voted for Ms. Ford or not she is among the most intelligent and informed people to have served on City Council in the last two decades. Below is the transmittal letter that accompanied the above suggested Ballot language. There are some eye opening facts in this letter, be sure to read it thru.

Posted here with permission:

Council July 19, 2012
City of St. Petersburg
P.O. Box 2842
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731

Dear City Council:
You have an opportunity to embrace the public and allow us to decide on the future or our City’s Waterfront.

Can you imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower? Can you imagine Parisians demolishing the Eiffel Tower and starting all over with a new design? Well, neither can I. Although Paris’ monument was built in 1889 for the World’s Fair and was never meant to last more than 20 years, the Eiffel Tower has been lovingly maintained and restored to the delight of millions who visit this amazing tower every year and to the residents who enjoy its dazzling lights at sunset every evening.

We have our own special tower in St. Petersburg and it is known as The Pier. With its distinctive inverted pyramid shape, it is our most recognizable icon in St. Petersburg!

The Pier, however, is showing its age and is in need of refurbishing. The bridge to this iconic structure must be replaced. City Council began planning for this in 2005. The City’s engineers developed estimates to replace and repair the Pier and the Pier Approach. City Council passed Ordinance 1018-G and described in detail in the City’s Intown Redevelopment Plan, the project to replace the bridge and refurbish the inverted pyramid. The defined components of the “Pier/Pier Approach Improvements” were:

Demolition/Replacement of Pier Approach ($22.2M)
Demolition/Replacement of Pier Head Structure ($12M)
Demolition/Replacement of Pier Head Retail ($6.1 M)
Restoration of Inverted Pyramid Structure ($4.3M)
Design/Permitting/Construction Administration ($5.4M)

On June 16, 2011, however, six council members voted to amend Ordinance 1018-G, to change the itemized Table 1B, page 41, to reflect a lump sum of $50 million for a “Municipal Pier Project”. Council had to amend Ordinance 1018-G last June because the Pier process conflicted sharply with the project description previously approved by City Council in Ordinance 1018-G.

The proposed petition language gives voters the right to vote on Council’s amendment to Ordinance 1018-G. Moreover, the City’s Charter describes the need for referendum approval relating to our city’s waterfront which also comes into play here.

I respectfully request that this Council put this petition on the ballot. The thousands of voters who took the time to sign the petition deserve the exact language they approved of on the ballot. In these tough financial times, I also think it is important to identify the cost involved. The City, in the midst of the construction boom when we were competing with China for concrete, previously itemized the cost of to replace the bridge and refurbish the inverted pyramid of $50 million. Limit the cost to the $50 million.

I am not opposed to other choices on the ballot so long as those choices also limit construction costs to $50 million. Since there is no “final design” for the Lens any estimates for maintenance of the Lens would be pure speculation.

Estimates for “subsidizing operations” should not be necessary at all for any of the proposals. That is a function that has been poorly outsourced to third parties without responsible oversight.

Finally, the voters should be advised if the City will be borrowing money to do
this. According to the City’s 2011 audit, the City has $190 million in unrestricted funds. We need a new police station. We do not need a “new icon”. There appears to be enough money to build a new police station and replace the pier approach (bridge) and refurbish the inverted pyramid. Let the citizens of St. Petersburg decide what we want for our special waterfront and know how we are going to pay for it.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Ford

Please post your thoughts or suggestions in the Comments section below. Let City Council know what you think.

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Greg Urbano July 27, 2012 at 10:21 AM
The only other question I would like to see added to the ballot is if the taxpayers want to continue to subsidze the retail/restaurant operations in addition to the ongoing maintenance costs. From what I understand that amount is around 1.9 million dollars, that is a lot of taxpayer money. I think that was a concern in the debate leading up to the decision.
Voteonthepier July 27, 2012 at 11:57 AM
1.5 million, which turns out to be 6 bucs per year, per resident. Retail was brought in years ago to reduce the subsidy, which it did, and continues to do. The rents collected are 1.3 to 1.5 million a year, and that revenue could be increased with a rebuilt pier, because they could charge market rents, and add even more local businesses.
JW July 27, 2012 at 01:28 PM
There's no dollar amounts or relative subsidies attached to these questions. Subsidies come out of the cities general operations budget which is a smaller percentage of the cities overall budget meaning that 1.5 million could be used to keep pools, rec centers and libraries open which also equals more jobs. Your not going to charge market rent out there just because the building is newer. You still have a sub par tenant mix in the eyes of the retail developer world, you are still a half mile away from any residents so your still counting on tourist traffic. It's nice to be optimistic but renovating doesn't change any rules of the game. by the way the pier is currently 75,000 sq ft and the entire 40,000 sq ft on the first floor has to be demolished so how are you adding businesses. In fact because of the flood plain you won't be able to build anything on the first floor in a renovation. There is so much more to think about regarding this decision. When you give these type of simple minded questions you get a simple minded decision without any comprehension of the ramifications.
JW July 27, 2012 at 01:57 PM
lets weigh any other rational building against the existing pier. A normal two of even three story building is only required to have one public elevator, one cargo would be needed but not required. Open stairs or escalators could be used as well in a new design. The existing pier has 6 elevators! the elevator cores are also structure making a large percentage of each floor unusable. All over the stairs are enclosed and not an option for regular use. A normal retail venue gets walking traffic by every tenant. The existing pier forces you to choose that floor to visit which is why the 2nd and 3rd floors have never been viable retail space. Ask great explorations and the pier aquarium how the second and third floor worked for them and almost made them disappear. A normal building should have 80%+ leasable space The existing pier only has 50% leasable space. Multi story retail with remote access is just not a viable plan without subsidy for private businesses. Ask Johns pass who is in bankruptcy, or maybe Baywalk. More buildings just means for that you have to support and the quicker bills stack up. The only reason the pier hasn't gone bankrupt is because we bail it out every year. The shape is unique but it also makes it completely in efficient. New Paint and glass won't fix it's innate glaring flaws. No matter what we choose as a next step it should not repeat mistakes based on a emotional tie.
None July 27, 2012 at 02:22 PM
The shape is unique but not paramount to attract visitors. Its not the shape but whats there that brings the people. With St Petes growing artist community perhaps a museum featuring local artist. A small admittance fee and rotating art for sale with a commission going to the pier might help draw visitors and locals in?
JW July 27, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Kathleen helped write the voteonthepier petition that wasn't legally binding since it wasn't directed to a particular ordinance or law. Your also not suppose to have a question that appropriates funds which this one would do. In her example questions she has another question would appropriates 50 million in funds from the city's emergency fund to the waterfront parks which is the unrestricted assets she mentioned. That sounds like the Bush and Gore debates talking about how they would spend of put the surplus in a "lockbox" spending that surplus didn't take them long to do and then some.

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