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16K Petitions = Pier Referendum? It's Not That Simple

Even with 16,000 signed petitions by June 11, a citywide vote to decide the St. Petersburg Pier's future may not happen.

Last week the city sent a letter to VoteOnthePier.com stating that its , or the city will not put the future of the existing inverted pyramid up for a vote. 

Tom Lambdon, who chairs Vote On the Pier,  said the deadline is meaningless and that the group would continue to push for the nearly 16,000 votes necessary to force a referendum. 

“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 ."

However, even if Vote on the Pier gets the required number of verified petitions by June 11, which Lambdon said is not likely, there is no guarantee that a vote will actually happen.

City Attorney John Wolfe . The future of a referendum also rests with the City Council, not Mayor Bill Foster, he said. 

Wolfe said that the petition's woriding does not legally bind the city to hold any referendum, no matter how many petitions are collected. 

"I don’t think there is any time frame that would require you to put it on the ballot," Wolfe said at the May 17 Council meeting. "There is no legal obligation for you to put it on the ballot."

During the May 17 City Council meeting, Council member Steve Kornell addressed a consistent argument for those trying to save the Pier, which is that Foster said its future should be decided by voters citywide. Foster made that statementin an interview while he was campaigning for Mayor in 2009.

Kornell, at that meeting, said that argument was irrelevant because the Mayor does not have the authority to authorize a referendum. Wolfe agreed. 

Wolfe said the power to call for a vote on the Pier rests with the City Council. "The point that the mayor might have said or not said (there should be a vote), it does not supercede the charter," Kornell said.

On Wednesday night, as reported by Bill Foster Watch, Vote on the Pier spoke with former St. Pete Times reporter Cristina Silva, who interviewed Foster about the Pier when he was running for office. 

"I remember Bill (Foster) getting all upset because Scott Wagman said he was going to bulldoze the Pier during that mayoral election," but she added that, "I will note that in my article... I clearly said that Bill thought the Pier would have to go."

The Pier is tentatively , with demolition expected to start in August 2013. 

Even if Vote on the Pier gets 16,000 signatures by June 11, Kornell said he is not sure he would vote to authorize a referendum because the city is under no legal obligation and because he believe the process put in place to choose a new Pier was followed. 

"We did a very thorough (pier selection) process and I’m not sure that I am going to put it on the ballot even if they submit the petitions on the deadline," Kornell said Wednesday in an interview with Patch. "I think the idea that somehow the process was illegitimate or that we’ve hidden information is just not accurate. I completely disagree with that." 

Vote on the Pier has collected and verified more than 14,000 petitions. 

Council member Charlie Gerdes said at the May 17 Council meeting that he is not an "aesthetics person," but he supports the process that was put in place to choose a new Pier.

"I don’t like the design," he said. "...(However), in 2008 we set out on this course,"

Gerdes said the city defined the scope and budget, created a task force, held 68 meetings and had public hearings. "This is the end result of what the process brought to us."

Council. 

Tonight the city hosts its on the "Lens" design refinement at 6 p.m. at . 

William Mansell June 07, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Should a vote happen? Is the June 11 deadline fair?
Jeannie Cline June 07, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Kornell says "we had a thorough process" We? He wasn't on council at the time and was not on the pier advisory committee, to my knowledge. Nor was Gerdes. How do they know what went down at those so-called public input meetings? They didn't listen to the citizens then just like they aren't listening now. How clueless and dictactorial Kornell and Gerdes are......they are our representatives, not our kings bestowed with the power to make decisions for us on our public space. Political danger lies ahead when the next election comes up.....we'll remember your attitudes then, Mr Kornell and Mr Gerdes....and, of course, Ms Curran. At least the mayor is honoring the will of the people in this instance. What a concept!
Bob Wilson June 07, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Kornell and Gerdes both received less than 16000 votes when they won their council seats last year, they need to remember that fact. If the petitions are gathered and council votes to ignore them, I predict a lot of serious talk about recalling the council members who voted to ignore the petition, except for Nurse and Kennedy who are up reelection next year anyway. Danner and Curran are term limited out next year, so unfortunately there isn't much that can be done to stop them from making a mess before they are done.
Bob Wilson June 07, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Yes, a vote should happen, this process has been mismanaged and a lot of money has been wasted in the push to demolish the pier and replace it with a sidewalk to nowhere. The June 11th "deadline" was an arbitrary date thrown out in an attempt to give city council political cover for rejecting the petition once it is submitted. That date is based on ideal conditions for the city, but in reality the process could start much later than that and take much less time if they wanted it to.
michael cochran June 07, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Spending this amount of money in the current economic times is at least questionable. Shouldn't we be thinking about a public vote of support or otherwise on publically ‘paid-for project’?
Dharma June 07, 2012 at 03:56 PM
We are the people if we ask for that then it should be done. Remember we are who you work for and we decide you weren’t originally put in office for any other reasons. The novo politicians are without any knowledge making a mockery of what the actual reasons for these offices were put into place. Each office is not a big business movement it’s not that at all. The day when people even bought into that is far behind us. We are one with the true reasons for offices which is as follows, put into effect so that the people had a chance to vote on issues. That had been brought up to keep the people feed, clothed, housed. Not to make radical business boom. Get a job for that if you need that sort of ego boost. We need politics to be about the people not what will get u into the next office. I mean how many of you even have a degree in business admin much less economics. Please don’t tell me you have people who do that because your office wasn’t about that ether.
Jeannie Cline June 07, 2012 at 07:09 PM
it's awfully optimistic for Reps Kornell and Gerdes to have such faith in the pier selection process......that's a good thing......yet, it's equally frustrating when we keep voicing our opinions that started with the pier process at the 3 public meetings.....this upswell of petitions has its genesis in those pier meetings.....the panel did not listen and now all of this is due to that.......and don't try to tell us that we have trouble with change.....that is not for them to discern. The panel, led by Ms Curran, did not include the restoration of the present pier during the presentation of the 3 finalists for the present concept. There has been a tacit denial that there are other estimates out there to restore the pier that are professional engineering studies and are much less than the figures that the local gov't is using. There is a troubling lack of attention given to the water taxi/transit station idea for this pier.....and I can say with certainty, that this idea is very popular with the citizens on both sides of the bay. The City has officially stated that the Lens will not accomodate any boat over 30 feet. Now, just how can anyone say that this process has been fair and open? It hasn't. I have lived here 30 years and have never seen such railroading by the council and mayor like this one...
Rory Williams June 08, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I agree
Red August 02, 2012 at 08:22 PM
These High-Hats are doing what they always intended to do citizens be dammed We just can't count on these politicos to do the right thing. I say sweep them out and clean up. St.Pete deserves better, much better. Wonder if there's any money in it for them? They act like they have a lot to lose, or is it just a big charge spending the money? Someone else's money at that! !! !!!

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