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'The Lens' Unites Rivals

Members of Occupy St. Pete and the Tea Party both oppose the city replacing the existing pier with "The Lens."

Members of the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement rarely agree. Occupy targets Wall Street and the one percent. The Tea Party targets cutting spending, government and taxes for the one percent.

On Thursday, there was finally an issue that united them — “The Lens”.

Before the 8:30 a.m. city council meeting, and before the, around a dozen Occupy protesters held signs at the step of city hall asking for a referendum on the pier.

Inside during “open forum”, the messages of limited government, low taxes and a choice on the pier came from both sides.

Tea Party member and city council candidate David McKalip brought a poster with a “white elephant” to describe how he feels about “The Lens.”

McKalip had some strong words for the council. He told the council it needed a new way of thinking because, “you all think inside a very narrow box,” he said.

“You put the burden on the taxpayer,” McKalip said. “You rob money from this TIF zone and leverage that and put the citizens into debt so some bond holder can make millions. Shelve this idea.”

McKalip said there should be a referendum to lease the site to a private entity.

“I appreciate the hard work that you’ve done but I have issues with the process,” said Occupy St. Pete member Chuck Terzian.

Jasmine Carter, a member of Occupy St. Pete, said growing up with the pier her entire life is something she cherishes. She said she hopes her future children will be able to do the same.

“The citizens of St. Pete should have their fair chance to vote on the future of the pier,” Carter said. “It’s been here before us and if we have our way, will be here after we our gone. This is St. Petersburg. [We are] holding onto our heritage.’

The city is paying for the pier using money from a tax increment fund within the . The redevelopment area roughly stretches from 5th Avenue N. to 5th Avenue S and from the bayfront to 16th Street.

Property taxes above a baseline rate from the "Intown" redevelopment area go into the TIF fund. Those taxes can only be used for capital projects within that particular redevelopment area.

Two out of three people who spoke during public forum Thursday spoke out against the “The Lens.” All asked for a vote on the pier.

The problem with a referendum, Mayor Bill Foster said, is what question would actually be asked. 

He said you could hold a vote and be no closer to having closure on the issue. 

"I've heard eight [possible] questions today," Foster said. "The Lens yes or no, tear it down and do not replace, tear it down and build something landside, privatize the inverted pyramid, privatize new construction and refurbish," Foster said of a few of the questions that could be put to a referendum.

David McKalip February 03, 2012 at 07:36 PM
DR. McKAlip here. Thanks for the mention in this piece. I think the Occupy and the TEa Party movement have something more in common: we don't want an elite to control everything and hurt citizens. The difference is one of approach. The Occupy movement seems to beleive that more government will solve this problem while the tea party recognizes that less government is better. I would also correct the assertion that the tea party only wants to cut taxes for "the one percent". The tea party wants low taxes for all and would like others who pay NO taxes to actually contribute as well. Thanks much for bringing this issue out and let's all work together for a better solution for the pier. One that hands it over to a private entity with public use restrictions so that they can build a good place we all like and THEY foot the bill and stop taking money from the hard working taxpayers for yet another white elephant. David McKalip, M.D.
Sierra Dante February 04, 2012 at 12:38 PM
I'm paying for this pier, I want to be part of the process and i want vote on it!
Chuck Terzian February 05, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I speak for no one other than myself, but I must correct what I feel is an inaccurate charaterization. I personally feel that government can solve problems that we as individuals cannot, when the processes are not corrupted and we the people participate vigorously in the process. The size of government is a red herring and is only dependent upon the scope of what we the people decide we want to get done together. If we want to do little together then the size of government would be small, if we want to more together then the size of government will be larger. All effective organizations should have a mission statement. The mission statement of the United States of America is the Preamble to the Constitution, where the scope of what the founders hoped to accomplish together was laid out: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." As you can see the scope of this is immense. What I think the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement are united on is that corruption of the system needs to be minimized. With the Pier issue, the process is corrupted. The people, who will be paying for this for the next 30 years, should have a direct say on what they want done.
Ariel Fernandez February 10, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Im glad that the Tea Party and Occupy can come together on this important issue. The citizens of St. Petersburg deserve a vote on whether or not to go forward with this project. I am involved with the Occupy movement here in St. Petersburg and i want to make it clear that government is not the answer to this Nation's problems. Neither is deregulation. We need to detach corporate influence from policy making in order to stop a revolving door which unfortunately risen to the highest levels of power in city, state and federal institutions. It's not about more or less government its about correct governance. voteonthepier.com sign the petition

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