The leaders behind “Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg” (CCS) are reporting that they have enough petitions to require a vote on continuing the construction of the “Lens” pier project in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile the City Council leaders continue to remain tone deaf and push forward with the $5.4 million architectural contract that may be meaningless if the citizens vote the lens down. The City Council was asked at the last opportunity to delay the first $1.7 million of spending on the architects but refused. Now the City Council has another chance to save money for the taxpayers on spending that may never be used to build the “lens”. The question is: will they be more interested in serving the taxpayers or more interested in serving their own political agenda as they usually do?
The petition effort has reportedly gathered 16,000 signatures which will be enough to trigger a vote on “stopping the contract with Architect Michael Maltzan” to design the Lens. Upon verification of the signatures by the city, a referendum would be required in 90 days, which could be costly if not timed with an already scheduled primary election in August. The CCS group is offering to delay turning in the petitions until a later date. This would allow the election to be done on the August 27th Primary which would save the city $250,000 on a special election. Their offer is contingent on the City Council’s willingness to stop the next round of spending on the Michael Maltzan Lens Design contract which would be for an addition $3.7 million. If the city proceeds with the contract and the voters stop the Lens, then that money will have been wasted on plans that will never be used.
The City Council has the opportunity to act like leaders and do the right thing when it meets tomorrow on April 11th to decide whether to authorize the next payment for what may be a doomed lens project. 16,000 people are asking for a vote on this major spending project. The City leaders have never respected the call for a pier vote or even a stadium vote in the past. Maybe this time will be different.
In the mean time Dr. David McKalip continues to advocate for a “No Taxpayer Cost Pier Solution” for the pier that would not cost taxpayers a penny and would actually generate direct tax revenue into the city coffers. This would be a new approach where the city would lease the pier to a private group that would build an economically self-sustaining pier with entirely private funds. The city would require access for fishing and other recreational activities under this proposal. That is true innovation. Dr. McKalip called for his opponent in the race for St. Petersburg City Council to join him in calling for a delay in pier funding till the vote occurs at the meeting.