St. Petersburg Residents will be voting on four referenda in the November 3, 2015. Here is a summary of each. Overall, items 2-4 are relatively non-controversial and should be simple to approve with a “yes”. However, Question #1 on Submerged lands requires some thought.
Submerged lands – Do you trust the City more than the voters?
The city government owns a staggering amount of “submerged land” around the City borders extending out for at least a couple of miles into the bay in some areas. Of course, this really means the land belongs to the citizens – represented by those who vote. The city wants to take away the current right of citizens to vote on the use and development of the underwater land off of North shore park. They want to take citizens control to transfer control of that particular waterfront land to government. The stated goal is to preserve it for environmental reasons to allow more sea grass.
However, The actual ordinance that would be approved by the referendum (page 41 here) indicates that the amount of sea grass already planted by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) already exceeds the goal. In 1995, TBEP set a goal of 38,000 by 2015. The TBEP has reported they have surpassed that goal at a level of 40,295 acres in their 10/2/15 news release and admitted they surpassed it to the City Council on July 23, 2015.
The questions raised here relate to trust, economic impact and use. Do voters trust the city council to take away options on development of that land. What if some very good company came up with a plan to build an elevated walkway with docking slips? What if the voters decided they wanted to support some filling of the land with more homes (as was done to build Snell Isle, Venetian Isles and Shore acres to begin with).
Does the City council intend to prevent boating and other recreational activities in that area? The City Council is packed full of environmental extremists and scenarios are easy to imagine of permits required to do anything over that land. There are many areas of Sea Grass and this is not needed. More importantly, what tricks does City Council have up their sleeves? They frequently demonstrate deceptive and contemptuous behavior toward the voters (see the Lens, the Pier, the “waterfront ball park”, Albert Whitted, Condos, Greenlight Pinellas and more). What is the City council not telling us? What deals have been cut?
Referendum one would put limits on the City Council. It will take 6 of 8 members to approve the designation as protected and it must be done by 2019 or the ordinance will be null and void. Voters can decide if yielding their power over these lands to City Council is in their best interests. This voter has no trust of the current council and believes the change is unnecessary. Recommend – No.
# 2 would allow Council Council districts to cross borders into other voter precincts. This is common in redistricting and can help avoid the recent gerrymandering done in the 2013 City council races. A yes vote seems reasonable. Recommend – Yes.
# 3 would require a City Council member or Mayor to stay in their address till their term is done. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask these “public servants”. Recommend -Yes.
# 4 would prevent the City Clerk from having to announce the result of Council votes by voice – a formality. This change is technical in nature and seems reasonable as long as the votes are still displayed and recorded in the minutes. Recommend – Yes.
REFERENDUM QUESTION 1
Approving Permanent Use Restrictions Over a Portion of City Owned Submerged Lands in Tampa Bay
Shall the City Council be authorized to approve, after properly noticed public hearing, the placement of permanent use and development restrictions over a portion of the City owned submerged lands property located adjacent to North Shore Park for the purpose of protecting and enhancing seagrass beds to further goals of water quality improvement and habitat conservation?
REFERENDUM QUESTION 2
Precinct Lines Need Not be Followed Where it Would Compromise Compact and Contiguous Council Districts
Shall the City Charter be amended to provide that Council Districts do not need to follow voting precinct lines when it is not practical due to the need for the Council Districts to be compact and contiguous and the requirement that boundary lines follow centerlines of streets, railroad lines or other natural boundaries where possible?
REFERENDUM QUESTION 3
Charter Amendment Clarifying Residency Requirements for Council and Mayoral Candidates Before, During and After Election
Shall the City Charter be amended to clarify that a declared district candidate is required to remain a resident of the candidate’s declared district before, during and, if elected, after the election and during their term of office; and to clarify that a candidate for Mayor is required to remain a resident of the City before, during, and if elected, after the election and during their term of office?
REFERENDUM QUESTION 4
Charter Amendment Clarifying That Electronic Tallying of City Council Votes Satisfies the Roll Call Requirement
Shall the City Charter be amended to generally clarify the voting process of City Council the main clarification being that a roll call vote can be accomplished by an electronic system that is used to tally, display and record City Council votes, without the City Clerk needing to orally recite what is visually displayed?