Supporters of a referendum on preserving the existing downtown St. Petersburg Pier claim they are close to gathering the requisite number of signatures of registered municipal voters.
However, they missed a "suggested" deadline of June 11th contained in a letter from the St. Petersburg City Clerk.
"They can ignore June 11th and okay, June 11th comes and goes, the sun comes up the next day," Mayor Bill Foster said. "But pretty soon, they're going to run out of time."
City officials are back-timing from an August 3 deadline to submit ballot language for the November general election to the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections. To make that deadline, a list of things has to happen:
Signatures would have to be verified by both the city clerk and the supervisor of election.
City attorneys have to write an ordinance calling for a referendum,
City Council would have to conduct two public hearings and approve the ordinance.
Getting the issue on the November ballot would spare the city the cost of a special election, estimated at about $300,000.
Foster admits there is another reason for resolving the issue by the end of the year.
"The city's going to really be pregnant with this new
iconic Lens design after November, and is going to start spending real money,"
The Lens is the proposed next-generation Pier that would replace the current inverted pyramid.
The message is not lost on Tom Lambdon, who spearheads the petition drive.
"The problem now is the city's pushing forward quickly with the Lens, and they want to push us out of the way," Lambdon said.
He also said petitioners are not as concerned about getting the issue on the November ballot.
"The voice of the people should not be ignored," Lambdon said, adding he thinks "We're very close to getting this completed."
If a November vote proves impossible, elevated contentiousness will follow. The city will challenge the proposed referendum by claiming it violates a prohibition of votes on budget or money issues.
"The [city] charter doesn't provide that this go on any election, period," Foster told FOX 13 News. "Not general, not primary, not special. The charter does not require this language to be on the ballot."
Lambdon said petitioners are ready for such a fight.
"We already have a couple of lawyers in place actually," he said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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