Lens opponents score victory in fight for referendum - FOX 13 News

Lens opponents score victory in fight for referendum

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

In the first legal skirmish between petitioning citizens calling for a vote on the St. Pete Pier and the City of St. Petersburg, an assistant city attorney's own words were read back to him by Judge Amy Williams.

Citing a response filed by assistant city attorney Joe Patner, Judge Williams quoted "It says the city of St. Petersburg was ready, willing, able and eager to put a referendum question to voters."

Patner replied "Absolutely."

Then her honor rendered an opinion.

"That's really what this petition wants...why don't you just do it? Get together and say okay, let's do it."

Judge Williams eventually ordered mediation over possible ballot language between the city and Voteonthepier.com.

The citizens group filed suit after the St. Petersburg City Council ignored a petition for a Pier referendum signed by more than 20,000 registered voters. More than 15,000 of those signatures were certified by the Supervisor of Elections. City attorneys advised council members they could ignore the petition on technical grounds.

A majority of council members have made a series of decisions since 2011 on replacing the existing Pier with a new structure called the Lens. In fact, a vote is expected Thursday on accepting the "basis of design" for the Lens and committing the next $5.4 million toward the $50 million project.

"It doesn't sound prudent to me to go forward with this Lens design when there's a question out there as to whether or not that's going to be the actual structure," Voteonthepier.com attorney Kathleen Ford said after Wednesday's hearing. "But this council has wasted money in the past."

Now Ford and Patner are supposed to agree on a mediator, or each can submit two names and Judge Williams will select the mediator. Voteonthepier.com supporters had a variety of motivations and opinions on the fate of the deteriorating downtown Pier, but shared the overarching goal of a public vote.

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