'Lens' referendum set for August - FOX 13 News

'Lens' referendum set for August

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

Written assurances by Mayor Bill Foster might curtail further spending on the new St. Petersburg Pier.

Foster has told petitioners who want to "Stop The Lens" that the city clerk will not issue a "Certificate of Sufficiency" until May 30th, which the mayor writes "...will assure that the Ordinance proposed for voter approval (subject to the verification of adequate signatures) will appear on the August 27, 2013 city-wide ballot."

By city charter, an election must be called within 90 days once the clerk issues the Certificate of Sufficiency. May 30th is 90 days before the city's August 27th primary election.

The petitioners claim to have well over the 15,652 signatures of registered voters necessary to call a referendum, but if they submitted them too soon, the city would have to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a special election by mail.

So they have been waiting for May 30th, and have not decided whether to continue running out the clock or turn them in next week, as requested by the mayor.

Whether the city or the petitioners sits on the petitions, the result is the same: an August 27th referendum.

"The big thing is people will finally...have a chance to really vote and speak their mind on whether or not they want to do this," Stop The Lens organizer Bud Risser told FOX 13 News.

Turning the petitions in next week might influence the next spending decision by the city council. It must decide whether to release the next $1.54 million to continue designing the Lens. Last week, it delayed making a decision until some technical questions were answered. But there was evidence of council support for the Lens eroding.

"I can't, because I think that it is the wrong thing to do, vote to spend money in the face of an election," councilman Charles Gerdes said last Thursday.

The spending issue comes up again next Thursday. Risser said his group might carry the petitions down to city hall next Wednesday, reinforcing the mayor's desire to "hit the pause button."

"Why would we needlessly spend a million and a half dollars of non-recoverable tax money until we find the answer in the referendum?" Risser asked.

Councilman Jeff Danner, one of the Lens' most ardent supporters, supplied a response.

"The questions that the Stop The Lens group is asking are going to be answered in this next phase," Danner said. "You can't ask the question and then tell us don't spend the money to get the answer."

Both sides predict a full-scale campaign, pro and con, on the $50 million Lens, once a referendum is called.

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