'Stop the Lens' question headed toward Aug. 27 ballot - FOX 13 News

'Stop the Lens' question headed toward Aug. 27 ballot

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

With the validation of 339 more petition signatures, the "Stop The Lens" question goes on St. Petersburg's August 27th primary ballot.

The magic number for Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg is 15,652. By the end of Thursday, the Supervisor of Elections Office had verified the signatures of 15,313 registered voters.

At an informal meeting Thursday afternoon, the city council indicated it will not take the other path available through the city charter: Simply adopt the ordinance proposed by the petition.

Councilman Charles Gerdes asked city attorneys to draft a resolution declining that option.

"That should pass 8 to nothing" he said, referring to next week's official vote, "That resolution should pass 8 to nothing because we all want the people to vote."

The council also indicated no other questions will appear on the August ballot. Mayor Bill Foster suggested several "straw poll" questions, such as whether people want any municipal pier or prefer a simple wood pier.

It is still possible the same questions -- or others -- will appear on the November general election ballot.

Most of Thursday's discussion focused on an apparent oversight by the petitioners. Their petition references "The Lens," the proposed replacement for the existing St. Petersburg Pier.

However, the more formal ordinance language proposed by the petition just refers to terminating the city's contract with lead architect Michael Maltzan.

At this point, voters will not see the phrases "the Lens" nor "the Pier." Mayor Bill Foster defended his legal staff's decision.

"Why would the city council tweak anything that was so painstakingly prepared?" Foster said after the meeting. "You try to clarify, and somebody's not happy -- you're back in court."

Two recent polls exposed the difference the language question could play in the referendum.

Earlier this month, stpetepolls.org asked voters if they wanted to "Stop the Lens" and 67 percent said yes. Earlier this week, stpetersblog.com asked voters whether they want to terminate the contract with Michael Maltzan: 52 percent said yes.

Observers said that indicates many Lens opponents do not know terminating Maltzan's contract is stopping the Lens.

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