Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Pier - Are You New to The Argument?

People just picking up on the Pier issue must be confused as to how a City could find itself in such a predicament.
It all began with a study that said the current Pier approach was deteriorating rapidly and would need replacement in the next few years. Then Mayor, Rick Baker, set up a project to replace the Pier approach and established a $50 Million funding mechanism using Tax Increment Funding (TIF) to pay for the Pier approach project.
Somewhere along the way, I'm not sure anyone knows exactly where or how, a group of people decided that maybe what should be done is replace the whole thing because they thought the inverted pyramid had out lived its time.
This group managed, though some "artful" politics, to change the TIF Funding agreement, broadening the use of funds definitions.
The original TIF funding never anticipated replacing the entire structure, so the City began working on some concepts such as shortening the approach and making it smaller that would allow for enough money to replace the entire Pier.
The Pier Task Force was set up to determine what the public would like to see as a replacement, and through a series of carefully managed public meetings a final Visioning Report was produced.
Unfortunately during the Pier Task Force project the arts community and elite core of downtown movers and shakers began to hijack the process and the Pier Visioning Report was put on pretty much permanent ignore.
This group of elites aided by a core group of City Council members, Curran, Danner, Kennedy Kornell, Dudley began to develop a process that would all but eliminate true public input, setting up an "international' design competition, and a jury of people from outside the City who had no feel for St. Petersburg or how it's citizens felt, to select the final design that for all intent and purposes reflects none of the average citizens ideas or desires for the new Pier.
It was all about "art".
Right about here things started to go off the tracks as the people began to cry foul about the selected design and the process that got them to the LENS.
The City administration refused to back up and the public, becoming more incensed at being ignored, began a petition drive to get a vote on the LENs project.
The City offered those wishing petition against its now pet project no help in the petition process and publically spit in their face by refusing to work out ballot language during the petition process and during court ordered mediation.
The petition appears to have been flawed as determined by the court. The wishes of 20,000 plus signers ignored.  An appeal is pending.
As it became clear that the original petition was likely to fail, a second group, Stop The Lens, began a new petition drive with new language that the City says meets the requirements, but time will tell.
A obstinate City Council, declaring its right as a representative democracy, has continued to be supportive of the arts community, down town beach drive business interests, and the Chamber of Commerce in its attempts to get its way and build a structure that 67% of the public does not want, that it has not the money to build and a design that no longer comes close to the original concept or proposal.
If you wonder what all the fuss is about that's it in about 600 words.

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