Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Who Pays for The Lens?

Below is a letter to Mayor Bill Foster from Bill Ballard of Concerned Citizens regarding financing for the LENS.
All of this information is presented here with no editing. 
From: William Ballard [] 
Sent: Monday, July 29, 2013 1:39 PM
To: ''; ''
Cc: ''
Subject: Who Pays for The Lens 
Mayor, Council Members – I can understand why you don’t want to call the pier project the “Lens” – the name the architect gave it.  Insofar as being a lens into our bay waters, it was dead on arrival.  What I can’t understand is how you, the majority of council members advocating this project, and you, Mayor Foster, can persist in leaving St. Petersburg’s voters with the wrong information about who pays for this project.  You have permitted city employees and the architect’s local representative to tell the public for over a year that it is only the downtown property owners who will pay.  I have heard them.  I see this misinformation in print in Basis of Design Book 1 at pages 2-6, 3-45 and 3 -46 and the Schematic Design Book at page 2-8.  I see it in the WOW ST.PETE literature, a now defunct organization sponsored by the City and the Chamber of Commerce.  I see it in the Tampa Bay Times July 21st edition and in the new Build The Pier political committee’s mail outs.   
Attached are my July 26th letter to senior management at the Times Publishing Company and my email exchange last week with Amanda Coffey, the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s Deputy for Governmental Affairs and Staff Counsel.  In my letter, I incorrectly describe her as being a deputy in the Tax Collector’s office.  I correctly show with the city’s own 2013 fiscal plan documents that every St. Petersburg resident, except a homeless person using no utilities or city services, will pay for this project, as will nearly everyone in the county outside of St. Petersburg.  These documents show that downtown property owners are taxed on an ad valorem basis just like everyone else in the city and that every dime of their property tax payments goes into the general fund along with every other property owner’s tax payments.  It follows that every dollar that the city’s  general fund transfers to the downtown redevelopment district trust must be replaced with additional revenue from a combination of property taxes,  hidden taxes such as those on utilities, and over cost service fees, if the city’s service levels are to be maintained. The same applies to the Pinellas county taxes paid by all city property owners, as about 43 % of the 2013 TIF money for the downtown trust comes from the county’s general fund. 
Mr. Wolfe.  I respectfully urge you to advise the Mayor and Council Members of the significance of the clear and correct definition of tax increment financing that appears in the 2009 Bar Journal article which is cited in my email exchange with Ms. Coffey.  Please consider the importance of the concept that redevelopment district trust contributions can come from any source, not just property taxes, and the fact that the city’s own financial documents demonstrate this. 
The referendum issue for all St. Petersburg voters is whether this project is worth $50 million to our city, or whether we can do better for our waterfront with that $50 million.  The great majority of voters live outside the downtown district.  They are being misled by your silence today, as they vote, into believing that only the downtown property owners will pay.  This lie is certain to cause voters not in the downtown district to conclude that if The Lens is what the downtowners want, and they are paying for it, let them have it.  These voters will vote No.  If enough of them vote No they will be very surprised when they learn that they voted to pay for The Lens with their property taxes, utility taxes and service fees for the next twenty years.  They will be angry, because the truth will eventually become common knowledge. 
You have a duty to speak.  A fraud on the voters is being committed.  As long as you are silent, you are part of the fraud. 
William C. Ballard, President
Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, Inc.
e-mail Doc at:, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Kathleen Ford Campaign, Darden Rice Campaign, Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg
Have your say.  VOTE YES TO Stop The Lens.
Be sure to mark your mail in ballot, sign the back of the envelope and mail it right away.

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