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Alternative Pier survey sent to 10,000 voters today

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete Polls sent out its own Pier survey today to 10,000 registered voters. The survey was emailed with a link voters could click to complete the survey.

The survey asks voters if they approve, disapprove or are unsure of each of the seven designs on the table to replace or renovate the city’s current, aged inverted pyramid. On each page voters are presented with 4 photos of each design and a short video presentation showcasing features.

After going through each design individually, voters are then asked to rank their favorite three in order.

The survey is in response to growing concerns that the city’s public survey process was flawed.

The Pier Selection Committee appointed by St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman is set to make its final ranking for a new pier this Friday. The team will rank its top three picks and city council will vote to approve the top ranked selection on April 2.

As of right now, Destination St. Pete appears to be the clear leader based on results from the city’s survey that concluded earlier this month. While the selection committee is not obligated to choose teams based on that voting, it is likely that the results will be strongly considered.

The process has led to growing concern that the cards are stacked against certain teams and the game rigged to favor others – most notably Destination St. Pete and designers from the St. Pete Design Group.

For starters, the city’s survey process was remarkably unscientific. It relied on votes from online users who entered their name, date of birth and address. That information was used to verify which voters were residents and which were not.

What that means is, it would be fairly easy for a team, group or person to stuff the ballot. All a person would need is access to a person’s very basic personal information to cast a ballot in their name. Ballots could be cast for grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles or even family friends.

While it seems like that would have led to better turnout in the pier public survey, those skeptical of the process say turnout could have been far lower had the process been more stringent.

The St. Pete Polls survey reduces, if not eliminates, the possibility of design teams or their supporters unfairly casting extra votes by only inviting a random sampling of voters to participate. The link that is sent to voters can only be accessed once.

It ensures respondents are residents because the survey is only sent to email addresses on file with the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office.

Matt Florell, owner of St. Pete Polls, requested data from the city regarding it’s public survey. The information provided by the city included names, addresses, dates of birth and responses from individuals who participated. They sent three spreadsheets containing various pieces of that information.

The data supports the city’s published results that more than 10,000 people chose Destination St. Pete and that fewer than 7,000 of those were certified residents.

“There is nothing in the data received that can help determine when the votes took place or to validate that there was no vote stuffing,” Florell said. “No timestamps, IP addresses or browser signatures were included.”

He’s submitted a public records request for website visitor log data to try to learn more about who voted and from where.

In an email to the city from Florida Politics, City Clerk Chan Srinivasa responded saying he didn’t know what information was collected during the public survey process.

There was some demographic information released by the city regarding its survey.

According to Florell’s analysis, the majority of voting came from the East Side of St. Pete. African-American voters and those under 30 were under-represented.

The questions arise as some individuals either with one of the six teams that isn’t the St. Pete Design Group or supporters of other groups have anonymously expressed concerns over a potentially stacked process.

A member of one of the teams said there seems to have been a strong underground campaign for Destination St. Pete Pier. While that cannot be verified, there have been reports of the team engaging in unsanctioned promotions.

Someone hung a banner promoting Destination St. Pete at a St. Pete Chamber event. In another incident, a screen shot from Facebook showed the team had put a sponsored Facebook post up promoting the design.

The city’s contract with the seven teams says they are not allowed to engage in self-promotion without the city’s consent. The team did not make that request in those two incidents.

Other teams have also posted promotional posts on Facebook, but none of those appear to have been sponsored. Many of the posts were also promoting the public survey and not necessarily their own designs, though many did include links to information about their designs.

St. Pete Polls isn’t sure when they’ll have results from the survey launched today, but hopes to have something before the selection committee meets on Friday.

A sample of that survey can be seen here, but only surveys completed by invitation will be included in results.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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