For City of St. Pete's finances, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… financially speaking at least.

On the one hand you have the Mayor Bill Foster that is looking to raise taxes and cut the city budget to make up for a $13 million drop in property tax revenues, and he is looking for as much public input as possible for justification to raise taxes in some way.

On the other hand you have Mayor Bill Foster and City Council that are looking to spend $50 million on the new “Lens Pier” that the public doesn’t want, and Mayor Foster doesn’t want to hear any public input on that project(the last several “public” meetings about the new Pier banned all public comment).

What we are REALLY hearing from Foster is, “I need ‘public’ input to justify a $13 million tax increase, but I don’t really care what you have to say about the new $50 million Pier, just go sit down, be quiet and let the grown-ups decide that one for you.”

The Mayor and City Council will soon be voting on whether to move forward with the Lens Pier design, committing to spending $4.69 million, and if the past votes are any indication, they will approve it. This is an extremely irresponsible commitment considering that the vote-on-the-pier group is almost 90% of their way to getting the signatures needed to submit their petition for a vote on whether to demolish the current pier or not. What happens to that $4.69 million if the petition gets on the ballot, and the voters decide to save the current pier? It’s just gone, no refunds, and with the budget shortfalls of the last 5 years, our city leaders should be ashamed for gambling with millions our tax dollars like that.

So in a time when one St Petersburg is spending several months and three well publicized public budget summits debating how to raise and/or cut $13 million for one year’s budget shortfall, the other St Petersburg will hold no referendums or public summits on the unelected-committee-chosen design for a $50 million project that will dramatically alter our treasured waterfront, and have a major effect on our city for decades. The differences between these two St Petersburgs are startling and worthy of outrage.

Cross-posted from Bob Wilson of the Bill Foster Watch.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.