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Jamie Bennett to sponsor referendum to preserve and protect waterfront

in The Bay and the 'Burg by
City Councilmember Jamie Bennett will introduce a new business item before the City Council calling for a referendum to preserve and protect St. Petersburg’s Waterfront. Councilman Bennett, a leading candidate for mayor, has agreed to adopt the referendum language authored by POWW – Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront, a citizen’s group dedicated to stopping major development on the city’s waterfront without a direct vote by residents.

Councilman Bennett will be holding a press conference to outline his vision and to discuss this initiative on Thursday, March 19th, at 9:30 a.m. at the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum in North Shore Park located on North Shore Dr. at the foot of 10th Ave. NE. Councilman Bennett will be joined by Hal Freedman, Chairman of POWW.

“As the City of St. Petersburg prepares to celebrate the centennial of the creation of the first waterfront park,” Bennett said, “I can think of no better time than now for the voters of this city to support a referendum forever preserving our beautiful waterfront.”

Bennett previously led the effort to save Albert Whitted Airport and is committed to saving, promoting and enhancing The St. Petersburg Pier. “Throughout my tenure in city government, I have worked and will continue to work to protect one of this community’s most important treasures – our cherished waterfront.”

The referendum Bennett is proposing is a slightly modified version of the referendum endorsed by POWW, which is currently gathering the requisite number of voters’ signatures to place the issue on the ballot in the upcoming municipal elections. POWW organized this effort in response to the proposal to build a new baseball stadium on the site of Al Lang Stadium. POWW has gathered nearly 5,000 signatures for their proposals, but its leaders say they welcome Bennett’s support on this important issue.

“POWW greatly appreciates the leadership shown by Councilman Bennett in helping to place this referendum before the voters of St. Petersburg,” said Hal Freedman, Chairman of POWW. The organization actually supports two referendums, one that would require a direct vote on any major development along the waterfront, and another that would require a direct vote before any public money can be spent for a professional sports facility. Freedman said that so long as the City Council agrees to put the waterfront referendum before the voters, the organization will focus primarily on that issue, while evaluating its efforts to place the “wallets” issue on the ballot. Freedman says he fully supports Bennett’s effort, but, POWW will continue to gather signatures on both issues while the City Council debates the merits of the waterfront referendum.

Bennett said he believes there is consensus on the need to fully protect the city’s waterfront. “I trust my colleagues on the City Council to make the right decision on this issue, but I think most of them agree that we can never do enough to preserve our most treasured resource.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.

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