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Times reporter fails to mention letter from top Pier activist

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

One of the fiercest critics of the Pier process wrote Tampa Bay Times Pier reporter Waveney Ann Moore a passionate (and rather long-winded) letter late last month laying down the argument that the Kriseman administration has flopped on its handling of the process.

Tom Lambdon is with the group Vote on the Pier. He headed a petition effort to kill the Lens in 2013 and is now spearheading another to force development decisions on St. Pete’s downtown waterfront to be vetted by voter referendum.

In his letter to Waveney Ann Moore, Lambdon sought to clarify that he was not on board with the mayor’s “new and improved process.”

“I really wish he would stop telling people that ALL groups agreed with his plan,” Lambdon wrote. “That is a TOTAL material misrepresentation of the facts.”

It’s not clear why Lambdon penned the letter to Moore. The 1,700-word letter is more of a referendum — pun intended — on Mayor Rick Kriseman and his staff including Communications Director Ben Kirby, Public Works Administrator Mike Connors and Managing Director of Development and Coordination Chris Ballestra.

Lambdon lays out the problems he identified with the previous administration’s handling of the Pier issue. Most notably, former Mayor Bill Foster shuttering the inverted pyramid.

“He closed the entire Pier on May 31, 2013 – putting more than 400 full and part time employees out of work unnecessarily – and fencing it off to ready it for demolition – to make his point: That if the community did not support the LENS proposal in the upcoming 8/27/13 referendum – they would be looking at a closed-down Pier – well into / or after 2018,” Lambdon wrote.

Lambdon also went through a personalized blow by blow of the 12-hour Pier Selection Committee meeting in which no final ranking was issued.

“Mike Connors has been STRONGLY in favor of demolishing that building for as long as anyone can remember – so it did not surprise me – from watching the entire 12 hours of nonsense from up here in Safety Harbor on Friday – HOW he planned to eliminate several other viable proposals.”

In all of this, Lambdon made one key point: another petition drive is coming. Lambdon wrote that he believes he has strong enough support to force a referendum, noting that he has both boots on the ground and financial backing to begin rolling out the petition.

He claims that petition is still in draft form and is being reviewed by attorneys. But in his letter he makes reference to including it in his correspondence to Waveney Ann Moore.

So, where’s the story on that? Moore, nor anyone else on the Times, has reported on the specifics of Lambdon’s petition in any more detail than was originally reported following the March 20 selection committee stalemate.

Has anything in the petition changed since then?

When news first surfaced of Lambdon’s petition, a scanned copy of a draft was posted on Facebook.

Lambdon wrote in his letter that it is “A DRAFT Copy – Not For Circulation.” Does he mean it’s not ready for signatures or not ready to be viewed by the public?

If it’s the latter, there’s already a draft floating through cyberspace.

The noise surrounding this issue comes from a small bunch of people affiliated with a handful of groups – Vote on the Pier, Concerned Citizens, Build the Pier. Now there’s even a group courting the Blue Pier design that’s seemingly dead in the water outside the selection committee’s top three.

Those groups may be few and their supporters relatively small in numbers compared to the city’s overall constituency, but they are loud.

As April 23 — the day the selection committee meets again to allegedly issue its final ranking — draws near, expect letters like these to keep rolling in. Expect angry Facebook posts and maybe even a new group or two.

Most importantly, no matter who emerges number one on April 23, don’t expect the noise to stop.

Lambdon’s entire letter can be read on the Democratic Underground. It was first posted on March 23 and then again on April 8.

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 Patch.com 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 janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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