During his bid for re-election last fall, Newton received criticism by his opponent that he was on the losing end of too many 7-1 votes. One of those solo votes regards the plan to raze the current structure.
On Monday Newton said he's always been about letting the public get a chance to vote on the issue. That's all he insist. "I think we're being major hypocrites if we ask the people to put us here and then don't let them vote at all. It's a lot of money, " he said after the PSTA board meeting. "Number one, $50 million is a lot of of money."
Newton also says that if the total cost for the complete renovation and restoration of the Pier exceeds that $50 million (which could be likely), he says he can look voters the eye and tell them that they collectively voted for it.
"Number two you have a beautiful public asset that belongs to the citizens and the people of St. Petersburg, the tax payers, not the politicians," he added. "And number three, If anything goes wrong, any environmental concerns or cost overruns, I can look you in the eye and said you voted for it.
There are so many caveats to what was discussed at last week's council meeting that nothing is assured in terms of maintaining the current structure, which has been the goal of Safety Harbor based activist Tom Lambdon and his group that went about collecting petitions to prevent the Pier's makeover.
City Attorney John Wolfe even says that if a measure is put on the ballot regarding the Pier, it may be non-binding, meaning that it would simply be an exercise of the voting public, but wouldn't automatically mandate stopping current plans with the Lens.
City Councilman Wengay Newton says the 20,597 petitions that were submitted would have to "make any elected official quake in their books, and with Mayor Bill Foster and several Council members on the ballot a year from November, that's as good an indication as any that a referendum should be held.
"Just let the people vote," he maintains. "If you're worried about the money already spent or them stopping your project, put that on the ballot. There's a lot of fears, but nobody should fear the outcome of the vote."
The public hearing takes place on August 2, a day before the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections' deadline for ballot language.