planned tribe. PETERSBURG — As nearly two dozen protesters spent the night outside City Hall amid insects and damp, the St. Petersburg City Council will decide on Thursday which is more important: businesses or residents from their homes. Go out.
On Thursday afternoon, those protesters cheered and breathed a sigh of relief when council members agreed to take a second look at the rent control referendum. The city council voted 4-3 to draft a resolution declaring a housing emergency and to draft the language of the vote that would allow voters to decide whether to introduce rent controls in November.
“I was overjoyed because it’s such an uphill battle we’re fighting,” said Carla Correa, an organizer for the St. Petersburg tenants’ union, which helped organize a “night-out” outside City Hall to demand rent controls. But he could hardly sleep. “We know next week is going to be a crazy fight too.”
The resolution and the language of the proposed vote will be submitted to Council on August 11, pending approval.
RELATED: St. Petersburg housing protesters remain ‘asleep’ demanding vote on rent control
Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders had already scheduled a committee discussion on “constructive options for introducing tariff stabilization”. But rent controls can only be enforced by a public vote, and the language of ballots for November’s general election must be submitted by Aug. 16 by the Pinellas County observer.
Therefore, Figs-Sanders amended his suggestion that the language of the ballot was appropriately publicized. But rent controls will not follow the same process as the other four voting questions approved by the council on Thursday.
Among these questions: whether to reintroduce the property tax exemption for companies that invest in their real estate or create high-paying jobs. A voting measure to extend the exemption was one of several last year that failed by 87 votes.
RELATED: St. Petersburg May Vote on Dali, Business Tax Breaks, November Election Cycle
“I think it’s an interesting time because you’ve got staff taking advantage of the corporate tax break referendum,” said Jabar Edmund, vice president of the Childs Park Neighborhood Association. “When we call an emergency, it’s like speaking French.”
Prosecutor Jackie Kovillarich said that because the rent cap is regulatory, it must be enacted through an ordinance that provides for two public hearings. but The Council does not have time for two public hearings before the Election Deadline Observer. He said nothing prevents council members from casting votes.
She lost to council member Ed Montanari, who did not vote Thursday, along with council leaders Gina Driscoll and Brandi Gabbard.
“I understand the pain people felt, but we were elected to be responsible,” Montanari said. “There is still a lot to be done and in my opinion it would be reckless to vote for this resolution.”
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The three also voted on council member Richie Floyd’s proposal to declare a state of emergency on housing at a committee meeting in February. Mayor Ken Welch’s administration has also spoken out against lawsuits, loopholes and backlash from the state.
“This was our position when we met as a committee and this is our position today,” said City Manager Rob Gerdes.
Council member Kopley Gerdes didn’t like the process either, but it was the exchange vote that gave the rent control in St. Petersburg a second chance. He voted yes, along with council members Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Floyd and Figgs-Sanders.
“I will support it, but starting today; it could very well change next week,” said Copley Gerdes.
Council member Lisette Hennewicz was absent. Its condition can also affect the outcome.
The City Council approved voting issues that would allow the Dali Museum to expand, postpone municipal elections to even-numbered years to align with state and national elections, and codify changes to City Council residency requirements.
But it was the fare control that drew the crowd. Speakers shared stories of their own rent increases, friends who took their own lives for incompetence, and professors who had to change. Wheeler-Bowman and Figs-Sanders share stories of family members struggling with rent increases.
The protesters spent Wednesday night on the lawn in front of City Hall, decked out in picnic blankets, Domino’s pizza and filled coolers. As the protesters stayed into the night, the smell of bug spray filled the air. Organizers said the police did not speak to them.
Courtesy of Matt Taylor, who sat under a tree with his DJ set, crickets chirped to the lo-fi beat rendition of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.”
Taylor, who moved to St. Petersburg in 2011 for the arts and music scene, said many of her friends who are artists are moving away because they can’t afford it.
“Art is what keeps St. Pete’s, and if you’re pushing out artists, I don’t know what’s going to change this town,” said Taylor, who said his rent was up $400 this week.
RELATED: Can St. Petersburg really freeze rent increases for a year?