As a long time volunteer at Clearwater Marine Aquarium ("CMA") and business owner in Clearwater, I have to respond to many incorrect statements and misperceptions about the November 5th referendum for the negotiation of a lease for the new CMA location in downtown Clearwater.
My family has been here since 1921. I have great respect and love for the City of Clearwater. I would never have any association with any facility that was disingenuous.
This new aquarium would be a win-win situation for CMA and the citizens Clearwater. Not only for tourism but for hundreds of new jobs and finally a destination, together with the Capitol Theater, for residents and tourists to come and enjoy our downtown and our beaches.
The referendum is merely to permit the City Council to negotiate a lease with CMA. If CMA doesn't come up with the money by August 2016 then it doesn't happen. The citizens of Clearwater are not on the "hook" for anything. If CMA doesn't get the funding it won't happen. The City will not be guaranteeing any of CMA’s obligations.
The City of Clearwater is not giving or even selling this land to CMA. CMA is paying far more than fair market value just to lease the land. On top of that, CMA is paying to build a brand new City Hall, something that the taxpayers will have to pay for if the referendum does not pass. This referendum is just to say YES to negotiations between CMA and the opportunity to make Clearwater the city the citizens want it to be.
Bottom Line: what is the downside to voting Yes? I believe none... if CMA doesn't make it work with the numbers then it won't happen.