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    Letters to the Editors

    Fire chief misses point on need for communication

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 15, 2002

    Re: Emergency service should be uniform throughout county, letter, May 9.

    The letter from Safety Harbor Fire Chief William Stout, in which he asserted that my comments regarding fire service consolidation were "seriously flawed," is a perfect example of the politics of paralysis -- the fear of even discussing new ideas or the improvement of current processes.

    It is also an example of how direct communication, like the person-to-person dialogue of the upcoming Pinellas Assembly, can be beneficial to mutual understanding and consensus building.

    The assembly represents a unique opportunity for divergent constituencies, elected officials, citizens and public servants to come together for three days of visioning, discussion and thoughtful debate. My comments were made in the context of possible areas of discussion at the assembly, and I believe that service delivery -- including fire service delivery -- is an important issue that should be addressed.

    Unfortunately, Chief Stout did not contact my office to discuss the issue, as other fire chiefs and elected officials have. Had he done so, he would have found that we agree on many issues concerning emergency services delivery in Pinellas. I agree that emergency services should be uniform throughout the county, both in efficiency and in funding. In fact, that is the very reason that I support the discussion and study of potential fire service consolidation.

    The fiscal plight of the Lealman Fire Department is one example of a fire service funding inequity. That is precisely why the Board of County Commissioners has taken steps to halt voluntary annexations in the Lealman Fire District, and why state Rep. Frank Farkas authored legislation to address the fiscal effects of annexation on the Lealman Fire District.

    Is Lealman the only fire district facing funding inequities? Perhaps, perhaps not. But the question has to be asked, and the answer should be a major driver in the decision process that ultimately determines if improvements in the county's fire service delivery structure are needed.

    Finally, Chief Stout suggests that I need to speak with fire chiefs about current fire service issues and standards. For the record, I have spoken with many elected officials, residents and firefighters from all over the county on this and other service delivery issues. If I had known of his concerns, I would have been more than happy to speak to Chief Stout, or any other fire chief, elected official or citizen.

    Like any business enterprise, government should seek to continually improve its processes and services. Communication, discussion and data-based research build collective vision and produce the best possible business decisions. The politics of paralysis simply perpetuates the status quo. The taxpayers of Pinellas can't afford to be bound by the latter.
    -- Kenneth T. Welch, District 7, Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners

    Mall was key to growth, upgrades in Countryside

    Re: Forget the mall; now it's 'shoppingtown,' story, May 8.

    For our friends in Australia:

    A shoppingtown is a mall in the United States, and Countryside is 20,000 residents of Clearwater. More than 35 years ago U.S. Home developed two sister communities, Carrollwood and Countryside, both built around a 27-hole golf course and tennis country club. The homes and townhouses were built with the same layout and buyer in mind. Both were sold and marketed to a community lifestyle that reflects the needs of the residents.

    Over the course of time, Countryside continued to flourish, with the addition of Countryside Mease Hospital and the expansion of Countryside Country Club, while Carrollwood never improved its golf and tennis club and its hospital became University Hospital at Carrollwood. The element missing in Carrollwood was a Countryside Mall, which has been expanded and has been a keystone of Clearwater, with strong public support.

    Upon talking to associates in Brandon and Citrus Park (where malls also have been renamed by the new owner, Westfield Group), they feel that a community identification is being erased. The "Westfield Shoppingtown" marketing plan is already determined, but the jury is out on their community involvement. Some suggestions may be to sponsor a Welcome to Clearwater sign or beautification of the medians on Countryside Boulevard to compliment the landscaping the previous mall owners added.

    In our hearts there always will be a Countryside Mall, a big part of our community.
    -- John Wiser, Clearwater

    Just raise my taxes, keep the booze off our beach

    Re: Parks plan calls for loans, story, May 14.

    Yes, indeed, they are considering selling alcoholic beverages from the city-owned pavilions in Clearwater Beach. Is this a measure to help the budget deficit? If it is, just raise my taxes and keep the booze off our beach!

    Thousands of locals and tourists, myself included, take their kids and grandkids to the beach/park/playground at Pier 60 and to the beautiful expanse of beach at the South Beach Pavilion.

    We do this because it is safe and clean and child friendly. Serving alcohol on the premises doesn't negate the fact that inebriated individuals and empty beer cans will spill out onto the best beach in the world!
    -- Al Cole, Clearwater

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