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Letters to the Editors

Chains move in, charm moves out

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002

Kudos to St. Petersburg for encouraging development of Outback, Starbucks, Carrabba's, etc., on Fourth Street. It would be a shame to retain any character, charm and individuality exhibited in the past and to encourage locally owned businesses when they can be replaced with national chains. Now we can rest easy because our thoroughfares are turning into clones of any street in Any Town U.S.A.

Cheers for opening a mall full of retail and dining chains (just in the nick of time) to draw people away from private enterprise downtown just when the revival of locally owned businesses there was really happening. Now Central Avenue can once again resemble a ghost town on a Friday or Saturday night. It makes good sense because we all know that the demise of the American downtown was a direct result of the boom of the shopping mall.

Hats off to the development of our nature preserves and parks. Paved roads, parking lots, air-conditioned education centers with video theaters and animals in captivity are just what we need. That way, we won't have to go through the trouble of going out there and experiencing natural Florida firsthand.

Continuation of these trends guarantees the homogenization of America. Family-owned business will become a remnant of history.

We finally will be able to live in the splendor of unvarying sprawl anywhere we go.
-- Susan Muntner, St. Petersburg

Wave to a police officer sometime

Re: Let's make service a way of life again, June 19.

I appreciated the column by Rick Kriseman. I was reminded of many "service learning" projects I developed as a teacher in Pinellas County schools over the 25 years I taught here. I remember Albert Schweitzer's words, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

The other night my home was burglarized. The police officer who came to work with me here was totally at my service and knew exactly what Dr. Schweitzer was talking about. While I appreciated Kriseman's appeal to our youth to serve in whatever capacity they see fit, I am especially thankful to the St. Petersburg Police Department for the good service we so easily overlook when it is somebody else's problem.

Wave to an officer sometime. It's a service that won't cost you a dime.
-- Jim Duffey, St. Petersburg

"Tax' on youth sports is ridiculous

Re: The price to play, June 16.

I was delighted to read the article published in the Neighborhood Times recently about the sports tax on players who live outside St. Petersburg.

Like the child and father mentioned in the article, I have two children who play for a club in St. Petersburg. This club's members have proudly carried the name of the city of St. Petersburg on the front of their game shirts to places like the Dallas Cup, the most prestigious youth soccer tournament in the United States, and to the San Diego Surf Cup, a youth tournament that is probably second to Dallas. We have been to Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and all over this state with the same logo on our shirts.

At least 25 percent of the children probably play at the club from outside the area. We travel 100 miles a week just to practice. During the season, we are either covering the same distance or farther.

It's no mean feat for us or others at the club to raise money to cover our costs for all the travel. My husband travels from his job in Tampa each practice session to volunteer his coaching skills.

With the volunteer help given this season, (we only have one paid coach, and he is pitifully compensated for all he does), our club of just seven teams (one a developmental team) has achieved 20 titles. We stand to lose not just our club but others with this "tax" on youth sport development. People will turn away from sports simply because they cannot keep paying for more and more.

The city recreation parks are for the public. Is the city going to start charging people who drive to these parks from outside the city limits to walk their dogs? Will children be prevented from using playground equipment and public courts for tennis if they live in Largo or Pinellas Park? Where will it end? Will the city have the money to pay for the leisure police?

Finally, what if the incredibly successful U.S. men's World Cup soccer team decides to visit St. Petersburg and give a few demonstration games. Will those men have to find $10 apiece?

If city officials need to find a way to maintain these parks, then like every other city in every other place in the United States, indeed the civilized world, they simply have to raise the taxes to the residents.

The parks are one of the reasons that residents like to live in St. Petersburg. If it's not palatable to governmental officers, they might just have to find another way to keep their jobs.
-- Mary Finnegan, Largo

Unincorporated areas pay for services

Re: Land annexations to tip balance of power, story, June 10.

Does Largo City Manager Steve Stanton really think his city is providing my services for free? As a former Largo resident for 28 years and current resident of the unincorporated area, I am offended by his insinuation.

I privately pay for trash pickup by BFI and the Pinellas County street light assessment. Also, the $2,168 a year in property tax I pay entitles me to fire and police protection, among other services.

If he needs to make me out to be a freeloader in order to annex my property, Largo will have a long wait. I left once because of the arrogance displayed by Largo city officials.
-- Claudia Tibbetts, unincorporated Pinellas

Sheriff's booking fee idea is inane

Re: $10 cover charge at jail proposed, June 12.

The proposal by Pinellas Sheriff Everett Rice to charge arrested prisoners a small "booking fee" to offset expenses is outrageous. You do not charge anyone a fine and call it a booking fee. Good grief. They're prisoners being booked for jail, not customers paying admission to see a movie.

The sheriff is proposing that the money will be returned to those acquitted. Wonderful. So, the $10 is, shall we say, a deposit? Apart from the fact that this looks like someone betting on my innocence, it also complicates the prediction of revenue for reducing expenses, which is the reason for the charge in the first place.

Under this proposal, the county won't collect from the indigent or from those who need the 10 bucks to make bail. The really good news is that they won't place a lien on the property of anyone who refuses to pay 10 bucks. Well, that's a relief.

So what's the worst thing they can do if you can afford to but refuse to pay the fee? Send you to jail?
-- Jack Bray, Dunedin

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