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Letters to the Editors

Times newspaper boxes clog right of way, too


© St. Petersburg Times
published July 2, 2002

Editor: I have read with interest your numerous editorials speaking out against the park benches that are placed at county bus stops and various other points for pedestrian convenience at no expense to the county. You have stated that the benches should be removed and eliminated for a number of reasons, including the fact that they are on county right of way, generate profit to the owners, don't compensate the county for being located on the county property, and that they are a visual blight upon the roadways.

Your argument is interesting, but please tell me how those benches differ from the newspaper boxes which you place on the right of way, receive income from, and don't pay the county for the privilege. Are they any less unsightly than the benches? By the way, I have seen a number of newspaper boxes that are chained to stop signs or other county traffic devices, and the boxes are routinely located in areas where the motoring public must stop in the right of way and exit their vehicle to purchase your newspaper. It appears, therefore, that the only difference between the two is that the benches don't cause traffic hazard, while the newspaper boxes do, and the benches provide a service to the bus riders while the newspaper boxes do and the benches provide a service to the bus riders while the newspaper boxes serve only your profit motives.

Please don't hide behind the First Amendment and the argument that that constitutional protection gives you the right. If your argument against the benches is sound, then you should voluntarily make alternative arrangements for your newspaper boxes so you would not be continuing with the offensive activity. If you don't remove them, I would assume you would voluntarily contribute to the county a certain percentage of your profits each month and would be willing to subject yourself to an audit and the other restrictions placed on the benches.

In conclusion, I have heard that many park bench advertisers say they can't afford your advertising rates and believe they receive more return for their advertising dollar than they do in our newspaper. Therefore, I ask whether or not the elimination of competition is your true objective.
-- Edward E. Lees, New Port Richey

Special Olympics puts smiles on faces

Editor: After reading Bill Stevens' column Athletes deserve special funding (July 1), I felt I needed to write you.

My children and I have been involved with Special Olympics for two years. I work with Val Lundin at Cotee River and my children are both unified players on the basketball and soccer teams. I have chaperoned day trips and overnight trips and was amazed by the fact that everything was funded through Special Olympics.

Special Olympics provides experiences to these athletes that they wouldn't ordinarily get and to watch them play their hearts out and succeed is heartwarming. Val Lundin works many, many hours making sure that these events happen. I have left school many days after working myself and seen her in her office counting uniforms, making plans, loading and unloading equipment and doing all the behind-the-scenes things that it takes to make the event happen.

The athletes are shown a great time at the games, not only through the playing of the games, but with all the little extras that go along with it. At the last event in Tampa, there was an Olympic village set up for the kids to enjoy between games. There were arts and crafts, games, free snow cones, karaoke and many other activities for them to do. This was at no cost to our kids. The community support was great and the volunteers showed a genuine concern for all our kids.

I hope that the community will step forward and help Val to continue funding all of these events. The money will keep these athletes competing and will continue to put a smile on their faces as medals and ribbons are awarded to every child, whether they win or not.
-- Tina St. Pierre, Hudson

Young athletes merit their own trophies

Editor: I have just finished reading the article on the Dixie Girls Softball Tournament held in Zephyrhills. As a parent to two of the players and a coach of one of the teams, I appreciate your recognition of our local youth sports. But I am, at the same time, saddened by what is not known by the writer and reader.

These little girls, these athletes, went away with nothing to show for their hard work and efforts. Yes, trophies were given to the winning team and the runnerup. One trophy each that an adult will take back to the home field and put in a room or trophy case. No individual trophy, no medallion or even a certificate was given. Nothing! When Dixie District Director Danny Brooks was questioned by parents why nothing was given to these girls, he explained that trophies are not given at the district level. Well, my girls happen to have trophies for the last two district tournaments, one of which was held in Brooksville last year -- Mr. Brooks' home field. He is correct that no trophies are given at the district level, a rule I don't understand, for all divisions except Darlings, the 7- and 8-year-olds. All the other division winners move on to the state tournament and if possible to the World Series, this year held in Alabama. But I think they should be recognized with something.

I had 7- to 10-year-old children ask me why they didn't get a trophy, so I had them go ask Mr. Brooks and he told them, nicely, they should be happy they have a team trophy and that it was our responsibility to get them trophies. As a league we give every girl a trophy after regular season. In years past the host team has always provided trophies to the winners and certificates for the teams that did not advance to the final game. Over the weekend the teams that were eliminated were sent home with not so much as a "thanks for showing up." All of these girls ages 7 to 12 are the best of the best in their local leagues. They practiced five nights a week for two weeks. Some had to raise funds to cover the expenses of the trip. They worked long and hard to get there. They spent the whole weekend in and out of the rainstorms. The four teams in the final games played Monday night until 1:30 a.m. only to be back in Zephyrhills at 9 a.m. Tuesday. These young kids did all of this with smiles on their faces, because they love the game and they love the competition. Every one of them deserved some sort of acknowledgement that we recognize and appreciate their hard work and dediction.

We as coaches will get these girls trophies and we would have brought them along with us had we known no one in Zephyrhills was going to take the time or expense to do so. If the host team is worried about expenses, they need only to look at the revenue that came in during this tournament. All together there were seven teams of 12 girls along with coaches, parents, grandparents and many fans to pay admission into the game, buy from the concession stand, stay in hotels and eat in their restaurants. I have been involved in the Dixie Girls Softball Association for 12 years and it has always been my understanding that we are here for one thing and one thing only. Mr. Brooks himself said in a speech during the opening ceremonies that we all need to remember that it is all about the girls. It was very disappointing to these kids and their families to see he did not mean what he said.
-- Lorraine Schulman, parent and coach
West Pasco Girls Softball Association
New Port Richey

Port Richey Council doesn't "fight'

Editor: At the City Council meeting on June 25, Mr. Michael Starr prefaced his comments to the council with a quote from Will Rogers: "I only know what I read in the papers." Knowing this to be somewhat true, and to set the record straight as to what exactly took place at that meeting, let me inform those people who do rely on the written word.

As so often in the past, the Times chooses to do "selective reporting," and selective you were in the article that appeared in Thursday's paper. First, this council does not "fight," we disagree, and I perhaps more vociferously than others. It is my opinion that the investigation of the building department must first concentrate on the previous head as the allegations and charges are concentrated within that time frame.

The mayor, on the other hand, wants to do a thorough investigation, which I am not opposed to once the initial one is completed. However, if we are to investigate the present building official, it must be within the framework of the law, something the mayor should know, as she is an attorney. Your reporter was correct in just how that procedure is handled, and it must be conducted that way, and only that way. He was also correct in reporting that neither the mayor nor Mr. Bennett would support a motion to give Mr. Sanders a vote of confidence. Vice Mayor Guttman, not I, made that motion (it was brilliant), and I proudly gave it the required second. The mayor alleges to have had complaints go unanswered, but refuses to offer any facts to support her "concerns" about the building department. As for Mr. Bennett, I have no idea why he withheld support.

Moving on to the gambling boats, the council previously agreed to view a tape, which was prepared by Sun Cruz, and have it as an agenda item at Tuesday's meeting. All materials such as this are first submitted to city staff for review. The city clerk called Sun Cruz as early as nine days prior to the meeting to ask for the tape. She was assured that it would be delivered. On the Friday before the meeting, another call was made, and another promise that the tape was forthcoming. The day of the meeting the city clerk made two calls, again asking for the tape, and said that if it was not delivered post haste, then it would come off the agenda. In a matter of minutes the mayor called acting City Manager Lou Clini and demanded that it remain on the agenda.

Now fast forward to 7:15 p.m. June 25, the night of the meeting -- Mayor Taylor entered council chambers carrying the tape. When the item came up on the agenda, Mr. Clini advised that it was not in the council's best interest to view it since we did not know its contents. I, personally, was very much opposed to viewing the tape because I felt that there may be a conflict inasmuch as Sun Cruz and Star Dancer are presently in court. If and when the matter comes before council, our thinking could be tainted, and thus I chose to do what I considered ethically right -- I did not view it. As for the mayor having that tape in her possession, and for the obvious withholding of it by Sun Cruz, I have no explanation. Whether it is a violation of ethics remains to be seen. I know what the Sunshine Law demands of elected officials. I can only hope there was no breach of that law.

Now, the mayor implied that I and two other council members have our heads in the sand and do not protect our waterways. That is so far from the truth. Dr. Massad has spearheaded the Port Authority Board's research in the dredging of our canals and bayou. His efforts, and the efforts of the untiring members of the board, should produce results once all the paperwork is completed for every "alphabet soup" state agency. It has not been an easy task.

I support the Port Authority and its efforts by being visible at Port Authority meetings and working for the board through my voice on council. As for what I would like: most importantly a safe waterfront, frequented by pleasure boats of all sizes that can safely navigate the channel; a village of shops; restaurants with outside seating; park benches; ice cream vendors; and a myriad of other activities. This "dream" is not unattainable, but it takes planning not only for the present but also for the generations to come. We are working toward that dream, as the mayor knows, since we have already begun preliminary engineering studies, which will be discussed at a public workshop on July 18.

Yes, I am passionate about my position on council, yes, I will continue to be the voice of the people, and no, my opposition to whatever I think is not good for all people, will not waver.

Should you or any city resident wish to discuss this or any other matter with me, I am in the phone book. I answer all my calls.
-- Phyllis Grae, council member
city of Port Richey

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