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Letters to the Editors

County summit was rejuvenating


© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002

I am writing in regard to the Redevelopment Opportunities Summit for the Pinellas Community, which occurred recently in Clearwater.

First, I had the distinct privilege of serving on the Steering Committee that helped form the summit. The committee assembled some of the brightest, most talented professionals from the public and private sectors across Pinellas County. Perhaps most significant, the committee consists of elected officials and staffers from the county government as well as municipalities throughout Pinellas County. This is significant considering the unique and fragile nature of intergovernmental relations in our community.

Clearly, County Commissioner Karen Seel deserves to be commended for her vision in creating this dynamic committee and for having the passion, courage and fortitude to promote this important process of cooperation, communication, coordination and consensus building.

The summit itself was a resounding success. It was attended by a diverse assortment of residents who represented various constituencies, neighborhoods, governments, organizations, associations and professions. The program and agenda were extremely impressive, offering a dynamic mix of interesting and insightful presenters.

The message of the summit was clear: Pinellas County, one of the most desirable places in the world to live in and visit, is approaching built-out status. Many of our commercial and residential structures are aged, and zoning ordinances antiquated.

During the summit, the presenters offered convincing arguments -- all supported by ample documentation -- that redevelopment and rejuvenation is an enormously vital component to ensuring the future viability of our beloved county, its economy, housing sector and our cherished standard of living.

For the sake of future generations, Pinellas County residents must work together to effectuate quality, sustainable redevelopment.

The summit was a historic opportunity to educate the public and create positive dialogue to guide our collective future. It was an honor to have been a part of it.
-- Mike Mayo, director of strategic relations, Pinellas Realtor Organization

Pinellas planning is joint effort

Diane Steinle, North Pinellas editor of editorials, provided a good focus of the Redevelopment Opportunities Summit in her Dec. 18 column. The "whole" community does need to consider where we are and what we want our future Pinellas to be. This discussion should include not only development but protecting the environment, preserving neighborhoods and improving the quality of life, as noted in the column.

The Board of County Commissioners had on its agenda last week the "Planning to Stay" document for transmittal to state agencies, local agencies and the public. This document was written by the county Planning Department and spells out where we are as to build-out and suggests the issues and guidelines for how we should approach the future.

The title, "Planning to Stay," is a statement that we need to be focused on -- how to have a community that our children will want to stay in to live, work and play. It is the first of its kind in the state, and the state Department of Community Affairs (the state planning agency) is encouraging us to send it there as a model for others to use.

Steinle's column says this discussion should include the full community (or family of communities). This is true. However, our county must also continue to be more involved in the discussions around us in other communities and regional groups because we are now more affected by what they do or don't do. As they move on, we need to be with them also. We can do this as part of Planning to Stay.
-- Brian Smith, Pinellas County planning director, Clearwater

The bucks stop here

Will they never end?

During November, I received 61 requests for donations to various sources: the heart fund, the lung fund, throat fund, etc.

Do you think that the day will come when I will receive requests from the "Athlete's Foot Fund," the "Runny Nose Fund" or the "Dandruff Fund"?
-- Joe Daily, Clearwater

Keep Christ in Christmas

I enjoyed a recent visit to Ruth Eckerd Hall but was severely disappointed that the decorators of the hall chose to take Christ out of Christmas!

On the east side entry there were three sets of decorations: one a menorah (a sacred candelabrum used in the Jewish faith); a Kwanzaa shrine, again with the secular menorah; and then a Christmas tree. The decorations had not a single cross or angel represented.

The news media have carried stories of angels' being used that depict one race or another and objections being made on the basis of political correctness. The cross is nonpolitical and certainly nonracial, and it is a gentle reminder of the faith on which the true celebration of Christmas is based. I am sure it would offend no one to have that reminder, especially in view of a sacred candelabrum being used in another display.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all happy holidays!
-- Stephen A. Hopwood, Clearwater

Police retirements will add stress

Re: Chief seeks to slow officer retirements, Dec. 13.

Has anyone thought of what will happen with the retirement of the 61 police officers mentioned in this article? An already-stretched-thin St. Petersburg Police Department will be stretched even thinner, putting the public and police officers on duty in greater danger than they are now.

We need an adequate supply of police officers on the street to keep our city safe. I think Mayor Rick Baker ought to revisit the recommendations made by the committee appointed by Chief Chuck Harmon.

So, this request is made to Mayor Baker: Mr. Mayor, please reconsider and look more closely at the strain our Police Department is under. As a mother with loved ones in law enforcement, I know I would sleep better at night knowing that more police officers were on the street to guard the public and each other.
-- Karen Phifer, St. Petersburg

Beaches only need a small bus

I have often wondered what the cost is to run a large bus on the beach route.

It is rare to see more than two or three passengers, and I suspect the taxpayers are subsidizing what amounts to a dead horse.

Surely it would make more sense to run a minibus at lower cost and with less diesel fumes in the air we breathe.
-- Peter O. Johnston, South Pasadena

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