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Some drivers really need reining in

Published February 11, 2004

Increase in traffic tickets reflects better enforcement, Feb. 4.

I salute the city of Largo for having terrific traffic enforcement. I wish my own city, St. Petersburg, and other local cities would do the same. I've recently seen people run red lights with impunity and make turns from the wrong lanes, cutting off fellow motorists. These are serious violations that should not go unchecked. I think decoys of plainclothes officers would nab more violators and make the streets safer for law-abiding drivers and pedestrians.

I also feel we should have a public safety campaign to prevent auto mishaps and increase public awareness. Habitual drunks should not be behind the wheel of an automobile. Neighbors, friends and family members could reason with such inveterate violators or turn them in to the authorities before a tragedy ensues. We could come up with safety slogans, such as, "Drive so your license expires before you do," or "Safety pays - speeders pay."

Auto maintenance is a factor in auto accidents, so a slogan such as "Accidents lurk where brakes don't work" is apt. The point is to bombard the public with attention-getting phrases that will make them more alert and sensible when they drive. Truly, drivers who think first, last!

-- Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg

Gas tax promoters deserve skewering

Re: Panel pushes gas tax increase, Jan. 4.

I don't know how Howard Troxler feels about the proposal to raise the Pinellas County gasoline tax, but I hope he will do the same kind of job on commissioners who support the idea that he did on legislators who voted for the telephone rate increases.

Especially due a skewering is Commissioner Bob Stewart, who led the task force that is pushing the increase.

I am bemused by the proposal to allow developers to stop paying impact fees in exchange for designing "livable communities." They've been building unlivable communities?

-- Robert Vaughn, Oldsmar

Gas tax: another boneheaded idea

Re: Panel pushes gas tax increase.

I guess we'll begin seeing huge green boxes at the entrance to every new subdivision, strip mall and super-whatever later this year. That's where a Pinellas County "task force" (read that "tax farce"), led by Commissioner Bob Stewart, wants all of us who drive, own a boat or mow the lawn to deposit about $.10 per week beginning next year. Each of us must pick the developments that are most obstructive to travel on our already hideously congested roads, and wait in line to throw our money into those boxes, because they belong to the developers that will benefit most from our involuntary contributions.

Okay, I lied about the green boxes, but the principle is the same. The task force wants to free developers from their responsibility to pay for their detrimental impact to our traffic flow in favor of having motorists pay for the added inconvenience! The dime per week figure comes from a "guesstimate" that if a vehicle is able to achieve 20 miles per gallon in Pinellas County, it is driven 10,500 miles per year and all gas is purchased here, the additional penny per gallon they want will cost the driver $5.25 per year. Not a lot of money individually, perhaps, but that is no reason we should all be forced to pay the tab for developers.

Just when I think every ill-conceived, boneheaded, shortsighted idea to reward developers at the expense of the public has been perpetrated upon us, someone comes up with another.

-- Larry Van Gelder, St. Petersburg

Lark of an airboat

Re: Airboat was imported from Minnesota, letter, Jan. 21.

Actually, several states have connections to the world's first commercial airline. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line's Benoist Airboat No. 43 was manufactured in St. Louis by Tom Benoist in 1913.

It was then taken to Duluth, Minn., for a summer carnival called "The Lark of Duluth," and Lark of Duluth was printed in large letters under the wing.

The airboat was next taken back to St. Louis, where 10 feet were added to the wingspan and other modifications were made. It was then sent to Paducah, Ky., for use.

Tom Benoist and Percy Fansler, one of the airline's founders, signed a contract on Dec. 13, 1913, with St. Petersburg Mayor Noel Mitchell and local businessmen to implement the airline. Benoist arranged for Airboat No. 43 to be shipped by rail from Paducah to St. Petersburg for the Jan. 1, 1914, launch of the airline.

The airboat did not arrive in St. Petersburg until Dec. 31, the day before the inaugural flight was scheduled, creating great anxiety on the part of local promoters. Those who uncrated the airboat commented upon its rough-looking appearance. The hull was painted dark green, possibly to hide former wear, and it still bore traces of the painted-over legend "Lark of Duluth." The hull also bore the signatures of nearly 50,000 people who had witnessed the airboat's flight in one state or another since June 1913.

Of course, none of those who signed the hull knew at the time the airboat would be used in the world's first commercial airline.

The full-sized working replica, built by the Florida Aviation Historical Society, on permanent display at the St. Petersburg Museum of History is true to this history. The replica includes the dark green paint, and under the upper wing are the letters "of DU," the remnant of the "Lark of Duluth" signage.

As is so often the case, good things come from a diversity of places!

-- Will Michaels, executive director, St. Petersburg Museum of History

Enriched by honesty in Vegas

Amid all of today's problems such as terrorist alerts, the war In Iraq, etc., I had an unusual experience in, of all places, Las Vegas. During a recent visit there I valet parked my car at the Sahara Hotel. It is my custom to place three $1 bills in my shirt pocket as a tip for the attendant returning my car. Somehow I placed three $20 bills in my pocket and gave them to the attendant. He did not even glance at the money, but just put it in his pocket. Later I realized what I had done.

With no proof, I decided I would just have to live with this error. Two days later I again valet-parked at the Sahara. Laughing at what I had done, I told the attendant that some valet person must think there was a real big tipper in town. I was asked to describe the valet in question. I did and I was told to leave my phone number. That very day I received a call from the Sahara asking me to come to the valet section. I did and I was handed $20 bills with the explanation that the person who received them readily admitted the fact and had returned them. I was also told that no valet would knowingly cheat a customer. This was in Las Vegas, folks. I was stunned at this honesty and my whole trip was a pleasure. I really believe this incident is worth passing on.

-- Donn W. Campbell, St. Petersburg
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