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Letters to the Editor

Cut our crime rate, not our tax rate

There is no doubt that St. Petersburg has become a better place since Mayor Rick Baker took office. But nobody should confuse a better city with a perfect one, especially the mayor.

Letters to the Editor
Published June 4, 2006

Re: Baker urges cut in city tax rate, May 24.

There is no doubt that St. Petersburg has become a better place since Mayor Rick Baker took office. But nobody should confuse a better city with a perfect one, especially the mayor. Under ideal conditions, his desire to slash the millage rate and ease the financial crunch facing homeowners should be applauded. However, these are not ideal conditions and this is not "another great day in St. Petersburg.''

Recently, in a short span of time, this newspaper reported on three very disturbing, separate incidents that occurred within our city.

In the Palmetto Park neighborhood, drug dealers tossed Molotov cocktails at people's homes and broke car windows, prompting residents to fight back and declare that they're "not getting the backing" they need. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that gunshot wounds sent a mobile home park resident to the hospital. Finally, the chilling headline "Police look for serial rapist" greeted visitors to your Web site late Friday.

The mayor's proposed tax cut would save the owner of a $250,000 home approximately $79 for the year. In other words, most people wouldn't notice the savings.

He defended the cut by saying it would not result in fewer city services. But how about using the money to improve services? Our Police Department will soon undergo an independent managerial review, and one would expect better wages to make up at least one part of the solution to our department's recruiting problem. I'm sure other departments have needs as well, but given the recent spate of crime, beefing up the community police program seems like the logical place to start.

The mayor's intentions are good, and it's refreshing to know that he fully understands the property tax crisis facing homeowners. Unfortunately, a few dollars a month in savings does nothing to alleviate the fear Palmetto Park residents feel when they step outside their homes. Our growing city has a growing crime problem, Mr. Mayor. In order to enjoy the great day in St. Petersburg you often talk about, we need a crime cut, not a tax cut.

Kevin King, St. Petersburg


Residents can help out with policing

Re: Police action against drugs often invisible, May 28.

After reading the recent stories about the lack of government support for the resident crime fighters in Palmetto Park, it reminded me of when, for seven years, I was the crime watch coordinator for Uptown Neighborhoods (late '80s and '90s). We experienced some of the same problems Palmetto Park is now experiencing. Uptown Neighborhoods has improved and so can Palmetto Park. Here are 10 steps that could improve Palmetto Park in the long term:

1. Establish a meeting place and disseminate fliers about crime watch meetings to all homeowners.

2. Prepare a large map of Palmetto Park, which displays all houses in the neighborhood (These maps can be obtained at the city municipal building).

3. Identify drug houses on the map with the help of the community police officer and during crime watch meetings share intelligence about problem properties.

4. Establish citizen patrols of the neighborhood; while on patrol visit targeted drug dealer-controlled properties. Let them know they are being watched.

5. Photograph drug dealers and their vehicles. Place pictures in a neighborhood crime photo album, then share them with law enforcement agencies.

6. Adopt a passionate politician who will faithfully trumpet your cause and help you with resources.

7. Pressure elected officials to establish a multilevel government task force, that has one person in charge. Ensure the task force meets monthly, and has neighborhood association and crime watch representation.

8. Establish a cash reward program for information that leads to the arrest of a drug dealer. Hand deliver fliers about the program throughout the neighborhood. This forces drug dealers to move off the street and into houses for which search warrants can be obtained.

9. Ask the Police Department for additional patrols, day and night. Foot and bike patrols are preferred, because officers' senses are diminished while patrolling in a vehicle.

10. Hang together. Palmetto Park's unity will defeat the drug dealers.

David L. Prior, St. Petersburg


Let evacuees take pets to shelters

Re: Add pets to hurricane planning, May 29.

My son, Zachary Cornett of Boy Scout Troop 261, has just completed a hurricane evacuation survey of the Fossil Park neighborhood for the purpose of obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout. As one of the many volunteers that he led in gathering the information, I can attest that Pinellas County and the state of Florida definitely need more pet-friendly shelters.

Many of the elderly with whom we came in contact in the door-to-door survey, when asked if they would evacuate in the event of a hurricane, said they would not. The reason: "I won't leave my pet." You could see the despair in their eyes at the thought of being separated.

These residents have lived in our neighborhood for many years. The Fossil Park neighborhood is an A/B evacuation level. While Pinellas County needs to be commended for working hard to come up with a few "pet-friendly shelters," more needs to be done.

Nobody wants to see what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And I, for one, don't want to lose a resident of this neighborhood for something that possibly could have been prevented.

Karen Mullins, St. Petersburg


Distractions spoiled concert at beach

Congratulations for spoiling what has always been an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend celebration on the beach. We went to Treasure Island anticipating a lovely evening listening to the Tampa Bay Orchestra followed by fireworks. It had become a tradition over the past few years.

What a disappointment! There were all kinds of vendors' tents and loud generators. The area was roped off so that there was only one narrow way in and out. Then, the biggest disappointment of all was you could not hear the orchestra.

The only way you could tell that the concert had started was by the way people in front of you began standing up. You realized that the national anthem was being played but could not hear so much as a sound!

With 2½ hours to go to watch the fireworks, it was simply too much to just sit and watch the sea of humanity going by. Thus with great disappointment we decided to leave.

We can only hope it was worth it for those who stayed, and that the fireworks made the evening worthwhile.

M.L. Goodwin, Seminole


Bring back festival's daytime parade

Not having the daytime Festival of States parade was really disappointing.

Mayor Rick Baker said that St. Petersburg would keep the car race because it was too popular to eliminate. What about the daytime parade? It was really popular for years.

Think about it.

Virginia Cheshire, St. Petersburg

[Last modified June 4, 2006, 10:19:58]

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