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Today's Letters: City government must tighten belt

By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published May 3, 2007


Economically, the general population of Clearwater is experiencing an uncomfortable belt-tightening, as the ever-increasing cost of living here forces many to cut their budgets in ways they didn't think possible. Why should it be any different for government?

And why should we feel sympathy for policymakers facing the ax? These are the same people who stood by while spiraling taxes and insurance premiums put the hurt on the average citizen, but now that it's their turn in the barrel, it's "woe is me"!

City governments are the land of union contracts, personal fiefdoms and sacred cows, where pay raises, pensions and perks have no basis in performance or merit. No city employee is going to give up their place at the trough without a fight, so don't even try to tell us there's no fat to cut in personnel costs.

Remember the old saying about contracts and compromises; the truly fair ones leave all parties unhappy. Let's see some unhappiness in the city compensation negotiations!

Another issue with personnel is Clearwater's perfection of the art of redundancy. How many citizens have seen a Clearwater work crew in action? You know, the ones where two guys work while six others stand around and watch. Then, three weeks later, we all get to watch the job get done a second time to fix the mistakes in the first effort.

Clearwater also wastes assets and resources because it is not up to speed on the latest managerial technology.

The Manhattan Institute of Policy Research lists six reforms necessary for cities to improve their efficiency and performance: inject competition into city services, make government performance-based, modernize government through information technology, improve asset and financial management, enhance human capital by transforming the nature of public work and public personnel, and create institutions to drive continuous improvement.

If Clearwater would simply make the tough decisions about cutting the fat in personnel costs and adopt the efficient reforms of a modern city management model, there would be enough left over to fund all the "optional" services mentioned.

I also question the need for the city to be involved in endeavors better suited to private enterprise, such as fitness classes, shuffleboard and story times.

Clearwater is a city stuck between its past and its future. We adopt policies and undertake projects designed to transform us into a first-class city, but then we try to manage that transformation with our old school, "that's how we've always done it in Clearwater" mind set. Real change requires letting go of yesterday, and that's going be a huge challenge for the old guard down at City Hall.

Dave Spath, Clearwater

Parks teeter on edge of cuts April 29, story

Clearwater needs to spend wisely

As a lifelong resident, I am disappointed to hear that Clearwater may cut back on its parks and recreation spending, as it is certain to negatively impact projects that would prove beneficial to its residents.

However, it presents a golden opportunity for Clearwater to closely examine its spending habits and get more for our money.

Other municipalities have done a great job with lesser budgets. Look south to Largo's Central Park as an example. It has something for just about everyone and is so beautiful that many Clearwater residents frequently use it.

Contrast that with Crest Lake Park located at the gateway to downtown Clearwater. It is an eyesore, and aside from a small dog park, it has not been refreshed in years.

Meanwhile, a large portion of Clearwater's tax money continues to go to the beach, where only businesses, investors and a handful of our residents will benefit. Currently, a multimillion dollar project will produce a sprawling beach walk to be used mainly by tourists. This new project will reduce beach parking, which is already constrained for our mainland residents who represent more than 90 percent of our population.

Consider also the lack of available fields for soccer, the No. 1, fastest-growing youth participation sport in the United States. Only one incremental field has been added in Clearwater in the past 10 years, though the sport has more than doubled in participation. Fields are so overcrowded that children are required to practice after 9 p.m. during the school year.

The city still has not taken steps to improve the Joe DiMaggio complex, even though it had a proposal on the table that would have improved the entire complex at virtually no cost. In the same time period, substantial funding has been channeled into softball fields, which are used only periodically and cost significantly more to build and maintain than a basic soccer field.

The city may be required to adjust to a reduced budget soon, but this should be seen as an opportunity to make better choices which will positively impact a maximum number of citizens, especially our youngest ones.

Ken Griffin, Clearwater

Plan to demolish center appalling

I am appalled with the new proposal to demolish the Morningside Recreation Center in Clearwater (and not build a new one).

As a mother of three with one on the way, my husband and I purposely bought in this neighborhood five years ago so our family could enjoy the center. The rising costs of insurance and taxes have made it difficult for middle-income families to exist in Pinellas, and now we are losing an integral part of our neighborhood, too.

How does it happen that just a year ago, there were millions of dollars to accommodate a brand new Morningside Recreation Center, and now we are eliminating it entirely?

I also find it very ironic that right after the vote to keep Penny for Pinellas is when we hear about this new proposal. Very smart on the part of our city and county governments!

Tricia Baker, Clearwater

Budget proposal trims $4.4M April 26, story

Get city manager out of politics

In this article, Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne is providing the same old rhetoric that the politicians always use. When taxes are cut, automatically services such as police and fire must suffer. It is the mentality of politicians to make the voter suffer if they do not get enough (in their estimation) to run government.

I am sure that the city of Clearwater has many nonessential services and projects that could be reduced or eliminated. An example is the boat docks that were approved by the residents. I am an old boater; however, if there is a choice between docks and reducing exorbitant taxes, the decision should be easy.

The city should hire a real business person as city manager and keep that person out of the politics. Politics should be for the people we elect.

Robert K. Reader, Clearwater

Your voice counts

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