Today's Letters: Churuti firing appears extreme

Published September 12, 2007

Re: Spratt may be next out door story, Sept. 6

As I sat riveted, watching the Pinellas County commissioners trying to bring this nasty situation to a conclusion, I couldn't help but compare it to some sort of Greek tragedy. Lives and careers hanging in the balance, every word being analyzed and cross-examined.

What's it worth investing more than 25 years in your career only to end up being the fall guy or gal? Why does someone have to pay the ultimate price? Isn't it enough to learn a lesson and move on, being wiser and more mindful? I guess not.

No doubt each commissioner had a heart-wrenching decision to make. Like I was watching a Grade "B" Hollywood movie, I sat there feeling their pain. Was this really happening? I'm sure fired County Attorney Susan Churuti is asking herself that question. Where is the loyalty? What happened to a lifetime of dedicated service? To end like this over a lousy piece of vacant land. What a shame!

Politics at what price? Cats get nine lives, baseball payers get three strikes, but Churuti gets one perceived mistake and she's out.

Bill Coleman, Dunedin

Re: Self-centered Gibson must learn to behave editorial, Sept. 9

Editorial did not reflect reality

I truly can't believe whoever wrote the editorial about Clearwater City Council member Paul Gibson witnessed the same council meeting I did.

This was another clear example of Mayor Frank Hibbard and his council members not listening to or acting on behalf of the citizens of Clearwater. Hibbard routinely silences valid input on an important issue for which he and his fellow council members have predetermined the outcome.

First of all, I heard Gibson say he did not oppose the JMC proposal to build a dock on Clearwater Beach. All he requested was that the revised security plan be delineated in writing so he could confidently determine his vote.

Contrary to the comment of council member Carlen Peterson, who in my view was the first person on the dais to raise her voice and lose control, this was not an "I" request. Mr. Gibson's comments were on behalf of all those who voted him to the council and are concerned about the out-of-control leadership of the council. The fact that Gibson resides at Belle Harbor has absolutely no place in the discussion.

Even more upsetting is the illegal manner by which the motion was made and was passed. Robert's Rules of Order call for the completion of all discussion before the chairman can solicit a motion. Council member George Cretekos was out of order by interrupting and putting his motion on the floor.

I applaud Gibson for his courage to expose himself to leaders who are not interested in the facts, but function in a manner of "It's our way or the highway."

Trying to control myself.

Bob Faller, Clearwater

Re: Self-centered Gibson must learn to behave editorial, Sept. 9

City Council lacked decorum

The St. Petersburg Times is an great asset to the citizens of this community. With that said, I strongly disagree with the editor's view of Clearwater City Council member Paul Gibson described in this editorial.

I agree with the lack of decorum issue.

However, the issue of security at the proposed boat docks and the neighboring area is real and deserved to have been better addressed. Approving these docks without better addressing security was not in the best interest of any of our citizens.

To me, all of the City Council members are at fault regarding the decorum issue. It appears that council members frustrated with Gibson's ardent pursuit of reduced spending used this as a staged opportunity to marginalize Paul in future spending debates. We should expect more of the same as spending protectionism is heightened by the significant decline in real property values and new taxable properties coming onto tax rolls.

Status quo on the City Council has changed, as Paul is clearly following through on his commitment to pursue better spending visibility, justification and reduction when appropriate. He seems balanced and fair as he dives into the issues with the astuteness of a cost accountant - something that had been absent throughout all this spending frenzy.

These are not the best of times in Clearwater and Pinellas County. According to the Pinellas County property assessor's office, the properties within Belle Harbor, the community at the heart of the public dock security debate, are selling for $75 per square foot less on average in 2007 than in 2006. As of this date, the reduction in valuations is 15 percent compared to the prior tax year; hence, taxes collected in 2008 for those properties will be 15 percent less at today's millage rate. The assessor added that this negative valuation trend is prevalent throughout the county.

The increase in property taxes brought about by the dramatic increase in government spending is a major contributor to Pinellas County's real estate and property development decline. Development projects have slowed to a trickle. Sales of existing units are at a near standstill. Property prices continue trending downward.

This is not a good economic foundation for the future of Clearwater tax revenue. The well-being of our citizens and government employees is now threatened by the after-effects of spending that greatly exceeded the pace of private-sector wages and benefits as well as local economic development. It will take more elected officials like Paul Gibson with the determination to reverse spending trends toward something far more economically responsible to the long-term health and well-being of our city and the people it serves and employs.

We need more Paul Gibsons. As this "decorum" issue has surfaced, he has a hard fight against entrenched defenders of the status quo.

William Barrett, Clearwater