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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 13, 2000
What's with this apparently inseparable bond between Clearwater's officials (city manager, mayor and most commissioners) and developers? Isn't it about time people start asking -- demanding -- that the citizens of Clearwater have a say on major projects affecting the future of Clearwater Beach and the downtown waterfront?
This apparent strong favoritism to developers should raise some serious questions like:
1. Can each city official involved positively swear that they have not received any direct or indirect benefits from any contractors or consultants?
2. Can each official swear that they will never receive any future benefits from any involved contractor or consultant?
3. Can each official positively swear that they have nothing but Clearwater citizens' interests in mind?
This rapid push toward multimillion-dollar developments on the beach and downtown looks awfully suspicious. It looks as if the will of the people doesn't matter. This needs to be changed, rapidly, before the situation gets out of hand and Clearwater's unique natural resources are replaced by concrete and plastic jungles, like places many of us have escaped from.
Let developers do things on their own without taxpayers' money, and away from the few remaining natural settings in our once serene city.
And by the way, there is a multiple-screen movie theater with plenty of available seating and parking not too far away on Ulmerton Road near Starkey. Too bad it's closed!
-- Bernie Browne, Clearwater
Can anyone explain why Clearwater has more soreheads than any other city of its size in the United States? I came to Clearwater in 1974. At that time the city government, on its best day, was mediocre. As the years passed, it got worse, culminating in a sorehead takeover of the City Commission by Fred Thomas, Sue Berfield and Art Deegan.
Pursuant to the law of unintended consequences, Fred Thomas and company did a lot of good for the city. Some first-rate people made themselves available for public office. Berfield and Deegan were defeated, and in a rare moment of lucidity, Thomas quit before we could vote him out.
Since then, the long, downward spiral has been reversed. The first big change has been the roundabout, and the soreheads are in full roar. The pages of this paper have contained a number of letters from people whining, complaining, bellyaching and caterwauling about the roundabout. I use it at least twice a day and think it's working like a charm. It is also very attractive.
The city next proposes to develop the bayfront. This has caused some of the soreheads to become apoplectic. Have you looked at the bayfront lately? It is a giant parking lot. There are only two reasons to stop there: to fish for sheepshead off of a decrepit old bridge, or to attend a function in Coachman Park, after which everyone evacuates the area. We can do better than this.
The city of Clearwater has neither the money nor the skill to undertake a proper bayfront development. The only thing that will work is a public/private venture that employs the skills of private people who know what they are doing. The citizens of Clearwater should seize this opportunity to capitalize on a great asset that is now mostly covered with asphalt and barely utilized.
Let's not let the soreheads drag us back down to the mediocrity that we are just beginning to escape.
-- F. Wallace Pope Jr., Clearwater
Bluff redevelopment brought to you by the same people who brought you the traffic circle! I get dizzy just thinking about it.
-- Robert Stegmann, Clearwater
Re: Earning support of residents is vital for bluff development, column, Feb. 8.
I find it ironic that Jack Reed's column found it necessary to dampen the hope our community has for a better bayfront and downtown. For once, we have a City Commission and staff focused on improving our community, increasing property values and creating a vibrant downtown where all of Clearwater can congregate and enjoy our beautiful bluff.
So, I'm confused. The downtown development issue has been discussed for months and months. In fact, the Times has been informed and involved in the process. The Times staff has been involved to the point that the reporter ate at the same restaurants city staff and elected officials ate at during due-diligence trips.
So, what reporting did Reed do? Why did he make innuendoes in his column that this is all being done behind closed doors? Why doesn't he factually report on the progress being made and the choices before us?
As a citizen, I am comfortable with the process taking place. I would ask Reed to be a part of the process, too, and report the facts rather than opine on "public trust." Let the citizens of our community form their own opinion.
To those citizens who want to be part of the process, please join in. To get up to speed on the process, watch the first five minutes of the special commission meeting held on Feb. 8.
-- James D. Appelt, Clearwater
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Times paid all expenses for its reporter during trips to cover meetings between Clearwater city officials and developers.
Re: Developers present bluff ideas, story, Feb. 9.
The ideas are impressive; however, considering that the Scientologists already own a good portion of downtown Clearwater, they will be the ones to benefit most from the redevelopment. How sad that due to their ever-growing presence, many people now avoid the downtown area, including me. Redeveloping it won't change that.
-- JoAnna Anderson, Clearwater
Well, I see the lunacy in Clearwater continues. Mike (the roundabout) Roberto now has a chance to mess something else up, meaning the bluff.
I really feel he and the city commissioners and the mayor would screw up a soup sandwich.
-- Jack Wilson, Clearwater
Re: New Orleans group gets nod, story, Feb. 11.
I would like to reiterate my comments from Thursday's Downtown RFDQ Selection Committee meeting in Clearwater. I ranked Waltemath/MarketFest as the No. 1 candidate for the following reasons:
1. David Waltemath has been in business for over 20 years with a very strong redevelopment track record. His company has managed this continued success despite fluctuating inflation rates and unstable national economic trends. This proven durability is important for our downtown redevelopment project.
2. Everyone I have spoken with has praised Mr. Waltemath's reputation, integrity and commitment to excellence, including those in Punta Gorda who did not initially support his project. This downtown redevelopment initiative will require extensive community involvement and these qualities are very important as we proceed together.
3. With two referendums to his credit, he has significant experience in working with the community to bring residents into the public process.
4. The team he has brought together includes Arthur Hill, a premier urban entertainment company, and Solomon Movie Theaters -- two outstanding partners that bring significant strength to the project. This was an extremely difficult decision. George de Guardiola's team also presents tremendous potential to revitalize this community. I have nothing but the greatest respect for the quality of their work.
However, I would like to point out that the ultimate decision rests with the commission.
-- Mike Roberto, city manager, Clearwater