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    Letters to the Editors

    Clearwater leaders need to get priorities straight

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001

    Re: Sewer, water rates may rise 40 percent, Feb. 13.

    I sincerely believe (and I think most citizens agree with me) that the absolute top priorities of any city government are the systems and services that secure the health and safety of the citizens.

    Thus, I am absolutely disgusted and appalled that past and present Clearwater city commissions have allowed the systems fundamental to health (sewer and water) and safety (fire protection) to degrade to the point where extraordinary measures are proposed to fund $25-million for Fire Department improvements and operations, and now $113-million for sewer and water systems.

    The appalling part is that the commissions have spent millions and have proposed or are proposing that hundreds of millions of dollars more be spent on non-essentials. Some of those non-essentials are roundabouts, incentives to developers to create high-density residential dwellings and tourist hotels (which will place much more strain on the delinquent health and safety systems), bridges we don't need, parking garages to invite more traffic and stadiums for wealthy, professional-sports-team owners.

    Unfortunately, most of these projects can be pushed through without a referendum, so the voters don't get a choice. Well, I guess the names of those with overgrown egos are presumed to be a lot flashier on bridge plaques than they are on sewage treatment plants and fire stations.

    I propose that the voters of Clearwater rise up in wrath and elect a City Commission that will get the priorities straight and strengthen the city's infrastructure for health and safety in lieu of raising fees, borrowing money and spending our tax dollars like a bunch of drunken sailors. If the money isn't available for sewage and water, it sure shouldn't be available for fancy bridges, new stadiums and greedy developers.
    -- Kyle Barnes, Clearwater

    Development proposal places old homes in jeopardy

    Re: Plan will reward focused growth, Feb. 12 story.

    Bill Wallace, an officer of the Clearwater Historical Society, recently wrote a letter to the mayor and city commissioners inquiring whether they would respect our city's heritage while planning for the future. The response was positive, each generally thanking Bill for his concern and saying they would try to factor in our history in future decisions.

    The downtown periphery development proposal would put in jeopardy 67 acres of turn-of-the-century and 1920s housing along the North Osceola bluff area up to about Nicholson Street. The most threatened are those properties west of Osceola Avenue.

    Most other cities, after having identified their cultural resources as either contributory or historic would try to adaptively reuse some of these properties while planning a major change in an area such as this.

    Clearwater commissioned a historic preservation survey and planning project in 1998 by archaeological consultants out of Sarasota. The survey identified dozens of properties in the North Osceola section that were significant resources and several that were historic. To quote the study: "Further progress in preserving culturally significant resources in Clearwater will depend on the decisions of city officials and residents."

    The study referred to Clearwater's historic preservation element in its comprehensive plan and said the plan "encouraged retention of historic structures and neighborhoods."

    It is regrettable that the city appears not to have chosen to follow its own study recommendations and historic preservation element first adopted in 1979; but I am hopeful a few of the more significant properties can survive development on our new "Gold Coast."
    -- Mike Sanders, Clearwater

    Stadium project amounts to attack on neighborhood

    The Feb. 11 Times reports that the Long Center was planning an $11-million expansion, but Clearwater and Safety Harbor officials balked and a $2.5-million plan appeared. The original plan would have required locating fields with lights at the back of the Coachman Ridge neighborhood. The Clearwater mayor thought those lights would not be appreciated by residents. One of the residents of Coachman Ridge agreed with the mayor. Probably more would have agreed, but apparently one was sufficient.

    Let us all now praise Mayor Brian Aungst's vigilance. He responded to one resident.

    The residents of Rolling Heights and College Hill have asked that the Phillies stadium be moved to a more appropriate location. They will have to pay a heavy price in reduced property value of their homes if this stadium is built as planned. One thousand residents have signed a petition to keep an 8,000-seat stadium (with lights) out of their back yards.

    Let us all now question Mayor Aungst's vigilance. He has not responded to 1,000 residents who do not appreciate this attack on their neighborhood with a monstrous corporate welfare project.
    -- John Nowlen, Clearwater

    Survey deliberately misleads on issue of electricity

    Re: Belleair voters make things clear, by Deborah O'Neil, Feb. 9.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, statistician Susanne Fischer, St. Petersburg Junior College director of institutional research. You took the words right out of my mouth when you stated "this is a highly biased survey in favor of what town leadership has provided."

    "Biased" is a tame word for this survey presented to the town by our mayor and city manager. I found it deliberately misleading where the electric issue was concerned.

    On first glance, the third choice of negotiating with Florida Power, etc., was preferred and checked by most residents; however, comparing Choice 3 on page 4 of Mayor George Mariani's letter with Choice 3 on the voting postcard, the word "legal" in "viable legal options" was not provided on the postcard survey. Residents were approving the continuation of an expensive lawsuit against Florida Power by checking No. 3.

    Eleven-hundred Belleair residents surveyed by Belleair resident Bob Rogers had previously opposed this lawsuit in writing. Realizing we were misled by this postcard prompted my letter.

    Wake up, neighbors. I think we have some housecleaning to do at City Hall.
    -- Doris Kemp, Belleair

    Parents, you must heed traffic rules in high school area

    I am writing in regard to the traffic problem at Palm Harbor University High School.

    My anger is directed toward the parents who apparently think they can ignore such signs as "No Stopping" and disregard orange cones that block the driveway to keep traffic flowing in one direction so there is some reasonable order in a place that is chaotic and dangerous.

    I drive my daughter to school every day. I have had parents do U-turns in my path (not even glancing in my direction to see if there is another vehicle). I have had teens cross in front of my car without even a glance in my direction. To top it all, I have seen parents literally get out of their cars to move the orange cones so they don't have to wait in the car line like the rest of us law-abiding parents.

    My question to these parents is: What are you teaching your teens by not obeying the rules? You are not setting a very good example by doing just the opposite of what we are being asked to do.

    Wake up, parents!

    Obey the signs and orange cones. They are there for safety reasons. I, for one, do not want to see one of our young people hurt, lying in the road, because their own parents wouldn't take the time to practice safety.
    -- Johanna Wilkinson, Palm Harbor

    Stoplights vs. roundabout: accidents tell the tale

    Re: 1 roundabout, 15 meetings, zero consensus, Feb. 6 story.

    The Clearwater roundabout committee has just admitted it needs to train drivers to maneuver the roundabout. It also wants to produce a brochure of instructions and a video to help people drive around the roundabout.

    I came to Clearwater Beach 20 years ago. At that time, there were stoplights. They worked fine. Traffic was bumper to bumper, but there were very few accidents.

    Now there is an accident on the average of one per day at the roundabout. Something is wrong. I wonder what?
    -- Ken Curry, Clearwater

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