© St. Petersburg Times, published March 26, 2000
It has been with hard, vested work that Front Porch Florida survives. This new initiative molded into conception by Gov. Jeb Bush has had to endure opportunists, skeptics and trial by newspaper articles. Yet it survives. The various communities that have been fortunate enough to be called Front Porch areas have all had to struggle.
This is a community effort by residents and grass-roots organizations. These groups combine forces with local government and other public as well as private agencies for the common good of a community. Because of this somewhat "bottoms-up" approach, many of the people associated with the traditional ways of doing things are having a difficult time allowing the process to work. The same can be said of the community where individuals cannot let go of the fact that government is involved in this total process. Because of this, hard work must be put into this new program.
Here in St. Petersburg, our revitalization council has 24 members. All represent businesses, non-profit organizations or residents. Eighty-seven percent of our council is made up of residents who live in the affected neighborhoods. The point to be made here is that of those 24 independent thoughts on how to move forward, 22 have stayed together as a united front for forward movement. We have cast aside personal feelings to focus on the task at hand, the community and what we would like it to feel and look like when the work is done at the end of the day.
Never before have six different neighborhoods in this town come together for a single cause until Front Porch Florida. For that, Gov. Bush, I thank you. Make no mistake about it -- this council is very much in full support of Front Porch Florida efforts.
-- Rodney Bennett, chairman, St. Petersburg Governor's Revitalization Council, St. Petersburg
My name is Chrisshun Cox. I am not only the president of Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres Neighborhood Association, but also a homeowner and resident of this neighborhood. All of my time and efforts have been put into this community, which I have lived in for 51/2 years. When the Front Porch plan was introduced to me, I was excited and welcomed it to our neighborhood, just as the other five neighborhoods did.
As things began, I started to notice things that were happening that made me cautious of the plan. As these things continued to happen, two neighborhood associations came together (with the support of our association members) and decided to pull out. The two neighborhood associations were Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres and Perkins. At that time, all we asked was that the Front Porch Council and Tallahassee respect our wishes of pulling out.
Even though it seems they have respected the Perkins Neighborhood Association's wishes of pulling out, they have seemed to target our area as a cause of some sort. I am not out to stop or destroy the St. Petersburg Front Porch Florida plan. All our association wants is for them to respect our wishes and allow us continue to revitalize our neighborhood the way we were doing before this plan was introduced.
I do feel that Front Porch Florida is a great asset to this city in order to provide much-needed financial support to south-central St. Petersburg. So, with all respect, I wish the St. Petersburg Front Porch Florida Revitalization Council all the success in the world in keeping the plan here. And, at the same time, I hope the council will respect our neighborhood's wish to stay out of it.
I am only issuing this statement to dispel the rumor that if this plan doesn't succeed here, then it will be because of me and my criticism of this plan. Well, that is not true due to the fact that I and our other neighborhood representative resigned from the council some time ago and do not participate in any way in this plan.
-- I have spoken out only on topics that directly deal with the boundaries of Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres Neighborhood Association; then and only then will I continue to speak out.
Again, at this time, I would like to wish the council and Tallahassee my sincere blessings on making this plan a success for the overall good of this city.
Chrisshun Cox, president, Melrose-Mercy/Pine Acres Neighborhood Association, St. Petersburg
My husband and I lived in St. Petersburg for six years while his company was helping to build the Sunshine Skyway bridge.
We recently returned to the area to see some spring training games on a long visit. The weather was beautiful. the games great, the seafood delicious. Fort DeSoto Park and the Boyd Hill Nature Trail are still treasures.
Our vacation was marred by the tremendous traffic, but made much worse by many Florida drivers who were aggressive, rude and angry. We were given the finger, cursed at, tailgated. One driver even tried to sideswipe our car! No wonder we read about road rage in your paper.
Elsewhere we encountered people who were helpful, smiling and kind. We just wish we could say the same about the drivers.
-- Don and June Kelly, Easton, Md.
I am very disappointed that the Pinellas County commissioners did not modify the Shell Key Management Plan to preserve the pine forest. Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd was the only one who questioned the obvious lack of logic in removing the pines, but even she caved in at the end.
No one on the commission staff was able to provide a valid reason for killing this established stand of trees, other than the simple fact that they are non-indigenous. On the other hand, several people made convincing arguments for keeping the trees. These trees are in a designated public use area of the island, so the commissioners should have listened to the public on this point. Because the commission turned a blind eye to this issue, taxpayers will have to pay to remove the trees, pay to "study" which shade trees (if any) can survive in that environment, and then pay again to plant new trees in the same spot.
There is another non-indigenous species presenting a much greater threat to Florida's environment. It is you and me. Any plans to eradicate this exotic nuisance?
-- Timyn Rice, St. Petersburg
One of the nicest features of the March 18 dance program presented by the Ballet Society at the Palladium Theatre was the barre exercise by four of Sean Musselman's students. It was a treat for those of us who have sweated and stretched as we caught up to advanced students of the ballet barre, wherever it may be. This was nostalgia at its most thrilling.
Of course, the rest of the program was up to the Musselman standard of authentic ballet perfection. Peter and the Wolf charmed us all, especially the kids. And Sleeping Beauty revealed exquisite barre background by Holly Eisengart, Georgia Naruns, Niki Stamos, Ged Helm and Eric Eisengart -- all Sean's students. It was "An Afternoon of Culture for the Entire Family," as the program promised.
-- Edna Ruth Johnson, St. Petersburg