Letters to the Editors
The Other city slighted in favor of beach issues
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001
I have observed changes to Clearwater city government and its policies during 20 years. During the past six to eight years, things seem to have wandered to a point where the officials we elect often act contrary to the wishes of the majority.
Self-interests have deeply divided our citizens. On the one side we have Clearwater Beach businesses, allied with downtown developers.
On the opposite side, we have the Other: homeowners, neighborhood associations and small businesses as well as condominium and apartment dwellers who go about their lives and businesses in the remaining parts of the city.
Since the Other is the majority in Clearwater, it is hard to conceive that they do not have the upper hand in determining what our city's future will be. And for the issues in which the Other is provided access to the ballot, that is the case, evidenced by the resounding defeat of the downtown redevelopment project.
On the other hand, the beach and downtown interests are well financed, organized and benefit from a like-minded City Commission. As a consequence, many issues that would certainly be defeated at the polls are carefully crafted to preclude a vote. Classifying the $50-million Memorial Causeway Bridge project as a health and safety necessity is a compelling example of this tactic. Ordinance changes that allow the city to confiscate beach property under certain conditions and grant variances raising allowable building heights are others.
It is very difficult to live in the Other Clearwater and feel you are a meaningful part of this city. The consumption of assets to support the beach-related projects is disproportionate, to the expense of the Other. And it's not just the time spent by the City Commission, but all the functions, planning, utilities, fire and police protection, subcontracts for studies and bottomless legal pits.
Differences in the goals and interests that exist between the two communities do not lend themselves to easy resolution. As one looks at the Pinellas coastal map, it's not too difficult to conclude that our beach area is out of synch with the other beach communities. All the others have chosen to be individual communities with their own governing body.
Perhaps it is time for some serious dialogue about a separate taxing district, Clearwater Beach, along with its own government contracting for services in much the same way towns use the Sheriff's Office today. At least each side would no longer have to feel victimized by the other.
Don't exclude taxpayers
Re: Legal challenge to bridge misses mark, April 13 story.
How dare the Clearwater government end-run the taxpayers and voters by going to the Florida Supreme Court relative to borrowing up to $51-million to build a new Memorial Causeway Bridge to Clearwater Beach?
And how dare the Florida Supreme Court exclude the voters of Clearwater from their right to vote on the borrowing, which will have to be repaid long after the current runaway-spending government has departed from office.
Why doesn't the St. Petersburg Times and/or the Clearwater government publish a comprehensive explanation of the "health and safety"' concerns that demand a new bridge? What is it about the current bridge that threatens the health and safety of the city and its visitors?
We, the citizens, would like some answers from the press, which seems to favor everything the city government wants to do.
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