Tampa Bay columnists
Mary Jo Melone
World & Nation
AP The Wire
Comics & Games
Home & Garden
Advertise with the Times
Letters to the Editors
All this wasteful PR can't change the hard facts
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 30, 2000
Am I the only one who finds it interesting that the city of Clearwater cannot find money to help fund the Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project program (even after city officials have touted it as a model program for sheltering the homeless), but there is ample money to send all residents glossy, colorful brochures pushing the downtown redevelopment program?
The city can't seem to find money for adequate fire/safety coverage for residents of Sand Key (I am not a resident there so have no ax to grind) but can pay for advertisements on Time Warner cable by a local preacher saying how exciting the new plans are.
There seems to be no money to extend reclaimed water to more areas of the city but there is money to send four -- count them, four -- postcards reminding us to vote on July 11.
There's no money available to pay attorneys to draw up contracts prior to the election so we're expected to trust the mayor, city manager and City Commission to act in our best interest.
While I agree with the St. Petersburg Times that not all information provided by Save the Bayfront is accurate, I have absolutely no trust in (Mayor Brian) Aungst, (City Manager Mike) Roberto and associates and will vote "no" on July 11.
It's hard to have faith in officials who ignore the city's real needs.
It seems that we have a Clearwater City Commission that is able to spend $200,000 on promoting a yes vote on the July ll referendum but can't come up with $l00,000 to help fund the homeless shelter. And they ask us to trust them with the terms of the development contract?
I have a hard time putting my trust in a group of people whose priorities seem to be solely focused toward giving away property in the hopes of a big return rather than the more pressing needs of the city as a whole. As one of your subscribers said, that money sure would go a long way toward a new fire engine.
Trust us, the city leaders say -- forget it
Clearwater citizens are asked to trust our City Commission in our approval of the July 11 referendum. Why? The commissioners' actions since City Manager Mike Roberto arrived on the scene do not warrant trust.
On April 6, the City Commission approved $200,000 for the anticipated expenses of placing the referendum before the voters. In addition, $500,000 was authorized for consultant Charles Siemon to author the contract between the developers and the city, assuming the referendum is approved. Both of these expenses are coming from the city treasury.
How much more can we expect will be spent on the part of Clearwater government promoting the commission's referendum?
The opposition to the referendum is not anti-development for downtown, but rather a lack of knowing the whole truth and lack of confidence in the present City Commission based on performance to date.
People need referendum facts to make a sound decision
We have been canvassing Clearwater neighborhoods in the evening, talking to voters. We are hearing newspaper readers say they are confused about the downtown plan and would like more information printed in the paper, because they are unable to attend town meetings.
An often mentioned point is the supposed "$1 lease for 99 years,'" which appears in letters printed in the paper and has never been clarified. Also, the amount of property being leased is not understood by readers.
What is sad is that some people have had their minds made up on these points for weeks, because there have been no articles explaining the financial details of the plan.
Reasonable people who are willing to listen, when we explain that the developer will pay to build the park, pay to build parking ramps and maintain the park, at a cost of millions of dollars to himself, agree that this is a reasonable plan.
When we explain that 99-year leases are not unusual business practice for a development of this scope, reasonable people understand.
When we explain that the developer is only asking for leases on several buildings and parcels, a few of which are under lease already, and that the greatly expanded Coachman Park will be owned by the city forever, reasonable people respond with: "Well, what is Save the Bayfront trying to save, anyway? The parking lot?'"
It would be wonderful if the Clearwater Times section of the paper ran a series of articles in the next two weeks explaining the factual details of the downtown redevelopment. As a voice in the community, the paper could bring out topics such as: 1. What Clearwater citizens are getting in return for the lease of the seven properties. 2. The proposed impact on property taxes. 3. The obligations of the developer and what happens if he sells the leases. 4. What happens if the developer goes bankrupt. 5. The plans for the library being designed by Robert Stern.
The outcome of the referendum hinges on correct information.
Don't be quick to throw away Largo's fine Police Department
I had the privilege to serve as the Largo Police Department's Public Information Officer for 2 1/2 years (1989-1991).
Prior to my appointment to that position, I spent 35 years in the media -- radio, television and newspaper -- and had contact with perhaps 50 law enforcement organizations, ranging from small police departments to the FBI. There was no agency more professional than Largo.
The indiscretions of a few officers cannot be condoned, but most officers are concerned, dedicated and committed to protect the public.
The City of Largo deserves its own Police Department. Anyone who thinks the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office can provide the same level of service is whistling in the dark. For example, spend a couple of hours driving through Dunedin. You'll be lucky to see a sheriff's cruiser. Nothing against the SO, but you can be spread just so thin.
Largo is lucky to have a caring and professional Police Department. Don't be so quick to demand dissolution.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.