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Letters to the Editors

County vote on seniors' tax break lacks humanity

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 6, 2000


Re: County delays new tax break for seniors, Oct. 31 story.

While presidential candidates and advocates of all political parties are spending time in Pinellas County at meetings with our senior citizens, Pinellas County Commissioner Bob Stewart said at a commission workshop, "As painful as it is to some people not to get this relief ... we have some serious problems to address next year." Seniors older than 65 who are low-income (limit of $20,000 in gross adjusted income that does not include tax-exempt interest, trust distributions and Social Security benefits) deserve and need an extra $25,000 homestead exemption on top of the present $25,000 homestead exemption that most homeowners get.

Pinellas County Budget Director Mark Woodward estimated that a senior citizen who went through the process of turning in a federal tax form to the county Property Appraiser's Office would save, based on this year's tax rate, $168.75.

In 1998 Floridians passed a constitutional amendment that said cities and counties can give up to $25,000 in an extra homestead exemption. In Pinellas County, 64 out of 100 voters voted for this amendment.

St. Petersburg has given an extra $5,000 exemption and St. Pete Beach an extra $10,000 starting in 2001. Where is the humanity in Pinellas County's decision not to pass the ordinance by Dec. 1, 2000, giving low-income seniors a tax break of about $168.75 on their November 2001 tax bill?
-- James Angelo Pappas, Tarpon Springs

Question for commission: Where's the money?

Re: County delays new tax break for seniors, Oct. 31 story.

I thought the county commissioners were trying to stick unincorporated Pinellas residents with an electricity tax to provide streetlights. Now they delay a tax break for seniors using that lame excuse?

Also, whatever happened to the more than $7-million that had been allocated to the Old Oakhurst Road project after the residents fought long and hard to get that project canceled?
-- Jennifer D. Crosson, Seminole

Stadium generosity doesn't extend to fire expenses

Re: City revisits idea of fire service fee, Oct. 25 story.

Am I the only person who is outraged that Clearwater would give $3-million and pay half the annual utility costs of the new Phillies stadium, then tell residents that the budget doesn't allow for the needed expenses of the Fire Department? Which does the city need more, the Phillies or improvements to the Fire Department?
-- Glenn Wade, Clearwater

Clearwater's fuzzy math leads to more personnel, taxes

Re: City revisits idea of fire service fee, Oct. 25 story.

Could someone please enlighten me?

Originally, the Clearwater Beach fire station was responsible for coverage of Sand Key. Now that a unit is stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard station, the Clearwater Beach Fire Station has a smaller area of responsibility. Instead of transferring firefighters, 11 new firefighters were hired. Why do we need new firefighters to cover the same area that now is divided into two sections? Government math?

Second, can someone please provide us with accurate logs regarding incidents where the Sand Key units were mobilized for emergencies? That station appears to be underutilized.

Finally, why does a city that wants to pay to replace a bridge that it doesn't own donate millions to subsidize a Major League Baseball stadium? Seems like plenty of funds are floating around without looking for more. What is next? A Police Department Special Assessment Fee?
-- This city is already getting enough of your hard-earned income.
Robert Stegmann, Clearwater

Fire chief has worn out his one proposal

Re: City revisits idea of fire service fee.

Someone should give Clearwater Fire Chief Rowland Herald a new club, for he has surely worn out the old one beating this dead horse.
-- Bob Coffey, Clearwater

Hungry, homeless often down on their luck, less resilient

Re: When did feeding the hungry become a crime? column by Diane Steinle, Oct. 22.

This column painted a vivid picture of the problems of getting people who are down on their luck off the street and into a productive mode of life.

Life is tough, and sometimes deals blows that, unless you've been there, you don't understand. One such blow could render a person unable temporarily or long term to make the kinds of decisions and adjustments that would get a normal person back on his feet in a fairly short time.

The homeless are not the norm. They do not present themselves as the sort of people who are resilient and malleable and can roll with the punches. These are people who have taken too many punches, too many blows and have known too much disappointment. Factor in mental and physical problems, and you begin to see the size of the problem of helping the homeless and destitute.

The saying that you judge a society by the way it treats its most disadvantaged is certainly true. We may be a society that is turning away and not looking at the problem as we should, but we are certainly not a society that would kick a person when he is down.

Certainly, the majority of the homeless have committed no greater crime than having no money or confronting harsher reality than the great majority of us will never know.

So let the people who know what the face of hunger looks like provide free food if they so choose. Please, let's also keep alive the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
-- Nolley T. Nance, Palm Harbor

Clearwater can't afford to continue as homeless mecca

Re: When did feeding the hungry become a crime? column by Diane Steinle, Oct. 22.

As a homeowner in Clearwater's Crest Lake Park area, I have talked to both Police Chief Sid Klein's assistants and the bicycle officers who patrol the area.

The bicycle officers are disgusted with the homeless situation in Clearwater. They told me that 75 percent of the homeless in Clearwater are only here for the free food and warm weather. They live to drink.

Strict enforcement of our current laws is necessary. New city ordinances should be enacted so that people who habitually are caught drinking and urinating in public are punished in such a manner that they don't ever want to return to Clearwater.

As a property owner in this area, I hold Clearwater responsible for the lower property values I am seeing. They are the ones that have created a nationwide reputation for Clearwater as being the mecca for the homeless.
-- Scott Weltmer, Clearwater

Royalty Theatre offers top-notch performances

Those who have not enjoyed an evening at the Royalty Theatre in downtown Clearwater don't know what they are missing. And anyone who says that Clearwater lacks cultural affairs has failed to attend any of the programs at the Royalty Theatre. This is indeed a top-notch theater, with top-notch performances.

On Oct. 15 we attended Musical Mosaics No. 2, which was sponsored by the Hellenic Cultural Association Of Tampa Bay Inc. at the Royalty Theatre. It is a lovely theater, complete with red velvet curtains trimmed in gold braid. The seats are real theater seats that push back to allow others to pass without crushing those who are seated. The lighting was perfect, and every seat has a perfect view of the stage. It seats 450, and every seat was filled including the balcony.

The show was a tribute to the modern Greek poets, George Seferis (1900-1971), Odysseus Elytis (1911-1996) and Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990). Every performance was done with style and grace. The cast was made up of local Greek Orthodox Church members, including the priests and choir members and the youthful Greek dancers, led by Keith Mastorides, who is also a local school principal as well as a dance instructor.

The performers also included the Sunday School students from the local churches led by Presvytera Rousakis, who is the wife of our local priest from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the Rev. James Rousakis. Rousakis was the program director and did a very professional job. Demetrios Iliou, also from Holy Trinity, was the stage manager as well as a reader of several lines of poetry.

The dancers were perfect and so were the combined choir singers, who were also from local Greek churches.

For any group or person looking for the perfect place to perform, please check out the Royalty Theatre. The host and his wife are true professionals and treated us to a wonderful evening. They have had some great shows there in the past few months, and from the literature I saw last evening, they have several wonderful shows coming in the near future.
-- Fran Glaros, Clearwater

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