Re: Cut paychecks, don't raise taxes | letter, June 19
City workers have earned fair wage
City of Clearwater employees are not making extravagant salaries as assumed by letter writer Bill Smith. Most of our salaries are below or at the average salaries of the surrounding cities and counties.
Our salaries are negotiated with the city by our union, the Communications Workers of America. Because we are unionized, we do make a decent living wage.
I cannot speak for people who work for companies where there are no unions. Where there is no union, there is no justice in the workplace. The CEO can make millions of dollars in compensation of all sorts by denying decent salaries and health care to employees. There is no comparison between government and a private business because there is little or no ethical or public oversight of how a private business operates.
The letter writer is concerned about a proposal to increase the millage rate to protect certain public safety programs. I am a city taxpayer with an average home. When I analyze my tax bill, only 23.4 percent of my tax bill goes to the city of Clearwater. I paid $1,469 in taxes and only $344 of it was paid to the city. So if the proposed millage increase took effect, I would pay about $25 more a year in taxes.
When I moved to Florida in 1986, I chose to live in Clearwater because the quality of life was head and shoulders above most cities in Florida. The reason why I wanted to live in a city was because I wanted infrastructure, sewers, sidewalks and streetlights.
I chose to work for the city of Clearwater because they had a union, of which I am now proudly the president. Even though we have a union and received wage increases, I still found it necessary to work a second job at Home Depot for 13 years. Many of my members do work second and even third jobs to survive here.
Threats against our wages and our pension plan are growing on a daily basis. We are considered by some letter writers to be some subclass of human, not worthy of what we are paid. We have even had a community leader state publicly that he could not understand why people who cut the grass and pick up the garbage deserve to have a pension or health insurance.
I can tell you why. It is because 31 years ago that subclass of humans banded together like many of their fathers and grandfathers did to form a union to seek justice in the workplace. Contract after contract, inch by inch, we won those benefits.
Today we face the reality of our economic downturn, but for most of my members who make less than $30,000 a year, paying $4 for a gallon of gas and $4 for a gallon of milk takes more of their paycheck than someone who is able to purchase their dream home on Clearwater Beach.
To ask our members to give up their salaries because if we lower our city share of their tax bill more people will come to Clearwater Beach to buy condos and waterfront homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars does not seem fair. If someone can afford a million-dollar home, can't they afford to pay the city of Clearwater $4,677 a year in taxes for the quality of life that helps to make that property worth a million dollars?
Stephen Sarnoff, Clearwater
Re: Sheriff dramatic in fighting cuts | story, May 24
Sheriff's Office budget has waste
In this story, Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats said streets would be "littered with human carnage" if he had to cut his budget by 10 percent.
Here we go again with the old scare tactics. It seems to happen every time government at any level is asked to cut back exorbitant spending. It is condemnable human nature that when a politician or elected official has carte blanche with taxpayers' pocketbooks, spending is limitless. Can you imagine how conservative these individuals would be if it was solely dependent on their own pocketbooks?
The following is what really gripes me. My wife and I had to stop at a Walgreens on Thursday and again on Friday. I noticed a sheriff's car parked at the entrance, but what really caught my attention was that the motor was running — I assumed for the benefit of air-conditioning — but the deputy was not in the car. I surmised that Walgreens had hired an off-duty deputy for one purpose or another.
The next day we had to return and there was the car again, idling with no one in sight. As we entered the store, there was the deputy on duty in the store. As we walked past the manager, I asked the purpose for hiring a deputy and he said that people were robbing pharmacies for drugs, mostly OxyContin.
Do the addition. If every Walgreens that has OxyContin has a deputy that lets his cruiser idle for the time that the pharmacy is open, can you imagine how much gasoline is consumed, plus the wear and tear on the automobile during that time? Just who is paying for that?
I don't mind a church or business of any kind that feels the need for protection to hire someone, but when it comes to the use of the vehicles, I have a problem. I never could understand how it is feasible to give deputies a car to use as their personal vehicle and let the public foot the bill. It's almost as bad as school buses running back and forth from one end of the county to the other delivering children to the school of their choice.
In the article, the sheriff is so worried about having to discard his so-called community policing program. This is nothing but something conjured up to placate and coddle the NAACP. Why don't the police see the need to operate this program in my community?
I personally think it's a shame that we have such a degenerate society that crime is rampant everywhere, but I attribute it to the condition of man's sinful heart and until that is rectified, nothing will change and it will only get perversely worse.
Bud Trill, Palm Harbor