Red-light hearings violate rights
The city of Clearwater has chosen a volunteer committee of six of your peers to hear your case in the serious matter of running a red light. If you choose the option to contest this violation of Florida state statute 316.0083, red-light camera system, you receive a notice from the city stating: "If the NOV (notice of violation) is affirmed by the court and/or local hearing officer you will be responsible for the payment of the penalty plus costs up to $250.00" (Threatening in itself).
So, on Sept. 25 at 1:30 I reported for this hearing. I admit to running the red light. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I could not apply my brakes without considering the fact I might spin out of control on very wet pavement. In my 56 years of driving, I have and always will continue to drive with common sense. With a very good driving record, no points, never having run a red light before, I proceeded to go before this court and/or hearing officer.
Much to my surprise, when I arrived at City Hall I realized the members of the Code Enforcement Board were, in fact, the ones who were to decide my violation. Expecting a court appointee or an officer of the court, I was subjected to a panel of six volunteers. Upon inquiring, I was told they were not experienced, nor professionals in law enforcement.
My rights as a citizen were violated by what I was subjected to at this hearing. Had I been informed of this process, I would have had legal representation.
Citizens be aware! The city is more interested in revenue than the serious matter of safety and your rights.
Ask yourself: Running a red light has serious consequences. Why is this matter not in a court of law with a judge? Volunteers, who serve the city for beautification violations — please!
Elaine Schroeder, St. Petersburg
PSTA hires consultants to double check transit plan, story, Sept. 26
PSTA wasting public's money
Earlier this year the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority hired a PR firm for $395,000 to develop a program (now called Greenlight Pinellas) to sell the public on the proposed transit plan which was completed in December 2011 at a cost of $4 million.
PSTA hasn't even completed the plan that shows when each specific project will begin and finish!
We now find that PSTA has hired another consulting firm to make a $270,000 review of the plan to determine if the cost forecasts in the $4 million plan are feasible!
The costs forecast, in the original study, clearly stated that they were based on 2011 dollar costs and obviously don't reflect the real costs when the major parts of the system won't be built for many years in the future. By using incorrect cost estimates, the public is being misinformed and misled.
The PSTA seems to be using the Ready! Fire! Aim! method to explain their proposal to the public !
Over the last 12 years MPO and PSTA have spent over $10 million of the public's tax dollars studying transit and still can't produce an efficient, effective solution!
The public should be incensed at such gross waste and incompetence!
Jim Harpham, Palm Harbor
To reduce feral cat population, group can now spay, release | story, Sept. 24
Feral cat control method works
Congratulations to Pinellas County commissioners for legally clearing the way for local community volunteers to move forward with a pilot Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program.
TNR is not only more humane, it's the only effective approach for stabilizing the population of feral cats, who are the same species as pet cats but are not socialized to people and can't be adopted.
"Catch and kill" to control their numbers is a total failure. Year after year, seven out of every 10 shelter cats are killed there, at enormous taxpayer expense, and with no benefit to the community.
TNR, on the other hand, is the future of animal control. More than 350 local governments nationwide have officially embraced TNR after seeing firsthand how successful this program can be — and they aren't looking back.
Meanwhile, TNR is already being practiced successfully throughout Florida. Tampa Bay's long-running private program was so successful after it was started in 2005 — eventually reducing the number of cats entering local shelters by the thousands — that Hillsborough County commissioners recently voted for the county shelter to start a TNR program of its own.
Communities that have embraced TNR have experienced widespread community support. Pinellas County made the right decision.
Becky Robinson, president and co-founder, Alley Cat Allies, Bethesda, MD
FHP's response to call was dismal
On Saturday Sept. 21, after lunching at Fairway Pizza off Alt. U.S. 19 and just north of Alderman Road in Palm Harbor, we walked to our van in the parking lot to find the back end badly dented. Trying to make an accident report, we called the Florida Highway Patrol.
They confirmed they would send an officer who would arrive in one hour. After an hour and 10 minutes sitting in a car on a hot and humid day, I called a second time, only to be told that the officer could not find us and had closed out the ticket.
Why, then, did the officer not call the cellphone number that was requested originally? We can only hope that the FHP receives a new GPS system, and is more dependable responding to an emergency call.
Julie Mango, Palm Harbor