Sunday, March 18, 2018
Letters To The Editor

County has long been active in downtown St. Pete redevelopment

Re: "County has plenty to do, without Pier issue"

Sandra Gadsden's column was representative of much of the Pier debate — short on facts, long on biased rhetoric, and was apparently written in an attempt to silence the Pinellas County Commission on this issue. Let me be clear: The commission will not be deterred from its fiduciary responsibilities by such hyperbole in the guise of editorial opinion.

Ms. Gadsden stated that the "County Commission wants a piece of the action." The fact is that county taxpayers have contributed more than $46 million to the Intown CRA (community redevelopment area) for projects in St. Petersburg's downtown. The county is a full partner in the redevelopment of downtown St. Petersburg, and has been for decades. With that partnership comes a responsibility to work with the community and elected officials to ensure the best use of public funds. Far from "usurping the authority of elected city leaders," as Ms. Gadsden alleges, the county has worked cooperatively with the city to amend the interlocal agreement to give the city more flexibility for Pier redevelopment, the Mahaffey Theater project, and support for the new Dalí Museum via the county's bed tax.

The usurpation allegation is pure fabrication. The commission has stated repeatedly (including last week), that we have neither the desire, nor the authority to interfere with St. Petersburg elected officials' home rule authority, and that we only set broad parameters for projects, not specific design elements. Last year, and this year, I have chaired commission meetings in which we specifically stated to Lens opponents that the Lens is an acceptable use of county/city redevelopment funds. However, spending an additional $1.5 million of those funds for a specific design at this point, when an upcoming election may completely change the project, is a different matter entirely, and doesn't make fiscal sense in my opinion.

Obviously the "why jump in now?" question is moot, since the county has long been an active partner in St. Pete's downtown redevelopment. Moreover, a minimal amount of research (or perhaps walking down the hall and speaking to Times reporters Waveney Ann Moore or Anna Phillips), would have informed Ms. Gadsden that city representatives had submitted an application to the county for a permit, for which the County Commission would have to approve a variance. The commission's recent public comments were in response to that permit application. Was Ms. Gadsden unaware of this development, or did she simply choose to ignore it?

Ms. Gadsden's scattershot remarks on the Rays, fluoride and term limits are an obvious attempt to kill the messenger. Again, minimal research (or simply reading the Times) shows that the commission re-engaged the Rays discussion earlier this year, in a productive session which Mayor (Bill) Foster and council members attended, and led to a meeting between Mayor Foster and Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg. The fluoridation issue was resolved by the current commission, which has new membership after last November's election — earning the Times a Pulitzer in the process, a fact of which Ms. Gadsden is surely aware. As to term limits — the state court did not rule directly on the Pinellas charter issue as Ms. Gadsden incorrectly asserted — that case will be heard in early May in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court. The term limits case is not new, however it is only now that Ms. Gadsden perceives a threat to the Lens project from the commission's potential involvement, that she wants to weigh in on the term limits issue as judge and jury.

The bottom line is that the commission will continue to address issues within our authority, and no amount of slanted opinion columns or half-truths will change that. As President John Adams said famously, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Or alternatively, "thou doth protest too much."

Kenneth T. Welch, Chairman

Pinellas Board of County Commissioners


Sunday’s letters: Effort to stem pet cruelty pays off

Puppy millsEffort to stem cruelty pays offThank you to everyone who contacted their legislators, and a huge shout-out to the Tampa Bay Times for letting us know that state legislators were considering a bill to eliminate the hard-achieved gains on lo...
Published: 03/17/18

Saturday’s letters: Insurer focused on repairs, not fees

Citizens hit with $12.7M verdict | March 15Insurer’s focus: repairs, not feesCitizens Property Insurance Corp. has spent the past several years making sure that insurance proceeds for sinkhole repairs are used to restore a home and make it whole....
Published: 03/16/18

Friday’s letters: Put young people to work rebuilding infrastructure

Smart way to pay for infrastructure | March 13, commentaryMake rebuilding a youth project Raising gas taxes to pay for infrastructure may not be the best way to go. I suggest we re-invent the old WPA (Works Progress Administration) and draft high...
Published: 03/13/18
Updated: 03/15/18

Thursday’s letters: An alternative for giving: Breadcoin

Panhandling paradox | March 11Innovation in giving: BreadcoinPanhandling is destructive to the donor, panhandler and our community — a guilt trip that erodes personal dignity, respect and self-worth, making the recipient more beholden and entitle...
Published: 03/13/18
Updated: 03/14/18
Wednesday’s letters: Daylight bill is bad for business

Wednesday’s letters: Daylight bill is bad for business

Daylight saving timeDaylight bill is bad for businessI encourage Gov. Rick Scott to veto the daylight saving time extension bill. It makes no sense. It puts Florida out of sync with the rest of the country. Commerce will be affected. The entire Easte...
Published: 03/13/18

Pasco Letter to the Editor for March 16

Re: Pasco to test roadside recycling | March 9 column Pasco County (and its residents) have financial incentives to recycle, but the participation rate is low. Clearly, Pasco County either needs to make recycling mandatory — by making residents r...
Published: 03/13/18
Tuesday’s letters: Billionaire’s personal agenda

Tuesday’s letters: Billionaire’s personal agenda

Billionaire targeting young voters | March 7Using youths in personal agendaIs anyone surprised that Tom Steyer is using his extreme wealth to support his personal agenda and the liberal agenda of the Democratic Party? His real motive, hidden in h...
Published: 03/12/18
Updated: 03/13/18

Pasco Letters to the Editor for March 16

Re: Pasco to test roadside recycling | March 9 columnOur community, Briar Patch, in New Port Richey has really gotten on board with the recycling program. Many homeowners diligently separate garbage from recycling material and place it curbside f...
Published: 03/12/18

Thursday’s letters: Gun limits, maybe; confiscation, never

Gun controlLimits, possibly; seizures, neverThe antigun left-leaning media constantly refers to the "gun lobby" and the National Rifle Association when trying to ban and even take guns away from legitimate owners. They blame organizations for the act...
Published: 03/07/18

Wednesday’s letters:

February Letter of the MonthThe winning letter addressed the school shooting in Parkland.My generation is fearful, angryI’m a high school senior. I, and people like me, have grown up in a culture of fear — fear of getting shot in our schools, where w...
Published: 03/06/18