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Don't blame protesters, youth for BayWalk's woes

Sound plan could revive BayWalk | July 18, editorial

Point to economy, not protesters

I'm surprised that a such sophisticated group of people like the St. Petersburg Times' editorial board would go along with the myth that protesters and young people are the reason BayWalk's business hit the skids.

More than 400 of the 2,000 largest malls in the United States have closed in the past two years. I wonder how many of them are blaming demonstrators and the youth for their economic woes.

The Times ran a number of articles supporting protesters in Iran, defending their right to demonstrate. But in its own back yard I guess it's a different story. You're only free to protest as long as it doesn't hurt business — or better yet, unless a few members of the public think you're bad for business.

On the heels of St. Petersburg's being ranked the second meanest in the nation in its treatment of the homeless, you would think the city would attempt to repair its reputation, not further erode it by attacking the civil liberties of its citizens.

Cleo Demarco, St. Petersburg

Rights trampled for a failed mall

BayWalk's managers are at it again. They think that by establishing laws that infringe on protesters' constitutional rights of freedom of assembly, and laws that promote racism against black youth, the BayWalk shopping complex will once again become a thriving retail establishment. They could not be more wrong.

BayWalk has collapsed because of a crashing economy and failed business model. (Would you pay $1,300 for a coffee table and $7 for a slice of key lime pie in this economy?)

And now that BayWalk is in bankruptcy, they are getting $700,000 more in bailout funds from the city. Giving funds to a private corporation is wrong, and doing it by contradicting the U.S. Constitution and established civil rights equality laws is even worse.

The city cites "public safety" as a concern, but everyone knows that keeping out "loiterers" is a euphemism for keeping out black youth. The demise of BayWalk was not due to dark-skinned kids hanging out and people with signs protesting on the sidewalk, but they are being blamed. And in this case, being blamed means giving up our constitutional rights, all in the name of government largesse to save a bankrupt shopping mall. Shame on you!

Your editorial on Aug. 7, 2004, said, "When public officials say they need to restrict free speech to protect public safety, they often have other motives for their actions." So why the flip-flop between Aug. 7, 2004, and July 18, 2009?

Is it because the interests of the city and the corporate media will be negatively impacted by the demise of the "crown jewel" of downtown St. Petersburg? Don't encourage the trampling of my constitutional rights because you want to resurrect a failed shopping mall.

Marianne Huber, St. Petersburg

Keep BayWalk sidewalk public

Privatizing the public sidewalk in front of BayWalk to keep out protesters and "loiterers" (you really mean to say black youth) is a bad idea. The U.S. Constitution would also agree with that sentiment.

Relegating the protesters to the south side of Second Avenue N is also a bad idea. Having partial free speech and free assembly is not what the Constitution calls for. Limiting visibility to protesters will not increase revenue at BayWalk. Having stores that sell things people can afford and want to buy is what will make BayWalk successful.

Don't privatize the sidewalk. That is bad policy. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly mean people can speak and assemble anywhere they want — not specifically on certain parts of the street.

Sophia Jones, St. Petersburg

Midtown impresses during national conference tour July 19, story

Conference was front-page news

Why was this not front-page news? I am a regular reader of the St. Petersburg Times and appreciate much of the newspaper. This was apparently the first time the national Weed and Seed conference was in Tampa. The the deputy assistant U.S. attorney general congratulated Midtown's efforts to clean up as part of a Weed and Seed program. This is front-page news, ladies and gentlemen!

Linda Friedman Ramirez, St. Petersburg

Friendship Trail Bridge

One $15M repair leads to another

Once again our elected officials can't wait to spend money we don't have. The Friendship Trail oversight committee will recommend spending $15 million to repair the Friendship Trail Bridge — a repair good for only 10 years. We are told to compare the cost of repair to the cost of tearing it down. You only have to tear it down once. Repair is going to go on and on and on. No doubt 10 years from now the next repair will be $20 million or $25 million.

Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris needs to be told that there are parks and recreation areas all around the Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. There is no need for this bridge turned trail.

Dick Culver, Indian Shores

Traffic citation insert

Amscot flier with ticket is outrageous

I recently received a traffic citation in St. Petersburg from a Florida Highway Patrol officer. When I was preparing to pay the fine and opened the envelope that came with the citation, I found a bright orange flier inside. The front of the flier had the logo of Amscot on it, which of course is one of the "paycheck" lenders that preys on low-income people who need fast cash to pay their bills by charging exorbitant interest on those loans.

The flier announced a "new service" by Amscot where fines can be paid at any of their offices. It gives their Web site and 800 number so that a convenient office can be located. It announces that Amscot will charge a $2 service fee.

Is the clerk of the court in our county so gullible that he does not see the connection between paying a fine and being at a location where the money for that fine can be borrowed? This is outrageous. The county is using tax money to advertise and solicit business for this company under the guise of offering a "service" for recipients of citations. The only service that is being provided is to Amscot!

Sam Newman, St. Petersburg

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Don't blame protesters, youth for BayWalk's woes 07/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 25, 2009 4:30am]
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