Re: Residents' budget chips fall | story, April 26
Some things just can't be trimmed
I'm glad to see that the Clearwater city staff has requested the local citizens to give their comments and opinions on ways we can cut the budget to save dollars. It was an interesting article to read and also amazing at what programs they considered important and which ones they wanted to toss.
I think I agree with the firemen though, about keeping the emergency back-up vehicle that carries equipment that no other fire truck can carry. That one time when something special is needed could cause someone to lose their life. I'd hate to be in need of the equipment and it not be there.
As for eliminating the Harborview Center, where would city and other meetings be held? I remember reading about the Harborview's finances being in the red a few years ago, but nothing negative recently, so I assumed it was paying for itself.
I disagreed with the woman who stated we should eliminate funding for the homeless because other sources can pick it up. What sources? Does she know a source that would be willing to provide funding for the homeless? Also, I read where 80 percent of low-income children who receive school lunches do not get regular meals in the summer.
Just this past week while these budget concerns were being discussed, the students of Curlew Creek Elementary School in Palm Harbor, along with their teachers, raised several hundred dollars to donate to the Food Emergency Aid Service that serves low-income families in North Pinellas county. If children can see the need, then adults should see it too. Since we work at a local soup kitchen, we see hungry people. A growling stomach is hard to pacify without food.
Anyway, I hope we are able to trim the budget while we allow the really needed and worthwhile programs to be continued.
Fran Glaros-Sharp, Clearwater
Re: Residents' budget chips fall | story, April 26
are not a game
I read with great disdain the articles dealing with Clearwater budget cuts using poker chips. I find it very offensive that it is considered a "game" when it comes to deciding which cuts may be forthcoming in light of Amendment 1. It should not be a contest of getting your favorite city department into the "keep" pile or any other pile. What should take place is each budget being scrutinized for over spending, folly and fiscal irresponsibility.
Take the Fire Department. When I was hired almost 28 years ago, we had one fire chief, two assistant chiefs and three captains (they later evolved into six district chiefs, with two per shift). Now we have one fire chief and 15 assistant, deputy and division chiefs. This is more chiefs than the St. Petersburg Fire Department and they are half again as large as Clearwater!
At one of our fires we had eight fire trucks and nine chief cars on the scene. The majority of chiefs have new take-home vehicles whether they live in Clearwater or not.
We have downsized our department in the past year by deleting the public education/Safety Village programs. We have transferred our public information officer to another city department. We transferred a plans reviewer to another department. The one thing these transferees had in common was that they were all females. Yet in light of all of this, a 1940s era Willys Jeep has been ordered, to be restored to "parade quality," by Fire Chief Jamie Geer to the tune of at least $10,000.
Chief Geer and the city have also had multiple unfair labor practice complaints and arbitrations filed against them. Not only has the union won every case, but the city has had to pay attorney fees for both sides. Why does the city have to hire out to a private and expensive law firm when it usually has at least five attorneys on staff at any given time?
All of the officers (50 or so) were outfitted with a dress jacket, shirt and pants to the tune of $500 each. We've never had cause to wear them in the past, nor have I seen them worn since, so why waste the money? This is just the surface.
These are just my opinions.
Craig Cramer, Clearwater
Officials: Listen to the citizens
I keep reading about how officials are complaining about the budget cuts and how it is going to affect the City of Clearwater. It figures that any time you take money away from city officials they get all up in arms. The fact is that the city has basked in huge gains from real estate taxes during the last real estate boom and now things have changed, and if they think things are bad now, wait until properties are assessed next year.
Recently, I attended a city meeting where citizens were asked to look at ways to cut the city budget. The whole process was a game. Literally.
The meeting lasted from
6 p.m. to 8:30 or so. The first 30 minutes was taken up by a city official talking about what a crisis we were in. After that we were split into groups and asked to review certain aspects of the budget and where there could be cuts. This whole process was rather insulting because it did not paint a clear picture of the entire situation and how the city is operating.
In addition to the programs that should be cut, what about contracting out certain aspects of government — for example, law enforcement? Most citizens don't know that contracting with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office could save the city millions. Back in 1994, Dunedin switched over to the Sheriff's Office and in the first 10 years saved more than $25-million! At the very minimum, the city should get a cost estimate and let the citizens decide.
In the end I feel like the city officials are going to do whatever they want. The last meeting was literally made a game of, which to me shows how seriously the elected officials take their citizens.
Fabian Calvo, Clearwater