Shameful sprawl blights county
It has recently occurred to me that we may need to change the name of our county from Pinellas to Pineless.
What happened? Asphalt, golf courses, condominiums, housing developments with 6-foot yard setbacks, poor urban planning, greed and more asphalt.
Do you remember when the flat woods off the east side of U.S. 19 from East Bay Drive to Park Boulevard had a family of black bears? Or when the corner of U.S. 19 and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, where they built Clearwater Mall, was solid giant live oaks all the way to Tampa Bay?
I do, and frankly I'm ashamed of what's happened. I used to play in those woods as a boy and dearly miss what used to be. I now see the same kind of sprawl happening all over the state. Cheap, generic tract housing with no character, in the middle of nowhere, springing up with 50 or so homes and everything leveled prior to their construction. Shopping centers filling in our wetlands, further ruining our water supply.
For the life of me I can't understand why they can't pass a law to make a Wal-Mart five stories tall with a parking garage to match. How about making all golf courses install artificial turf? It couldn't hurt the water shortage.
After seeing all this over the years, I have made a solemn vow to try to do whatever I can to stop it, and I strongly support Florida Home Town Democracy. In case you didn't know, it's not too late to download a petition and sign one and take a vow yourself. Go to floridahometowndemocracy.com, or join Progress Florida at progressflorida.org.You'll be happy you did.
One more thing: If you ever get a letter telling you to cut your weeds or pay a fine, tell them it's a xeriscape and let it grow, grow, grow.
Scotty Lee Rexroat, Dunedin
Pension plan isn't sustainable, letter, May 6, and City needs a spending cap letter, June 4
Pension plan may break city's back
For years the generous pension plans of civil servants were justified as deferred equality for government pay scales that were lower than the private sector. This was to make low-paying civil service employment competitive with the private sector. Are wage scales of Clearwater civil service employees still significantly lower than private sector wages in Pinellas County?
The U.S. military pension factor is 2.5 percent per year (after 20 years). The average private sector pension plans are less than 2.5 percent per year, or have been converted to 401K plans. What is the net percent-per-year factor for civil service employees in Clearwater and/or Pinellas County?
The U.S. armed forces have technically unlimited sick leave and absolutely no accrual. Service personnel may accrue 60 days maximum of leave/vacation time, which may be sold back at retirement or release from active duty, but this payment is by separate check and does not affect their pension amount. Private sector plans are less generous, but private sector basic wage scales are higher than the military and are, as you may agree, somewhat less fraught with danger.
After basic pay scales, sick leave, vacation time and pension factors are included, are Clearwater civil service employees still "grossly underpaid" compared with the private sector? Are overblown pension plans even sustainable by taxpayers? I mean, without significant overhaul of pension plans relative to wage scale, can the city of Clearwater avoid bankruptcy within the next decade?
We know that many Clearwater citizens will be forced out of their homes and/or into bankruptcy due to massive increases in taxes. Amendment 1 was a political farce stage-managed in Tallahassee to "provide tax relief," but with no cap on spending. City and county governments are, as expected, grossly manipulating that fiasco.
R.J. Radford, Clearwater