Re: Sustaining a desirable city comes with a price, column by St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, May 6
Ready to help mayor
Kudos to Mayor Bill Foster for his column Sunday. I truly believe that his "passion and mission remains the promotion of a safe, seamless and vibrant community focused on quality of life, customer service and continuous improvement, creating environments for capital investment and job growth while preserving our unique charm …"
Thank you, Mayor Foster. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and help you attain these goals. What can I do to help?
Ronn Ginn, St. Petersburg
Painful but necessary
My wife and I, as is unfortunately the case with many of our fellow citizens in St. Petersburg, find ourselves month-to-month struggling with ever-increasing difficulty to balance our fixed income with our mandatory expenses. Any uncharted and unanticipated increase in day-to-day expenses, such as a sudden and seemingly relentless spike in per gallon gasoline prices, sends a devastating ripple effect through our limited amount of disposable income. The prospect, therefore, of our city leaders sending up preliminary test balloons in an attempt to gauge public sentiment to increase viable streams of additional revenues in order to sustain our city's current level of services one would assume, on this family's part, would be met with suspect criticism. That would be an erroneous assumption.
Any rational thinking citizen of this community who contends that our city leaders can still find ways and means to do more with less do not understand nor fully appreciate that a looming $13 million budget deficit means doing far less with less. It is a "no-win" scenario that must be addressed with limited alternatives that most assuredly will not be palatable to the few, but must serve the benefit of us all. The quality of life that we each have come to be unabashedly proud of and enjoy about our beautiful city comes with a price tag that each citizen of St. Petersburg has a duty and obligation to underwrite in part.
My wife and I, therefore, pledge to do our part to support and bear a rational and well-reasoned determination to increase the current property tax rate in order to assure that now and into the future our myriad of city provided services remain a dependable and reliable benefit in continuing to have St. Petersburg be appreciated and recognized as being one of the greatest cities in America to call "home."
Jim and Judi Latchford, St. Petersburg
Re: Market opportunity, letter by J. Scott Hoffman, May 2
More than just food
We were taken by surprise by the letter about the Saturday Morning Market — surprised by his grossly inaccurate assumptions about market finances and also that he knew so little about the market, given we are about to celebrate our 10th year of operations in November.
Ten years ago you could find us on a windy strip of Second Street downtown — 8 to 12 vendors. Since then, due to the wonderful support of the community, we have steadily grown. Currently, the market has about 125 to 130 spaces filled per week.
Crafts and food vendors do indeed pay $45; they are also offered a discount if they prepay their fees. Farmers who bring in fresh, mainly organic and locally grown produce pay $20 each week. In addition, each week we host a number of nonprofits from the community so they can "get word out." They come for free, and we provide them with a table and tent.
Our mission is to provide a place of community, creativity and learning for folks and access to good, clean food. We give school-aged artists and musicians an opportunity to show off for the community.
Before the mayoral race, we invited all the candidates to come and be available one Saturday morning to answer questions and meet voters. We have also had temporary public art installations. Soon we will have cooking demonstrations and taste education.
We are not in an expensive building or prime location. Before we moved from Central Avenue to provide more space to the customers, no one had ever held an event in the Al Lang parking lot; now it is full of activity and life each Saturday during our season.
We attract about 10,000 people a Saturday during the high season, who spend over $100,000 supporting all the small businesses that make up the market.
We provide EBT (formerly food stamps) at our own expense for those in our community that need the benefit. We wrote and received a grant with the Allegany Franciscan Ministries to provide a double dollar program for EBT recipients so good, clean food is accessible and available to anyone in our community.
So for virtually no cost to the city, the market provides a place where locals and tourists can meet their family and friends, enjoy live music, buy farm fresh fruits, vegetables, small farm cheeses, edible plants, a fantastic array of hot foods, and carefully selected handmade or fair trade crafts. Our market draws approximately 300,000 people per year to our area, and is a small business incubator, providing enterprising people an opportunity to grow their own businesses.
So, thanks Mr. Hoffman for giving us this opportunity to toot our own horn.
Gail Eggeman, Market Steering Committee, St. Petersburg
Re: Gibbs High School production of Phantom of the Opera
Bravo to Gibbs actors
We were lucky enough to see the photo of the handcrafted chandelier in the paper to be used in a show at Gibbs High School. Having seen Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in the early 1990s, we thought we'd see how some high school kids would perform one of our favorite shows.
We cannot fully express how impressed we were with the voices, staging, costumes, music and sheer brilliance of this cast. They put on a show that mirrored the Broadway version.
The one criticism we have is that it was only performed three days and there was no publicity. To all the students and faculty — bravo!
Sallie and Walter Kosefeski, St. Petersburg
A visitor's viewpoint
After spending some time in downtown St. Petersburg last winter, I have become interested in your beautiful city and have kept up on the local news, best I could. It appears that there are some proposals for major changes in your area and, with that, I offer some feedback. My stay in St. Pete's downtown was very pleasant and I will consider returning.
Because of the Times, I am learning that your Pier is slated for replacement and there are transportation issues, too. I have viewed the proposal for the new pier and must say that it holds absolutely no appeal for me. The walkways on it are not an improvement, whatsoever, to your present pier and the "Lens" does not even come close to matching the amenities and diversity of experience that this pier has, not to mention offering a nice break from the hot sun and warm air.
A train to Clearwater is proposed, too, and again, I must tell you that this would not increase my chances of returning to your city whatsoever. I loved the ambiance of St. Pete with the cafes, beautiful waterfront views, and the proximity to St. Pete Beach and John's Pass on the gulf. Getting to Tampa is a much higher priority for me.
I have noticed some talk of a water taxi service and a streetcar in St. Pete. I give that a total "thumbs up" as I can envision taking a ferry to the big city of Tampa while staying in the more intimate St. Pete.
Shawn Ann Murphy-Niemi, Harrison Township, Mich.