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Take waterfront location off the table

The Rays have taken the right step in deciding to back away from forcing a vote this fall on their waterfront park proposal. I trust the Rays, like most other long-standing St. Petersburg residents, have learned the importance and value of preserving our waterfront. The Rays have also taken the right step in agreeing to work with the community to forge a consensus on how their needs and our community needs can best be addressed.

Unfortunately, with the announcement of delaying the stadium vote, there was no announcement by the Rays, Mayor Rick Baker, the Chamber of Commerce nor this newspaper that our community's waterfront park property at Al Lang is or should be taken off the table as a possible major-league stadium site. The sooner the Rays and Mayor Baker declare the Al Lang waterfront park site off-limits for a new stadium proposal, the sooner our community can reach a consensus on how to go forward.

Additionally, the sooner such an announcement is made, the sooner a decision can be made on how best to use the Al Lang property so that it continues to enhance our community and our incredible waterfront park system.

Peter Belmont, St. Petersburg

A lack of boldness

The news that the new ballpark campaign is suspended is disappointing but reflects the uncertain mood of the country. St. Petersburg decisionmakers won't be confused with the "audacity of hope" crowd.

Today's bush-leaguers might have shown a boldness equal to early city founders whose vision gave us a beautiful waterfront while still embracing America's pastime: baseball. It didn't happen.

I did a little research about change in St. Petersburg. If you match a photograph of 1950 downtown St. Petersburg to the buildings and businesses recorded in the 1950 city phone book, you will be astounded by the immense physical changes to the cityscape. My point is that the waterfront and Al Lang Field are the rare constants of our fair city.

One day, it will be poetic and daring, and entirely consistent with the tradition of this young city, when our leaders see fit to support a waterfront ballpark and change we can believe in.

Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg

Reason prevails

Reason has ruled. The waterfront stadium issue is on the back burner where it should be. The positive impact of the doomed stadium proposal is that the community has coalesced in spirit.

Now it is time for St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay to tackle the truly urgent issue of updating our woefully inadequate transportation system. This gas crunch is real and it will impact our major industry, tourism. What we need is an aesthetically pleasing, fun transit line that whisks tourists and locals to their destinations in style. A great place to start is to work with Tampa and install a water taxi across the bay and connect it to a San Francisco-esque streetcar along Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. Add to this line a connection to the Ybor City/Channelside streetcar and we have a complete southern tier of a regional mass transit system.

Included in this line is the all-important "Stop at the Trop" so baseball fans can attend a game or event in air-conditioned comfort without driving at all.

This line can be connected to the proposed renewal of the light-rail line from St. Petersburg to Clearwater. Talk about regional cooperation!

Rand Moorhead, St. Petersburg

Try a central site

My family and I have attended between 30 and 40 Rays games each season for the last six to seven years. We travel from the suburbs of Tampa — about a one-hour drive each way — to go to the games, and we've had a blast watching this team develop from the best minor league team in major-league baseball to a real contender this year.

We've been very supportive of the Rays as they've pursued a new ballpark. But it doesn't appear the citizens of St. Petersburg care as much about this team as do many people who travel from outlying areas to attend games.

So I selfishly hope that the Rays will consider building a stadium near the Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa. This would be akin to the Rangers building their ballpark in Arlington — neither Dallas nor Fort Worth — but in a "middle place" that draws from both bigger cities.

Near the intersection of I-75 and I-4, this space lacks the lovely views of the waterfront in St. Petersburg, but it will draw from the suburbs of Tampa both north and south as well as points east over to Orlando. Finally, perhaps, we can fill the stadium with Rays fans who really support the team.

Claire Brantley, Tampa

Other issues matter

Based on your constant coverage, it seems the Times believes that a baseball stadium is the most important issue facing the Tampa Bay area. Keep the Rays here, your editorial proclaims.

But other cities, including nearby Orlando, survive just fine without having a major-league baseball team. I enjoy baseball, but a local baseball team is not a "must-have."

It would be nice to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg, but far worse things could happen than having the Rays leave town. We could fail to adequately fund education and see our economy decline. We could fail to regulate unscrupulous lenders and see thousands of families lose their homes to foreclosure. We could fail to develop a mass transit system and let sprawl continue to destroy our environment. Of course, these issues are just hypothetical.

Steve Dubb, Tampa

Budget cuts 51 jobs, $2M | June 25, story

Careless with taxes

So the city of St. Petersburg will be eliminating 51 jobs affecting every department with apparently little or no effect on services. Thirty-one positions are already vacant, 19 people will be retiring or move to other positions, all with no effect on services provided to the taxpayers. Which prompts the obvious question: Why did these positions exist in the first place?

St. Petersburg is not alone. Other Pinellas County cities have reduced staff and taken great pride in suggesting that they have done so without affecting services. It should be a bit embarrassing for them that they had obviously created positions that were not necessary to begin with.

Where is the stewardship that should be so much a part of government service: being responsible with the taxpayers' money? The people who voted for Amendment 1 apparently had it right.

Dave Loeffert, Dunedin

Developers' dream bill deserves Crist veto | June 17, editorial

Developers have edge

The state of Florida has legislated in vain since the 1950s to ensure that counties and local municipalities don't let developmental growth outpace the local area's ability to support the impacts of new development. These are known as "concurrency" laws. The theory is that new development won't be permitted unless it can be proved that existing or planned and financially feasible infrastructure is in place that will support the impacts of the proposed development.

Unfortunately, as we all know, over-capacity conditions continue to occur. Concurrency laws are failing within the most densely populated areas of Florida due to the complex analysis required to determine developmental concurrency.

Most counties and municipalities claim that they cannot afford to maintain competent technical staff required to effectively determine developmental impacts; typically, salaries for such employees range from $80,000 to $120,000, so for most new development, a proper analysis simply isn't being done.

For developments of regional impact, jurisdictions typically require the developers themselves to produce the analysis. Once completed, the analysis is reviewed by the local government, which then determines if concurrency compliance is approved or denied.

Whether approved or denied, the jurisdiction is at the mercy of the developer in hopes that a proper analysis has been done. Furthermore, the jurisdiction fears having to deny developmental concurrency due to the fact that the developer has the right to question the denial in court.

Joe Thielbar, Pinellas Park

Sweetheart deal

After years of devastating the land around Lake Okeechobee, U.S. Sugar gets a sweetheart deal from the governor. The land is not worth anywhere near what we are paying for it, especially since it needs so much remediation.

U.S. Sugar saw the writing on the wall: One, they could no longer pollute with impunity due to increasingly stringent environmental protections. Two, they could not find enough "guest workers" to exploit, due to post-9/11 restrictions and scrutiny of visas. Three, the impending end of the Cuban trade embargo will likely flood the world market with cheaper sugar.

They had their lobbyists strong-arm a deal that indemnified them from any of the costs of cleanup, and they get to walk away with a boatload of taxpayer dollars.

Michael J. Colucci, St. Petersburg

Take waterfront location off the table 06/26/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 28, 2008 9:03pm]
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