Home sale story is sensationalism
I have a unique perspective on Goliath Davis. As a lawyer, I sued him twice when he was St. Petersburg's chief of police. We first met when I took his deposition for an entire day. We went through six days of trial in a federal courthouse on opposite sides of the aisle. You might say I've gotten to know Davis the hard way, but I know him.
When I first met Goliath, soon after the 1996 race riots, he was the focal point of the city and the Police Department's struggle with race. So much was written about him, so many stories told. Some folks made him the focal point of their mayoral campaigns. Why he stayed in public service is beyond me. But he did.
Now we are supposedly in a more progressive time. We have moved beyond our past sins. Yet, not too many months ago I read a front-page headline, which intimated that Goliath Davis used his influence to escape a DUI. When I read the story in detail, it was nothing but pure innuendo, refuted by the police officer who made the stop.
Now, I read yet another front-page headline suggesting that Goliath Davis was behind the city's paying a great deal more than the market value for a home his aunt owned. Again, when I read the story in detail, it was nothing but innuendo.
Goliath is an honest man who has dedicated his life to the city of St. Petersburg. He stands up for those who are disadvantaged and cannot fight for themselves. He, more than anyone I have ever known, has never forgotten his humble origins. Don't use his name to create inflammatory headlines that have no basis in fact.
It demeans the reputation of a good newspaper.
James Sheehan, St. Petersburg
City pays top dollar to official's relative Aug. 13, story
Unusually good treatment
So Goliath Davis, senior administrator of St. Petersburg's Community Enrichment Department, says he was unaware that his aunt lived on property selected for a future city park.
Right. And "the government is here to help us."
But this story gets even more remarkable when you follow the "favors" that have accrued to Davis' aunt, Beverly Gray, beginning from the time she was paid $80,000 for her 840-square-foot house based on a 2007 appraisal. She was urged by a city employee to essentially "take the money and run" before someone insisted on a more recent appraisal that would have come in much lower.
It gets better. With $80,000 in hand, Beverly Gray then bought another house for $51,000. Although most of that ($51,000) will be paid from the $80,000 received from the sale of her former home, the city will give her another $10,000 in down payment assistance (why?) and another $20,000 for things like new windows and an air conditioning unit (again, why?). Nice to have friends (or relatives) in high places!
Not to sound prejudiced, but I've got to wonder if a working, 65-year-old white woman with no "connections" to the head of the Community Enrichment Department would get the same treatment?
Bob Lindskog, Palm Harbor
Leaders defend deal for house | Aug. 14, story
The reality of home values
Paying $80,000 for a house appraised at $24,000 is an outright waste of taxpayer money, and those public officials who approved this purchase in an effort not to leave the seller "destitute" should be put on the proverbial hot seat.
If the current appraisal was done correctly and the property is indeed worth $24,000 now, the current seller should be able to find a comparable home in a similar neighborhood for that amount of money. That's what "comparable value" means. That would be fair and would not leave the seller "destitute."
But by paying her almost 31/2 times the appraised value, the city has allowed the seller to greatly improve her living conditions and her overall net worth as measured against today's values. Far from leaving the seller destitute, the city has enriched her with tax dollars.
City Council members should be reminded that when the tide goes out at the marina, all boats sit lower in the water. The tide started going out for real estate in 2007, and this seller — like the rest of us — should have to face the fact that her home has lost value during this falling tide. To enrich her beyond current values is nothing more than a preferential bailout using taxpayer money.
Terry Ward, St. Petersburg
Sweet deal, bad smell
Let me see if I understand this report correctly. St. Petersburg pays $80,000 for a house with a market value of $24,000 in a neighborhood where homes sell for an average of $16,000. In 1987 the city gave the owner a $12,219 loan that she didn't have to pay back.
Now the owner has found a new house for $51,000 and the city is giving her $10,000 for a down payment and $20,0000 for new windows and a air-conditioning unit.
All this to the aunt of the city's senior administrator of the Community Enrichment Department and Mayor Bill Foster says, "I don't worry about issues where favoritism might be involved. It's not an issue here."
I don't have a dog in this fight, but it seems there is something rotten in Denmark — er, St. Petersburg.
Jay D. Jennings, Brooksville
Modern mortgages for modern borrowers Aug. 13, commentary
Planning for uncertainty
My family is a middle class, single-income household. I work in an industry where downsizing, right-sizing and reorganization are common. Layoffs are a real possibility, as they are for most Americans today. I see two ways to mitigate this risk.
Rent: A 30-year mortgage with periods of interest only is essentially renting. Equity builds very slowly on a 30-year mortgage, and the potential for depreciation in value could completely absorb the equity. Renting provides flexibility, without financial risk, or headaches of maintenance.
But I have chosen to take a 30-year mortgage, and make payments large enough to repay in 12 years. If I lose my job, I revert back to the 30-year repayment plan. If I have to relocate, I would have built more equity in my house and should owe less than the market value.
This requires self-sacrifice. I can't afford a large house in an expensive neighborhood. I have to drive my truck until the wheels fall off, and we aren't going to Orlando for vacations. The 12-year schedule will have the house paid off by the time my son starts college, so I will free up cash to help with his education.
Both of these options are better than relying on a financial institution or a government program when a layoff occurs.
Charles Watford, Tampa