Treat firefighters, deputies the same
The Pinellas Board of County Commissioners has decided to use reserves to fund a wage increase for firefighter/paramedics in Pinellas County, but not sheriff's deputies. The firefighter/paramedics fully deserve it, but what about the Pinellas County deputies who put their life on the line every day? Courageous individuals who make equal sacrifices should be treated fairly and receive equal wage increases.
Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in the state and yet the sheriff has been forced to cut hundreds of jobs since 2008. These cuts were made in hopes of contributing to budget reduction. The officers' last wage increase was nominal at best and as we look to the future, there is no anticipated wage increase. The sheriff continues to explore new ways to save money so the employees can benefit from their hard work.
Changes need to be made to address the imbalance between fund expenditures and revenues. The provisional solution of using reserves or raising taxes to fund wage increases for some public safety personnel and not others is unjustified. The firefighter/paramedics will be receiving a significant wage increase at a time when sheriff's deputies will experience a net pay decrease due to paying more out of each paycheck for health insurance.
If it is appropriate to fund a wage increase for firefighter/paramedics from reserve funds, it is appropriate to do the same for deputies. The board is failing to duly recognize the importance of the deputies' role in keeping our community safe.
Jay Vessey, Oldsmar
'Safe place' to cross traffic isn't always
I am probably one of the first to be affected by the new Pinellas County pedestrian-bicycle safety program. I was crossing a busy Clearwater intersection on my bicycle when I noticed no moving cars were within 100 yards of me. Anyone trying to cross Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard at Belcher Road knows that is a rare midday opportunity, so I took advantage of it.
I soon noticed a police officer following me into the nearby shopping center. He was polite and professional and explained he was stopping me for crossing against the light and was enforcing the pedestrian safety program. I explained to him the safest time was when I did and in the fashion I did. You can imagine who won that discussion.
Later that day I came back and saw the officer monitoring the same area. This time I waited for the walk signal he said was the safe way to cross. When the light changed and I had the right of way, an onslaught of speeding vehicles roared right into my path as if I wasn't even there, all of them trying to beat that light. This pattern repeated itself several times.
I gave up and went a distance down the road, fracturing another safety tenet by not crossing at an intersection. I figured it safer to cross where cars were coming from only two directions, not four or six (imagine that). I am 50 years old and have been a lifelong cyclist, and I would not be lying if I were to say I would have been killed by following the guidelines.
I am well aware that there are irresponsible cyclists. I cringe when I see them, but I cringe even more when I see an SUV with a driver on the phone bearing down on me. The only thing that saves me is my own awareness and acumen, not some safety program.
The problem here isn't cyclists or motorists, but the human race. They don't practice the skills of common sense (not so common anymore) and mindfulness. Until we learn to practice common sense, awareness and mindfulness, any safety program is meaningless.
Steven P. Harrison, Clearwater
Are special parking permits checked?
Wherever you park your car, there are special places for handicapped persons and I commend this fact. However, how many times do you witness a person who isn't handicapped getting out of a car, taking the place of those in real need of such parking places?
I don't know what could be changed to overcome this situation, but I would hope that these handicap permits relate to specific holders and that the proper authorities randomly check to make sure that the permit is being used when a handicapped person is on board. If not, then the user should be ticketed.
Helene Lapointe, Dunedin