CMA, downtown just won't mix, and Do well by Winter with right home | letters, Sept. 8
See opportunity in new aquarium
Two previous letters about the Clearwater Marine Aquarium stated some information that distorted some facts. Either the new aquarium is going to be wildly successful and the city is giving our waterfront away, or it is going to be a bust and the city will never receive the payout over the promised 15 years.
Well, I also live downtown and work to make it grow and thrive, as do a huge of number of dedicated volunteers and support groups. The fact is we have a thriving aquarium that already outdraws the much-larger state-of-the-art Florida Aquarium in Tampa — by almost 100,000 visitors a year — in our old facility.
One letter writer spoke about gridlock from bringing up to 2 million visitors downtown in an already bad traffic situation. The fact is that the traffic can be routed on Cleveland, Court or Fort Harrison, and it does not go over the bridge onto the causeway where the current aquarium now stands. This will actually bring relief and take traffic off the causeway and Island Estates.
We are not giving our waterfront away. Ownership does not change and the city receives a large lease payment. Also ticket surcharges will help pay for most of the building of a new City Hall, which is targeted to be replaced anyway.
A letter writer states that the free parking will disappear for Blast Friday, the Jazz Holiday and other events. Well, the city parking garages are always free on weekends, holidays and after 6 p.m. There are three garage facilities with parking very close to every event stated.
As for those who do not stay and shop on Cleveland Street, let me clarify that approximately 90 percent of the patrons who currently come to the Winter's Dolphin Tale exhibit have already parked their cars on the Island Estates aquarium site. So naturally they would go back there and leave. If their parking is onsite at the new CMA, then they would be tempted to try out our restaurants and bars and stay for Blast Friday and upcoming promotions as their cars would be right here downtown.
As for the statement that the city will not collect its $7.5 million payment for 15 years or longer, as the new aquarium will not draw, well the break-even point on tickets yearly is around 900,000 visitors, which is very close to where the current CMA operates in its cramped, old facility.
We have a great opportunity to really enhance our beautiful downtown and waterfront with this facility. It can be a catalyst to attracting new business to our downtown corridor — restaurants, nightclubs, tech — and increased housing.
Both highrise residences downtown are sold out, with additional under construction. There is a reason that people want to live in our downtown.
Let's not just say no. Actually go to a presentation, listen and read the actual information and I hope you will agree that this is a huge win for downtown and Clearwater.
Miguel Hall, Clearwater
Defensive driving education needed
As I read the Tampa Bay Times, I cannot believe the daily number of accidents reported in the Tampa Bay area. Some believe that red-light cameras are the solution to some of these accidents, and they may reduce the number of intersection accidents, but they may contribute to increasing them as drivers stop short to avoid them.
But there is a much bigger problem. Red-light cameras are a deterrent only to those who would run them anyway, but not to law-abiding and responsible drivers. To truly reduce accidents, there must be an understanding of the root cause.
Today's drivers are distracted by use of cellphones, texting, in-dash navigation systems, eating, applying makeup, pets on drivers' laps, etc. We have all seen them.
Back to the red-light camera dilemma. The better solution is two-fold. Make the red light duration tolerable, and require defensive driving education before a license to drive is issued.
Defensive driving refresher classes should be mandatory for anyone receiving a moving violation before their license can be renewed. Make the fees high as an incentive for drivers to drive defensively and make the roads safer for all of those who share it — this includes pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and car and truck drivers. Better driver education will certainly result in safer roads for us all!
Ken Gagliano, Clearwater
East Lake band needs your help
I would like everyone to know what an incredible job the students of the East Lake Marching Band are doing. They have been picked as the only high school from the state of Florida to be invited to the 2014 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
This is quite an expense and if you want to help send these amazing students to Washington to represent our state, please look at the band's website and download the sponsorship form to donate to the band to help reduce the cost per student: eastlakeband.com/sponsorship.
N. Joseph Browne, Tarpon Springs