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Busy street needs speed-limit change

Isn't it about time the speed limit on Fourth Street N, north of 38thAvenue, was reduced due to the many accidents on the street?

Last week's two fatal accidents in one day, only five blocks apart, were deplorable.

If you've addressed this on your editorial page, I'm sorry to say I missed it. If not, will you please?

I don't know how one goes about getting a speed limit changed, and I'm sure there'll be a lot of people upset by the thought of it, since speed seems to be of the essence when some drivers get behind the wheel. But I hope your newspaper would have some influence.

The accidents I referred to occurred when one man seemingly walked into the side of a car after alighting from a bus, and a woman walking on Fourth Street after dark where possibly the driver didn't see her. (The fact that he hasn't come forward now makes this accident heinous.) I don't know if speed was a factor in either or both of these accidents, but my office window faces Fourth Street where I can see the traffic whizzing by. Riding or walking on this street feels like one is on a speedway. Since sidewalks are at a premium along

parts of this street (also where both accidents occurred), it's risky business for pedestrians!

Jo Ann C. Fisher, St. Petersburg It's time to re-examine regular school rezonings

Each year at this time our schools are rezoned to maintain court-ordered racial balance. Our School Board as well as far too many families and children in Pinellas County are faced with a no-win situation.

In the late '60s and early '70s when the courts decided that Pinellas schools should maintain a maximum 70-30 percent racial balance, the major concern was to assure, and rightly so, that all children regardless of race received an equal opportunity for a quality education.

Now, into the early '90s, the entire situation has changed. We have many good schools and excellent teachers throughout our county system.

A quality education is available at all of our public schools.

Parents, both black and white, no longer believe that a long ride on a bus is required for a quality education. Our concerns have changed.

We don't want our children exposed to long rides on crowded buses through rush hour traffic on overcrowded streets and highways. We don't want our children on busy street corners before dawn. We don't want our children left on the side of the road as targets for child molesters. What we want is our children close to home where we can readily be a part of their daily lives and school activities. We want our children in our own neighborhoods.

Our School Board is not protecting integration by busing our children all over the county. At the demands of some Lakewood residents, our School Board is expected to keep the area in balance by shipping whites in and blacks out. This is artificial integration only during daylight hours and does not address the real situation.

According to some of these Lakewood residents, they are afraid of "white flight." Children have been bused in and out of this area for years; however, the proportion of blacks residing in Lakewood continues to grow. Busing schoolchildren does not reverse population shifts.

People are going to live where they want, no matter what.

Since we cannot control where people live, we can only massage and modify our systems to best serve the people, wherever they choose to live.

Our Constitution is a living document that is "for the people."

It continually changes to reflect the desires and attitudes of the people that it serves and protects. Our School Board policies and court ordered requirements must change as well.

Our School Board should abandon any plans or recommendations that modify our present school zones. It's time they should serve the people and take our situation back to the courts for modification.

There should be no difficulty in demonstrating to the courts that times have changed, that what was good 20 years ago for our community is not necessarily good today. What we should seek is a plan similar to Jacksonville that provides freedom of choice for all. A plan that will truly be "for the people" and not only for the courts.

Steve Bass, St. Petersburg Some remarks unfair about housing forum

Re: Dome area housing discussions casting a racist shadow? Perkins T. Shelton's column of Feb. 2 on the League of Women Voters' public forum on housing.

The city of St. Petersburg faces a serious dilemma in respect to the housing needs of its citizens. This fact was made all the more clear by Shelton's remarks in the My View section of the Times.

Mr. Shelton commented on a public forum on housing sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg area. The League's objective was to increase public awareness of the serious housing problems facing the city, and to provide an opportunity for the public to hear the views of knowledgeable individuals on how those problems might be solved.

Mr. Shelton is a distinguished and highly respected civil rights activist, and we appreciated his observations about our panel discussion. We acknowledge his criticism that there was no one on the panel who actually lived in the area of the city that we had targeted as a microcosm of the city's housing problems, but the intent was to address the broad spectrum of housing issues, not just low-income housing.

However, we feel that his interpretation of the remarks of the panelists was overstated. In particular, we take great exception to his claim that "it was quite evident that a grand renaissance plan was being unveiled that would result in transformation of a large section of real estate surrounding the dome into an upscale yuppie enclave." The League of Women Voters is not a part of any such plan, and to our knowledge it doesn't exist. To suggest that the League and the four panelists were somehow involved in that kind of "collusion" is incorrect and uncalled for.

The speakers - Deputy City Manager Bruce Hahl, David Carr of the University of South Florida, Marie Powell of Suncoast Realtors Board, and Carter Karins of Habitat for Humanity Board - were invited because of their special knowledge and expertise to discuss this subject from their individual perspectives. Their views were not necessarily shared by the League. What we wanted to do was let the community know that there are many different points of view that need to be heard, if not agreed with. Extensive comments from the audience bore that out. The format provided ample opportunity for public response.

The League of Women Voters has been studying the factors that affect affordable housing in St. Petersburg for the past year. The only clear result of that study so far is that a serious dilemma exists, and that ways must be found to balance the needs of low-income citizens with the needs for other kinds of housing. We hope that our forum has initiated a dialogue on this subject in which all of the people of St. Petersburg will participate.

The League shares many of Mr. Shelton's views on the impact of racism on housing patterns and other social problems. We have longstanding positions on enforcement of fair housing standards and promotion of an adequate housing supply for low- and moderate-income families. We will keep those positions in mind as we continue to address the city's current housing crisis. Many thanks to Mr. Shelton for sharing his concerns: We hope to see him at any future forums we may have on this issue.

Margaret Tappan, president, League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area The Vinoy would make a great new city hall

Re: Wanted: office space, Jan. 21, City Times.

So the city is looking for a new city hall. Chief Assistant City Manager Larry Arnold could have been thinking of the Vinoy when he listed desirable criteria for a new city government building. Consider these points: Consolidation: The Vinoy has ample space for as much of city government as we may wish to collocate. There even may be space left over for inevitable growth. The present gutted upper floors of the Vinoy can be converted to office space more easily and cheaply than they can be made into hotel rooms again.

Lease/Purchase: The Vinoy may be leased from the present owner.

More sensibly, the city could merely repossess what should never have been offered for private development in the first place.

Parking: A 500-space facility can be constructed either immediately north of the Vinoy, or just to the east, where condos are planned.

Most of these spaces could be released to public use during evenings, weekends and holidays. This parking also would answer a critical need for waterfront festivals, concerts and art shows. If we show some class, the parking facility could be restricted to one and two levels, and covered with landscaped terraces that actually would enhance the appearance of our waterfront area.

Lobby: Restored and properly adapted, the spacious mezzanine and lobby levels of the Vinoy will provide elegant and convenient space where residents can conduct business with the city. Some facilities, such as auditoriums and conference rooms, could be rented to the public when not needed for city business. Perhaps Bay Plaza would like to manage these public rooms. In fact, Bay Plaza could locate its own offices in the Vinoy, as well. This might not be a bad idea, especially if Bay Plaza is going to continue to be a silent partner in city government.

Location: The Vinoy is squarely in the downtown redevelopment area.

Approaching the city via I-375, the first thing seen - straight ahead - is the Vinoy tower on the skyline. By occupying the Vinoy, city government sets the example by housing itself in a prime redevelopment property that no one else seems to want (except as means to put up condos). The Vinoy occupies the strategic keystone position of one of the most beautiful municipal waterfronts in the country, if not the world. Locating city government there would have a beneficial, long-term, stabilizing effect. Also, then we might get the traffic

lights synchronized on Fourth Avenue N leading from the interstate to the Vinoy. Now that would be progress.

Image: The Vinoy Building, as it could be called, already looks like City Hall. Imposing, harmonious, indigenous and accessible are terms that come to mind when describing its architecture. And the Vinoy building's location and setting has to be seen to be believed, because it is so beautiful and so, well, so St. Petersburg.

Old City Hall: Make it the St. Petersburg Museum. The building itself is eminently museum-worthy. It has the location and space to accommodate downtown visitors and the extensive holdings that, in time, it will have. The present Historical Museum can be housed there, but the term "historical" by itself is redundant - all museums are historical in some sense. St. Petersburg will live out the 21st century as the heart of a great metropolitan area; St. Petersburg Metropolitan Museum would not be going too far.

The Vinoy is the city hall we need. It is already built, positions city government at the forefront of downtown development, and presents the appearance of an elegant public building set exactly where one would expect such a building to be. It does not take a genius to see this, but it does take someone in the right place to advance the idea.

Herman V. Ivey, St. Petersburg Share your views Direct your thoughts about issues in St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Pinellas Park and the Gulf beaches to City Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg 33731, or dictate your thoughts on our recorder, 893-8169.

Comments may be edited for clarity.

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