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Pinellas Park, in fact, has no image problem

If Pinellas Park has an image problem, it's because of reporters like Mary Jo Melone who refuse to do their homework.

Based almost entirely on a brief conversation with a Pinellas Park teen, Melone (in her March 11 column, Pinellas Park is changing, but its image is hard to kill) concluded that our city doesn't have a single black-owned business. Well, that's going to come as quite a shock to the African-Americans here, doing business, in Pinellas Park.

But that conclusion by Melone is representative of the quantum leaps in logic she made throughout her column. For instance, she speaks about persistent image problems, and the city's "reputation as the presumed haven" for certain types of undesirables. Certainly that is Melone's opinion, and she was writing an opinion piece.

However, it's always been my naive belief that even opinion pieces must be supported by facts of some sort or another. Sadly, facts were few and far between in Melone's column. She clearly doesn't want them to get in the way of her preconceived ideas.

When I talked with Melone about Pinellas Park's highly successful Country in the Park celebration, she seemed to have her column already written. She asked me about our image, and I offered to share with her a recent poll conducted for the city by Independent Market Research in Tampa. She said she wasn't interested.

If she had taken the time to read the survey, she would have found that 91 percent of Pinellas Park residents love living here.

Of course, it's understandable that people who live here would feel great about Pinellas Park. Otherwise, they'd be living somewhere else. But what was truly encouraging about this survey was what people living outside the city thought of Pinellas Park:

66 percent of people outside Pinellas Park say the city is a good place to live.

77 percent of people outside Pinellas Park think the city has friendly people.

75 percent of people outside Pinellas Park think it has well-maintained streets and public areas.

By contrast:

Only 29 percent of people outside Pinellas Park consider it trailer-park living.

Only 14 percent of people outside Pinellas Park strongly believe it has lots of junk cars in the yards.

So where is Melone's data to support her statement that we have a reputation as a haven for undesirables? Well, she did interview one waitress who admitted she was a "redneck" at one point in time. Now that's solid reporting.

Pinellas Park, like most cities, has its good points and bad points. After all, we are a city as diverse as the people who live here. Most of us work hard to support our families and to make their lives better. We try our best, and that effort is paying huge dividends.

James M. Madden, city manager, City of Pinellas Park

Accentuating the negative

Only twice in the past 30 years have I felt motivated enough to write you concerning articles in your paper, but Mary Jo Melone's article on Pinellas Park (Pinellas Park is changing, but its image is hard to kill, March 11) moved me to action.

She is such a negative writer that I normally just glance at her column and skip over it. If you look for the good in a situation you can usually find it, but if you want to reinforce a preconceived idea you can usually do that, also. I wonder why she didn't interview any of the professional people who live in Pinellas Park. They are there, by choice. If she doesn't know any, I can give her some phone numbers for engineers, CPAs, gerontologists, teachers, nurses, etc.

Of course, we have small-minded people in Pinellas Park. Can you tell me that isn't true in Tampa and St. Petersburg?

Mary Jo Melone needs an attitude adjustment. At least, her article on Pinellas Park gave the Tampa Bay Bucs a day off from her venom.

Nell Newberry, Pinellas Park

Re: Pinellas Park is changing, but its image is hard to kill, by Mary Jo Melone.

I disagree with Melone's analysis of Pinellas Park. I am sure she has never lived in Pinellas Park or she wouldn't have such a negative attitude. We are not all trailer-park trash, bigots or rednecks. In fact, I have lived in Pinellas Park for eight years and have yet to meet trailer-park trash, bigots or rednecks.

True, there are some older mobile home parks ("trailer park" is very outdated), but perhaps the older residents who live there cannot afford a fancy home on their limited income.

I am very happy that I am not a friend of Mary Jo Melone because anyone who writes every column with such a negative attitude is certainly someone who needs a rethinking of her own personal life.

Dorothy Peters, Pinellas Park

One unhappy resident

Re: Pinellas Park is changing but its image is hard to kill, by Mary Jo Melone, March 11.

I moved here five years ago unaware of the "reputation," and when it came up in conversation, I disputed the idea. I said Pinellas Park is a "family town." Now I have owned a home here for two years, and have I changed my mind.

I thought fighting, loud music and fast driving through streets were the disadvantages of apartment life. Wrong!

There are four stereo blasters on my block. I watch cars speed by. I watch drivers throw trash out their windows, including cigarette butts, in front of my house and while I drive around town. Some neighbors use profanity so loud I could hear it through my open window. Sometimes they aren't even fighting. The dogs are left out 24 hours a day or ignored in their homes with the windows left open for all the rest of us to hear their complaints. I clean up other people's trash blown into my front yard at least every other day. I take walks with my child along the streets of town and we get to admire the piles of trash along the canals, sidewalks and hedges.

I don't know what you call the kind of people that behave like this, but I am so disappointed with myself for having chosen to share a community with them. I don't know what "quiet" Toya Thomas refers to; her old neighborhood must have been unliveable. I agree with Cynthia Hickman, the reputation might change labels, but it will never die.

City Manager Jim Madden might consider educating the public on littering, noise damage to ears and the nervous system, and how to be a good pet owner. Here's a really far out thought: We could start teaching respect for community in our schools!

Beth Ruiz, Pinellas Park

Not a good record for honesty

Re: Salinger's claims anger U.S. officials, March 14.

How dare the U.S. government officials be angry at Pierre Salinger? Jim Hall, the National Transportation and Safety Board chairman, says that he is a Vietnam vet. Perhaps he has forgotten that the government denied for years that Agent Orange killed thousands. Or more recently, there's Gulf War Syndrome, which has soldiers sick and dying, and the government conveniently lost six days of records. The track record of the government is questionable, to say the least.

George D. Schadt, Tarpon Springs

Neglect, not a mugging

Re: Mugged by the Democrats, by Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle, March 11.

Barnicle's column accuses the Democrats of bankrupting an elderly widow by frightening her into making major financial contributions to their campaign. He claims the Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for implying that Social Security would end if Bob Dole won the election.

Apparently the widow, Eva Piccin, who had two children living nearby, was incompetent to handle her affairs. Mentally competent people do not send three checks out in one day to the same individual. And I doubt if making political donations was the only way her incompetence manifested itself.

The shame should be on the son and daughter for caring too late about what was going on in their mother's life.

How do they look at themselves in the mirror each morning, knowing that Mrs. Piccin was the victim of neglect by her own children? Could it be that Al Piccin and his sister are upset by their lack of an inheritance and looking for a scapegoat?

Phyllis Schuster, St. Petersburg

The real experts in extortion

Mike Barnicle seems to think the Democrats invented the fund-raising letter that uses "all kinds of sleazy psychology to prey on these old people who have accumulated a little money but lost their powers of reason." I suggest that Barnicle might want to take a look at a few Republican fund-raising letters, ones that demonize the Democrats as the bastions of moral decay and warn that we are headed for eternal punishment if we support them.

If you think that language sounds suspiciously like a preacher's sermon, you would be _ no pun intended _ right on the money. The real experts in extorting cash from those who have lost their powers of reason (or in the case of children, have not yet developed them) using scare tactics are the churches. It's no coincidence that most politicians of all stripes are much more religious than the average citizen, since the weekly training session on the use of guilt and scare tactics in fund-raising has surely helped their campaigns.

I must agree with Eva Piccin's son when he says, "There's something awfully wrong when the elderly can be so easily preyed upon." Turn on your television any Sunday morning and you'll see those same tactics in use or simply drop by a few of the churches that pepper our landscape. The problem wasn't invented by the Democrats in the past couple of years; it's as old as religion itself.

Brent Yaciw, Tampa

A foreign policy puzzle

Re: Diplomatic arrogance, editorial, Feb. 25.

Why is it that we extend diplomatic recognition to Vietnam, 8,000 miles away and the scene of a war which took 55,000 American lives, and continue to impose a strict embargo on Cuba, only 90 miles from our coast? Property rights apparently are the basis for the Helms-Burton legislation against Cuba; in Vietnam, it was human life that was sacrificed.

Charles Connor, Treasure Island

For Albanian freedom

Re: Is Albanian turmoil a taste of what's to come? by Jack R. Payton, March 9.

Connecting the present turmoil of small Albania to the 40 years of Enver Hoxha's dictatorship is commendable. The crumbling of their human rights for so long had to explode to the events of today.

Similarly, the Sali Berishas that come after such dictatorships are swept away because they fail to take their people's demands for freedom seriously. The fall of the towns of Vlora, Tepelena, Saranda and Delvina and Gjirokastra confirms the 40 years of persecutions and suppression of ethnic minorities in these towns, especially Greeks.

The time has come for the right of self-determination of the people of Albania.

Nick Anton, president, National Affairs Committee,

the Pan Hellenic Federation of Florida, Clearwater

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