1. Archive

Yielding to billboard industry will hurt for decades

Published Aug. 31, 2005

Re: Opponents: Billboard deal too lenient, story, March 5.

As a longtime Pinellas County resident, I am very disappointed with the County Commission's buckling under to the billboard industry. Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. is pulling the wool over the public's eyes with a proposed settlement that runs counter to the public interest.

As reported by Times staff writer Lisa Greene, under the terms of the proposed settlement Clear Channel would remove at least 22 billboards within a year. However, a little research into the terms of the settlement reveals that of these billboards, four are located near the home of county Commissioner Susan Latvala. The majority of the others are broken down or illegal billboards that will be removed anyway, if all the county does is enforce the existing law.

Further, removals earn Clear Channel relocation rights on U.S. 19 or the interstate. And, under the terms of the proposed settlement, new, larger and taller billboards would be allowed along these roads and within unincorporated areas of the county.

Billboard regulations would be frozen against any more restrictive action for the next 39 years, thus tying the hands of our future elected representatives to clean up the county's visual blight.

Why would the commission give up our sound legal position on this subject? The county fought for and won exemption from the terrible 2002 state billboard law change, and if we don't stand our ground, we'll lose our ability to preserve and improve Pinellas County's scenic beauty.

Travis Jarman, St. Petersburg, Florida

Parking ban could be even broader

Re: Deal bars parking on 1 side of street, story, March 7.

Great move, Mayor Brian Aungst and the Clearwater commissioners who banned parking on the south side of Cleveland Street. Now do the north side and make it permanent.

The merchants who complain will gain business. Downtown customers avoid the area because of the terrible traffic, blocked intersections and dangerous shifting from four lanes to two going west, particularly when done illegally at Myrtle Avenue.

Side-street parking and garages are available, as well as spaces in the big lot at Station Square Park. Current Cleveland Street spaces are often used by employees who move their cars every two hours. So customers are not necessarily those who park on the street.

Traffic flowed Friday and thereafter in the two lanes going east. I watched it from the sidewalks, with city employees. Westbound traffic continued to be hardly moving, almost parked, a mess.

Tom Bruckman, Clearwater

Spring break "fix' is a disaster

Re: Deal bars parking on 1 side of street, story, March 7.

What were they thinking?

I work in downtown Clearwater and take a morning walk every day, and today was no different except for my laughter bursting out as I took in the attempted fix by the Clearwater City Commission of our spring break traffic problem!

In the 20 minutes that I was out, westbound traffic on Cleveland Street was backed up and at a standstill beyond Myrtle Avenue. Northbound Osceola Avenue traffic was backed up past Pierce Street thanks to the many cars trying to dodge the Cleveland backup and turn left onto Cleveland. And cars that were heading for their relaxing time on Clearwater Beach were blowing through yellow lights and blasting through the red. Pedestrians should fear for their safety!

Before today, I used to run errands and shop at stores downtown, but with the loss of parking on Cleveland Street, I will now head toward Countryside or Largo and take my business and dollars to those areas, probably never to return.

Again, thanks to the Clearwater City Commission. What were they thinking? Only of the tourist dollars and convenience, not of the locals who work, shop and live here year round.

Lynne York, Clearwater

Clearing up some financial points

This letter is intended to clarify some points written in recent articles that appeared in your paper regarding the city of Tarpon Springs.

The first article, appearing on Jan. 25 and titled Residents get say in Tarpon's future, regarded the survey being conducted by the University of South Florida's Institute of Government. It stated that the study was being funded using the $48,000 budgeted for the unfilled city manager secretary position. The base salary for this position was budgeted at $36,300 plus benefits. The person that previously held the position had a bachelor's degree and worked for the city for more than 12 years.

The second article appeared Feb. 28 and was titled Residents voice suggestions for budget. It quoted City Manager Ellen Posivach as saying that some expenses rose by as much as $1.7-million last year. The period mentioned by Ellen Posivach pertained to fiscal years 1999 through 2003.

This article also mentioned that the city has frozen 13 staff positions, freeing up $968,000. The 13 frozen positions represent about $380,000 in salary and benefits of the amount noted. Because of normal turnover, there are 15 additional positions that are vacant, but not frozen, representing $588,000 in salary and benefits. The city currently is recruiting for the vast majority of these positions.

Arie Walker, finance director

City of Tarpon Springs

Thanks for a memorable old photo

Re: Photo: Members of the 1924 and 1925 Clearwater High School baseball team smile for the camera during the season, Feb. 23.

I want to thank the St. Petersburg Times and Heritage Village for printing the picture of the Clearwater High School baseball team of 1924-1925.

I was born in Morton Plant Hospital in 1943, which qualifies me for both "senior citizen" and "native" status, which is why I appreciate old memories of Clearwater.

When I was growing up in Clearwater, the population was about 10,000. The intersection of Cleveland Street and Fort Harrison Avenue was the center of town. Clearwater Harbor was dotted with mangrove islands, not houses, and hanging out among the sand dunes on the south end of Clearwater Beach was a favorite teenage pastime.

A person like me sometimes loses sight of the need for change _ not change for the sake of change, but meaningful, productive change that has value to the citizens of Clearwater.

Bob Metz, the developer who has a plan to develop the commercial property on Clearwater Beach from the causeway to the old Yacht Basin Apartments property, is a native I've known all my life. He knows old Clearwater and his roots indicate a vested value in the heritage of Clearwater. I trust Bob Metz's vision for Clearwater Beach and believe he should be encouraged, not stonewalled. Change is hard for an "old-timer" like me to accept, but I'm working on it.

Back to that old photo of the baseball team. I sat there, looking at the grinning face of a 15-year-old boy kneeling at the far left of the front row. Staring at him brought a tear to my eyes because I found myself looking at my dad _ the man who made me appreciate my hometown. Thanks again.

Robert E. "Chip" Padgett, Clearwater

Information about shops was helpful

Sincere appreciation for the most enjoyable and informative columns by staff writer Christina Cosdon. Her disclosure of the new locations of the row of shops in Belleair Bluffs razed to make way for a major drug company was received most enthusiastically by many customers searching for them (Popular retail center closes after 30 years, Feb. 3).

Ms. Cosdon has a real talent, as in her charming article some months ago concerning the closure of one of Cleveland Street's landmarks, the shoe repair shop featuring the very popular cobblers (Stepping down, Oct. 13, 2002). This touched many a heart, newcomers as well as longtime residents.

Mrs. Browder M. Rives, Belleair

Recycle in a more creative way

The other day I went to my local recycling place on Michigan Boulevard in Dunedin and found a lot of people there _ practically all from out of state: Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Canada . . . .

I noticed them putting their magazines and catalogs in the magazine bin, so I reminded them that the items can go to a much worthier cause. Please donate both to our local library, the Dunedin Library on Douglas Avenue, because they sell the magazines in their bookstore, which turns around making money to buy more books. They even have a box for free catalogs, which I think is the cat's meow!

Nancy M. Eggert, Dunedin