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Promises to save mobile homes quickly forgotten

I have read with interest about the shenanigans of the Largo City Commission vis-a-vis the Clearwater-Largo Road Community Redevelopment District. As a former member of the Plan Task Force (I resigned when I realized that the task force was crowded with individuals whose financial stakes in redevelopment rendered their participation inappropriate), I must admit that I'm not at all surprised that the commissioners and the mayor have done an abrupt about-face now that the election is over and they no longer need the support of the manufactured home owners they promised to protect.

All we need do is look at the record for the past few months. Before the election, the candidates and task force members pledged to save mobile home parks. At a public hearing on Feb. 4, task force member Ron Bortolini stood at the microphone, brandishing a flier that had been widely distributed at mobile home communities that urged residents to voice their concerns about losing their homes. He indignantly chastised the anonymous source of that flier, categorically stating that the flier was inaccurate and amounted to no more than an attempt to incite, frighten and inflame mobile home residents.

It looks like the flier pronounced the truth. The last draft of the plan spared most of the parks that are now slated for redevelopment. Then, after a retreat the commissioners enjoyed at a hotel in the Icot Center, the list of targeted parks grew twofold.

While the Times articles of June 10 and June 11 _ City: Two parks worth saving and City targets "squalor' of 12 mobile home parks _ unfairly and improperly favor the side of redevelopment, what cannot be forgotten are the residents who have called these places home for decades. What have these past few months been like for them? Many are frantically trying to fix their homes so that their communities will not be razed for something that, courtesy of the city, will be far more profitable for developers. These are people who have established relationships with their neighbors, whose children have played together, whose communities watch out for them.

The city's Orwellian newspeak promise to "help" these residents should not be believed. One needs only to look at the photograph accompanying the June 10 article to see the obvious contradictions. The photo of walkers at Belleair Village, one of the parks slated for redevelopment, shows well-maintained homes and yards, an American flag whipping in the breeze in front of a giant oak tree. This photo belies the text in paragraph four of the article, which informs the reader that the goal of the plan is "to eliminate crumbling substandard housing that breeds crime, shelters poverty and hinders progress."

Donald E. Hazelton Jr., president

Federation of Manufactured

Home Owners of Florida Inc.

Largo

Mobile home residents

should organize to secede

Attention, mobile home owners in Largo: Leave the city now. Your homes are in jeopardy. Run for your lives _ not literally but figuratively. Call for a referendum to secede from Largo as soon as possible. If you don't exit the city immediately, I am afraid you may be thrown into the streets by self-serving city officials.

A few years back, Largo officials bought the Largo Village Mobile Home Park near the city's downtown for almost twice what it was worth. Shortly thereafter, the families that lived in the ill-fated park were thrown into the streets without a dime of compensation. City officials said they needed the land for a retention pond in order to rejuvenate the city's moribund downtown areas. I don't think you have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the real reason city officials wanted the park was so they could toss the mostly poor people who lived there out of town.

Largo's City Hall tax wolves are now out of their posh dens and are once again targeting their favorite prey: defenseless senior citizens and poor working families living in the city's mobile home parks. Make no mistake about it _ if Largo's "what-are-ethics?" officials want to close these parks to increase their tax base, they are capable of making just about any kind of deal with developers to get the job done.

Of course, it is no longer legal to close mobile home parks without compensating the residents. However, Pinellas County now has a shortage of low-income housing and mobile home spaces. Where will these unfortunate Largo residents go?

I think it is time for all the residents of Largo's mobile home parks to run, not walk, to the Supervisor of Elections Office and ask for a petition for a referendum to secede (de-annex) from the city, then seek the protection of the county commissioners. Our county commissioners are well aware of the shortage of low-income housing in Pinellas, and I think they would provide a safe haven for the parks' residents. Park owners would also save a bundle on secession by eliminating sky-high city taxes, exorbitant city license fees and excessive city franchise fees.

Robert Snow, Clearwater

Editor's note: The city of Largo bought Largo Village Mobile Home Park in 1997 for $675,000 and gave the residents, who rented the spaces for their mobile homes from the park owner, a year to move. At the end of the 12 months, the 16 tenants remaining were served eviction notices. Renters in the park were not compensated by the city.

Tragedy should remind all

to designate a driver

Re: Parents want answers in son's death, story, June 13.

I have no desire to serve as an apologist for drunken driving and I have the utmost sympathy for the Cummings' loss of their son, Scott. However, the tone of the parents' comments has an undeserved edge to it. Assuming they have the same facts available to them as reported in the St. Petersburg Times article, what don't they get?

The parents' implication is that drinking was contributory _ "They have heard that alcohol was involved" _ and since they have been told their son's friend failed to yield, it can only be assumed that they are expecting their son's friend, James Jason Fratesi, to be arrested or charged . . . that failure to act is "like the state killing my kid all over again."

It appears that their son (Scott Cummings was almost 22 years old) had chosen to drive home with a friend with whom he had spent the evening. The son, whether he was drinking or not, was aware of the fact that his ride home had been drinking and made the decision to ride with him. I see nothing in the tone of the parents' comments that indicates they feel their son had any responsibility. If their son had chosen not to ride home with the individual, he would be alive today.

Let's learn from this tragedy. If you choose to drive with someone who has been drinking, there can be disastrous consequences to you and those you love.

George Mouzakis, Largo

Condo dwellers up all night,

too, with bridge builders

Re: Bridge builders, 4 a.m., photos and story by Times staff photographer Kinfay Moroti, June 23.

All participants in this story were earning a salary, including Kinfay Moroti. The workers pouring concrete on the night shift belong to a union and are paid about $75 an hour, including benefits. This article was written in almost a poetic language by Moroti. Please note that at the same time (4 a.m.), there were listeners (unpaid) who are the north-side residents of Pierce 100 condominiums _ all awake, not by choice, but by lights and noise.

It has been like this from almost the beginning. Some of these people get little or no sleep, listening to generators, backup vehicle noises, crane motors, back-and-forth yelling of these construction workers, and lights that cut through the night like "Jedi lightsabers" onto our building.

This same bridge so eloquently described by Moroti has brought a deterioration of the quality of life forever for all the 113 families in Pierce 100 but, to a greater degree, the 62 families on the north side of the building.

"Bridge builders look out from the unfinished span as the city awakens." Pierce 100 north-side residents have been awake with these bridge builders throughout the night! Only 13 months to go at a cost in the area of $71-million _ for a bridge about 2,600 feet in length or $27,307.69 per foot! And now we have a new date of completion: July 2004 _ for only the bridge.

Frank Spatuzzi, Clearwater

Stories of Dr. Good and Eckerd

bring out best in people

Re: Dr. Good, cancer pioneer, dies at 81, story, June 15, and THE ECKERD ELIXIR, story, June 8.

Please continue to search out and report stories of responsible citizens such as Dr. Robert A. Good and Jack Eckerd. The ripple effect works. The more positive stories reported, the more positive actions may be taken by others.

Thank you, Mr. Eckerd and family, for your selfless time and energy and for demonstrating the "good" in human beings.

Betty Ann Southard, Clearwater

Truck apron another cosmetic

touch to a traffic boondoggle

Re: Roundabout adds some space for trucks, story, July 1.

Q: When is a duck not a duck?

A: When it is in Clearwater.

If it is 15 feet wide, covered with raised paving bricks, has a curb to separate it from traffic, and looks like a pedestrian walkway, then it must be a sidewalk.

Wrong. Not in Clearwater. Only in a city that keeps shooting itself in the foot would it be called a "truck apron." Unless you have 18 wheels or are in the landscape business, you are not welcome there.

Pedestrians, beware, this sidewalk is not for you.

When will the city of Clearwater realize that no amount of cosmetic surgery will ever make Roberto's Roundabout a viable and safe traffic control device?

J. Boyer, Belleair

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