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Thanks to all for first-rate First Night

St. Petersburg's First Night 2004 is now history, but thanks to the outpouring of community support, it was a rousing success by every measure.

Artistically, First Night provides our community with a wonderful assortment of performances and activities of every kind to celebrate the new year. There was something for everyone, which is what makes First Night so special. The variety and quality of talent available in our city is truly amazing. In addition, First Night provides a shared experience for the entire community to enjoy our beautiful downtown waterfront and city. A sense of community is always a goal of First Night, and the thousands who attended First Night in our downtown leave with a sense of just what a special place St. Petersburg is.

Another measure of First Night's success is its financial stability. First Night's income consists of two basic sources: sponsors (corporate giving, city contributions and grants) and button sales (or admissions). Each accounts for about half of the budget. We hope to increase the amount of sponsor underwriting this year so that we are not so dependent on button sales in the event of cold or rainy weather. We also hope to begin to re-establish our weather emergency fund, begun two years ago and depleted after last year's rain-out.

I want to express my thanks to those sponsors and all the individual contributors, large and small, who helped us "weather" this difficult past year. They have helped to assure First Night's future.

First Night St. Petersburg is successful because our community celebrates New Year's Eve together in the city we all love and enjoy. Our mayor, council and city staff recognize the importance of First Night to our citizens and join with the First Night staff, volunteers, sponsors and the artistic community to provide this event.

So to all who helped us this past year, including the St. Petersburg Times, thank you for your support. Happy New Year.

Pat Mason, executive director, First Night St. Petersburg

Police need to re-examine priorities

Re: Residents upset over sidewalk parking tickets, Jan. 11.

In some parts of the city, driveways are long enough for two automobiles and the sidewalk, but the city planners in their infinite wisdom offset the sidewalk from the street by up to 6 feet just in case the city may in the future need to expand the roadway. This means that up to 6 feet of the frontage of private property included in the title to the property and paid for by the individual is not available for his or her use. But the owners are required to maintain it.

I am also happy to see the police department establishing mores for the citizens of the city to follow, especially since it is such a dangerous and anti-establishment thing to do.

Where would our city be without a police department that establishes priorities that include citing vehicles parked on private property, removing signs from road sides and poles, investigating a car part not placed in a garage or on a car, tagging pickup trucks at the owners' residences in parts of the city where trucks aren't allowed?

This is the city whose code enforcement officer previously used a city vehicle to go to a doughnut shop outside the city limits, that spends approximately $20,000 per year on orange traffic cones (cited as a recurring expense), posted no trespassing signs on an open, unfenced vacant corner lot citing it as city property, and now, apparently, tickets vehicles in residential areas at 5 a.m. for blocking sidewalks.

These things are so much more important than red-light and stop-sign scofflaws or people who change lanes or turn without using signals, cut through parking lots to skip a red-light, cover their vehicle's plate with a cloth, turn right from the left lane and vice versa, drive the wrong way in parking-lot aisles, turn right on red when traffic is present, use fog lights when no fog or smoke is present, drive at night without normal running lights, drive straight on from the turn lane or leave a bar in a vehicle with a restricted plate.

I have seen all of the above performed in the presence of police officers. Even when the police department is called concerning any of the above offenses, the stock response is maybe the officer was en route to another call.

Maybe someone parked their automobile on the sidewalk in front of their residence.

John Edwards, Pinellas Park

Drama teachers foster excellence

Re: 800 students compete at thespian festival,

Jan. 21.

Thanks to the drama teachers across the county, the 800 Pinellas County students who attended the District 4 Thespian Festival are among the best in the nation. They have evolved into connoisseurs of creativity.

They have been taught with the greatest thoroughness. It relates to constant repetitiveness of instruction, attentive eyes and ears, the exercise of imagination and the inducing of individuality and insight. It's a special science that fosters specialized and exalted speech and dance. They are then transformed into action using an ultimate form.

The general discipline can bring forth the gifted nature of the individual. The effective stirring effects speak for themselves. With so many aimless youths among us, it's grand to see students who are involved in meaningful programs that bring out their acting abilities.

Robert B. Fleming, St. Petersburg

Artsy print rough on the eyes

The curse of modern-day printing is the need to be trendy, to use orange print on tan, or dark red on brown, or pale blue on off-white, etc. This is true of magazines, newspapers, advertising supplements and even personal checks and deposit slips. Yet, a great portion of the population has difficulty reading or using these materials.

Johns Hopkins University's report on vision says the most common vision difficulty is presbyopia, the loss of ability to bring close items into focus. It affects all people over age 45. As it worsens, they have to turn to reading glasses (hanging on the edge of their noses) or bifocals on regular glasses, and even to magnifying glasses.

One-third of our population is over age 45, and it has difficulty reading today's printed material. The older ones even have difficulty reading the St. Petersburg Times' five-day weather forecast by early-morning lamp light.

We spend great sums to benefit the physically handicapped, but we are persecuting our low-vision seniors. To heck with the seniors; print has to be trendy, cutesy, cool (and stupid). This is an outrageous discrimination against us. We need to read to keep informed, to get the facts for voting and to fill the hours when nothing offers entertainment.

Let us get back to good old black print on white _ or at least a comparable contrast between print and background.

Joseph C. Genske, Dunedin