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Everyone can play a role in school bus safety

As a Pinellas County school bus driver, I would like to thank Pinellas school Superintendent Clayton Wilcox for devoting the first energy of his new office to the district's Transportation Department. Surely, good will come of it, and hopefully our new superintendent will be free to focus his talents closer to the classroom from now on.

In light of student Rebecca McKinney's death after getting off a bus, I would also like to thank parents and other friends of our children who come out to bus stops to keep an eye on the kids as they get on and off buses. These good citizens take a huge weight off my shoulders as a school bus driver.

I only wish there were more people in this county like the retired gentleman on my route who makes me feel welcome when I stop my bus at his corner lot. He often waves, and once he called in to say what a good job I am doing. When it was hot, he welcomed parents who sat on park benches under his oak trees. And when a kindergartener's parent stopped showing up at the stop in the afternoon, the retired gentleman pointed the way home and watched to make sure the little boy was walking in the right direction as I drove away to continue on my route. I appreciate such good citizens more than I generally have an opportunity to express.

Unfortunately, in the five years that I have been driving for the schools, there have been stops where I never saw an adult. At one stop the only adult I saw the whole school year was a grouchy lady who kept coming to the door of the bus to tell me that her neighborhood association had asked her to complain about the kids walking on the strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk. I tried dropping them off at other spots, without changing the location of the stop entirely, but she was never satisfied. My supervisor often told me the neighborhood association lady had called to complain again (probably tying up the phone line so that Rebecca McKinney's mother, and the like, couldn't get help).

In a better world, wouldn't the neighborhood associations designate safe spots for children to get on and off buses? In that same world, city planners and builders would work with school superintendents and the safety of our children would not be departmentalized.

Isn't there something most of us, if not all, could do to make our streets safer?

Alda Thomas, Clearwater

Sad Biltmore going, but memories stay

Re: Biltmore's demise should wait for memories to fade, guest column, Dec. 26.

We've been waiting for the St. Petersburg Times to print a letter from former Belleview Biltmore Hotel employees, so thank you for printing Don S. Audibert's guest column. It brought back happy memories. The Audiberts are still close friends.

The Belleview was especially loved by my husband, who worked seven days a week during "the season" for 28 winters. Like Don and other employees, Dick was permitted to play golf, and families could dance at the hotel and watch movies at special times.

Over the years, my late husband was bellman, doorman, valet and superintendent of services. I remember Dick coming home from work after 11 at night and counting out his many tips. He loved every part of this hotel and, like Don, Dick never mentioned a ghost to me. Some employees had rooms in the big hotel and I think some saw the ghost.

Dick was proud when the Duke of Windsor stayed at the hotel. The duke asked only that he be addressed as "sir" by the staff. There were many other famous guests at the hotel. There were special conventions before the season. We greatly loved and respected Don Church, manager and friend. We recall Andy Spence, the chef mentioned by Don in his column.

My husband saved photos of guests and the staff at the Belleview Biltmore. There was great excitement when Bishop Fulton Sheen was there. The Belleview photographer gave us a photo of the bishop surrounded by six beautiful children in the hotel lobby. I think some were children of Bernie Powell, who ran the hotel. Another photo shows the Cormier family after an Easter egg hunt at the hotel, where our sons got huge baskets and a teddy bear.

A happy memory also was the time when a special guest, Bob Dylan, stayed at the hotel with his band for several days. The staff was supposed to keep it secret. One time, the staff and their families were given special passes. I recall the thrill of being in the hotel room when Bob Dylan and his band had a special rehearsal at the Belleview Biltmore and the door was open to us. . . . I think it was about 1977. Two of our sons were happy teenagers and enjoyed every minute of Dylan.

I read stories, editorials and letters to the editor about the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. Like Don Audibert, I hope the Belleview won't be torn down. But living in Clearwater and seeing demolition of history, I fear it will happen. Just look at Sand Key and Clearwater Beach and the sadness of demolition. Money and power talk, even in Belleair.

Lois Fulton Cormier, Clearwater

Mugger attacks warrant more response

Re: Purse snatcher at large; victim is unhurt, story, Dec. 29.

I really think that there is a problem and that the police should have done more when this happened. I would really like to know how many more muggings this person has committed in the area. I think we deserve an answer from the police, also what they are planning to do about protecting the women of this city. Are they notifying all the establishments so they can help protect their customers?

Please correct this terrible situation.

Sharon Brady, Tarpon Springs

Open invitation to Reform Party meeting

Now, after all is said and done and George Bush has been re-elected, most people sit back and just wait for the next election in 2008. However, that's the worse thing we can do. We need to hold our elected officials' feet to the fire and keep chanting that ol' phrase, "We'll remember in November." That used to mean something, but now people are so disgusted by the whole political scene that they just become apathetic.

It's up to us to run against the very candidates that upset us the most. I'm talking about local offices because all politics are local. It all starts here at home. We have the few that write letters to the editor to protest something or they write just to vent. Most people don't really know what to do about things that they're upset about, so they do nothing, and that's where so many of us go wrong.

But this Saturday, everyone has an option and can find out what to do and how to do it. Go to for the answers so many of us want to hear. It's your opportunity to attend the Reform Party of Florida's state meeting right here in Oldsmar at the Marriott Courtyard. Stop complaining and do something about it.

Janice Miller, Reform Party state executive committee secretary, Oldsmar

Holiday concert merited more attention

Perhaps I missed it, but I did not find any reference in your paper to the wonderful concert by the Florida Orchestra and the Tampa Bay Chorale, "The Many Moods of Christmas," which was presented at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Dec. 19. The nearly packed audience expressed delight loudly and repeatedly over the performance, leaving us filled with warmth and happiness as we made our way back to our homes on a rather chilly night.

Perhaps it was not considered important enough to have a reviewer in attendance. Or perhaps Christmas is losing its significance in our ever-growing secular society. Well, we who attended certainly thank the singers and musicians for helping us focus on the significance of the season: the birthday of Jesus, the Christ.

Dr. Arnold E. Kromphardt, New Port Richey