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Vacationers need to keep a closer eye on children

On Jan. 1, probably 15 minutes before sundown, my fiance and I were driving down Gulf Boulevard on Treasure Island. I couldn't believe my eyes. Right in front of us, in the middle lane, was a small boy about 3 years old. He was pushing a large, plastic toy truck.

No one else was around. John stopped the car. I jumped out, picked up the child and toy and ran into the Trail's End hotel office. The young woman behind the counter said she knew the parents and she called them on the phone. She then indicated I should just leave the child with her until the mother arrived. I told her I needed to talk with the parents.

Another gentleman witnessed the event and stopped to help. He called the police, who arrived shortly thereafter.

I was amazed at the parents' response to my telling them that the child was in the road alone. They were not apologetic. They just said, "Give him to us and go on about your way."

I don't know what transpired with the parents and police after our statements were taken. What is wrong with people? Something must be done to instill upon vacationers that they have a responsibility to protect their little ones from harm's way. This innocent child could very well have been a casualty similar to the 5-year-old girl vacationing with family recently on St. Pete Beach. She was killed darting out into traffic by a car driven by an irresponsible person who still does not own up to the wrongdoing.

Fortunately, we were able to save a child from harm while his parents were not being responsible. This situation could have been much worse. Had the child been accidentally hit by a car and severely injured or even killed, his parents would be responsible for hurting two families _ the family of the driver as well as their own.

Kathleen L. Klein, Clearwater

City leadership's vision is unaffordable

It is time the residents of Largo organized to change the city's leadership. Our leaders simply have an unaffordable vision for Largo _ or our city manager has too big an ego for our pocketbooks.

Their vision of Largo as the most beautiful city in Pinellas with a new downtown area, the most parks and recreation, the most services, the largest City Hall complex and the best-paid civil servants with the best medical and retirement benefits does wonders for our collective egos. But the vision is unaffordable.

How much of all of this is a competition with Clearwater and Seminole?

The city budget has benefited from large increases for years due to the growth in property values and grants, but our ambitious leaders simply were unable to manage even with these ever-increasing revenues. The back-to-back tax increases have fallen primarily on the backs of commercial properties, since the homeowners have the homestead exemption and limits to yearly property evaluations to modify the tax impact. Thus commercial properties, including rental units, have seen unacceptable tax increases of 13 to 18 percent per year. This obviously will eventually slow commercial growth and impact our city.

The latest extravagant action was when the Largo City Commission once again provided City Manager Steve Stanton a significant raise (over the objection of Mayor Bob Jackson, I might add). This will bring Stanton's increases to approximately $26,000 over the last four years and with benefits to a total yearly compensation of $144,000. Stanton must have been really productive for our residents, right?

Let me review some of the actions attributable to Mr. Stanton's reign:

Stanton and his management team have failed to manage the budget. In spite of Pinellas County having one of the nation's highest property appreciation rates (with the accompanying yearly tax increases), Stanton could not manage on this ever-increasing budget. On top of this budget windfall, he has chosen to recommend an increase in Largo's taxes the last two years.

Largo's reputation in the county has dropped during Stanton's tenure to its lowest since I arrived in the area 40 years ago. Under Stanton's leadership, Largo has pressured developments and commercial areas into annexation and, in the process, garnered Largo the reputation of an aggressive, arrogant bully. Besides losing the respect of our peers, our annexation efforts obviously have not lowered taxes as promised.

Stanton has embarrassed us with incompetent personnel leadership. For a number of years we have had racial/diversity incidents and problems highlighted in the local press, further smudging our reputation. In most cities in this age of politically correct sensitivities, this would have been reason enough to fire the city manager rather than give him raise after raise.

Stanton also was the leader when he and our commissioners decided the current library was insufficient to service both Largo and Pinellas County. Thus they concluded a new $21-million facility was necessary. Also, we will get to pay the $100,000 to $200,000 increase in library operating expenses. Watch for that line item in next year's budget along with a request for another tax increase!

I admit that managing a small city is tough, and I would not want that job. I admit it is difficult to clean up the unsightly low-tax residential and commercial areas for new construction so this valuable land can return the proper tax revenue. I also believe the city leaders want the very best for Largo.

But Largo needs changes now to reverse the tax-and-spend record of our current leaders.

William Beasley, Largo

Farmer's market story revived memories

Re: Fresh, at a city near you, story, Jan. 3.

I thoroughly enjoyed the article and pictures that included my friends/vendors at the Safety Harbor farmers market, having had the pleasure of living in that unique little town for about 25 years.

In a very real sense, these farmers markets are a throwback to the good old days before big shopping malls and mega-supermarkets. As a matter of fact, I still go back there to visit and shop from time to time, even though I now live in Clearwater.

Joseph P. Corell, Clearwater

Hospice cared for mother and her family

I would like to publicly thank the loving staff of the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast at Palms of Pasadena Hospital. They have been our guardian angels for the past month. Our mom died under the care of the hospice on Dec. 30. We will never forget the compassion and love shown to all of us.

This non-profit organization fills a much-needed void in our world: to help patients and family cope with dying. With all our hearts, thank you from the family of Helen R. Kothe.

Joan Ciampini, Clearwater

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