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LOWER RENTS WOULD TRANSFORM PLAZA

BayWalk

Regarding recent articles about privatizing the sidewalks around BayWalk, a very important issue is being overlooked with this very important plaza. Just what is the $6 million, pledged as a lure by the bank/managing company, going to be spent on? Besides the escalators being replaced and bathrooms updated, just what else is needed? Why aren't they using this money to reduce the rents at the square? BayWalk's rents are out of line with surrounding commercial space.

Could this be the real reason for its struggle? There have been virtually no incidents or protests for a long time, and the place is still mostly unoccupied. It seems that by privatizing the sidewalk, our City Council is doing what it can to facilitate the transformation of BayWalk into a plaza of upscale shops and restaurants that are out of touch for the average St. Pete citizen, the same citizenry that contributed $20 million for its construction.

Make the repairs and put the rest to lowering the rents. You'll see BayWalk transformed into a public/private entity that serves the widest range of people possible while becoming an exciting slice of urban life.

There are more than ample upscale spaces available on Beach Drive and vicinity. Why don't they get taxpayer support to fill their spaces?

Rand Moorhead, St. Petersburg

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Many reasons plaza has issues

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker needs to realize why BayWalk is a failure. I've been there only a few times. The stores are too expensive for the average person. I was approached by strange people and felt very threatened. But I think the lack of visible police officers is also a big problem.

What happened to the old beat cops? Going to the theater at night on the weekend is worse. The rowdy, disrespectful teenagers are scary. Even going downtown for an event is awful because there's no parking. I've been in St. Petersburg 52 years, and the changes have not all been for the best. It was a very pretty and quaint city. I would be embarrassed to take out-of-towners to the Pier. That place is just ugly.

As for the stadium, we don't need a new one and can't afford it. I'm not willing to pay more in taxes when I'm not even a baseball fan. Let Tampa have them.

Barbara Martin, St. Petersburg

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Union, city find common ground

Tough economic times have a funny way of bringing opposing sides together.

In recent contract negotiations with the city of St. Petersburg, bargaining team members for our union - SEIU Florida Public Services Union - came to the table wary of what we'd face. With budget pressures mounting, we knew that as well as making demands, we'd have to bring innovative ideas about stemming the shared budgetary pain. We were up for the challenge.

As a unit, we agreed that we would not unilaterally open our contracts and make concessions. So our bargaining committee approached Mayor Rick Baker about having a series of economic discussions.

We analyzed the available resources and offered good-faith proposals and creative suggestions to both help save jobs and give taxpayers a break. As a result of the discussions and the proposals we put forth, we prevented 48 unnecessary layoffs and pay freezes for those who deliver quality public services to St. Petersburg's residents and visitors. Our proposals, flexibility and willingness to partner with city administrators helped balance the budget.

We also began to find our collective voice. We attended City Council meetings en masse. We sponsored a mayoral forum because the questions pertinent to our jobs, our families and our communities had not been answered. As the eyes and ears of our city's vital public services, we asked pointed questions about public health issues, improving parks and recreation, and keeping our communities safe.

We're excited about building a 21st century relationship with the next mayor and other elected officials. We take our task of providing accessible, accountable and affordable public services to St. Pete's residents very seriously.

Alphonso Mayfield, president, SEIU Florida Public Services Union, St. Petersburg

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Drivers, keep an eye out for little cars

This is addressed to the woman in the large SUV driving south on the Bayside Bridge recently during rush hour, and all of the other drivers of oversized vehicles who have come so very close to hitting me simply because they don't see me. I drive a very small, low-to-the-ground car. It has excellent gas mileage and is fun to drive as well. However, in the year and a half that I've owned it, I have experienced bone-chilling fear because numerous inattentive drivers of large vehicles don't use care when changing lanes. I do my best to drive defensively, but I sure wish everyone else would pay attention to their surroundings and remember that not everyone chooses to drive a vehicle that you need a ladder to climb up into.

I don't need this kind of excitement in my life. Share the road!

Darcie Barry, St. Petersburg

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