I would like to thank Pinellas County Property Appraiser Pam Dubov for her leadership in bringing this flood insurance crisis to the attention of the elected officials around the state who are not well-versed in this field. It is heartening that we have someone with her knowledge looking into this issue.
I know and respect many in the insurance industry, but believe that anyone involved in establishing these proposed flood insurance premiums is either not terribly bright, or has purposely set rates obscenely high for so many of our low- and moderate-income citizens to make some political point. I just don't know what it is.
Florida residents pay nearly four times the amount in premiums than all of its claims combined, and now they want us to pay 10 times more than we have been paying, or some 40 times the amount of claims, so they can end our subsidy.
Nevertheless, there are low-lying homes in our community that are flooded every time we have a heavy rain at high tide, and it makes no sense to buy them new carpet and furniture every few years. But nearly adjacent homes, only 1 or 2 feet higher, have never flooded. The truly flood-prone homes should clearly pay a premium more in line with risk, but the owners should not be evicted, which is what will happen with the increase in rates.
I hope we will create a citizens' committee, including insurance experts, homebuilders, appraisers, accountants, bankers and others with expertise, so we can be assured the facts are on the table for all to see. Rates should be based on actual construction risks, meaning that carpeting and drywall may need replacement, yet it is unlikely that the entire home will wash away. But even that is possible, so weight the odds using actuarial tables based on fact.
This is not difficult. It is arithmetic, not particle science. I hope that all of the details of all of these programs, all of the numbers, will be reported in the Times. Please do not believe that your readers do not care or cannot comprehend. These stories need to be told, the process needs to be made transparent.
Linwood Gilbert, St. Petersburg
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Grego off track
It is wonderful that Pinellas County has an effective and highly dedicated school superintendent. It is unfortunate that superintendent Mike Grego's focus on low-income and black students is misplaced which, in turn, results in more wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.
To improve the educational level of low-income and black students, it is absolutely necessary to focus on parental involvement as it applies to their students' academic life.
Teachers, students and parents make up the educational triad. Whenever any one of the triads is absent, there will be continued failure. When the student is not engaged with the teacher in the classroom because his or her parents place little, if any, value on the student's learning, any new programs designed to improve the educational level of low-income and black students are destined to failure.
It is imperative Grego's focus be on parental involvement in students' academic life, not on programs that sound good but will not be of aid to students because there is no internalization of academic accomplishment unless the student is presented with goals by his or her parents.
Walter Noble, Palm Harbor
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As reported in the Times, there are plenty of dining options outside of Beach Drive. The new Rococo Steak, on the southern edge of downtown, could spark a lot of business in that wonderful and sleepy part of town. Perhaps Muvico could downsize its gargantuan 20 theater cinema and put an art and foreign film theatre nearby, along with some mainstream offerings. The other part could go to Tyrone Square Mall as it is really hopping these days with kids and parents in need of a relaxing meal while the kids are at the movies.
The St. Pete Pier Aquarium, reportedly without a home at John's Pass, could fill the Muvico space or the St. Petersburg Museum of History could. The present museum space is ideal for a five-star restaurant, taking advantage of that spectacular view of the Vinoy Basin.
When one door closes, many more open.
Rand Moorhead, St. Petersburg
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Food trucks at the Pier
A better idea
Now that Washington, D.C.,'s Urban Land Institute has informed St. Pete that we need more family-friendly dining and entertainment options, isn't it time we reopen the Pier? Options are limited downtown unless one can afford Beach Drive eateries or is in the mood to party until 3 a.m. at the numerous bars.
We have the money: $400,000 of the $500,000 budget for Mirror Lake could be diverted to reopen the Pier, food trucks could line the Pier approach and the first floor and rooftop plaza could reopen. A minimarina could emerge on the east side of the apron, too. This is an easy solution to the flaw of our town that the Urban Land Institute cited.
The $100,000 would go a long way in beautifying Mirror Lake and would be money better spent than a grand revamping. The problems there are similar to Williams Park and simply beautifying the area is like painting rust. The core problem will remain.
Imagine what an attraction St. Petersburg would be with our Pier filled with exciting food trucks that offer diverse fare at family friendly prices. The selection would be grand and the menus forever changing, so that people would return to taste what's new.
Ivylyn Harrell, St. Petersburg
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St. Petersburg waterfront Already a jewel
So the city hired "experts" for an analysis of the waterfront. Spent $125,000 for the suggestion to rename First Street, drum roll, University Way. And of course improve signs. Who knew we needed improved signs. And marketing. Must have large crowds to lend credence. Certainly there are people on the city's payroll who can come up with some ideas to make some adjustments. Without ruining a jewel. If it's not broke, don't fix it.
Chuck Reigle, St. Petersburg