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  1. Opinion

A plaque is too little to honor what St. Petersburg’s ‘Courageous 12’ accomplished

Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
Jeanette Bright, who worked for the St. Petersburg Police Department for 32 years, hugs Courageous 12 member Leon Jackson after a Courageous 12 Plaque Dedication Tuesday at the St. Petersburg Police Department Headquarters. "Mr. Jackson is one of the ones whose shoulders we stood on," she said. "If it hadn't been for their courageousness I wouldn't have been on the street working as a police officer and victim advocate for 32 years of my life. I appreciate the legacy." The year after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed into law, 12 of the department's 15 black officers filed a lawsuit against the City of St. Petersburg demanding that black officers be given the same rights as white officers. Though the first judge's ruling was not in their favor, they appealed and won the lawsuit on Aug. 1, 1968. They became known as "The Courageous 12". The decision gave African-American officers and essentially all minorities in law enforcement the right to serve their communities with the same rights as their counterparts. Of the Courageous 12, only one remains, Mr. Leon Jackson. On Tuesday, Mr. Jackson was the event's special guest as Mayor Kriseman, Chief Holloway and others gather to pay tribute and dedicate a plaque honoring the Courageous 12's mark on history and our community. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]
Published Nov. 2

A plaque is far too little honor

‘Courageous 12’ are still inspiring | Oct. 30

Heroes are memorialized in bronze and stone for historic contributions to our society — serving their communities, protecting them from danger, leading a path toward change. The Courageous 12 check those boxes. Yet they are honored with a simple plaque.

The gesture shows more disrespect than appreciation. Decades ago, in the face of deep-seated racism, 12 black St. Petersburg police officers concluded they had an obligation to serve and protect all residents, not just those who looked like them. At the time, the black officers were only allowed to patrol black neighborhoods and could not arrest whites. In 1965, these Courageous 12 sued the City of St. Petersburg for equal rights when performing their duties. They faced prejudice from the community and injustice from the court system through the dismissal of their case in 1966.

It wasn’t until they won their court appeal two years later that these determined men won the basic rights afforded to the uniform they wore. This landmark lawsuit generated years of meaningful progress. Other cities have celebrated similar feats with museums or inspiring statues. In St. Petersburg, heroic civil rights advocates merely get a plaque.

The Public Arts Commission has committed a budget for a larger art exhibit. This is a step in the right direction, but it should have been the mayor’s first inclination. The promise of a better memorial later shows this was not a priority now.

The legacy of the Courageous 12 lives on through one surviving member, Leon Jackson, who was the mayor’s “special guest” for the insufficient plaque ceremony. It is a travesty that he had to watch his brave fight for progress and equality be recognized with nothing but a plaque on a wall.

Terrell Crawford and Kim Crawford, St. Petersburg

The writers are children of Freddie Crawford, one of the Courageous 12.

The mayor of Clearwater responds

Do not surrender downtown Clearwater | Editorial, Oct. 27

The challenge of redeveloping downtown Clearwater has become more apparent in recent weeks. As reported, this did not happen overnight, and neither will the solutions. It will take commitment from the city, businesses, residents and the Church of Scientology to make the changes needed to revitalize downtown.

The city of Clearwater’s role has been and will continue to be investing in public spaces to ensure they are designed for the community, to facilitate business development, and to foster civic engagement. As the Tampa Bay Times editorial board rightly notes, the city cannot control who purchases property. Additionally, the city does not always know the intent of property owners. Clearwater, as any city, can address this by zoning property and creating incentives to ensure what is built aligns with its publicly adopted redevelopment plans.

Downtowns are the heart of a community, and the city of Clearwater’s downtown is for all residents. Because of its investments, however, the Church of Scientology must participate as an active partner in identifying vibrant and viable public uses of properties throughout downtown. The city welcomes partnerships that share open communication and common goals. It agrees with the Church of Scientology’s Freedom magazine that touted the ULI study’s recommendation to partner with the city.

The Clearwater City Council and city staff are focused and moving forward. Every property owner is invited to join in this redevelopment. Downtown Clearwater is a beautiful place. It is home to wonderful businesses — owned by members and non-members of the Church of Scientology. The waterfront location, walkable main street, and gems like the main library, the downtown boat slips and the Nancy and David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre create a place that cannot and should not be defined by one institution.

The city is committed. When any community works with a shared purpose, it is successful. That objective builds momentum. It is hoped that all residents and property owners will become partners to attain this goal of a downtown that is welcoming, connected and vibrant for all.

George N. Cretekos

The writer is the mayor of Clearwater.

What’s good for Florida

Appreciating the Florida Wildlife Corridor | Column, Oct. 27

Members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition spend time at their camp site at the Lake Livingston Conservation Bank near Frostproof, FL., Wednesday, October 23, 2019. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

Kudos to Carlton Ward Jr., Mallory Dimmitt and Joe Guthrie for again embarking on a voyage that makes the case for both the need to conserve much more of natural Florida, and the more pressing need to nix this toll road deal. It’s simply bad for Florida, period. These highways will kill the goose that laid the golden egg — the unique beauty that draws tourists to Florida and is treasured by its residents. Their 60-mile trek along the Lake Wales Ridge illustrates clearly what Florida — and all who live here — stands to lose, if any of these roads are built. The time is now for all Floridians to raise their voices, stronger than ever, and let Tallahassee know it’s time to put an end to this unwanted and unneeded boondoggle.

Ron Thuemler, Tampa

One year is too little

Disarming the dangerous | Oct. 27

A man wears an unloaded pistol during a pro gun-rights rally in Austin, Texas. [ERIC GAY | AP]

I am beyond shocked that if someone threatens to become “most famous mass shooter” they will be banned from possessing weapons for one year. That would just simply give them a longer time to plan. This is just another failure of the system to protect our children and adults. The background check loophole still exists because our president only wants people checked out and red-flagged. If this is all they’re going to do is a one-year ban, this is travesty. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has had Congress’ two bills for background checks on his desk. The House passed HR 8 and HR 1112. He said he will wait to see what our president wants first. We can do better than this. Our children and people are at stake.

Kathy Dreyer, Palm Harbor

Parents who care

It takes a village to cut teen car thefts | Editorial, Oct. 29

It’s true that a village helps. I grew up in a neighborhood where all the adults took it upon themselves to keep an eye on all the children. But first and foremost we need parents who actually care. When I was the age of some of these car thieves, I had to be home by a certain time, and if I wasn’t, my mother, father or both parents would go out looking for me, or call around. The same went for my peers. We didn’t need ankle monitors; the overseers were in the home or down the block.

That’s why I was shocked when I readathe 2017 Tampa Bay Times series “Hot Wheels” and see that these youngsters are free to roam the streets at all times of the night and early morning. Officials keep looking for solutions outside the home, but that is where they have to start if this problem is ever going to get under control.

Joseph Brown, Tampa

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