It's too late to rescue Clearwater from decay
St. Petersburg Times
August 9, 2000
Now that the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, former Clearwater City Manager Mike Roberto can ride out of town as bewildered as the many he leaves behind.
Truly, I feel sorry for him. He was hired to do a job the Clearwater City Commission, for 25 years, hasn't had the intestinal fortitude to touch. He was told to mesmerize the people of Clearwater into thinking no problem existed and a complete physical make-over would hide the festering sore beneath.
I'll give Roberto credit -- he was smart enough to realize that he had an unreachable star, so he graciously bowed out and headed for the bank.
In the same issue in which the St. Petersburg Times covered Roberto's departure, it also stated a nationwide search will be started for a new city manager (Clearwater manager leaves with $166,000, July 21). Just how many times does this City Commission have to fall from the tree before it learns that Clearwater has a problem that no outsider could possibly understand, let alone solve -- a problem so unique that it is the only city in the nation that suffers from this ailment?
When I arrived in Clearwater some 50 years ago, Missouri Avenue was a sand road, the intersection of U.S. 19 and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard was a mere four-way stop, and Clearwater was a vibrant community. I spent the first 20 years in Clearwater and the last 30 in Dunedin, so I have witnessed Clearwater's glory years and its now-pitiful state of decay.
There is not a city manager alive who can change this deeply entrenched attitude of deceit and superiority.
There isn't a wrecking ball or implosion, construction or beautification that could or would change the disposition or atmosphere of the downtown Clearwater of today. It's too late!
No matter what, you have to give Scientology its due. It saw what it wanted and the takeover of Clearwater was consummated with the sale of the Fort Harrison Hotel.
For years its web was spun, finally encasing the heart and soul of this once-beautiful city. The city's stamp of approval for Scientology's world headquarters to be built here has sealed the fate of a fine small city.
Do the minor things and beautification of the bluff and forget the rest. To most tourists and even locals, it's only Clearwater Beach, not downtown, that draws the crowd. Learn your lesson and don't let it happen again. Save the beach. It could happen there, too.
-- Donald L. Espenhain, Dunedin
Accept the vote's results and move on
Please stop giving the vociferous, disgruntled Clearwater voters continued space in your paper to air their vitriolic spleens! Nothing is being accomplished by allowing these malcontents to spew their venom across the printed page except the venting of their personal wrath.
Enough already! Let's accept the democratic process as it happened, and let's move forward to a less grandiose, less sophisticated updating of downtown Clearwater, keeping in mind that most of us chose to live here because we prefer the small-town ambience that Clearwater offers.
Let's not rely on consultants from Palm Beach and Miami, very "different-from-us" cities, and let's accept that, like it or not, the Scientologists and their less-than-open methods of doing business are here to stay. Let's work around that fact.
Failing downtowns are a blight all across America, brought on partly by the mall convenience of free and easy parking, "everything" shopping, and smaller entertainment venues.
Let's work on achieving these goals by redirecting our energies toward positive goals for downtown Clearwater and quit our bellyaching about the failed referendum.
-- Hattie Lu Lintner, Clearwater