Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Q&A: Letters to President Obama, Pinellas tax collector Diane Nelson

President does read his mail

On average, how many letters arrive at the White House every day, and has President Barack Obama kept his promise to read at least 10 letters from ordinary citizens daily?

The White House gets tens of thousands of letters, emails, phone calls and faxes every day. Mike Kelleher, director of the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence, said his staff sorts through every one.

Letters are categorized. Some go into a red box for "life-and-death constituent case work," Kelleher told the New York Times in 2009. "So someone says, 'I'm despondent and I want to commit suicide,' or 'I have a life-threatening illness and I need help here,' we immediately respond to those." The Secret Service gets the threatening notes.

A few hundred representative notes are then sent to Kelleher, who looks over them and selects 10 messages to give to the president daily.

The president reads through them and responds to three or four every night with handwritten notes.

The White House has posted a video from 2009 explaining the process. It's at www.whitehouse.gov/video/Inside-the-White-House-Letters-to-the-President.

Checks payable to tax collector

Having just paid my property taxes in November, I thought I'd ask why they request the check be made payable to Diane Nelson, tax collector? Why not request the check be made payable to just Tax Collector, Pinellas County or simply Pinellas County? Payable to Diane Nelson seems to make it too easy for someone to take a check for personal gain.

We sent a query to the tax collector's office and got this response from Chad McLeod, manager of public affairs and compliance:

"We certainly accept checks that are made out to "tax collector," and that happens often. However, asking taxpayers to write the tax collector's name on their check is a common practice throughout Florida, and there are several reasons for this.

"We have found that people in the community like to know who holds the office, and requesting that checks be made payable to Diane Nelson, tax collector, reinforces the level of responsibility that a tax collector has. It also serves as a reminder that the tax collector is independent from other county offices, directly accountable to the citizens of Pinellas County.

"For those who might be concerned about the tax collector misusing a check for personal gain, we have processes in place that prevent this. All checks are received and processed at a central operations center, which is different from the tax collector's main office. We also have an outside firm conduct an audit every year to ensure the highest level of accountability. We have received a clean audit every year since Diane Nelson took office."

Comments
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

For starters: Rays vs. Yankees, looking for two straight

After hanging on for a 2-1 last night over the MLB-best Yankees, the Rays are looking to make it two in a row today.And their lineup will have a different look, with INF Joey Wendle making his first career appearance,  majors or minors, in the o...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

FHP: Wrong-way driver hit 100 miles per hour before sideswiping car

A Clearwater man who authorities said sideswiped a car while driving more than 100 miles per hour the wrong way on U.S. 41 was arrested Friday. Wendel Jamel James, 35, is charged with DUI with property damage, reckless driving and leaving the scene ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘Notorious RBG’ wanted to be a singer. Now, a CD celebrates her life.

‘Notorious RBG’ wanted to be a singer. Now, a CD celebrates her life.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said, in interviews, that she would have loved to have been an opera singer.She has certainly become a fixture at many opera houses around the country: She is often spotted in the audience; she sometimes presides...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Oldsmar cheer coach faces new sexual battery charges

Oldsmar cheer coach faces new sexual battery charges

An Oldsmar cheerleading coach charged this week with sending explicit images to a minor now faces additional sexual battery charges.Victor Martin Valenty, 28, is accused of having "inappropriate sexual activity" with a 15-year-old at his home for mor...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Migrants denied access to lawyers, held in cells 23 hours a day, ACLU lawsuit alleges

Migrants denied access to lawyers, held in cells 23 hours a day, ACLU lawsuit alleges

After crossing the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, 123 men have been detained for weeks, caged in prison cells for up to 23 hours per day and denied access to attorneys at a federal detention center in Sheridan, Oregon, a lawsuit filed Friday by t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Girl Scout convinces companies to cut down on millions of plastic straws

Girl Scout convinces companies to cut down on millions of plastic straws

Last fall, the CEO of San Francisco-based Dignity Health received an email out of the blue. It was from a 16-year-old Girl Scout named Shelby O’Neil.With all due respect, she wrote, the company’s "Human Kindness" commercial had a glaring flaw: it dep...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Published: 06/22/18