It's a matter of morals, not rights
The St. Petersburg Times still doesn't seem to get it — that is, the difference between real civil rights issues and real moral issues. The voters did and do get it. The Times editorial (On amendments, voters disappoint, Nov. 9) pointed out that voters could look "beyond race in the presidential election" but also said voters "could not look beyond sexual orientation …"
The voters should be congratulated on being able to distinguish between these two issues. So far, in all 30 states that have addressed this issue, there is a perfect record of adding constitutional amendments to support traditional marriage. Voters signaled they want to move forward in unity and in a less divisive environment. The homosexual community should realize that they remain one of the few groups that continue to stir up divisiveness in a land that seeks unity and reconciliation. Our country has big problems to solve, and we cannot continually be dealing with, and distracted by, this issue.
This writer asks that the St. Petersburg Times and the homosexual "rights" advocates no longer "disappoint" the rest of America, black and white, but finally move forward and realize there is a huge difference between civil rights issues and moral issues.
James M. Hammond, Clearwater
Try a personal approach
On Election Day I volunteered at a local polling place to try to encourage people to vote no on Amendment 2. I was nervous but knew that it was an important thing to do.
With the turnout fairly light, I went across the street to a busier site where I saw a man who was holding up a sign for a Republican candidate. I was sure he was going to sneer at me but he just smiled and said hello. We ended up getting into a discussion about Amendment 2, which he really didn't know much about. He asked me how it would affect me and my family and then listened carefully as I told him about it. "Wow," he said, "I had no idea."
Though the outcome was not in my favor, I was not terribly surprised. This is a difficult subject to educate people about because there is still so much fear and a general unwillingness to listen. This man at the polling place did much to alleviate my own fear of those who don't believe that same-sex couples should have the same civil rights that other Americans enjoy.
I am posing a challenge to those who voted for Amendment 2 for religious reasons. Between now and the next election cycle, I challenge you to get to know and understand the concerns of a gay person or couple in your community. It may not change your views, but at least you will have done what Jesus would have done.
Ellen Fenner, Odessa
Real threats to marriage
It is hard for me to understand why 62 percent of Florida's voting population chose to discriminate against a minority group that just wants the same rights as every other U.S. citizen.
Amendment 2 has passed, and its supporters may feel they have saved the "sanctity of marriage." But with the divorce rate over 50 percent, domestic violence, child abuse, infidelity, deadbeat dads, children forced into foster care and many others awaiting adoption, may I suggest what my mother always taught me: Clean your own yard before you go into someone else's.
G. Alderman, Tampa
Not about religion for some
The writer of the Nov. 11 letter, Keep religion out, apparently believes "religious beliefs" have now been written into the state Constitution.
I voted for Amendment 2 and it had nothing to do with religion. I voted for this amendment because if were not written into the Constitution, then the law on the books against same-sex marriage in Florida would be overturned as it has been in other states, and unfortunately, that would not be the end of it. Sure to follow would be the push for a "gay pride" day, or maybe even a national holiday. Then there would be a push to make sure all our young children "understand" gay pride by legislating training in our public schools, and who knows what else.
Lastly, if it is truly discrimination to deny marriage to gays, then why is it not discrimination to deny a man the right to have as many wives as he chooses, as long as he can support them?
The people have spoken, and it wasn't just the "religious right."
Sharon Lam, Hudson
Shift of insurers decried | Nov. 7, story
Citizens customers have a right to choose
This article concerning the removal of policies from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. does a disservice to consumers by not accurately informing them of their right to choose their insurance provider.
Florida law provides protection for policyholders of Citizens who are offered coverage by another insurer. Such policyholders are given the option of remaining with Citizens or accepting the new offer. The Legislature passed these protections in 2007 in response to complaints about the prior law, which did not permit consumers to reject offers of coverage. Citizens has procedures in place to ensure that all policyholders who receive offers in coverage are given the opportunity to decline the offer.
• Consumers are notified of the offer, given the option to stay insured with Citizens and are provided a 30-day grace period to return to Citizens.
• If consumers miss the 30-day grace period, Citizens will work with agents and policyholders on a case-by-case basis to reinstate their Citizens policy, if appropriate.
Citizens encourages its policyholders to carefully evaluate any offers of coverage by accessing company data at www.floir.com and by discussing offers with their agents.
More than a million former Citizens policyholders have accepted offers of coverage from other insurers since 2003, which supports everyone's goal of encouraging a healthy insurance market.
For more information, please visit the policyholder resources section on www.citizensfla.com or call our customer care line at (877) 227-3492.
Scott Wallace, president/CEO and executive director, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Jacksonville
Citizens policies quietly shift to low-rated firms and Shift of insurers decried | Nov. 1 and Nov. 7
Risk is debatable
These two articles might lead your readers to conclude that this shift results in greater risk for the homeowner. We'd like to share some additional thoughts that offer another set of conclusions.
Perhaps of greatest interest to homeowners is what happens when a storm causes Citizens to become insolvent. Citizens' policyholders will be assessed, on a percentage basis, at approximately twice the level of non-Citizens policyholders for many years to come. Whereas private insurers perform detailed catastrophe modeling in order to construct adequate and appropriate reinsurance protection, Citizens offers its policyholders only the backstop provided by the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. Fundamentally, this means that Citizens' available resources would likely run dry while private insurers' reinsurance programs would respond to much more severe storm events. Citizens' assessments are therefore likely in the aftermath of lower intensity storms.
It is highly likely that a catastrophic event severe enough to put a private insurer out of business would also push Citizens into the red. It is our belief that assessments on Citizens policyholders from Citizens would exceed assessments from the private insurer's backstop, the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, an organization that steps into the shoes of an insurance company to settle all remaining claims. To suggest, as the article did, that a shift to a private carrier is a riskier proposition for the homeowner, is debatable.
Your staff writer refers to the unflattering ratings of an organization called TheStreet.com. While we do not know what sources TheStreet.com uses to arrive at its ratings, we are certain that it does not have access to essential information about a carrier's exposure management analysis, reinsurance program design and purchase, risk and claims management practices, or capital availability strategies. It may be easy therefore, to take a negative stance to financial ratings and simply conclude that small equals weak.
While we certainly appreciate the concerns expressed in the article, we believe the story fell short in examining the various possibilities for homeowners wrestling with this risk.
David M. Howard, president & CEO, Edison Insurance Co. St. Petersburg
I received a letter from Homeowners Choice to inform me they would assume my policy from Citizens unless I responded. I immediately "opted out" of Homeowners Choice's assumption of my Citizens policy by phone, e-mail, fax and certified letter. Nonetheless, I received a letter a month later indicating Homeowners Choice now insures me. Come to find out, no one was even at the office at 3 p.m. on a Thursday to sign for the certified letter and they still never picked it up at the post office (over three weeks later).
As your story indicated, TheStreet.com rated Homeowners Choice a "D" for financial heath. Is Citizens out of their mind? Did we learn absolutely nothing from 2004? Has it been so long that we forgot why Citizens was created?
Shawn Taylor, St. Petersburg
Sink: Budget can't wait | Nov. 8, story
Where's the leadership?
Where is Gov. Charlie Crist when we need him? We need leadership right now. I agree with state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink that the Republican leaders are in denial and need to address the $1-billion-plus state budget shortfall now.
Waiting until March will make it twice as difficult and the needed budget cuts will have to be twice as deep. Part of being a leader is leading in bad times as well as good. Charlie has shown he is much better as a cheerleader.
And, I'm really upset at Crist's fallback proposal to drain the posthurricane recovery reserves. First he puts us on the hook to pay for hurricane damages and now he wants to take that money away to cover his budget deficits.
Things are not going to get any better by waiting. The presidential election is over. He will soon be married. Please wake up and lead.
Rick Shale, Homosassa
Honoring the debt owed our veterans Nov. 11, editorial
Keep promises to veterans
I enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Nov. 15, 1955, and retired on April 30, 1976. One of the promises made to us was that if we were to serve honorably for 20 years we would have certain retirement benefits, including free medical care for ourselves and our spouses. Why then do we have to pay for Medicare Part B? I have to pay $321.80 per month between my wife and me. Veterans eligible for this benefit should get free medical care as was promised to us!
You stated in your editorial, "We owe them and all the others before them a debt we cannot repay in equal measure." Honoring the promises the United States made to us would be a good start. It's about time the government paid its debt to us. AIG gets a multibillion-dollar bailout and we vets can't get what was promised to us?
Our government should stop making those eligible for this benefit have to pay for Medicare.
Robert A. Wall, Hernando
"Bag of bones" elephant rescued | Nov. 11
Three cheers for RaeLeann Smith and the humane endeavors of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for exposing Lance Ramos' horrific abuse of Ned the elephant.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture should urge the court to impose a fine as well as a jail sentence on this animal trainer with a long history of abusing the exotic animals he has trained. Further, Ramos should have any licenses he possesses for the care or ownership of animals permanently revoked.
I hope those who choose to patronize circuses with wild animal acts realize that they are supporting those, like this animal trainer, who frequently abuse the animals in their care.
Tom Bird, Tampa
"Bag of bones" elephant rescued | Nov. 11, story
Punishment is due
While I am grateful that authorities stepped in and removed Ned the elephant to safety, I hope they will take the next step and throw the book at exhibitor Lance Ramos/Kollman.
Allowing an elephant to wither away to skin and bones is not only reprehensible, it's a crime.
Of course, Ned and other captive animals used for entertainment have committed no crime except to be attractive to a public that still feels entitled to keep intelligent, social animals in cages for fleeting human entertainment.
Jayne Morris, Largo
Daylight saving time
Out of synch with Florida
Just before our tourist season (and the finest weather) begins, we plunge our state into early darkness. During the summer's sweltering heat, we add another hour.
Is it possible, as Arizona does, to change our standard and daylight saving times to better suit our own seasonal conditions?
The economic impact of an additional hour of light during the fine weather might keep both tourists and natives at our businesses, theme parks and restaurants, more active.
We natives, rather than nesting at home because of the natural tendency to do so in darkness, will stay more active (weather, again), healthy, and much more likely to spend.
"We'll leave the light on for you" could take on a whole new meaning for Florida tourism advertising.
Bill Travers, St. Petersburg