Congressman active in Azalea cleanup
This is to clarify a point raised in your editorial Politics at its worst (July 20) and the subsequent news story Wrong place for politics (July 21). Let me explain about the work I have done to begin cleaning up the toxic plume beneath the Azalea neighborhoods in St. Petersburg. Both pieces ask about my role in this situation but fail to report any of the information I provided your reporter who asked that very question.
First, immediately after learning about the situation last March, I contacted Raytheon and asked that Bill Swanson, the company's chairman of the board and chief executive officer, come to Washington so that I could talk to him about Raytheon's plan to clean up this mess. We met on April 16 and he told me that they were aggressively collecting data to learn the full extent of the problem, and in answer to my questions assured me that Raytheon would pay whatever it took over whatever period of time necessary to remove all the chemicals from the underground areas of the community.
Shortly after that meeting, I called St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker to pass along Swanson's assurances and to reinforce with the mayor my commitment to make sure that the federal government was available to help. I made a similar call that same day to the vice president of Raytheon's St. Petersburg operations.
Last May, I had a series of extensive conversations with representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and asked for their assistance in this matter. They assured me that they were aware of the situation and that they were consulting with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which has the lead in this matter.
On May 29, I met with Raytheon officials at their St. Petersburg site to discuss the report they would present to the local homeowners the next evening. During the 90-minute meeting Raytheon officials assured me again that they would pay whatever it costs to clean up the plume and that they would do it as fast as possible.
The next week, on June 5, I met with Florida DEP Secretary Mike Sole to ask his thoughts about the Raytheon report and to let him know that I was standing by to provide federal assistance to the state. He told me he was aware of my calls to EPA and that he would let me know if and when federal assistance was necessary.
Finally, I met again with Bill Swanson on June 11 to urge him and Raytheon to expedite work on this project. He assured me that cleanup would begin just as soon as the state approved the remediation plan.
Throughout this entire time, I have been in touch with homeowners in the area, including Dominick Griesi, the president of the Azalea Neighborhood Association, who is mentioned in the editorial and news story and who confirmed for your reporter my efforts in this regard.
Since I do not use matters of health and safety for political purposes, I did not hold any news conferences to announce my work, I was not notified of the news conference held last week, and have not been asked to attend any of the community meetings. I just continue to be of help every way I can.
C.W. Bill Young, U.S. representative, 10th Congressional District
Politics at its worst | July 20, editorial
Government's failure is the worst part
I'm amazed that the Times gave such prominent space to chastise posturing politicians at a neighborhood meeting. I love the editorial title, Politics at its worst, but not for the reason given.
The "worst politics" part is the unconscionable abdication of responsibility by our city, county and state governments to perform their primary role, to protect the citizens. If our government protectors had paid attention to the early indications of contamination that arose upon the sale of E-Systems to Raytheon, the damage the Azalea property owners have suffered could have been mitigated to a large degree.
Ground contamination at electronic fabrication plants, plating operations and metal working shops are well known and predictable. The failure to look out for the physical and economic health of our west St. Petersburg neighbors while politicians pander after the damage is done is the real "worst" of this issue.
Scott K. Wagman, St. Petersburg
Politics at its worst | July 20, editorial
A matter of meddling
This headline can also be applied to the Times attempt to unknowingly or intentionally side with state Rep. Rick Kriseman in his attempt to discredit U.S. congressional candidate Samm Simpson. Kriseman, who is described by the Times as the "mannerly" state representative, wrote an arrogant and caustic letter criticizing Simpson for political exploitation of Azalea residents by attending a community meeting to discuss the toxic plume around Raytheon even though she neither said nor did anything inappropriate during the meeting.
She was then attacked in a Times editorial and blamed for the actions of others without the editor even having checked the facts of Kriseman's allegations.
Are readers thought to be so gullible as to not see Kriseman's attempt at self-aggrandizement and political exploitation in writing this letter as well as to help his friend Bob Hackworth in the August primary against Simpson?
Mike Smith, St. Petersburg
Include all parties
After reviewing the Web site for the ABC Coalition, the commission headed by Jeff Lyash of Progress Energy, it appears that it has been formed to be an ad hoc booster club for the Rays and their goal of a new stadium. As such, this coalition is not representative of the larger community and appears to be trying to restrict membership to only those who want to further the Rays' aims.
It is incumbent upon St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and our City Council to come up with a truly public process that includes all stakeholders. At issue are decisions about what becomes of the Al Lang property, if and how Tropicana Field is redeveloped, if a new stadium for the Rays is necessary, where it might be built if it is and what, if any, share of the cost of a new stadium the public will be required to bear.
A sizeable proportion of the general public was opposed to the Rays' stadium on the waterfront built using public dollars — so many, in fact, that the Rays decided to table their plan. We deserve a voice in the process; that process should be open to all and without the necessity of climbing onto the Rays' bandwagon to participate. Anything less is not an honest debate but an end run around the will of the people.
Cathy Wilson, St. Petersburg
Lab to get $2M from county | July 23, story
I find it extremely difficult to address this in any logical manner. How can Pinellas County give $2-million and the state $15-million to Charles Stark Draper Laboratory as incentive money when both the county and the state are laying off teachers, police, court workers and other needed personnel?
How can you lay off people with or without families to fend for themselves in this time of true economic peril, and then just give money away to a company dealing in defense and biotechnology?
If we can afford to give away all this tax money (Jabil Circuit, Draper Laboratory, Warren Buffett), then we should certainly be able to keep people in their jobs.
All of these so-called representatives are elected by the people, and they can be voted out by the people. Isn't it rather obvious that we have no one representing the taxpaying public in this state? Wise up, folks: Your job may be next on the chopping block!
Paul Lukacs, Indian Rocks Beach
Methinks the mayor and council doth protest too much! The opinion piece by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker (Jobs plan is a good deal for city, July 15) and the letter from City Council member Bill Dudley (Setting the record straight, July 15), lead one to believe that something is definitely rotten in St. Petersburg — defensive gibberish!
As Howard Troxler succinctly put it: Whether incentives should be offered to keep a large employer in St. Petersburg is not the only issue. Doing that may make sense. Another, possibly more important, issue is how the process is handled to arrive at an appropriate decision. The city staff and council booted that one!
At least the mayor now agrees that in the future, the process will be more transparent and aboveboard.
Hal Freedman, St. Petersburg
Sink: Bank chief should quit July 22
If this story is true about Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink wanting Florida's top banking regulator to resign, why did it take a newspaper to break this story? If an investigative reporter broke this story, was it a complete secret from everyone at the state level? Doesn't each state agency have an inspector general with investigative staffs?
What have these highly skilled investigative people been doing? Maybe the thing to do is tell the Ethics Commission about this so it can deliberate the issue in secret for awhile — as allowed by the state Constitution. By doing this the problem may even go away.
Hal Ward, St. Petersburg
Sink: Bank chief should quit July 22
Share the blame
Elected officials must accept some amount of blame for the failures of those they oversee. Floridians deserve competent leaders who perform proper oversight and take action before a newspaper breaks a story. Shame on Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for placing blame on one individual without taking some amount of responsibility herself.
But there is good news that will come out of this scandal. The ex-cons who defrauded and extorted borrowers and lenders will have their voting rights restored as soon as they once again pay their debt to society!
Bob Borland, Palm Harbor