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Don't let press shield law block the search for truth

Foes of shield law blowing smoke | April 28, editorial

Don't let shield law block search for truth

Your readers are entitled to another perspective on the proposed shield law for journalists.

For more than 250 years, American jurisprudence has followed the fundamental rule of British Common Law: "The public has the right to every man's evidence." Every lawyer who has ever tried a case will attest to the importance of this rule in protecting the rights of each of us. The knowledge that we can call a reluctant witness into court, under subpoena, make him place his hand on the Bible and swear an oath of truthfulness before a jury — gives to each of us the power to confront unfair or untrue claims.

Limited exceptions to this rule have been carved out where society has come to agree that the sanctity of the relationship at issue would be jeopardized by requiring unwilling testimony: A spouse cannot be forced to testify against a spouse, a doctor against his/her patient, a priest against a penitent.

But do we really think the relationship of "reporter/source" is so sacrosanct that it deserves the same exemption from the general rule that requires every man's evidence in the search for truth?

Think back two years ago, when someone "outed" Valerie Plame's CIA status to the press. Did we think then that the "source" in the Bush administration was entitled to protection from disclosure and possible prosecution for violation of federal law? Think about the scientist who was falsely accused in the press of a serious breach of security procedures; is he to be barred from learning the identity of his false accuser, and denied legal redress for the damage to his reputation and character, because his accuser takes refuge behind a tongue-tied reporter?

The right of the public to "the evidence of every man" is an important safeguard to our liberties; it should not be constrained solely to placate the interests of reporters who wish to rely on anonymous sources — sources who choose to hide behind this ill-conceived "shield" to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

Barry Augenbraun, St. Petersburg

County to calculate losses | April 30, story

Budget details show why there's anger over taxes

Government officials are crying about the taxpayers voting to reduce property taxes and how they are having to cut the budgets. The story about Pinellas County having to face the prospect of cutting $55-million from its budget noted that this is only what their budget had increased in the last three years.

This is exactly why taxpayers voted to curtail taxes when they had the chance. For a county to raise additional taxes of $55-million in just three years is unthinkable. Don't these elected officials ever look at what wages the common person is making or at what those on fixed incomes are trying to live on?

Wake up! All governments need to look at what they have done over the last five or 10 years. Then they will see why the majority of the people are angry over taxes.

Dale Newhouse, Hernando

Parking for Rays proposed new stadium

An exciting prospect

I moved to the beautiful state of Florida in 1993 from Chicago, the home of the Chicago Cubs. Yes, I am still a die-hard Cubs fan. The Cubs have no parking because their stadium is in a residential neighborhood, and almost every game is sold out!

Where do the fans park? They park wherever they find an empty spot, anywhere from 1 to 2 miles away. There are a few parking areas, such as school lots, with shuttle service.

Each summer I go back to visit family and we always take in a game or two, and the walking is part of the experience. You're excited and walking with like-minded fans. If you're unable to walk far you can be dropped off in front of the stadium.

I am excited about the prospect of a new stadium and may even become a Rays fan. I already have tickets for the Cubs/Rays series in June. The benefits of the proposed stadium for St. Petersburg? Tremendous! Beyond belief!

Marjorie Visser, Treasure Island

Proposed waterfront stadium

A taxpayers' subsidy

Although I am aware of the various objections to the proposed ballpark downtown, the most basic problem is economic.

Despite some slick marketing claims, any funds received due to the redevelopment of Tropicana Field belong to taxpayers, not the Rays. We could simply sell the land to a developer and keep the proceeds to help reduce our fiscal burdens. The same logic goes for any future tax proceeds from the development. What stadium backers claim is self-supporting finance is essentially a subsidy.

Numerous studies have found that the net economic benefit of new stadiums is nil. Without quoting these studies, the idea is that residents and visitors have a relatively fixed amount to spend (at any one time) and will allocate only so many dollars to entertainment. If money goes to the ballpark it will not go to the amusement park or the movies.

If the public wants to subsidize private enterprise, let's at least do it with open eyes. The $300-million out of the total $450-million proposed costs is coming from taxpayers (assuming the Rays chip in their $150-million) and nowhere else.

Todd McCallister, St. Petersburg

Bring back 55 mph limit

The proposed federal tax holiday on gasoline will not reduce the price of crude oil, rather it will most likely increase prices because of the temporary increase in demand and hoarding of the 18-cent-cheaper gasoline.

The only way to bring down the price of crude is to reduce the maximum speed limit to 55 mph. We did it in response to the oil crisis in 1973, and we can do it again.

The 55 mph speed limit came as a result of the 1973 Arab oil embargo. The Nixon administration ordered states to lower their maximum speed limit to save fuel at a time when the oil shock threatened to bring the economy to a standstill. Consumption dropped, and OPEC's economies were threatened by the reduced consumption. The supply and demand factor kicked in with OPEC having to lower its crude oil price, and prices at the pump fell accordingly.

Lowering the speed limit to 55 mph today would probably reduce our fuel consumption more than it did back then because of the many SUVs on the road since the previous limit was repealed in 1995. Lower crude prices on the world market would also help to put economic sanctions on Iran, which is currently benefiting from the high price of crude, and hopefully stop their nuclear weapons program.

K. Berland, Dunedin

Group guides police to crime | April 30, story

A test for crime fighters

I read with interest the efforts being made by the faith-based group "FAST" to assist the police in combatting crime in the African-American community. This assistance will be in the form of informing the police where the "hot" crime areas are in the community. The group would request special attention to these areas to enable the police to arrest the offenders.

The question is, will the members of FAST stand shoulder to shoulder with the police officers when the black activists stand shoulder to shoulder with the "thugs" who are killing, robbing, assaulting and raping the residents of the community?

The history of the black community in not backing the police officers and allowing the black activists to continue their opposition to police leads me to answer with a "No."

When the next police incident occurs and the black activists are asking for "justice" and in response the FAST organization stands tall with officers, then I would be more than happy to change my response to a loud "Yes."

Van E. Vergetis, retired police officer, Holiday

Tight budget? Not for everyone | May 1, story

Spending without care

Thanks, Charlie! With all the financial issues Florida faces, Gov. Charlie Crist chose to siphon off $2.5-million of scarce tax dollars to build a monument to U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. St. Petersburg High School didn't do a very good job of teaching Crist the basic laws of macroeconomics — such as rational separation of needs from wants.

With his earmark contributions to Pinellas County in the millions and millions of dollars, Rep. Young has already built enough monuments. Everywhere I look its "C.W. Bill Young" nameplates attached to infrastructure. Enough already!

Or better still, why doesn't Crist approach the companies that currently employ Bill's sons and get them to "pony up" the $2.5-million for the St. Petersburg College institute.

As a last action, why doesn't Rep. Young earmark the $2.5-million as an attachment to some federal legislation. I know this sounds absurd, but Charlie, is it really when viewed within the whole scheme of possible political actions? Shame on you, Charlie!

Wallace F. Witham, Belleair Bluffs

Don't let press shield law block the search for truth 05/04/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 11:38am]
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