Letters to the Editor

Don't lower drinking age — raise drinking tax

Group wants drinking age at 18 | Aug. 19, story

Don't lower drinking age — raise drinking tax As a 20-year-old, I can guarantee that the only way to curb binge drinking among my age group is to increase the tax on alcohol. Instead of requiring that drinkers be 21, simply require that they pay more to drink. This is the concept employed throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand. There, 18-year-olds can drink as much as they please, but with the average price of a beer more than $4, they learn a form of responsibility that no alcohol awareness class can ever teach: that regular binge drinking does not pay off.

Hey, the extra tax revenue could even be used to improve public transportation and get people home safely when they do drink.

Erik Johanson, St. Petersburg

Group wants drinking age at 18

Unready for responsibility

I firmly believe that all those university presidents who are in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18 are simply attempting to reduce their own liability. The fact is that binge drinking is not a function of age, but of circumstances, peer presence and the atmosphere that the administrators allow to prevail on campus.

Let me point out that while young people have lobbied for eye, hearing and driving tests for older adults, it is still the younger element of the population who are involved in the most auto accidents. This is why it is so expensive to insure a driver under the age of 21.

I was one of those in uniform, serving my country at 17 years of age, but the only place I could buy a beer was at the cantina on base. And I can tell you that I was neither prepared nor ready to accept the responsibility of overindulgence.

If the Legislature deems that 18 is a responsible age for the consumption of alcoholic beverages, then I believe that each and every 18-year-old should carry a mandatory $1-million of liability insurance. I've been there and I know the temptations and the repercussions.

Emiliano Quindiagan, St. Petersburg

Group wants drinking age at 18

Remove the mystique

As mentioned in the article, one of the often-heard arguments has always been the lack of equivalence in voting rights and being able to die for your country while not being able to legally drink a beer. The opponents (most of them passionate for reasons that can be understood) often cite scientific evidence of lives saved from raising the drinking age. But using that logic, would it not be wise then to raise the age to 25 or 30? Think of all the additional lives that could be saved then.

The real problem of course is the culture of drinking in this country, which mirrors many other cultural aspects of a Victorian bent that the last eight years have reinforced. In many foreign countries, the mystique of alcohol is removed by the inclusion of the ever-present wine bottle on the dinner table.

At dinner my own 7-year-old daughter gets, upon her request, a dollop of red wine in her very own tasting glass. Almost without fail she takes one sip (maybe) and quickly loses interest. What a revelation! The Europeans, of course, have known this for years.

But this is America and so this is one of those hot-button issues. Those who have been unfortunate enough to have lost a friend or relative in a drunken-driving accident should remove themselves from what needs to be "an informed and dispassionate debate."

Steven Levy, Palm Harbor

Debating the age to drink | Aug. 20, story

A matter of liability

I guess the colleges are hoping we are too stupid to have graduated from college ourselves! They are telling us that by giving 18-year-olds the legal right to buy alcohol it will keep them from binge drinking. Isn't that like having sex for virginity?

Right now it is illegal for people under 21 to buy or possess alcohol, but it doesn't stop them. Do they actually think that 18-year-olds won't binge drink if they can walk into any bar or liquor store and consume or walk out with as much liquor as they can pay for?

As admitted by many colleges, the biggest legal issue they have to deal with is underage drinking. These colleges are legally responsible for students on their campus. So if students 18 and older (and the majority of freshmen are at least 18) can legally drink, then the school cannot be held liable if the students get in trouble or cause an accident. Let's get real; the colleges are just trying to save themselves from the hassle of playing Mom and Dad.

Marty Chambers, Largo

Drinking age

Why not 19?

What I can't understand in this debate is why it has to be 18 or 21. Why can't it be say 19? At that age the teens are generally out of high school, where drinking should never be allowed, and either in work or in higher education, where there is a chance they can drink responsibly with their peers.

John Sterlicchi, Clearwater

Pinellas Education Foundation proposal

A community issue

The Education Foundation has demanded that the school system move to a more entrepreneurial model as a way to address the dropout rates and achievement gap in the public schools. This, I believe, is a dangerous mistake that does not address the root causes.

The reason our poorest students are dropping out is not that the classes have no relevance, but that they do not see how education, in general, has any relevance. The dominant community has and continues to devalue them and their families. They do not believe that they will get decent jobs no matter how much education they receive. School is just the most prominent face of the community in their lives.

The answer is a communitywide response, not one education can accomplish. The entire community needs to demonstrate in clear and powerful actions that all children are valued, no matter their income, ethnicity, or gender.

The purpose of education is not to create employees for our most powerful businesses, but to create ethical citizens who will build strong ethical communities. We all have a vested interest in making certain that all our children see they have an interest in belonging to a community that truly cares about them. At present, not all our children see such a community, and until they do, they will reject all aspects of that community, beginning with education.

As long as business can blame schools, they do not have to face their personal responsibility in the alienation of our children. They do not have to take the tough stands and the hard road to develop the type of community where all children are valued. Although it is easier to find a scapegoat than a solution, in this case the problem is not in the schools, but in the larger community, itself.

George Sherman, Clearwater

Students will benefit when we work together Aug. 19, letter

Disrespecting teachers

I agree with interim Pinellas schools superintendent Julie Janssen that a "true partnership … is essential to our success" as a school system.

However, although she does use the word "teachers" one time in her discussion, by directing principals to set in place six of seven schedules for middle-school teachers while admitting those schedules do not meet contract language guidelines, she slaps the face of every teacher in the district. She also indicates by this action that the teacher contract has no substance and will be violated whenever she or the School Board desires. She has set in place a school year opening that is clouded by dishonesty, a continued air of duplicity and a sense that the change in administration will set forth an adversarial relationship with teachers and administrators.

On one hand, she gives lip service to having respect for teachers and what they do for the student population, while with the other hand, she pulls away the only substantial support teachers have: their contract. A partnership is not built by stripping the rights from one segment of the teaching population.

The argument that this "budget decision" is middle-school reform when the strategy is to invent pointless electives to fill the seven-period day while reducing each of the core academic subjects' classroom time by 15 to 30 hours is very weak. There is no research that shows such ill-conceived strategies raise graduation rates. In fact, the likelihood is that reading, writing, math, and science scores will drop dramatically.

An effective starting place for her plan would be to establish an honest relationship with teachers that respects their contractual rights and makes use of the creative talents of that workforce to solve the problems.

Michael Taylor, Clearwater

Students will benefit when we work together

Lack of vision

In her letter of application to become the permanent superintendent of the Pinellas County school district, Julie Janssen suggests that "meeting the ever-changing educational needs of today's students requires a visionary and innovative leader."

I submit that her most recent letter to the editor, full of platitudes and banalities in response to the important proposals put forth by the Pinellas Education Foundation, in itself disqualifies her to be the next superintendent for total lack of vision and innovation.

Frans van Haaren, St. Petersburg

Students will benefit when we work together

Consider volunteering

I concur that students will benefit when we work together. One way to achieve this is to increase the amount of volunteer opportunities for students.

The range of needs in our communities go from picking up trash to serving food to the homeless to construction or even tutoring other students.

In return, students could receive high school credit for accomplishing these tasks. This could prove to be beneficial in the following ways:

• Students will gain real-world experience by contributing their skills and learning new ones. Often employers want to know how much experience you've had before they hire you.

• Organizations faced with budget reductions will benefit as well because certain tasks will still be accomplished.

• High school dropout rates may be reduced, and consider too that the crime rate is often higher for high school dropouts than among those with more education and opportunities to succeed.

Not only will the students benefit but we as a community will.

Carl E. Graham, Largo

Let Tampa pick up the tab

St. Petersburg taxpayers, listen up! I just had occasion to visit in Monticello, near Tallahassee, and played poker at the Jefferson County dog track. Two players at the table were baseball players from Florida State University, and the rest were locals. Just out of curiosity, I asked the group what city the Rays played in and all 10 answered "Tampa." One of the students said "Tampa Bay," but I told him that was an area, not a city.

Since the Rays' name gives absolutely no credit to St. Petersburg, I think it's about time for the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County to chip in 50-50 for all monies spent by St. Petersburg taxpayers on relocating the team. Better yet, let Tampa foot the entire bill.

Shirley Lundberg, St. Petersburg

We need solar incentives

A national priority should be decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. Florida has an obvious source of clean, renewable energy — the sun. Picture the roof of every house and business covered with solar panels. One might speculate that this would obviate the need for more coal-burning or nuclear-based power plants in Florida.

As an individual homeowner with an average electric bill of $200 per month, I decided that I should do my part. I would place solar panels on my roof, thus generating "cost-free" electricity. After consulting with two local companies, the financial realities dashed my naive, altruistic intentions.

For a system that would produce electricity worth $100 per month, the installation cost would be over $43,000. To erase my monthly TECO obligation, the cost would go over $80,000. In a mere 400 months (33.3 years), I would recoup my investment. The state of Florida does offer a $20,000 rebate per system, but I was told that the money reserved for these rebates was exhausted for 2008 and there was no guarantee that this rebate would extend in 2009. There also is a federal tax credit of $3,000 if you itemize your tax returns.

The disappointing conclusion is that solar power is not yet a financially sound investment for the individual homeowner. Until newer innovations and economy-of-scale developments decrease the fixed cost of solar-power systems, perhaps the federal and state governments could do more to "get the ball rolling." State rebates are a good idea but should be increased and guaranteed. The federal government could allow the full cost of the system to be depreciated over five to ten years, thus giving the individual more tax incentive. To make the act revenue-neutral, the government could decrease or rescind the tax incentives now given to big oil companies who are wallowing in immense profits.

Dependence on foreign oil is a major national security issue. Burning fossil fuel is a major contributor to global warming. Solar power should be a major part of the solution to these problems. Get the ball rolling!

Peter A. Donelan, Tampa

Don't lower drinking age — raise drinking tax 08/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 7:28pm]

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