Fibs taint process for choosing juries
I recently received a summons for jury duty for the fourth time. As it is my belief that serving on a jury is part of my civic duty as an American citizen, I notified my employer and showed up as directed.
What I experienced next was even more disturbing than the other three times I had previously been summoned. I found myself sitting in a room full of people, many of them quietly discussing how they would attempt to become exempt from being selected — sort of a swap meet for jury exemption excuses.
After a short time we were shuttled to our prospective courtroom for the selection process to begin. I was amazed, appalled even, to see to what extent some people would be willing to go to not be chosen. I suppose to some the only time a lie is not a lie is when it is given as an excuse to escape jury duty.
Now, I am not saying that there was no legitimacy among the excuses. I am sure there was. I am only saying many seemed a bit of a stretch to say the least. And you know who you are!
We seem to forget what a luxury it is to have such a fair legal process. Or do we only want to acknowledge that when it is to our benefit?
Miriam White, St. Petersburg
Discerning voters cross party lines | Nov. 9, Diane Steinle column
Your article on coattails and turnout in the Nov. 4 election in Pinellas County is accurate as far as it goes. However, it and other commentaries in the local news media have failed to note that turnout remained highest in highly Republican precincts that voted for John McCain, even though turnout there declined a little from the 2004 figures.
Yes, turnout did surge in black-majority precincts in Pinellas County compared to the past (and registration grew markedly in these areas).
Yes, there were a few black-majority precincts where the turnout as a percentage of registered voters even soared above 80 percent. However, only two black-majority precincts (7 percent) of 27 did so: precincts 107 and 112. The average turnout in black-majority precincts was 70 percent, 3 percentage points below the Pinellas County average of 73 percent.
In contrast, the average turnout in the precincts where McCain won by a margin of 2-1 or more in Pinellas County was 82 percent.
As in previous elections, districts dominated by voters of high education levels and high socioeconomic status (such as the Belleairs, East Lake and Harbor Bluffs) generally had the highest voter turnouts. The surge in African-American participation in 2008 in Pinellas County was remarkable and encouraging, but a focus on it should not obscure the continuation of previous turnout patterns, even in the year of Barack Obama's triumph.
Richard Piper, Largo
Graduate to new use
Unfortunately, I live very close to the now-closed Riviera Middle School in St. Petersburg. It sits on a vast plot of land, and the building is deteriorating and suffering vandalism.
Although I have suggested to the Pinellas School Board that the ballfields could be utilized as a dog park or the building could be used as a midcounty government center, the School Board has not even considered other uses. The School Board seems to want to hold onto this relic and not let the city of St. Petersburg or Pinellas County make good use of the land or building.
Now we are in the midst of closing more schools that will suffer the same fate. It is time for the Pinellas County School Board to think outside the box, or just deed the land to other city or county agencies.
Ron Frankel, St. Petersburg
A day at the 'Opera'
I attended the opening matinee of The Phantom of the Opera at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. It was my pleasure to sit in front of a row of eighth-grade students from Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg.
It would have been my opinion that boys and girls of that age would not appreciate this show, but these students were so enthusiastic and excited, not to mention well-mannered and properly dressed. I was very impressed by them and just wanted to be able to say so.
Teachers and parents, you did a good job. It would be wonderful if more young students could be introduced to the world of the arts.
Margery A. Bassett, Clearwater
At 'Ragtime,' riches
I wish all the naysayers about public education in St. Petersburg could have been at Gibbs High School this month for the student production of the musical Ragtime. It spoke volumes about the quality of the education being offered in our community.
Granted, the show was put on by the Pinellas County Center for the Arts, a magnet school at Gibbs, so there was some expectation that the talent on display would be high. But what my wife and I saw was way beyond expectations and beyond individual talent alone.
No matter what percentage of this huge cast and orchestra ultimately have careers in theater, every one of them will know they've been required by their school to meet very high standards through hard work and self-discipline. That's applicable wherever they go as adults. Thank you, Gibbs.
Bob Armbruster, Seminole
This truly is a reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving holiday. I want to thank the people who came to the aid of my brother who had heart failure on the Bayway draw bridge in St. Petersburg on Oct. 17.
This letter comes with sincere gratitude and appreciation for all the first responders who put out fires, protect us from crime, come to our aid in health emergencies, care for us in hospitals and rehabilitate us from serious injuries. All of these people saved my brother's life and put him on the road of recovery.
Janet Haver, St. Petersburg