Don't cut tourism marketing
As the president and CEO for the Greater Miami Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, I am disappointed about the recent budget cuts to Visit Florida (the state's tourism marketing agency) as recommended by our elected officials during special session. The proposed $9.9 million cut, which Gov. Charlie Crist must act upon by Thursday, will reduce Visit Florida's total fiscal year budget by almost 40 percent, leaving the Sunshine State's No. 1 industry out in the cold.
The impact of these cuts is far-reaching, as Visit Florida not only markets the state, but also pairs with tourism bureaus such as ours to market local destinations. With more than 200 Visit Florida co-op programs, tourism bureaus and small destinations and attractions can get the most value for their limited marketing budgets. These programs make large-scale marketing and advertising possible when limited budgets may not allow it.
It's no secret that Florida's economy relies on tourist traffic. Tourism marketing is our state's economic solution. For each $1 invested in tourism marketing, at least $3 is returned to the state in tourism-related taxes.
Tourism employs an estimated 1 million Floridians. With an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, a threat to our ability to bring visitors to our state is also a threat to the livelihood of many of our residents.
While we face a difficult economic climate, we must invest in tourism marketing to attract visitors who spend money and generate revenue for the state.
Just last year, Visit Florida directly attracted 12.5 million visitors who infused $9.75 billion into Florida's economy. Gov. Crist, I urge you to carefully examine the proposed cuts to our tourism industry and take action to keep the Sunshine State on the map.
William D. Talbert III, president and CEO, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
On the way out, Johnson double dips for trips Jan. 24, story
Buddy Johnson delivers continuing embarrassment
Enough about Buddy Johnson! This guy should be charged with multiple counts of gross incompetence, fraud, deceit, theft of state funds, and (if this could be a criminal charge) illegal possession of unmitigated gall.
Johnson, the former county supervisor of elections, is an embarrassment to Hillsborough County and I am sure he has been (and apparently is intent on continuing to be) an embarrassment to his family and (if he has any) his friends.
Before this is over, I bet he will serve time. Unless he hires the lawyers representing Bernard Madoff.
Larry Heinkel, St. Petersburg
Keep information out there
The article about Buddy Johnson double dipping for trips states that it took the St. Petersburg Times to find and make this information public.
I find it very sad that it took the Times to expose him and his efforts to obtain more money for himself than he was entitled to receive.
It is a sad state of affairs that his office didn't keep running track of his trips or his expenses. This information about Johnson, and all of our public servants, should be public record and easily available to the people who pay their expenses.
I cringe to think that there are probably others in government preying on us taxpayers.
Carol Zaglin, Beverly Hills
Ex-prosecutor avoids jail time in second DUI Jan. 24, story
Protecting their own
Just the headline sets me off.
This outcome was anticipated by me when I first read of the arrest.
If it works in self-regulatory and investigating agencies like any other government department, especially like the police, what else could be expected? She's an attorney, of course, and the judge that let her off is nothing but a glorified attorney.
It's an unwritten law with positions like this that "I will protect you and keep you from any punishment that should be meted out and you do the same for me, if and when I get caught."
Even though I'm not surprised I am certainly offended every time something like this occurs.
Bud Trill, Palm Harbor
Ray Sansom's denials
Higher standard needed
Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom may be able to demonstrate he legally did "nothing wrong." Neither was it right. Sorry, Mr. Sansom, but I demand a higher standard for those the voting public has entrusted to govern our state than "it's not illegal."
Our representatives must avoid any arrangement that even looks, or smells, fishy.
Sansom should bid adieu to the Florida House and return to the private sector, where men of questionable integrity still thrive.
Chas. E. Lehnert, Riverview
Obama frees up abortion funds | Jan. 24
Our new president has many fine qualities given him by the same creator that made each one of us. But I must protest one of his latest actions, i.e. to strike down the ban on international funding of abortion. I strongly object to my tax dollars being spent on slaughtering the innocent.
Abortion is the ultimate physical and emotional abuse of human life, born and unborn, in spite of its false claims to make life better. More than 50 million Americans have been killed since 1973's Roe vs. Wade ruling, without any choice in the matter.
How is this freedom of choice?
Audrey Reale, Pinellas Park
Obama frees up abortion funds | Jan. 24
This article contained the following line: "… abortion rights groups said it (Obama's decision) could help prevent millions of unintended pregnancies world-wide…"
While abortion rights groups do advocate birth control, abortion itself does not prevent pregnancies — it ends them.
Gerard Meyn, Dunnellon
Consigned to coexist | Jan. 24, story
This story in Saturday's St. Petersburg Times reminded me of a similar story I heard years ago.
There were three merchants located in the same block, and competition was fierce. One merchandiser in a corner store conducted a "Once in a lifetime sale," and reduced prices. The merchant on the other corner followed suit, also reducing prices. The merchant in the middle fretted a day or two and then put up a bigger sign that read, "Main Entrance" and left his prices the same.
Hartley Steeves, Tampa