School deadline looms | Jan. 6
We need access to good schools
The Pinellas County School Board's refusal to increase access to successful magnet and fundamental schools is a disservice to our community. We are one of the wait-listed families. We are zoned for a D school and received a special assignment seat to an A school — a seat we have no guarantee of getting next year. We are preparing to apply in the lottery for a seat for first grade in a fundamental or magnet school. We have been told the odds are not good, as there will only be a "handful" of seats available.
Next year a change in policy will further reduce access. Historically, children could move up a wait list and be offered a seat at the wait-listed school until the end of the school year. Next year the wait list will expire in March, reducing the time children have to move up the list and gain a coveted seat.
Pinellas County schools hurts our county and shows disregard for the needs of families and students by not meeting the demand for fundamental and magnet schools. My family needs access to good schools now, not a complicated system and a game of chance.
Lisa Signorelli, Gulfport
Flaws mar Florida's death cases Jan. 4, editorial
Penalties and errors
People have many images of the Sunshine State; I hope leading the nation in wrongful capital convictions doesn't become one of them.
The sad truth is that it reflects poorly on all of us that we've had more innocent men released from our death row than any other state. I hope the Legislature will require unanimity from a jury sentencing someone to death. This just seems like common sense. Indeed, it's the path every other death penalty state has taken (except Alabama, which still has more thorough criteria than Florida).
Regardless of how we feel about the merits of capital punishment, we can all agree that executing innocent people is a blunder we should work hard to avoid. If 12 individuals on a jury can't be convinced, that might be a sign that death isn't the appropriate route.
Colleen Cunningham, St. Petersburg
Districts out of line
The fiscal cliff, and before it the debt ceiling mess, are the direct result of gerrymandering. Many of the Republican members of Congress causing the problem for their party and the nation are in office because congressional districts are gerrymandered so that Democratic votes are compressed into a handful of districts. That allows Republicans to capture a larger number of districts than warranted.
In 2012, President Barack Obama won two "battleground" states, Ohio and Virginia, but Democrats won only seven of 27 congressional seats in those states. How can this be? Gerrymandering is the only logical answer.
Florida had a similar problem, now partially ameliorated by efforts of the National Council of La Raza, League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida to end gerrymandering here. We need not wait eight years for further efforts. Political incumbents will not do it because it is not in their interests. This has to be a grass roots action. Hopefully, citizens in other states (including a few in which the gerrymandering is by Democrats) can learn from Florida's recent progress.
Tim Poulton, Port St. Lucie
We will never get commonsense laws to curb murder by guns when we have people willing to compare the accidental death by vehicles and medical mistakes to gun violence. Guns are made to do one thing: kill. Cars are for transporting people from one place to another. Baseball bats are part of a sport. Medical mistakes are made because we are human.
It is ludicrous to make these kinds of comparisons. We as a nation need to respond to ongoing murders by guns and examine how other societies have controlled this violence. We owe it to future generations.
Robert Glass, Seminole
Armed heroes are elusive
In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, one of many mass shootings in the United States in recent years, one can only ask of gun control opponents: Where is this valiant armed citizen you speak of who is supposed to save the day by taking out gunmen before they can cause harm?
We've gone through Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown and countless other less prominent shootings with no appearance by this elusive savior. Continuing to wait for him while our fellow Americans are slaughtered is becoming increasingly difficult to justify.
The reality is that gun control works. This is evidenced in the simple fact that countries that implement it have dramatically lower firearm homicide rates than we do. Conservatives can ignore the facts and continue living in fantasyland if they like, but the rest of us will live in the real world and move our nation to a safer future.
Stephen Lapp, Tampa
Mental illness is the trigger
New gun laws will not work. Mental illness is the trigger. Deal with the problem of mental illness and bring back state mental institutions.
D.W. Stiles, St. Petersburg
As Obama picks Hagel, senators signal fight Jan. 7
Support for troops, veterans
During his confirmation hearings for secretary of defense, I hope Chuck Hagel is asked what he'd do to stem the epidemic of rape in the military services. There's been an annual average of 3,100 cases reported in recent years, but the actual figure is said to be closer to 19,000 annually — the difference due to the reluctance of victims to report assaults because of the impact it would have on their careers. How has this been allowed to go on?
Also, I hope Hagel is asked what he'll do to stem suicide in the military services. As of December, 482 U.S. service members had committed suicide in 2012, while 310 died in combat. A 2011 report identified 301 military suicides during the calendar year. The problem's only getting worse.
And I hope Hagel will be asked how he will advocate for the many homeless veterans on our streets. But it isn't only Hagel who should be asked these questions. Every one of us needs to look in the mirror and ask, "What — besides the car magnet — am I doing to really support our troops and veterans?"
Louis A. Claudio, Safety Harbor