St. Petersburg council approves new fire fee | July 13
Flat taxes hit poorest the hardest
Until this moment I have been reluctant to address the issue of St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster's plan to add a new tax against all property owners in the city while calling it a "fire fee." My reluctance to wade in is due in part to the fact that I wish to be seen as one who opposes the regressivity of the plan, which will hit the poorest the hardest, rather than one who resists a new burden upon our churches, schools and charities, as well as other nonprofit institutions.
The Diocese of St. Petersburg estimates that if enacted, it will cost our entities approximately $50,000 per year. While we might be able to handle the fee, the mayor needs to be reminded that since taking office, he has reduced the city's partnership support for Pinellas Hope from $250,000 a year to this year's proposed $100,000. Our parishes and institutions already do a lot for this city, saving it money and millage increases for education. We want to be good citizens as well, but we too have our "breaking point."
The burden upon the fixed-income and low-income residents of this plan, however, is the most troubling. Flat taxes are patently unfair in that they hurt the most vulnerable the hardest. I congratulate council members Charlie Gerdes, Wengay Newton and Steve Kornell for seeing this inequity and hope that two more members of the council will show courage in defeating this ill-conceived plan.
If the present economic situation is as dire as the mayor believes, perhaps this is precisely the moment envisioned when the city built up a "reserve fund."
The Most Rev. Robert N. Lynch, bishop, Diocese of St. Petersburg
Obama the socialist? It's not even close July 12, commentary
Creeping erosion of liberty
Thank you for publishing Milos Forman's revealing article. It makes one shudder to think of the sufferings and brutality parading as necessary for "social justice." The misery inflicted by rapturous dreams going rotten and cruel is breathtaking. As Forman, who experienced this firsthand, reminds us, we are fortunate in our freedoms.
His plea for social harmony is badly needed, nevertheless. Too often our zeal for a "level playing field" and for universal "rights" blinds us to one vital fact: the so-called "socialism" so many orators decry begins small.
Little by little, a government can take control of our lives. We hardly notice. A little rule here, another little law there. A bit of harmless censorship in a book for children. Always for our own good.
How easy — obedience to a wise ruler who knows best. How easy to believe that we are being sheltered from evil, and helped to live better, and eat more sensibly. And how vigilantly we are protected from foreigners.
Yes, Forman's discussion of socialism is a subtle warning against our complacency.
Abigail Ann Martin, Brandon
N.C. regulators call in outside investigators of Duke-Progress energy fiasco | July 17
Who speaks for customers?
It comes as no surprise that an outside, independent entity would be the one to call out the madness of this sordid affair. After all, the Florida Public Service Commission and our wonderfully inept, greedy politicians are known to be in the pocket of Progress Energy.
We need more representatives in Tallahassee who actually represent the citizens who give them their jobs and paychecks.
Don Mott, Largo
Mitt Romney makes his case to be president based on three things: his skill as a businessman and job creator; his executive experience as governor of Massachusetts; and his personal integrity. These are the core of his resume. If in fact his investment firm exported American jobs overseas, and he repudiates his main achievement as governor — building a health care system very like the Affordable Care Act — this pretty much guts his argument that he's qualified to take over. It also sinks the integrity argument.
Leaders in his own party recognize the dilemma and have publicly asked him to release more tax returns.
Edward Miller, Tampa
With F, Imagine school is in jeopardy | July 17
Look at the principals
Why is Pinellas County school superintendent John Stewart focused on "restructuring the staffs" at six low-performing schools? Why is there no consideration of the principals' performance at these schools?
The principal is comparable to being the manager of a ball club or, better yet, a captain of a ship. If the ship is constantly taking on water and is in jeopardy of sinking, why wouldn't you give necessary attention to the ship's captain and his or her abilities?
Stewart needs to redirect his attention by centering it where it rightfully belongs and get off the teachers' backs.
Mike McGinnis, Clearwater
Critics: Fire fee unfair | July 18
Just don't call it a tax
This is an excellent example of how Republicans prefer to take money from people's pockets.
What not to do: Do not impose new taxes, do not increase existing taxes. People have been conditioned to hate the word "tax."
What to do: Create new fees, increase existing fees or rates. Fees or rates simply do not carry the stigma of a tax.
Besides fooling people while still taking money from their pockets, fees give huge monetary breaks to the wealthier taxpayers. The article clearly shows that the 20 priciest properties in St. Petersburg are being handed a $560,000 gift by creating this new fee compared to raising the property tax 1 mill.
Dan Favero, St. Petersburg
Paterno statue's future spawns national debate | July 15
Statue should come down
I cannot believe that there is a national discussion about whether or not to take down Joe Paterno's statue. Of course that thing has to come down. What are the officials of Penn State thinking?
How can they keep a statue that honors a man on whose watch children were molested while he did nothing about it to protect his almighty football career?
It would be poetic justice if they allowed the boys (now men) who were abused and their families the honor of taking that thing down themselves.
Rachel Metivier, Palm Harbor