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Friday's letters: Incumbents play games with redistricting

Redistricting advocates blast Legislature for delay | June 14

Incumbents keep playing games

The leaders of the Florida Legislature promised to hold "the most open, transparent, interactive" redistricting process ever.

But the public hearings are a charade because the speaker of the House and the Senate president have issued a gag order — legislators have been ordered not to speak at the hearings. Whom are we to interact with? Those Tallahassee politicians who opposed Fair Districts are even refusing to produce district maps for public comment. Why not? Is this openness?

What's more, under the Legislature's present time line for redistricting — even if all maps are approved on their first court review — the final districts will not be known until after candidates have to sign up to run. This gives incumbents a big advantage in the 2012 elections. Nothing in this process is transparent but the games the incumbents are continuing to play to protect their seats.

Other states are drawing and even finalizing maps, yet the Florida Legislature is on a mission to slow everything down.

William Gilbert, Weeki Wachee

Redistricting advocates blast Legislature for delay | June 14

Legislature working to frustrate will of voters

Despite the clear will of Florida voters who approved the Fair Districts amendments in 2010, the Legislature is using taxpayer dollars to fight the new standards. At every stage, the Legislature has taken extraordinary steps to avoid having to follow the Fair Districts rules.

It was a party to two suits to keep the measures off the ballot and, after spending more than $1 million in legal fees to find fault with the Fair Districts amendments, both houses approved a competing amendment that was ultimately thrown out by the courts as misleading.

Now the House is using more taxpayer money to sue the state of Florida to stop implementation of the reforms. Florida's taxpayers are paying large sums for lawyers to represent both the plaintiff (the Florida House) and the defendant (the secretary of state) in the same lawsuit.

The Legislature should stop its relentless expenditure of taxpayer money to frustrate the will of Florida voters and should abide by the laws approved by its constituents.

Darden Rice, president, League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area, St. Petersburg

Call off the global drug war June 20, commentary

Use reason, not emotion

The drug war started slowly about 100 years ago. A handful of prominent Americans wanted to restrict opium production so no colonial power could benefit from the opium trade, as England, France and Spain had done. Their motives were the best, but they didn't understand that restricting supply would enable a wealthy and violent illegal market. Even the failure of Prohibition didn't connect the dots for them. Emotion trumped reason. It was — and is — the fatal flaw of U.S. antidrug policy, with the destructive consequences described by Jimmy Carter in this column.

But it is beginning to change, thanks to the conservative Swiss. In the early 1990s, Zurich and Bern were confronted with an epidemic of AIDS, overdose deaths and property crime fueled by IV drug use. Their response was a radical experiment to provide clean heroin to adult addicts willing to register with the state.

Initial results were good, so the experiment was extended and expanded by a 1999 referendum. In 2008 the Swiss voted, 68-32 percent, to make it permanent. By then, methadone availability had been increased, so heroin was needed only for the 7 percent of addicts for whom methadone was inadequate. The average age of newly registered addicts is slowly climbing, an indication that younger people are not becoming addicted. The use of other drugs is either holding steady or declining.

The results are so good that even the U.N. Office of Drug Control has quit criticizing the Swiss, and other European countries are trying it. We North Americans call it "harm reduction," but we offer little methadone and no heroin. Still, reason is beginning to trump emotion.

John Chase, Palm Harbor

Victims of nonviolent crime

Former President Jimmy Carter, thought by many to be the worst president in U.S. history, wants to decriminalize nonviolent drug offenses.

I do not know if there are statistics, but I wonder how many people came by their drug money by working regularly scheduled jobs that had paychecks and tax deductions, as opposed to those who relied on "nonviolent" burglaries and car thefts, etc. Certainly the lives of the drug offenders are affected, but so are the lives of the victims of crime.

I would like to see Carter stick to something he knows, like growing peanuts and framing houses. We can use both.

Don Niemann, Seminole

No cheap option for nuke plant June 19, editorial

Energy alternatives

The Crystal River nuclear power plant is destined to close. When the complete cradle-to-grave cost is tallied, the public will see many billions of dollars will have been spent.

Progress Energy's flip-flopping about how to go forward is a sticker-shock gimmick. All costs will eventually come from the wallets of Progress Energy customers. In a responsible world, the expense of this venture, gone south, belongs to the Progress Energy stockholders. That's where the profits would have gone.

When the conversation turns to alternatives, it is quickly derailed by the assumption it has to be a primary source, or that there is an impossible storage problem. But just $1 billion could have equipped thousands of homes, in this Sunshine State, with rooftop solar panels and the reversible meters needed to sell power back to the electric companies onto the existing grid.

The above scenario would also have created tens of thousands of jobs.

What it wouldn't have done is put the annual millions of dollars in profits at stake in the hands of energy executives. That's the real reason power companies seldom discuss alternative energies.

John Rehill, Duette

A year away? Is that all? | June 21

Exit strategy

The residents of Harbour Island should take proper preparations and precautions during the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa to avoid roaming bands of delegates, journalists and demonstrators in the Channel District.

I would recommend residents follow the same steps as the Harbour Island hurricane plan and leave town to avoid a storm of potential problems.

John L. Logsdon, Tampa

Friday's letters: Incumbents play games with redistricting 06/23/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2011 6:37pm]
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