Don't add to pier confusion | May 29, editorial
Bold move can pay off in big way
The debate over the design for the new St. Petersburg pier is reminiscent of the controversy that occurred in Milwaukee when that city was planning a new addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2000.
That project, too, was controversial. It was over budget and took longer to build than planned. But if you ask people in the city today, most are happy with the results, which pushed the city into the international spotlight.
The architect was Santiago Calatrava from Spain, and the building he designed is simply the most beautiful building I have ever seen. It is perched on the edge of Lake Michigan and the roof panels open and close like the wings of a bird.
Since I worked for a nonprofit organization in Milwaukee at the time, I know that the $150 million final budget (three times that estimated) sucked the life out of nearly every other nonprofit organization. But it was a very bold move for a conservative Midwestern city that has paid off in a myriad of ways.
Jim McGinity, Dunedin
IRS scrutiny of some groups looked legitimate, experts say | May 27
Trying to enforce the law
Thanks for publishing this news story. I have been concerned that politicians and pundits seem to have piled on those IRS staffers who were finally, I think, trying to do what is right.
Social welfare organizations were first exempted from federal income tax by the Revenue Act of 1913. It was quite clear then that "civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare" would be exempt from federal income tax. These are the suddenly famous 501(c)(4) groups.
Congress has never changed the law, but during the hundred years since 1913 the law's criterion, "exclusively for the promotion of social welfare," was loosened within the IRS so that some political activity was permitted. That was not in itself a serious problem because the organizations in question were not very wealthy and did not have powerful voices.
However, gradually corporations were coming to be seen more and more as having the rights of natural persons. These trends climaxed in 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Congress had no right to restrict corporate spending on politics because the court found money to be equivalent to speech, and speech is constitutionally protected.
The Citizens United decision opened the way for big corporate money to come in through tea party organizations funded by the very wealthy.
That gave rise to a startlingly new complex environment in which the IRS staff had to decide how much political activity a "civic league or organization" like a "tea party" could engage in and still be judged to be "operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare."
I think they had good reason to give such organizations closer review when they claim tax-exempt status.
Alvin W. Wolfe, Lutz
McCain slips into Syria for meeting with rebels | May 28
Undermining U.S. policy
Sen. John McCain's trip to meet with Syrian rebels is nothing but a bald-faced attempt by the GOP to subvert our nation's stated position on the Syrian civil war and our State Department's attempts to support our friends in the area like Turkey, Jordan and even Lebanon.
The senator's action has shown to the world and our allies in Europe just how divided politically and as a nation we are. President Barack Obama was re-elected president last year by a majority of the voters of our great nation. We did not elect Mitt Romney or McCain to be our leader.
If McCain's visit did not have the blessing of the State Department or the office of the president, his actions have undermined and harmed our president's efforts to keep this nation out of harm's way. Remember what happened the last time we gave weapons and support to Muslim rebels, in the Balkans against the Serbs who were intent on slaughtering them? What we received from the Muslim world in return was Sept. 11, 2001.
John J. Johnson, Pinellas Park
Pasco may get bill for cat care | May 28
Make cats' owner pay
The woman mentioned in this article abandoned 50 cats over the county line from Pasco to Hernando, and Hernando wants Pasco to pay the bill for euthanizing most of them. If it is so well known who did this horrible thing, why not make her pay? Why should anyone else have to pay the bill? This is her responsibility, and she should be billed for the cost.
I live in a community of seniors where neighboring residents routinely dispose of their unwanted cats. This is abuse of innocent animals. There should be some cost to the people who do this.
Althea Brandon, Zephyrhills
Fast and furious along Interstate 10 May 28, Daniel Ruth column
An officer's discretion
Let me put to rest once and for all this notion that a police officer has to issue a traffic citation to every violator he encounters. He does not. The officer may give a pass for any reason he chooses short of bribery.
I have written thousands of tickets in my 30-year police career; I also have given hundreds of passes. Example: I always had a soft spot for young teenage drivers. Whenever I had to pull one over for some reason and they produced a valid driver's license, I would lecture them on the evils of whatever violation they committed and hand them back their license with the stern warning that "I'm keeping my eye on you" with a smile on my face as I walked back to my car.
You don't have to write up everyone you stop. I'm sure that young driver gained more from that encounter with the police than from any ticket he would have received.
John Waitman, Palm Harbor
Insurer gets $52M deal | May 23
Lead by example
Note to the governor, Cabinet and Legislature of Florida: You first. When everyone of you has switched to Heritage Insurance for every single thing you own, I will consider switching my policies from Citizens.
Julie Wert, Aripeka