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House speaker's behavior erodes trust in government

House Speaker Ray Sansom

Trust in government is eroded

The deafening silence emanating from the halls of the Florida Legislature regarding the Ray Sansom affair is not only appalling, but tragic. It is tragic in that it is the emblematic event that demonstrates why government at all levels is losing the support of our citizens.

The brazen actions of our House speaker and the lack of calls for his accountability by his peers does more than taint the Legislature, it calls into question their understanding of ethics at all.

The $25-million going to an obscure college that only asked for $1-million, and then created a job that will cost the taxpayers an ongoing obligation of $110,000 per year, tells the public that there is an unlimited pot of government gold out there for the taking — if you have the right connections.

I personally know several legislators in the Pinellas delegation who are scrupulously honest and work for the betterment of their constituents. They need to speak up. If they don't, they will see the public respond adversely to even reasonable funding needs that only government can provide.

The Sansom affair tells us that frugality and responsibility do not matter in state government. Demonstrate that you want a government where integrity isn't just a footnote in a bylaw. Demand better.

Scott K. Wagman, St. Petersburg

Academic travesty

Northwest Florida State College's hiring of state House Speaker Ray Sansom's services part-time at a $110,000 annual salary after he secured major funding for the school may not be illegal. However, it certainly does not pass the smell test!

It is merely one more example of Florida's entrenched Republican politicians who preach fiscal restraint for social services or education while using their office or the state treasury to feather their own nests. Certainly it is disappointing that Gov. Charlie Crist shrugs off the suggestion that Sansom's case be investigated.

As a former university accreditation officer, I suspect that serious violations of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools standards could be involved. The vice president's job that Sansom assumed was not even advertised, which is the minimum open hiring practice expected at accredited academic institutions. The close connections between the college and Florida's governing political party may also represent a violation of SAC's standards.

All citizens should write the governor about this case. However, I especially urge college and university staff and faculty to write the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities about this apparent academic travesty.

Anthony D. Branch, Ph.D., Madeira Beach

Board votes to close schools | Dec. 10, story

We need lawmakers who care about education

With all the hoopla about Pinellas school closings, with parents and teachers being upset, we have to realize that all these issues will eventually be resolved.

Kids are resilient. They adjust to change much easier than we give them credit for. No matter what happens with the school system in Pinellas County, the students who are doing well will continue to do well, and the students who are struggling — well, maybe their situation will change and they will improve too.

I know in 1968 many of us experienced a change in our school system when the teachers went on strike. I loved the teacher I had, but I lost her after the strike and got one I did not particularly care for. But my grades did not drop, and neither did my attitude about school.

When we went to double sessions in high school, it may not have been the most convenient situation for us or our parents, but we managed and got through it with the best finesse as possible. Change is inevitable, and we must learn to adapt to it and make the best of it, whether it is fair or not.

With the struggling economy and the obvious lack of priority given to our school system as a whole in Florida, we need to seriously look at who we have representing us in all legislative areas, and get some people in office who are really concerned with the education of our children. Only then will we begin to see a change that benefits not only our children, but our families and teachers as well.

Janet Whedon, Clearwater

School budget cuts

It will get worse

As a Pinellas County school teacher, here is what I would say to parents who are concerned about their children switching schools due to school closures and the lack of funds for busing: You haven't seen anything yet.

The shortfalls are so great that the next round of cuts will be infinitely more painful than the last round. Things like guidance counselors or school athletics and clubs could be eliminated. There is simply no place to save $48-million in a budget that has already made millions of dollars in cuts.

In addition, fewer people than ever will go into teaching because there will be no raises for the foreseeable future. The result will be fewer competent classroom teachers over time. We cannot have it both ways. You get what you pay for.

The parents who are unhappy need to write their legislators and urge them to provide more money for public schools, even if it requires a services tax or a short-term increase in the sales tax.

Shelley Foster, Clearwater

House approves $14B auto rescue package Dec. 11, story

Help people buy cars

This rescue package does not seem to make much sense. Whom are we rescuing? Not the ones who are hurting, but the top management and labor unions who wish to take advantage of the current economic downturn as an excuse for asking for more assistance from the U.S. Treasury.

But will this $14-billion cause a surge in the sales of autos? I soon will be needing a new auto, but that rescue package will not help me buy one.

Instead of this money going to the auto industry, it would make more sense if it were given directly to the consumers like me who have been holding back from buying a car due to the present economy.

For example: Giving $10,000 to taxpayers, based on their 1040 income, and to retirees driving cars that are at least 10 years old would result in a surge of new car sales, thus rescuing the suffering dealers and putting the industry back to work.

Yes, the $14-billion rescue package will certainly help to rescue top management from declaring bankruptcy, but when that money is used up they will be coming back for more, and so on. Will that help me get my new car? I doubt it.

Morris Grossman, Sun City Center

Let's learn something

I find it sadly ironic that the "fiscal" conservatives have come out of the woodwork on the so-called auto industry bailout. The nation's top economists are split on whether it will end up being a waste of money or part of the stimulation that will keep us from a deeper recession. Numbers are being thrown around that are beyond the comprehension of most of us.

Many lessons should be learned from these experiments at economic manipulation, and history will judge accordingly. Whether the American auto industry survives in the long term also remains to be seen. The bailout money has been decreased and certain strings are being attached to the loan/bailout. I say bravo, but why weren't similar strings attached to all the stimulus dollars?

Also the $34-billion figure the auto industry originally requested had the "fiscal" conservatives in a lather. This is the cost of about 31/2 months of continuing the war in Iraq. Did they vote against that? In this context, the $14-billion or so they are voting on seems like a small price to pay.

Jay Yardley, St. Petersburg

Stick to limited government

A vote by Republican senators against the U.S. automotive industry bailout bill is a vote for small, limited, unobtrusive government.

Since this is the cornerstone of the Republican Party which seems to have been forgotten, I am looking to the senators who vote "nay" to be the future leaders of the party.

John Giddings, Wesley Chapel

House speaker's behavior erodes trust in government 12/11/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:46pm]
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