Governor to run for U.S. Senate
Crist is fleeing Tallahassee's mess
Gov. Charlie Crist is using the opening in the U.S. Senate to escape the big issues that our state is up against. It's easy to be the governor of Florida — or any politician in Florida for that matter — when the economy is humming along, tax revenues are pouring in and hotels are packed.
This year's budget session was relatively easy thanks to Barack Obama's stimulus package, which gave Florida billions to plug holes in the budget. Without those funds, bigger decisions would have been required. Yes, the lawmakers did increase some taxes and fees, but overall the session should be called a colossal failure due to lack of leadership at the top.
Gov. Crist does have some accomplishments to run on in his Senate campaign. Unfortunately for him there are many more issues that we know he's running away from.
Jim Steinle, Clearwater
Ditching his duty
Didn't we just elect Charlie Crist as governor? I guess I have a greater sense of obligation and honor than Crist, who wants to abrogate his responsibilities as governor and become a U.S. senator.
I carefully considered my choices when I voted for Crist to become our governor. I fully expected him to devote all of his time and energy over the four-year term solely to the duties of the governor's office. Instead, we have been duped and elected a man who will now spend his time worrying about another campaign instead of his gubernatorial responsibilities.
Shame on you, Gov. Crist. You have a responsibility to the people of the state of Florida to fulfill your four-year obligation as governor. I now regret voting for you in the last election, and I will not vote for you in the Senate race.
Mitchell Miller, Clearwater
A lackluster prospect
Excuse me, but am I the only person who is underwhelmed at the possibility of Charlie Crist becoming the Republican senator from Florida?
Wow, he'll join the other "great" names of placeholders and safe votes for corporate interests that Florida Republicans like Mel Martinez and Connie Mack III have been in the past.
Wouldn't it be great to elect someone who will actually do something for Florida other than pass out trinkets to visitors in D.C., write self-serving e-mails and letters about "their initiatives," make disingenuous speeches on the Senate floor when fed a script by some special interest (won't be Big Sugar too much longer, though), line up in the gallery when the president signs a "bipartisan" but middling benefit bill?
Please, spare me the thrill.
J. Steele Olmstead, Tampa
Ready for him to be gone
Great news: Charlie Crist is running for the U.S. Senate. Get him out of here as governor. What a phony actor. I guess he can do nothing in the Senate as he did nothing but talk as governor.
I do not know about the rest of you, but the things he promised never happened. The only thing that dropped like a rock was the value of my home. Now if we could only get the Hogans out of the news.
Jack Wilson, Belleair Bluffs
Despite 2010, Florida needs leaders now May 13, editorial
He's no leader
You really don't get the motivations of Charlie Crist in moving upward and onward to run for his next office. The man has never led, only pandered for poll numbers. I doubt he is capable of leading, particularly at times when leading includes more frowns than cheery delusions.
In truth, this move is likely partly a strategy to wash his hands of Florida's budget crises. Can't have the muss and fuss of a state economic catastrophe getting in the way of that tanning bed that awaits in Washington.
Dale Friedley, St. Petersburg
Despite 2010, Florida needs leaders now May 13, editorial
A boost for Democrats
Charlie Crist has just done a huge favor for the Democratic Party. By declaring his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez, he opens up both the governorship and the Senate seat to the Democrats. The Republican primary between Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist will be the usual silly Republican infighting we have witnessed of late. All the Democrats need to do is field a decent candidate for both positions.
They already have a rising star in U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (who already has nearly $2 million in his war chest). And the Democrats have several good potentials for governor, including Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. Also the Republicans are outnumbered in registered voters by more than a half-million. And they seem to have forgotten that Florida went for Barack Obama. Good luck, Republicans, you will need it.
Kenneth A. DeRoche, Tampa
Homeless disrupting our lives | May 10, Bill Maxwell column
The homeless in our area could use some help
If the homeless are disrupting Bill Maxwell's life, he should do something about it. Writing an article is a start. Here are some other ideas: Volunteer, help them get a job, a resume or storage. Help them find tent city or give them a shelter flier. You can sit on a nonprofit board, work with the homeless coalition, cook some food, talk with them, talk with the homeless leadership network. Or you can call the police and ask for them to mediate a dialogue or move them along. Homeowners don't have to be Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. There are many avenues to resolve the conflict.
A January survey for the Homeless Coalition showed a staggering 86percent of the homeless attributed their condition to the economy (up 40 percent from last year). Among their number currently: a gourmet chef trained in the finest culinary schools in the world who had a mild stroke a few years ago; a 20-year paralegal whose house burned down leaving him destitute and more than 6,230 others. The Salvation Army people are utterly overwhelmed without even enough resources for towels, so families who stay overnight have to dry themselves with their own, often dirty, clothes. The Salvation Army offers some great resources, but they are drowning in people and it would be folly if they went on a listening tour of the neighborhoods.
Lawlessness should not have to be your problem, Bill, but the measure of a person is how they deal with adversity. You've vented. Now how about rolling up your sleeves and helping? The homeless could use it.
Richard O'Brien, a volunteer in Pinellas County with the homeless, Bradenton
Homeless disrupting our lives | May 10, Bill Maxwell column
Seeing positive steps
While the descriptions Bill Maxwell provided of "disruptive" behavior committed by homeless patrons around the Fourth Street Salvation Army in St. Petersburg are accurate (loitering, loud music, solicitation, littering, public urination, public fornication, drunkenness, garbage picking, etc.), he didn't provide information on the positive effect recent actions taken by the Salvation Army and Police Department have had in addressing the problem.
Police are now monitoring streets around the Salvation Army heavily, and the new "No Trespassing" signs allow them to keep the homeless patrons off private property. Portable bathrooms added in their courtyard have decreased acts of public urination. I've seen a remarkable improvement over the past few weeks and not witnessed any behavior that concerned me enough to contact the police.
Ironically, much of the "disruptive" behavior Maxwell tied specifically to the homeless patrons of the Salvation Army is "criminal," and has been allowed to occur almost unchecked in Bartlett Park and surrounding neighborhoods for many years.
Because our Police Department has been significantly short-staffed for so many years, bike thefts, minor property crimes and car burglaries are rarely investigated. Calls for such crimes are merely logged by patrol officers and then they have to move on to address the next call.
I challenge the next mayor of St. Petersburg to make improving public safety our No. 1 priority and take responsibility for establishing a significantly higher standard for enforcing the law.
While I sympathize with the overwhelming challenges the homeless patrons of the Salvation Army currently face, no one should be allowed to break any law or ordinance no matter their life circumstances, income, race, or where they choose to live.
Scott Swift, St. Petersburg
Lost in the Atlantic | May 14, story
Where's the help for Haiti?
This story made front-page news Thursday, but the plight of the Haitian people will be forgotten before dusk. The plight of the people of Haiti has somehow eluded America. The suffering of these people so close to our shores is abhorrent. Haiti is only a two-hour flight from Miami and is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The United States continues to ignore the needs of the people and continues to punish those who risk their lives to reach U.S. soil. Having just returned from this devastated country, after it was hit in 2008 by four hurricanes, I wonder what will it take to open the eyes and hearts of Americans. We hear nightly on the news, in the daily newspapers and over the airwaves, the horrible conditions in African nations, and America asks what can we do for them. I ask: When will we do something for Haiti?
Karen Jensen, St. Petersburg
Chief chicken hawk
The right-wing of the Republican Party has no lack of "chicken hawks," the tough guys who either help start or support wars like Vietnam and Iraq, but who can't seem to find the time to serve in them. But there is one chicken hawk who stands out above all the rest.
Dick Cheney must be the most pathetic and despicable person in public life. The same man who took five deferments in order to avoid serving in Vietnam was instrumental in starting the current war in Iraq, and criticized and ridiculed those who disagreed with his position. He told the nation, before the invasion, that he knew that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he told us, after the invasion, that Iraq was in league with al-Qaida. Both statements were false.
Now, he is traveling around the country giving speeches and making media appearances to justify his and George W. Bush's decision to torture suspected terrorists. In doing so, he is, again, acting tough and saying that he helped keep the country safe. But what he is really doing is showing the same cowardice he displayed in running from an opportunity to serve his country in Vietnam. If he is so certain that what he did was right, then how does he explain his willingness to allow the privates and corporals and sergeants who carried out his orders to serve prison time for doing so?
Why didn't he speak up when they were charged and prosecuted and convicted and sentenced? Why didn't he tell the courts that they were loyal soldiers who were simply following the policies that he and Bush authorized? Instead, the Bush administration told us that these soldiers were rotten apples who violated their policies, when they knew that the opposite was the truth.
Why would any American listen to or trust anything Dick Cheney has to say?
Robert Monroe, Tampa
Cheney aids Obama
After spending so much of his time in the background during his tenure as vice president, Dick Cheney has gone public — big time.
I think he's been more effective promoting the Barack Obama administration and the Democratic agenda than the Democratic National Committee. He'd pick Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell to be in the Republican Party? He's serious, too.
I don't think there's anybody in the GOP who has the gravitas or nerve to tell him to tone it down, either. Amazing.
Jeff Cutting, Brandon
A passion for voting rights
We note with sadness the death of Jack Kemp, former quarterback, member of Congress, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and vice presidential candidate — and we remember his imprint on Florida.
It was during the festivities surrounding the XLI Super Bowl, held in Miami in February 2007, when Mr. Kemp offered to help the ACLU's Voting Rights Project by using his influence with Republican leaders in Tallahassee to encourage them to address Florida's disgraceful lifetime ex-felon voting ban, which has created more disfranchised citizens than in any other democracy in the world.
His intervention contributed to the first serious reforms in Florida's system for restoration of civil rights system in 30 years.
We remember his passion for civil rights and voting rights and his outrage over this remnant of our state's Jim Crow-era legacy. He spoke about his support for the Voting Rights Act and voting rights for the disfranchised citizens of our nation's capital.
We recall his Reaganesque optimism that his Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, could compete in the world of ideas and earn the support of voters. He did not believe that the interest of any political party should lie in creating barriers that deny or suppress Americans' right to vote.
Jack Kemp was not the kind of politician who would have concocted the grab bag of voter suppression techniques that a few Florida legislators pulled out of their back pockets two weeks before the end of the recent legislative session.
Thankfully, for the sake of the right to vote — the most precious right in a democracy — that legislation received its well-deserved fate and failed.
Howard L. Simon, executive director; Muslima Lewis, director, Voting Rights Project, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Miami
Rail's not the way to go
Recent editorials and reporting in the area's newspapers have favored the development of a regional public transit system, especially one that utilizes the newest high-speed rail technology. Some commentators have suggested that a more European model is appropriate.
America's system for air travel is remarkably affordable and moves vast numbers of people safely. Whatever perceived security weaknesses there are appear to have been addressed following 9/11.
Our interstate system is one of the engineering marvels of the 20th century. The freedom and mobility enjoyed by 21st century Americans could not have been imagined only a few generations ago. Rail, on the other hand, is a 19th century invention that represents a perfectly sensible choice for bulk freight transport and operates profitably in that arena.
Urban rail systems are another matter, and while they are useful in older American cities that aren't well served by automobiles, very few passenger rail operations make money serving urban commuters. Most are political footballs that generate huge opeuge operating losses and are hostage to organized labor.
Our public servants in Washington, D.C. (as in so many other ways) have gifted themselves with a marvelous train ride to the far-flung suburbs where they live. Some in the media like to think that a rail system in Florida would be different from all this.
Jim Parker, Lakeland