Let Old Glory be our response
If the best antidote to bad speech is good speech, then perhaps the antidote to a bad flag is a good flag — or maybe even a few good flags.
According to our current laws, the raising of a flag constitutes protected speech, so there seems to be nothing to prevent a group of bigots, hiding behind the veil of cultural heritage, from raising on private property a giant Confederate battle flag near the intersection of I-75 and I-4.
Some who see the flag will applaud its presence above our landscape, but many more will be forced to associate this great and diverse state with the institutions of slavery and American apartheid in the South. Nothing good can come of this.
As a professional advocate of free speech, I'm not inclined to legislate Confederate flags, or any flags, out of existence, but I am inclined to challenge this one's profile and its dominance.
We have a ceremonial tradition in America that no flag should fly higher than Old Glory. What would happen if private citizens in our own community raised the money to erect in the public land adjacent to the Confederate flag, a patriotic display of the Stars and Stripes to honor the veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? These flags should be bigger and fly higher than that hateful one whose erection can only bring us down.
I will proudly donate the first $100 to such a cause if someone — perhaps our patriotic governor — can turn this idea into action.
Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar, the Poynter Institute, which owns the St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg
Slavery under U.S. flag
Slavery existed under the Confederate flag for just four years. Prior to that, it existed for decades under the U.S. flag.
Why isn't anybody clamoring to replace the Stars and Stripes with a new national flag in the same way that they want to replace Old Folks at Home as Florida's state song because it allegedly glorifies slavery?
James Nelson, Largo
The flag that will be displayed east of Tampa will surely do wonders for the current high vacancy rates and plummeting housing prices in our areas. I am sure that businesses and young professionals are just going to flock to our area now. And I am sure the group that sponsored the flag had all our best interests at heart. Yes, I am being sarcastic, but I don't know how else to respond.
I guess a museum honoring the Confederacy is just too "highfalutin" for their taste, or maybe just too much work.
Phrases like "self-indulgent" and "sore loser" come to mind. But what this really reminds me of is what a former boss of mine (born and raised in Atlanta) used to say: "Save your Dixie Cups — the South will rise again!" Good luck to us all.
Angela Welsh, Spring Hill
Accusation needs a defense
In the United States of America you are considered innocent until proven guilty. Now all those Southerners who honor their ancestors, and the most recognized symbol of their heritage, the Confederate battle flag, are accused of being racists. Even our elected officials seem to endorse this view of Southern history. It appears it is now the unofficial position of the Hillsborough County Commission that it is okay to insult and belittle Southerners and their symbols. Try doing that to any other minority group and see what happens.
I proposed a reasonable solution: a televised debate, monitored by a local university. Honorable people wouldn't make such an accusation without being willing to defend their assertion. Commissioners should either defend their position, or apologize, and sign the Southern Heritage proclamation. Do the honorable thing. Name the place, and the time. We will meet you on the intellectual battlefield.
Bart Siegel, Temple Terrace
Learn about tolerance
Flying the Confederate flag so prominently is an affront to every African-American and to those of us who uphold our Constitution.
I agree that our history cannot be changed and that history should not be forgotten.
I do not feel that we should honor the principles of the Confederacy. Should the Nazi flag be flown in honor of the Holocaust? We should not forget the horrors of the Holocaust or of slavery.
We can learn lessons of tolerance and humanity from them rather than to pay tribute to them.
Renee G. Salzer, Seminole
Once again, Hillsborough County is embarrassed. I'll concede that it is okay for these folks to memorialize their ancestors who fought and died for the "right" to enslave their fellow human beings, but do they need to have a monstrosity like that so visible?
Yes, there is the First Amendment, but may God forgive these people of their indecency.
Dave Cutler, Tampa
Upstart muddies the waters | June 5 and Now, let facts speak on stadium proposal
In stadium debate,
let's keep things civil
Being on the receiving end of two editorials in two days, both of which personally attacked me, I would like to correct some impressions.
I suppose it should be considered a compliment to be called an "upstart" 34 years after I began working in the Legislature, primarily on environmental and energy issues.
As a new member of the St. Petersburg City Council, the worst part of this process has been the lack of respect that people show for other opinions. Your editorial continues this kind of personal assault that does nothing to contribute to the rational discussion of the biggest public project the community has ever considered.
The editorials underestimate the public's ability to understand the issues at hand. The airport referendum of a few years ago had two separate questions on the ballot. The public did not have trouble deciding how to vote and showed no evidence of confusion. The drumbeat to "let us vote," regardless of the financial arrangements on the stadium question, has been clear. I believe the public is smart enough to decide if they want a waterfront stadium and if they want to limit the density of the Al Lang site.
The stadium and redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site are complicated financial deals. My 25 years of business experience has been quite helpful in working through these issues. I believe my responsibility is to ask the hard questions up front so that the voters have a clear understanding of cost to the taxpayers and the possible results. That is why I suggested this week that if the cost to clean up the Trop is only $100,000 that we should go ahead and do that during the off-season and be done with it. It is why I asked for the net property taxes, after our added expenses, that the Trop redevelopment proposals will bring.
Please be assured that I will continue to float ideas for change in an effort to improve our community. Not every idea will be a good one, and you will not agree with all of them. However, we will all be better off to keep the discussions civil and not personal.
Karl Nurse, City Council, District 6, St. Petersburg
New stadium for the Rays
Act before baseball leaves
I am so tired of the no-change-is-good people (POWW — Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront) acting as if they know what the citizenry is thinking. I believe the design for the new stadium is impressive. I also think that the people who want their downtown to be quiet need to move to the south beaches where that philosophy has created a financial wasteland.
I believe the argument that we'll build a new stadium when they fill this one is completely misleading. Tropicana Field is an awful baseball stadium and anyone who has been to a great stadium will tell you that.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has put the writing on the wall. A small-market team with an engaging, exciting ballpark may yet continue to be the home of major-league baseball. Otherwise, we will be watching the Rays play on TV in Memphis.
Let's vote on this, and soon, before baseball and the Rays ownership leave us with vacant pieces of land.
Keith Richardson, St. Petersburg
Parking is a key problem
Not only do I regularly attend Rays games, I also regularly spend evenings in downtown St. Petersburg at the Mahaffey, at events in Vinoy Park, attending the theater or movies and patronizing several of the fine restaurants. Parking is already a problem in downtown St. Petersburg, without the Rays being downtown. Adding 5,000 or more cars trying to park downtown for a baseball game 81 days and nights per year will make a total mess of the downtown traffic.
I am for a new stadium for the Rays but not in the downtown location. I can hardly find a parking space on many nights now.
If by some miracle the Rays win approval to move downtown, their already low attendance will fall lower with the parking scheme they now propose. In their own best interests and in the interest of their fans, they must include a parking garage and include the cost of building it. The footprint of the intended site is too small to provide sufficient parking and that is why I am against it in this location.
Let them find another site if they can't make the Trop work. Build the parking required and include it in the cost of the project.
Gene Armentrout, Pinellas Park
Think about the water
There are many good-faith reasons to oppose the building of a new stadium proposed by the Rays, but the one that concerns me the most is the adverse effect it would have on the infrastructure of our city, primarily the water supply. Where will the water come from?
Water shortages are not temporary. They have been a problem at least since the late 1970s when I had a summer place on Sanibel and during the 23 years I have lived here in St. Petersburg. They are not going away.
Pinellas County is already the most densely populated county in the state, and the construction of homes, condos and business establishments with the attendant increase in population would only increase this water problem — a problem that should be solved before any serious consideration of a new stadium should be undertaken.
This is my primary reason for opposing this proposal.
John Will, St. Petersburg
Pandering to blacks
Well, you are to be congratulated. You did a marvelous job of presenting the black community to the majority white community that your "newspaper" serves. Let us see what we have.
Well, as starters, we have a very interesting story, with pictures, of black children being schooled in manners. This is a remarkable story for Page 1 of the Memorial Day issue — so timely. I couldn't think of a more appropriate story for the occasion. Next, we have another marvelous story, again with pictures, about the black marching band — this being on the front page of the Clearwater Times. Not to be outdone, another fine story, with pictures, titled Tender loving care appears, where else but on the front page of the May 25 Floridian section. And let's not miss the interesting story, with pictures, An uphill mission, which adorns the front page of the Tampa Bay section on the same day.
As I said earlier, you are really to be congratulated but, unfortunately, not for putting out a class newspaper but instead a mirror image of Ebony magazine. I am just about prepared to cancel my daily/weekend subscription to your "rag" and go to your competitor paper which, I hope, will present more relative reading matter to a nonblack reader.
Can you in any way explain this obvious pandering? I can't. Maybe I'm just not with the times or maybe I'm nitpicking. What do you think? Should I be more "understanding" of the times? I wish you could tell me where I am wrong so that I may sit back and enjoy true reporting of the "news."
Richard Wilson, Safety Harbor
1 year after Gaza takeover, Hamas has complete control | June 2, story
Prisoners of Hamas
The AP, in writing its article, misses a few critical points that must be considered before making judgment about the past year of Hamas rule in Gaza.
First, when Israel turned Gaza over to the Palestinians the area had a basic economy on which to begin building a strong economic base. These were Israeli businesses — mostly hothouses that export their crops — that were sold to the Palestinian government through Turkish intermediaries so that they could continue employing thousands of their people. It also had a basic infrastructure, with promises from a number of countries, including the United States, to help refine and expand it.
Once Hamas took over, it placed the 1.5-million people there under a dictatorship that disregarded economic growth and the basic needs of its people. These Palestinians are now prisoners of Hamas in Gaza.
To make matters worse, after getting the land it wanted, rather than living side-by-side with Israel Hamas began attacking Israeli nonmilitary communities along its borders with rockets. And, like any nation would, Israel has had to respond to protect its citizens. If Hamas had not taken that course, there would never have been justification for Israel to institute its blockade. The hope in Israel has been, and remains, that the blockade would eventually encourage the Palestinians to revolt against the oppression of Hamas and return to developing its economy and improving the life of its citizens.
One final point: Even with Hamas continuing its terrorist attacks on Israel, Israel still supplies Gaza with nearly all of its essential water and electricity. What other country would do that for its enemy?
Lawrence Silver, Oldsmar
Pesticide worries surface | June 3, story
Worries not well founded
Responding to your article about our product Curfew, just last year U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted a detailed assessment that found potential exposures to bystanders (i.e., nearby residents) from authorized uses of the active ingredient 1,3-D to fall well below levels of regulatory concern from the standpoint of health and safety. Far from being inconclusive, as reported in the article, EPA's conclusion — reached after considering all potential risks to human health — is posted on the agency's Web site and is a matter of public record.
Contrary to the impression left by your article that turf applications are somehow less protective because the product is injected 5 inches below the soil's surface (while in agriculture the injection takes place 7 inches deeper) farm applications can use up to 10 times the product per acre as is used on turf. The difference in application reflects regulatory conclusions about the potential for bystander exposure based on these different rates of use.
Contrary to a quote attributed to a third party in your article that grounds managers can use "something else," due to stringent regulations there are few alternative products registered in the United States today for the control of turf nematodes, and most or all of those that remain have also been objects of "pesticide worries."
Failure to control nematodes on golf courses can impair playability and require increased watering and greater use of fertilizers (also a frequent object of societal concern) to offset damage. In extreme cases, greens and fairways can be a total loss.
Use of Curfew offers a practical solution to these problems — a solution thoroughly evaluated by regulators, who have concluded after detailed assessment that residential exposures from labeled use fall well within established health and safety guidelines.
Garry Hamlin, Dow AgroSciences, Indianapolis
The roar of hollow patriotism | May 28, Garrison Keillor column
An insult to patriots
Garrison Keillor insults all our patriotic ex-servicemen and women and their families who have endured considerable hardship so he can go to a museum. His worst insult is when he is offended by motorcycle-riding ex-servicemen who are flying American flags and black MIA-POW flags.
Evidently Keillor was never in the service. If he was, please advise what branch of the service, how long and how many battle stars he achieved.
Bill Reichle, St. Petersburg
Letters criticizing Garrison Keillor | June 2
No apology is needed
The two letters admonishing Garrison Keillor for his Memorial Day article are so politically correct that they demand a rebuttal. My 25 years in the U.S. Air Force included a Vietnam tour. My sons tell me I am seriously patriotic, but I see no patriotism in grown men assuaging their waning mid-to-late-life hormones by donning head scarves, sporting pony tails, and creating noxious fumes and earsplitting noise pollution to show they "actually care about the fallen who gave the most anyone can give."
Beware the physically able veteran who wears his heart on his sleeve. Keillor's observations are right on. He owes me no apology.
Anthony Skey, St. Petersburg