Candidates' coffers swell | July 14
Focus on ideas, not campaign cash
What a disservice the Times does to the public and several candidates with a piece devoted to revealing the results of fundraising efforts of select candidates for public office. I am referring particularly to the Hillsborough County School Board race, which has so many candidates presently that I've lost count. The article suggests that the uptick in fundraising is because of the confluence of circumstances, notably, certain candidates' ties to the community and family bank accounts.
Unfortunately, it reinforces the notion that candidates can buy elections. The article also suggests that the amount of money raised is proportional to the candidates' merit. If Florida learned anything from the 2010 elections, it's that very often the opposite is true. Candidates become beholden to the donors and the notion of public service becomes anything but.
In the case of the Hillsborough County School Board, the public would be better served by revealing candidates' ties to the present administration, which has made disastrous decisions lately, so that voters seeking change could evaluate candidates on their merit without regard to their fundraising ability. The messages candidates put out with the money they raise are always self-serving and frequently misleading. We need the press to cut through the chaff and give us useful information we need to make educated decisions at the polls, not provide free advertising for the haves to the detriment of the have-nots.
Ari FitzGerald, Tampa
Voters must think for themselves July 17, letter
Look to candidates' skills
In John Avalon's book Independent Nation, he states that political parties do more to divide us than to unite us. I believe this is true. In order to have the money and political support to win office, a candidate must adhere to the party platform. I think it is imperative that voters identify the issues that they care about and support the candidate who reflects those concerns.
We should care about actual knowledge and experience more than verbal skills. I would strongly support an open primary for the state of Florida.
Connie Kone, St. Petersburg
For F school, C not enough | July 17
Staff deserves praise
As a retired Pinellas County teacher, I am proud of the achievements and accomplishments of our teachers, staffs and students. However, this article created a different feeling.
The principal and educators did a remarkable job turning the school around. Kathleen Brickley went out of her way to involve the community. Unless you have been in a classroom, you cannot imagine the pressure the educators were under to improve the school's grade. They did a wonderful job, taking a school with a majority of disadvantaged students and working with them to the extent that they jumped two grade levels.
The county should be applauding them and celebrating what they did. Instead, the principal was demoted and teachers are being displaced based on an assumption made even before the school grades were released.
What disturbs me most is the dictatorial attitude of superintendent Mike Grego when he objected to being questioned, saying, "The day I have to justify every blasted move in our district. …" Although he has the authority to make changes in the county, it is a shame he does not have the common decency to commend what Dunedin Elementary has done instead of condemning them.
Marilyn Warner, Clearwater
You're kidding, right? Principal Kathleen Brickley, obviously a dedicated professional, turns the school around and she gets demoted and receives a pay cut. Was she responsible for the "school's culture, past grades, demographics and behavior issues"? And you wonder why we are losing excellent teachers and administrators to the private sector.
I have been a volunteer for the past five years in two different elementary schools in Pasco County. I can tell you firsthand that most teachers love the children and want them to have the best education possible — why else would they put up with low pay?
Terry Hubbard, Trinity
Is anyone going to call for an investigation of the Pinellas school system? If ever there was an example of punitive treatment, the demotion of principal Kathleen Brickley and her obviously dedicated staff would seem to be it. To add to the injustice of the situation, a reporter's inquiry is belittled and ignored. The public owns the school system, pays for it and deserves the answers it needs for open administration and policy decisions.
Lula J. Dovi, Tampa
Redistricting quandary | July 16
More rotten districts
The tragedy of the recent judicial decision over Florida's electoral redistricting is that it didn't go far enough — isolating only two egregious examples, Districts 5 and 10.
Closer to home, successive redistricting of David Jolly's District 13, apparently done to protect the late C.W. Bill Young, makes a joke of the furor over who was the true "Pinellas candidate," as sliver after sliver of downtown St. Petersburg has been electorally floated across the bay to bolster Kathy Castor's District 14 majority, despite the demand of the constitutional amendment that "natural boundaries" — like Tampa Bay — should be respected in redistricting plans.
Even a quick glimpse at Florida's electoral map shows that similar monkeying around may have taken place in Districts 16, 23, 24, and 4, to mention but a few.
What do Florida voters outside Districts 5 and 10 have do to end the theft of their votes?
Stephen Phillips, St. Petersburg
Unlikely friends bond like family | July 16
Yet another reason to love the Times. The article on the "divas" was so sweet it brought a smile to my face and a little tear to my eye. How fortunate are those two beautiful ladies, not to mention the gallant gentlemen.
I might even be a little envious.
Marjorie Visser, Treasure Island