Pope reaches out to the faithful
It was refreshing to read some good news in the Times for a change regarding the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope. He chose the name Francis, which was one of three firsts for a pontiff, the other two being the first Jesuit and the first non-European pope.
In his first appearance before thousands of people, he asked his brothers and sisters to pray for him in silence before he gave his blessing. His first order of business was to personally go to his hotel to pay his bill and collect his luggage in a regular vehicle.
My prayers are with him and I wish Pope Francis well as he seems to be ideal for his position, being a common man reaching out to common people. I sincerely believe he will try with all his spirit and heart to heal the wounds of the Catholic faith.
Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City
Respect for animals
I was delighted to learn that the newly elected pope chose for himself the name of St. Francis of Assisi, generally known as patron saint of the animals. Indeed, Catholic and Anglican churches hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of October 4.
On one of his nature walks, Francis reportedly preached to the birds and is often portrayed with a bird in his hand. On another occasion, Francis concluded a pact with a ferocious wolf that was terrorizing local townsfolk, whereby the wolf would quit preying on the town's sheep in exchange for being fed regularly. He even persuaded local dogs to stop harassing the wolf. He freed a rabbit from a trap, returned caught fish to their stream, and fed half-frozen bees in wintertime.
I hope that Pope Francis will inspire Catholics and all persons of goodwill to show nonhuman animals the respect and compassion they so richly deserve, particularly when it comes to subsidizing their abuse and slaughter for food at the checkout counter. Joining the Meatless Mondays trend may be a good start.
Thomas Carter, Tampa
City turned its back on disabled firefighter March 10, John Romano column; Doctor candidate won't get business from city | March 14
City deserves better
The city of St. Petersburg should be ashamed of itself. First it denies a courageous firefighter, Bradley Westphal, the workers' compensation benefits he clearly deserved for an on-the-job injury. Then they waste $150,000 in taxpayer dollars fighting the proper claim by Westphal. Then they misuse my medical opinions in court without consulting me to support their bad case. Then they lose in court based on their bad judgment — leading the 1stt District Court of Appeal to rule a workers' compensation law as unconstitutional.
Finally, the city staff and attorneys decide that I — not they — have a conflict of interest and decide they will deny access for city workers to my neurosurgical services because I happen to be running for City Council. They do this to divert attention from their own failures while hypocritical politicians pile on. In the same week that a story is published in which council chair Karl Nurse expresses concerns about a "conflict of interest" he ironically states I have, he endorses my opponent. Meanwhile, City Council member Charlie Gerdes inaccurately states I don't want city workers to have "any benefits," while all I want is commonsense reforms to protect the workers' benefits but also citizens from tax hikes.
Is there any wonder why I am running for City Council? The politicians and bureaucrats running our government are incompetent and serve their own agendas, not those of the citizens! St. Petersburg residents deserve better.
Dr. David McKalip, candidate for St. Petersburg City Council, District 4
Driver texting ban advances | March 8
There's a simple solution
As an engineer, I am alarmed at the accident potential resulting from texting and even using a phone while driving. The risk to our youth and the danger they might project to others via distracted driving is very high, albeit preventable.
There is a simple fix for Detroit and other auto manufacturers. Unless the transmission is in park, an onboard chip would block all inbound and outbound cell signals. This is simple, cheap and effective. If you want to call or text, simply pull over, place your vehicle in park and text away.
Jarrell Mitchell, Sun City Center
Rates out of control
Malfeasance continues to run amok in Tallahassee when it comes to property insurance. Property insurance rates in Florida are now three times the national average. Incredibly, the governor and many of our "representatives" in the Capitol think the problem is that insurance rates are actually too low and that is why there is so little competition in the insurance market. Our state legislators are lackeys for big insurance.
Bob Snow, Clearwater
Freedom to make stupid decisions March 15, commentary
The government's role
Leonard Pitts is incorrect in stating the Americans kicked their addiction to cigarettes through education. The government took the lead by banning cigarette commercials on TV and preventing cigarette companies from giving out free samples to kids.
Any effort to combat America's obesity crisis should be applauded, not criticized.
George Taylor, Tampa
Florida's universities on right track March 14, commentary
More like a train wreck
Frank Brogan has his head in the sand. First Jeb Bush dismantled the Board of Regents, which oversaw all universities and assured Florida of well-planned growth in higher education. Then the voters put it back via a constitutional amendment.
Bush went against the intent of the legislation by appointing only "his people" to the replacement group. Then university budgets were slashed by Rick Scott. Then a powerful legislator pushed through a bill to fund a 12th university that no one wanted. Then Scott made a deal with UF to move it up into the top 10 in the nation, ignoring the plight of FSU and others fighting for respectability.
And Brogan thinks Florida's university system is headed in the right direction? I think it's a train wreck.
Andy Reeves, St. Petersburg