Pinellas evacuation order
Emergency officials lose my confidence It seems that the only disaster in Pinellas County last week was the disastrous erosion of confidence in our emergency response system. Pinellas officials would have you believe that in the wake of Katrina they were erring on the side of caution, but to call for a mandatory evacuation (which could have affected more than 200,000 people) at 6 a.m. on the very same day the storm was predicted to come our way was not a cautious act! It was a radical response, one might even say foolhardy and hysterical. Out here on the beaches it was greeted at first with disbelief, then anger and finally widespread agreement that our only wise choice was to ignore it.
We live out on the barrier island. I take care of my 87-year-old mother. She lives down the street on the third story of a four-story steel reinforced concrete building. She even has two interior bathrooms with no windows. There was no way I would have even considered putting her into a car and driving off toward the predicted path of the storm, a situation where a minor traffic accident or even engine trouble could have killed her.
Catastrophic storm surge was never predicted for this storm, and by the time the evacuation was called there was almost no possibility of it.
I have lived at the beach for 20 years and have always told people that I try to stay informed and keep a level head as a storm approaches, but I have also said that I would leave in the case of a mandatory evacuation. After all, there had only been two in all those years. However, that is no longer the case. It is now clear that I must have both an evacuation plan and evacuation avoidance plan. My life might depend on it.
David L. Scott, Redington Shores
They made the right calls
I did not have work last Tuesday and my children did not have to go to school for what turned out to be a nonevent. However, I am thankful both that my boys were released and I was allowed to stay home.
Before anybody second-guesses or criticizes public officials or business leaders, I would like to say I think they made the right calls. We had a dangerous storm heading our way. The forecast steadily moved its expected track east, but there was still a chance the Tampa area could be hit by the time such decisions needed to be made on Monday.
While we dodged another bullet this time, we should all keep in mind Hurricane Charley in 2004 as an example of how these storms remain hard to predict. I hate to think what could have happened had we not taken precautions and Fay did not cooperate. I'd like to thank our state and county officials for a job well done.
Jeff Williams, Lithia
It's the economy stupor | Aug. 19, Paul Krugman column
Connect the dots, voters
Paul Krugman is correct that "by rights, John McCain should be getting hammered on economics." Record foreclosures, job losses, with inflation now the worst since the early 1980s.
No doubt Obama's campaign could be cleverer. However, the American public's inability in recent decades to connect the dots between public policy and economics seems to be McCain's good fortune.
Those dots certainly include former Texas Republican Sen. Phil Gramm who, as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was the architect of the financial deregulation that led directly to our current mortgage meltdown. Phil Gramm's wife, Wendy, sat on Enron's board just prior to its implosion by greed and fraud.
Phil Gramm's banishment as a senior McCain adviser certainly did not last long. Perish the thought that Gramm may be Treasury secretary in a McCain administration!
Tony Branch, Madeira Beach
Property tax notices
This is not tax reform
Here we are, at another TRIM (truth in millage) notice season, and what was announced by many tax watch groups has come to pass. Even with Amendment 1 and the increase in homestead exemption, property taxes are higher than the year before.
I am an example of what happened. My house lost $132,700 in market value in 2008 from 2007, but my Save Our Homes cap went up another 3 percent, because ... they could.
If your property value is higher than your cap they can play catch-up until it reaches your property value for that year. It is a little quirk that takes the wind out of the sail for any savings you might have gotten from Amendment 1. This is another slap in the face to voters who thought they were getting some relief and did not.
On my home TRIM notice, if no budget increase takes effect, I will see a net increase in my taxes of $783.52. Is this tax reform or are the politicians laughing at us once again? I hope we all remember the treatment we received when it comes time to vote.
David R. Simpson, St. Petersburg
Thanks for nothing
On my notice of proposed property taxes, the value on my house went from $476,400 last year to $380,200 — a decrease of $96,200. Yet my taxes last year were $4,481.39, and this year, if a budget change is made, will be $4,479.98 — a savings of $1.41.
If there is no budget change, my property tax bill will be $4,685.35, an increase of $203.96.
What happened to the approximately $240 each homesteaded property owner was supposed to receive? Thanks, Charlie!
Sandra Blaker, Tarpon Springs
I have just received my proposed property tax, and I am appalled.
My property value went down $18,000. My assessed value went up $6,500. My taxes without the budget went up $122 from last year. With the budget I save $70.
For this I have to listen to all the proposed budget cuts to our services. We have all been betrayed.
Wendy Thomas, Largo
Candorville comic strip
Genocide isn't funny
You really hit upon a good one with the comic strip Candorville. What a laugh we get seeing an Olympic event based on genocide. Too bad the millions of genocide victims aren't around for the good laugh. How about a comic strip based on a stand-up comedian who works funeral parlors?
Joseph Wynne, New Port Richey
McCain's faulty memory
The question is not how many houses McCain and his wife own, but why he can't remember.
This is another example of his memory problems:
1. He forgot the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims;
2. He confused Iran with Iraq and who was our enemy;
3. He forgot his position on whether or not health insurance plans should pay for birth control pills for women.
Randell Hafner, Clearwater