Sansom indicted | April 18, story
Sansom case shows need for reform
All taxpayers in the state of Florida owe a debt of gratitude to the 18-member Leon County grand jury that indicted former House Speaker Ray Sansom and college president Bob Richburg. Not only did these good citizens have the courage to officially condemn the conduct of two men who sought to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense, they went further and used the opportunity to censure the appalling behavior of the movers and shakers in the Florida Legislature.
The arrogance and ruthless wielding of power of this body has long been disgusting to many Floridians but they feel powerless to change the system — a system that gives unreasonable access to lobbyists with suitcases full of cash who often are given complete discretion in crafting legislation that shapes public policy and channels public dollars.
This is yet another example of why we need meaningful campaign finance reform laws that rein in the amount and sources of money that can be given to legislators — and to Congress. Until and unless this happens, those with fat wallets will continue to have inappropriate influence over where our tax money goes.
Jan Allyn, Largo
Push to protect panther habitat
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is awaiting the federal government's response to its petition to provide additional legal protection for the Florida panther by designating critical habitat. Only 80-100 of these endangered animals remain, and loss of habitat is the greatest threat to their survival.
Best available science suggests that current lands in conservation do not provide enough suitable habitat area to support even the limited number of existing panthers. A designation of critical habitat does not mean that no further development is allowed in an area; it simply requires additional review when projects requiring federal permits would impact habitat considered essential to preventing the Florida panther from going extinct.
Entitlement for at least 45,000 acres of intensive development (an area twice the size of Miami) is currently being pursued in Southwest Florida, the primary remaining habitat that panthers depend on for survival. So this measure is more important than ever.
It's not too late for the public to encourage President Barack Obama and members of Congress to support the Conservancy petition. Simply visit www.conservancy.org and click on "Take Action."
Andrew McElwaine, president & CEO, Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Freshwater turtle harvest bagged | April 16, story
Think of turtles too
Craig Pittman's article is great news. Florida's indigenous wildlife is what makes this state unique. The Times should keep an eye on this issue as the final version of turtle regulation comes out in June to see how honestly the regulations are followed.
I've seen a dying softshell turtle on Alt. U.S. 19 as its shell was crushed by a passing vehicle. Although it was broad daylight, this large, slow- moving turtle was run over by a driver who couldn't slow down for a few moments. The Alt. 19 corridor, still fairly green, has many adjacent bodies of water that are prime habitat for turtles. Unfortunately, Alt. 19 is seeing more and more commercial development from Dunedin to Tarpon Springs.
Pinellas County and city officials can make the turtle harvest ban really matter by implementing an equally important strategy of protecting habitat. Setting aside as much land as possible to preserve the habitat for the softshell and other threatened native Florida wildlife.
The county is practically built out. Let's save what green is left for future generations to appreciate. The native plants and wildlife truly define the special character of our state.
Joseph Weinzettle, Dunedin
Controversial voting bill gets fast-tracked April 18, story
The Saturday paper carried an article about "a sweeping rewrite of Florida elections laws." The arrogance of the legislator who permitted speakers just "one minute" to testify and the complete disregard for fundamental democratic values are shocking. The obvious intent of the proposed legislation is to undermine voting rights of many Floridians.
We must tell Tallahassee of our outrage at their high-handed manipulations and remind them that this is not how we conduct business in a free society.
Arnie Frigeri, Sun City Center
GOP power grab is an affront to voters April 19, editorial
I was somewhat amused by this article displaying the St. Petersburg Times' righteous indignation at the GOP's attempt to make voting harder in Florida by fast-tracking this legislation and preventing debate.
Where were you guys during the most recent spate of legislative initiatives that Congress passed on a fast-track basis, and stifled debate in chambers, regarding the so-called "Stimulus Package"?
The only instances the Times ever objects is when it fits your liberal agenda. In this recent objection you cloak your agenda in the mantle of voting and democracy.
You have abdicated your role as true journalists who are to report the truth, and have instead become cheerleaders for the Obama administration and its ultraleft liberal agenda that is spending us under mountains of debt to the Chinese, of all nations.
Maybe, as more facts come out, we'll find out (on our own) that this effort in the Legislature is an attempt to control organizations, such as ACORN, from stealing more elections by having everyone held accountable regarding their voting status.
Joseph O'Neill, Safety Harbor
The gift of education
While Florida's Legislature struggles over education funding, we should be thankful for the free public education that is available in this country. As the global economic crisis continues, children are suffering the most. Millions miss school because they must work or can't afford it. Some 75 million children in developing countries don't have access to basic education. Research shows that when girls especially go beyond the third grade, they ultimately have fewer children, they are healthier and better able to take care of their families — all this leading to a more stable world.
During the campaign, President Barack Obama pledged $2 billion to create a Global Fund for Education that would be funded by several countries and address this crisis. He needs to make good on his pledge so more of the world's children enjoy the wonderful benefits of education.
Linda Schatz, Lutz