Shorter walk to Pier? | Jan. 6, story
St. Petersburg's Pier is well worth saving
I am in total disagreement with the idea of demolishing St. Petersburg's Pier or shortening the walk to it. Repair it, preserve it, rebuild it, whatever, but save it.
It is my sincere feeling that the supposedly long walk is not what keeps people from visiting the Pier. The economy, as you know, affects the Pier as well as everything else, and everything needs updating from time to time to keep the public interested. Many people get their exercise by walking or running on this approach to the Pier. If you can't walk that far, or don't want to, there are always the free trolleys to transport you. The Columbia restaurant validates valet parking if you eat there. Therefore, distance is not a valid reason for not visiting the Pier.
One of the many things my family and friends want to do while visiting St. Petersburg is to go the Pier, year after year. I do visit the shops but I do not want, or cannot afford, most of the merchandise that is offered. This same feeling also applies to the shops at BayWalk. Perhaps retail is not the best attraction for the Pier. After all, we have malls for shopping. Maybe we should look more to activities, entertainment venues and more variety of restaurants, i.e. Mexican. Everyone always likes to eat.
The view looking from the Pier back at the city is magnificent. Certainly, a shorter distance would destroy that impressive view.
Earlier, someone suggested putting a casino at the Pier (great idea). I also believe a miniature golf course would be good. There is none on this side of town, so you have to go to the beach. I don't know why the previous one was demolished. Perhaps it wasn't challenging enough. I also like the idea of a waterfront amphitheater, amusement park, anything activity-wise.
The Pier is so historic! I beg of you, don't demolish or shorten the approach to the Pier. And absolutely, no double- or triple-deck parking garages to distort the view.
Carolyn Carter, St. Petersburg
The San Francisco model
After sampling some of the comments at tampabay.com about the proposals for the Pier redux, I am glad to see so many references to San Francisco's Pier 39. That is such a well planned destination and has so many different enjoyable sights and activities for the whole family.
St. Petersburg already has world-class museums and beautiful waterfront parks which make the opportunity to "do it right" even more important.
It is a great day when you can go to a San Francisco Giants or Tampa Bay Rays game and then take a trolley down to Fisherman's Wharf or the Pier for some shopping, scenery and a nice meal.
Our new pier could do the same thing for our region and should, together with other attractions already in place, be the crown jewel of our waterfront. A new stadium might be nice, too.
J.K. LaBrake, St. Petersburg
No carnival atmosphere
It was shocking to read in the Times suggestions to add carnival rides and side show games to the beautiful St. Petersburg waterfront.
Having lived near Santa Cruz and Santa Monica, Calif., for 20 years I'm very familiar with the two cities that were offered as examples for St. Petersburg to follow. I can't think of worse models to follow.
The dirty carnival-like atmosphere in both cities is home to aimless kids, roving bands of young punks and drug dealing. The old BayWalk issues were trivial in comparison.
The Pier can use help, but turning it into a waterfront carnival is a terrible idea that will ruin, overnight, a hundred years of good city planning that allowed St. Petersburg to have one of the most attractive waterfront areas in the country.
Bruce Mattern, Treasure Island
Have a design competition
The Pier building is about lifestyle. As it exists now, it is a total failure for today's lifestyle. The building was designed in the 1960s style and with the background of St. Petersburg being a retirement community. In approximately 40 years things have completely changed:
• Demography has changed so that the average age in the city has dramatically dropped.
• The activities demanded by all age groups have changed with a trend toward action, excitement and thrills, characteristics lacking at the existing building.
• With the dramatic change in the city's downtown skyline, the existing Pier building looks out of place and out of touch with the 21st century.
• The Pier, with its location and history, deserves to be the most iconic building in the city of St. Petersburg, a source of pride for its citizens, an exciting, innovative building with a spirit reminiscent of our beaches and all that St. Petersburg and Florida can offer.
The city should call for a competition among Florida architects with the winning design to be selected by a jury of prominent professionals and civic leaders.
Hani Matta, architect, Tierra Verde
OT VIII | Dec. 31
Needed revelations about Scientology
You are to be commended for publishing another excellent expose of the Church of Scientology. Contrary to their complaint of discrimination, you are doing exactly what a good newspaper should do: investigate and report problems as you become aware of them.
Perhaps as a result of your outstanding journalism the IRS will come to its senses and revoke the asinine religious tax status of this new-age Ponzi scheme.
Scientology is rather unique. What other "religion" has a high-school dropout for a leader who apparently goes around hitting people he disagrees with? If all major religions suffer the defection of once orthodox members, why does this church find it necessary to urge the friends of discontents to disconnect from them? Such childish behavior is reminiscent of the Amish and other isolated, clannish groups (according to media reports), who show their weakness by attempting to hide the truth at any cost.
However, in our society we are free to believe, say and write what we want and associate with whom we choose, even to the displeasure of those who would have it otherwise. There is a name for people who would restrain us from practicing freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment: un-American
Stephen M. Feldman, Valrico
OT VIII | Dec. 31
Resolve to stop
If the Times editors are inclined to make New Year's resolutions, I sincerely hope they will top their list with a promise to make a determined effort to stop forcing their biased views about Scientology on their readership.
Unless someone within this organization becomes a threat to the safety and security of the community at large, I have no interest in knowing about the inner workings of their operation, which have no effect upon me or my neighbors.
Your obsession with this group is puzzling, and your frequent prejudicial focus on it through the past year borders on yellow journalism at its very worst. Please … enough is enough.
Thomas C. Rizzo Jr., Largo
A weak response
Church of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis, in his prepublication response to your much-appreciated story, accused you of attacking the church even though, as you reported, the defectors themselves benefited by and still support the religion. Their criticism was against current leadership, not the teachings.
The Church of Scientology's response appeared weak, defensive, evasive, accusatory and paranoid.
Tom Doganes, St. Petersburg
OT VIII | Dec. 31
Leaving for good reason
Scientology attorney Anthony Michael Glassman is quoted: "All major religions, be they Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, etc., suffer the defection, on a regular basis, of once orthodox members." Evidently this remark was meant to diminish the importance of the reasons why Scientology's members have been leaving the church.
Actually, it's the other way around. Yes, people have been leaving their religious institutions (in fact, this trend is rapidly increasing), but most often for good reason. How better to understand the dogma and practices of a religion than by being an active, earnest member. It takes a great deal of thinking, research and "soul"-searching to make such a wrenching decision.
Thus, seldom is such a serious action taken on a frivolous or emotional whim. Since most religions are based on authority and faith, as our knowledge and understanding grow, the soundness — i.e., the truth — of these two bases is increasingly called into question. The authority, in most cases, is either a leader or a written source, based on a revelation to the leader or the writers of the books. Which is why faith is needed, since the adherents generally are discouraged from truly investigating the authenticity of these assertions and stories.
The true "good news" is that we can have good morals, positive emotions, and even a sense of awe and mystery at the wonders of our natural world, all without conjuring up a supernatural world order.
Hurrah for a new year of increased good works and a quest for reason and wisdom.
Nan Owens, Seffner
Offshore med school under fire | Jan. 1, story
Many success stories
In this story, reporter Kris Hundley presented a one-sided, negative point of view of Ross University that did not take into account the thousands of successful doctors who have graduated from our university over the past 31 years.
Ross University has a proven record of providing outstanding education to all of our students. Our results speak for themselves:
• We have a first-time, U.S. Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 test pass rate of 93.3 percent, comparable with the 94 percent at U.S.-based medical schools.
• Nearly two-thirds of our students enter primary care, filling an enormous unmet need in the United States.
• Ross University places more graduates into U.S. residencies than any other medical school in the world.
There were also many mischaracterizations in the article, including:
• "Poor test scores make it impossible for students to get into medical schools in the States." There are more than 42,000 applicants for 19,000 seats in U.S. medical schools. Students who attend Ross are intelligent people who just miss entrance into U.S. schools because of the shortage of seats at U.S. based schools.
• The reporter indicated that only 80 percent of Ross students gain residencies. She did not make note that international students have an advantage over their U.S. peers in the ability to "pre-Match" for their residency. Ross students can, and often do, sign a contract for a residency prior to the residency Match, something unavailable to students at U.S. medical schools. When Ross combines pre-Match students with our residency Match students, our residency placement rates are on par with U.S. medical schools.
• Our fifth semester program is more than an "intense test preparation" as the story asserted. Instead, this important part of the curriculum is our students' first compulsory clinical clerkship.
• Regarding student loan repayment, the U.S. Department of Education's most recent report shows that 0.2 percent — just 1 out of every 400 Ross graduates — default on their subsidized student loans.
There are more than 7,000 Ross University School of Medicine alumni across the United States. We should celebrate the success of these physicians who are providing tens of thousands of Americans yearly with the medical care they so desperately need.
Dr. Thomas Shepherd, president, Ross University, North Brunswick, N.J.
Offshore med school under fire | Jan. 1, story
I am the director of a very competitive residency training program here in Tampa. We receive almost 1,000 applications a year for 10 slots. We have been very fortunate in being able to select from the cream of the crop from both U.S. medical schools and foreign medical schools. I am proud to relate that more than 15 percent of our graduates or current residents have come to us from Caribbean medical schools, with Ross being a main contributor.
These students were selected for our program because of outstanding board scores, excellent clinical evaluations, personality traits, significant leadership potential, and many other attributes that placed them at the top of our list. Once here, they have demonstrated continued excellence while working long hours in a rigorous environment, and have reliably been among our best physicians.
Students attend medical schools outside the United States for many reasons, and our medical schools fail to accept many applicants who turn out to be more than qualified. There is a lot to be said for a person who has taken this route, knowing that they are at a potential disadvantage, and who has overcome many more obstacles to achieve their goals.
A strong work ethic, persistence, and an overwhelming desire to be a medical doctor are among the best qualities I can think of in any physician that I would want caring for me.
I hope that your article does not have the effect of lumping all Ross students into the category of the few that you describe with negative experiences.
Kelly P. O'Keefe, M.D., Lutz