Having just read the St. Petersburg Times special report on the state of the Florida panther, I wish to applaud the Times and Craig Pittman for having the courage to tell Floridians the truth about the permitting system in Florida.
The Florida panther is of special interest to me as I am trying to protect a significant wildlife habitat in eastern Hillsborough County. This habitat includes the very important Pemberton Creek-Baker Creek watershed, a vast wetland and upland forested area. The last Florida panther sighted here resided in our forest but was killed on I-4 in March 2004.
In 1997, when we first moved to our house on the edge of the forest, our family saw the panther periodically. I have documented more than 60 species of wildlife in our area — some are endangered and many are threatened by the sprawl encroaching our rural areas.
We must protect the Florida panthers that are left. Please know that there are many residents of Florida who feel strongly about saving habitat for wildlife as well as protecting water and air resources for all of us. Dollar for dollar, preservation is the best investment for Florida's future.
Susan Watson, Dover
The failure of politicians
I couldn't help but notice that the online version of the Times had an Earth Day story with a map of what the Tampa Bay area looked like in 1974 regarding development compared to what it looks like now (being almost completely red). This was next to the story about our state animal, "Dead cat walking." One couldn't help but see the correlation.
The report on the Florida panther should be required reading for every Floridian as well as every politician who has a say in land use. As the articles clearly point out, politicians influenced by development interests and so-called experts influenced by politicians have pushed the Florida panther to the brink of extinction.
This expose is the very poster child for Florida Hometown Democracy, which would give voters rather than politicians the last say on growth. Politicians have had their chance and you can see the results across our state. They just can't say no even if it means the snuffing out of our Florida panther. What species will be next? If we can't save the big cats what will be our next state animal? A greedy politician? A well-connected developer? We certainly have an oversupply of both.
Kelly Cornelius, Lithia
A disheartening report
When I read the headline, Florida's best-managed extinction, the saddest part was guessing which critter the development cabal had now killed off. Manatees? Gopher turtles?
I should have known the report outlined the finale for our long-suffering, habitat-deprived Florida panthers. Do students at Florida Gulf Coast University now learn that being "right about science" will get you fired for insubordination? That biology is not only ignored, but buried, lied about, as did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when panther habitat was at issue? That reporting scientific truth about endangered species "will not be tolerated"?
Then, too, I wonder what sort of values allowed the town of Ave Maria to erupt in the middle of critical habitat. I've come to expect deceit and blind-eyed greed from airport enthusiasts, but now it's also universities and supposedly uber-moral enclaves. Is there a special place in some afterlife for these developers, politicians and oversized agri-interests where panthers will roam freely, preying on those responsible for their demise? I hope so.
Craig Pittman's excellent reporting again ruins any true Floridian's day and leaves yet another hole in our hearts.
JoAnn Valenti, Ph.D., Tampa
Panther saga is a "sordid story" | April 19
Unfortunately, all the work of intelligent scientists in the world cannot change the actions of the greedy businessmen who run it. That is why man is on his way to extinction just as surely as the Florida panther is.
John E. Darovec Jr., Bradenton
Hospice for pets | April 19
Compassionate care for dying pets is welcome
What a touching tribute it was for old Rudy, the beautiful white shepherd so lovingly eased off to rest by the kindly skill and compassionate care of the hospice veterinarian. Laps of Love is a much-needed service. I know that there were many dog owners who love their pets and who read this sensitive piece through teary eyes and shared this family's sorrow, as the final moments of that wonderful dog were immortalized in the St. Petersburg Times.
We have all been at that painful and difficult time, and all who have ever loved a dog know the loss is a deep emotional experience. Having the help to enable the family and their loved pet at this heart-rending time brings to mind the words: Thank you, kindly master, for with the last breath I took I know that my fate was forever safest in your loving arms.
Nanci E. Sherman, Dunnellon
Hospice for pets | April 19
Don't be confused
I have been teaching, writing and advocating for hospice care for the past 35 years. So I was interested in the work of Dr. Dani McVety, a veterinarian who euthanizes pets. I could not, however, find any connection in this article to the hospice concept as it applies to human beings.
Hospice care is not about active euthanasia. Human hospice programs do not kill people with drug overdoses of pain medication. On the contrary, hospice care helps people live as well as they can even when they are near death. This means caring for the dying person and his or her family, striving to minimize sources of distress and increase quality of life, and even working to encourage opportunities for growth.
Let's applaud Dr. McVety's efforts to put animals out of distress at the end of their lives and her sensitivity to the grief of their families, but let's not confuse her work with human hospice care.
Charles A. Corr, Ph.D., St. Pete Beach
For a church Mary can love | April 20
Vatican is in charge
Nicholas Kristof has shown a brilliant display of ignorance regarding the Catholic Church and holy Scripture. Although I am no theologian, I do know that, according to Scripture (the word of God) St. Peter (the first pope) was handed the keys to the kingdom of Heaven by Jesus himself. And Jesus also said, "On this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Also, Kristof should know that Jesus chose 12 apostles (men) to go forth to serve this church. The Catholic Church will never change those orders.
Now let me point out, too, that there have been, and are now today, many woman with leadership roles in the church. And let's just say that Satan can corrupt any priest, man or woman or anyone whose faith is weakened by temptation. So just remember, readers, the Vatican is the church and not what Nicholas Kristof says it is.
Michael Simmons, Homosassa
For a church Mary can love | April 20
A flawed church
In this column Nicholas Kristof once again illustrates his desire for fair play, this time within the Roman Catholic Church.
He quotes, among many, Tertullian, an early Christian leader addressing the role of women: "the gateway to the devil." Tertullian went further as I quote from The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels: "These heretical women — how audacious they are! They have no modesty; they are bold enough to teach, to engage in argument, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures, and, it may be, even to baptize!"
Oh my, how uppity! Imagine, women the equal of men. Kristof's article shows very well what is terribly wrong with the church: its insistence that only men can be priests, only men know the divine teachings of Jesus. The church, given its recent "issues," needs to take a long and hard look at itself. Kristof's article is a good place to start.
Herb Snitzer, St. Petersburg
For a church Mary can love | April 20
The love is alive
This writer must have read my mind. I love my Catholic Church and will never leave it. However, the Vatican needs to treat women like partners, not problems.
I really appreciate that the writer pointed out how many heroes the Catholic Church still has among its nuns, priests and lay people. The love Jesus showed us is alive and well, despite the rigidity of the Vatican.
Maureen McNeill, Dunedin
A champion of the powerless | April 13, editorial
The real powerless ones
Justice John Paul Stevens, "a champion of the powerless." And just who are these "powerless"? The women who have "freedom of choice"? What about their unborn babies who have no choice?
And you say President Barack Obama's Supreme Court appointee "should have a large helping of Stevens' concern for the little guy … "? What "little guys" are you talking about? Certainly not the millions of little guys and little girls that have been slaughtered in their mothers' wombs during Stevens' tenure as a Supreme Court justice. He has been very instrumental in keeping the status quo so that this slaughter could continue.
This is what you call "a lifeline for the powerless"? Incredible!
Rita Reber, Palm Harbor
Children's boards survive
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity of traveling to Tallahassee to lobby the state House on behalf of our local Children's Board. To my surprise, state legislators put forth a bill that would require all children's boards across the state to regularly convince voters to reauthorize their funding, through local referendums. This would have been a total waste of taxpayer dollars, because local county commissions throughout the state already have the authority to take those same measures currently, if the children's boards in their counties aren't operating correctly.
Referendums are costly undertakings, and to have a recurring referendum would take millions of dollars away from children and families who are in desperate need of the services these organizations provide. This was nothing more than a direct attack at children's boards across the state. The Children's Board of Hillsborough County directly impacts the lives of thousands of children and families in Hillsborough County and they do a yeoman's job with the limited resources they have.
In retrospect, if there were any negative drawbacks that have been brought to light during this fiasco in Tallahassee, it was the fact that the children's boards statewide need to do a better job of letting more people in the community know about them and the services they provide.
The bill died in a House Committee this year on a 7-7 tie vote, however the state legislators who brought this action forward this year have vowed to bring it up again next year. If we want to protect our children, we must let our representatives in Tallahassee know that we support our local children's boards and all that they do for our families.
Kevin White, Hillsborough County commissioner, Tampa
The smooth talk sent home buyers down a rough road | April 16, story
Lack of common sense
You have to be kidding me! A person with a college education could not see that paying 70 percent of her salary for mortgage payments was unaffordable? Our educational system must not teach math.
People like her, and the others mentioned in the article now feel abused and claim being bullied. Unless they can prove the loan officer used physical force, they signed contracts willingly.
Common sense should have told these people they could not afford these properties. Now they want to blame others.
Patricia Wood, Brooksville
Texas swims against corporal punishment tide | April 17
Too much federal meddling
The idea that U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., plans to introduce legislation banning corporal punishment is repulsive to me. Millions of us went to school with corporal punishment in place both at school and at home. It made sense that bad behavior had its consequence.
Nowadays, even arrests don't slow down the ridiculous behavior of some students. Maybe the paddle would. Hooray for Temple, Texas, and the parents there, who insisted on reinstating corporal punishment in schools.
When will Congress stay out of states' rights and private corporations' contracts with citizens? Vote these meddling do-gooders out of office!
Edwin Ashurst, St. Petersburg