One-man state rule changer | April 29
Florida environment suffers at his hands
So now Florida can boast of state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, Mr. Seersucker, the latest progeny from the fathomless depths of the "deregulation at all cost" club. Groomed for and helped into the right political circles by the "good old boy" fraternity of the greater Panhandle, he's now working his deregulatory magic on what's left of Florida's environmental laws and safeguards.
Patronis seems determined to undermine the few remaining protections that help keep our state somewhat green. He also believes the state can do things better than local government when it comes to fertilizer regulations, which contradicts the right's mantra of "let locals decide."
Florida will keep suffering a "death from a thousand cuts" thanks to the laissez-faire, all-regulations-are-bad mantra sweeping this state courtesy of Patronis and his ilk.
The most telling statement in Craig Pittman's article was by Frank Matthews, a lobbyist for developers, who proudly stated, "He couldn't be more accommodating. That's the appealing thing to me."
Ron Thuemler, Tampa
Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn | April 28
Memories of Robinson
This column brought back so many memories. Jackie Robinson and I lived on the same block — he at 506 MacDonough Street in Brooklyn, and I at 377. True, I never met him there, for my family moved to downtown Brooklyn a few years before he came.
I did meet Robinson, though. It was at the Fabian Fox Theater on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. He was starring in The Jackie Robinson Story. At the end of the movie, all the kids were allowed to go into the lobby. And there he was, Robinson himself. I got on line to shake his hand. He was not tall, but solid. He reached out a hand to me that looked like a mitt. It was dark and weathered like leather. As he grasped my hand, I was afraid it would be crushed. His grip was powerful. All he said was, "Hi, kid," in that little squeaky voice he had. I don't remember what I replied.
I did not see him personally again until years later when he was long retired. I was then newspaper adviser to a high school newspaper that had been judged the best in New York by the professional press. My students and I were invited to hear Robinson speak at the Overseas Press Club. We saw an old, gray-haired man. The students hardly responded to what he had to say. It was as if they did not know who he was nor what he had done. By then so many ballplayers were black.
When he finished his talk, he walked down the center aisle to leave. I ran over to thank him for his talk, though I no longer remembered what he said, as well as to thank him for all he had done. He leaned on his cane and reached out his hand to me. It was not the hand I remembered for so long, but a weak, thin hand that could barely hold mine. The years had taken their toll. Jackie walked out bent, slowly and alone, ignored by most of the students who had come to hear him. A short time after this, he died.
Robert Marsh, Largo
A warning on public safety
Recent events in our country have driven home the harsh reality that there are criminals among us who target citizens who work hard, pay their bills, and both serve and enjoy their communities.
My husband was in surgery recently because he is one of those good citizens. He awoke early for jury duty. When not selected, he decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the Pinellas Trail. Traveling south, he noticed some young men standing near the trail with a cellphone. He passed them without incident, but was assaulted by four younger males a mile later. By that time he was zipping along. When they pushed a bike out in front of him, he had no time to stop. He flipped, along with the bike, and hit the pavement with an impact that left him with a broken collarbone and several fractured ribs. As they stole his bike, these youths laughed as they left him immobilized. Another good citizen called for help and stayed with him until the ambulance came.
His collarbone had to be pieced back together "like a puzzle," according to his surgeon. He is bruised and will suffer rib pain for some time. He will suffer loss of work and financial stress. Worst of all are the emotions of this personal invasion.
From conversations with doctors and medical staff, we learned that this is not the first time that such an attack has taken place on the more remote part of the south end of the Pinellas Trail. According to the trauma physician, another citizen was seriously injured in much the same manner only a week ago.
It is past time for public awareness. When traveling the Pinellas Trail, or other such recreational areas, stay away from secluded spots. Travel in groups and report suspicious activity. As law enforcement works on this problem, let us do our best as good citizens not to let this happen again.
Gay E. Wasik-Zegel, St. Petersburg
2nd try killed by tie vote | May 1
Attack on public education
The narrow failure of the "parent trigger" bill in the state Senate should put all concerned parents and taxpayers in Florida on notice that the Republican ideologues who dominate the Legislature will stop at nothing to dismantle our system of public education and hand it over to special interests, most of whom help to bankroll these same legislative lackeys as well as their GOP apparatus.
With virtually no public support whatsoever, the House GOP fell all over themselves to embrace this blatant theft of taxpayer-funded assets while employing shamelessly fraudulent means — including a joke of a petition containing a mere handful of signatures, many of which were apparently bogus — to make their case that there was any public support for this hijack of our public education system. Only the courage of a few Republicans in the Senate kept this idiotic and dishonest effort from happening.
The shameful legacy of Jeb Bush, with his grandiose schemes to privatize as many of our state governmental functions as possible — and education most particularly — continues to afflict Florida and its taxpayers, much to our collective detriment.
Joe McColloch, Tampa
Hillsborough commissioners approve stray cat neutering plan | May 2
Cat policy proven to work
Excellent job by six of seven commissioners. Commissioner Victor Crist, the only holdout, claimed he's "standing with the squirrels and birds." If that were the case, commissioner, you would have voted for the ordinance. Neutering means fewer cats will be chasing those squirrels and birds you claim to cherish, and cats that are fed on a regular basis don't hunt for live food like squirrels and birds. In addition, most communities that trap, spay and release also vaccinate, so the threat of disease decreases drastically.
Trap-neuter-return works. Less disease, fewer new births, less hunting of songbirds, fewer taxpayer-funded euthanasias, fewer cages filled at animal control means a win for everybody.
Jim Patterson, Tampa
A GOP call for action in Syria | April 29
Keep out of foreign wars
Some of our politicians are pushing for greater involvement in the Syrian civil war. Why? What do they hope to accomplish? Syria is a lose-lose for us. There is no likely outcome that will benefit us. If Bashar Assad wins, which it does not appear he will, we will continue to have an old enemy. If the rebels win, we will have a new enemy.
Regardless of the outcome, Syria will not be our friend any more than Iraq is our friend. Saddam Hussein was a nasty guy. We took him out and only succeeded in shifting the balance of power in the Middle East in a way that was of no benefit to us. Assad is a nasty guy, and taking him out will also be of no benefit to us. Hamid Karzai is a nasty guy and we're giving him billions of dollars, again of no benefit to us. Afghanistan is still not our friend.
Joe Crites, Clearwater