What an eye-opening article. Who would have thought that convicted felons might have to beg for food and money? Of course, being convicted felons, they can't get a job other than day labor shovel work, if that. I guess being a social leper, the only decent thing to do would be for them to crawl under an overpass and quietly suffer and starve.
What a wonderful Christmas fearmongering story for the season! Personally, I am more afraid of the upstanding Hummer driver "packing heat" whom I might inadvertently delay a few seconds.
St. Petersburg's panhandlers have moved over to Tampa, so now we must endure Hillsborough Commissioner Mark Sharpe "directing staff" to find a solution, using the specious argument of "traffic safety." Apparently we must create a Potemkin Tampatown before the Republican Party convention arrives.
Remember that in this country, unfortunate humans should have the right to beg alms. Dogs do. All "great" religions, including secular humanists, encourage alms giving as a moral high road.
Woods Rogers, Tampa
In Pasco County we have our share of beggars also. We encounter them in large parking lots such as Home Depot, Kmart and Walmart asking for help. The entrance way to the Hudson post office has a group of these people on a continuing basis; they work in shifts and appear to be organized.
One day I saw an elderly lady stop her car and offer something to the panhandler on duty, but she could not lean over far enough for him to accept the gift at the passenger window, so she unlocked the door and on the second try the panhandler opened the door and went inside to retrieve the gift. I stayed behind her long enough to make sure she did not get mugged or something worse.
I hope she read the article "Face to face with felons" and never does that again.
Bill Brings, Hudson
A matter of public safety
The Dec. 19 article brings to light real-life statistics on the potential dangers of allowing panhandling in the city of Tampa. For the past year I have been asking for a tougher ban on panhandling. Support for a stronger ordinance has become a reality with the mayor, Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Temple Terrace police, Plant City police, a plethora of neighborhood associations and hundreds of citizens adding their voices to the call for action.
This is first and foremost a public safety issue, and we must address it before anyone else is seriously injured or killed.
In October, I called for a City Council workshop where we heard from our Police Department on the escalation of complaints and how panhandlers are becoming more assertive, bordering on aggressive, and that the department is supportive of a stronger ordinance on street soliciting.
I do not want to put anyone out of work, and there are safer ways of conducting business. A county task force continues to study this and gather information, but in the meantime, it continues to plague our city streets, and it remains a serious public safety issue.
Joseph P. Caetano, Tampa City Council, District 7
Call for compassion
The Tampa City Council's decision not to place a panhandling ban on the ballot shows true leadership. I wish the same could be said of the leadership of the Virginia Park Neighborhood Association, which attempted to persuade the council to put this on the ballot and whose previous political action included stirring up people's fears over a proposed cell phone tower. I live in Virginia Park and know very few others who believe this neighborhood's top priorities ought to be public fearmongering.
This time of year calls for compassion, understanding and generosity. Banning panhandling in an attempt to sanitize public spaces just hides the inconvenient reality that many of our fellow citizens need help. Regardless of whether an individual seeks help through an organization like Metropolitan Ministries, or on his own by standing with a sign on a street corner, compassion calls us to help those in need, not to judge them and remove them from sight.
Ed Cronyn, Tampa
Killer able to land a VA job | Dec. 18
He paid for his actions
I am surprised that the Times would get involved in a disgruntled wife's vengeance against her husband. It seems the slant on the story is that ex-convicts do not deserve decent-paying jobs.
Carlton Scott was convicted of manslaughter and served 17 years in prison. I don't know the circumstances of his actions, but he paid his debt to society and he should be given a chance for a new start.
In my Catholic religion we all get a second chance through the sacrament of reconciliation. If we do that in God's name, then certainly the residents of Florida should feel the same way.
Tony Marchese, New Port Richey
Republican Party of Florida
GOP has gone astray
I have been a proud member of the Republican Party since the 1960s and am a third-generation Floridian.
But three years ago I returned to Florida after many years away and found that the Republican Party of Florida has a much-deserved odious reputation. I ask Republican leaders to clean up their act. The list of abuses is long: a Taj Mahal with an immaculate conception; endless American Express cards; free air travel for personal business; Tallahassee Republicans who have brought shame to the university system and to the Salvation Army.
Linus Upson, Hernando
Subversive thoughts about recalling cribs Dec. 18
I laud this article by Lenore Skenazy on the lack of logic on the part of our government in banning drop-down cribs. She notes that infant deaths due to the use of these cribs are approximately one per million.
I would add another factor in the cost-benefit analysis. After the ban is in place, consider how many mothers or fathers will sustain lower back injuries due to having to bend over the top of the crib, many times each day, to either pick up the baby or return the baby to the crib.
If all of the factors are included in a safety analysis, we could find that we are doing more harm by banning the use of drop-down cribs than if we allowed their use.
Bill Woods, Palm Harbor
Informed and funny
Thank you for running this column by Lenore Skenazy, a woman who is not only informed but has a great sense of humor.
Let's hope the Times seeks out more talented writers of this nature, which will make the paper a more enjoyable read.
Dan Calabria, South Pasadena
If you win, is it still a frivolous lawsuit? Dec. 19 Troxler column
Stretching the Constitution
After reading Howard Troxler's evenhanded column on the ruling by a federal court in Virginia declaring mandatory health insurance unconstitutional, I was reminded of my youth in Lake Wales. A neighbor of mine would sit on his porch reading in the paper about the latest scandalous act (usually by politicians). Afterwards he would rock back in his chair, raise his eyebrows and declare, "There ought to be a law!"
If you have enough people who think "there ought to be a law," sooner or later you are going to get one — good or bad. As Troxler pointed out, the powers that Congress has are listed in the Constitution. It is also true that the powers omitted can be implied. But Congress lacks the power to force people to buy health insurance and then punish them if they don't.
The interstate commerce argument can be construed to apply to any aspect of human function if you want to do that. When you flush the toilet there are interstate implications — federal standards for sewage treatment, groundwater pollution, health hazards, clean rivers and lakes, communicable disease, etc. An imaginative judge could make a case under the interstate commerce clause to force you not to flush your toilet and punish you if you do.
Maybe we should ask ourselves: When is it time to think beyond "there ought to be a law" and get to the core of the problem, which in this case is too many people with not enough affordable health care?
I don't mind paying taxes, and I don't mind my tax money going for indigent care, but slipping this whole new "nontax" method of paying for a government program that encroaches on the Constitution is wrong.
Russell J. Watrous, Land O'Lakes
Sink wins 'worst candidate' distinction Dec. 19
Lack of loyalty
As a loyal Democrat, I wholeheartedly agree with the MSNBC appraisal of Alex Sink's campaign. Every time I saw her on the screen saying "It's not about Obama" I wanted to scream. My party deserved to hand the state's administration over to Rick Scott when its own candidate would not say the words "President Obama."
Alex Sink showed an amazing lack of loyalty and commitment to her party. She deserved a much greater shellacking than she received for the damage she has done to our state and our nation.
Carl G. Schott, Trinity
Disquieting time | Dec. 19
Over the past few years I've been upset with the choice of stories that make the front page, but this story Sunday is very disturbing to me and I am cancelling my subscription.
I don't think this was an appropriate story for a holiday season, nor deserving of front-page news. I'm certain a better topic could have been found at this time of year.
Linda Zambetti, Largo