As president of the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association, I am writing to support Gov. Rick Scott's veto of HB 177. This bill would have granted early and immediate release for some 300-plus prisoners this year who are incarcerated by the Florida Department of Corrections.
The intent of this bill was to reduce prison populations by cutting drug offenders' sentences in half, then requiring these early-release offenders to participate in educational programs, substance abuse assessments and vocational skills training.
The reality is that the majority of these offenders have been arrested numerous times, and traditional programs that included vocational rehabilitation and substance abuse intervention have failed, thus these criminals were sentenced to prison. Many of them were given several opportunities to succeed in a variety of drug diversion programs, however they made the same bad choice each time and now they are paying the consequences.
This is the appropriate place for these criminals because they failed to obey the laws of our state not once but several times. Florida law requires criminals to serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentence as provided by the court of record. The judge in each of these cases has a clear understanding of the facts of the case and the history of the offender, thus the judge provided a sentence after hearing all of the relevant information.
To legislate new sentencing guidelines on 300 offenders, this year alone, would be undermining the authority of our judicial branch.
By most accounts, our crime rates are at an all-time low, and in our opinion this early-release program would be detrimental to the citizens of our state.
We support Scott's decision to veto HB 177 and the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association continues to pledge its support to our communities and our citizens.
Gregory J. Mertz, president, Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association, Tampa
An enjoyable icon
We just visited the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront for the first time because of the Tampa Bay Blues Festival. What a pleasant surprise (both the festival and the waterfront). We travel a lot and feel confident in saying that you have a world-class location and development.
Imagine our surprise when we learned about the possible demise of the Pier. Are you kidding? On our first day we had a lovely ride on the trolley around town and out to the Pier. We viewed planes taking off and landing and saw dolphins swimming near the seawall. On Sunday we decided to walk out to the Pier so that we could take it all in and had brunch. What views and how unique! You have a fantastic landmark that most any other place would fight for.
Our best wishes to you and your wonderful town. Everyone was so friendly and the common areas were so clean and beautiful. We are definitely coming back soon; we only wish that we had "found" you sooner. And we hope to see that iconic landmark of yours many more times.
Bill and Joyce Dougherty, Palm Beach Gardens
Schools, advisory group differ? | April 24
Foundation shows the way
The Pinellas County School Board and the public should be thankful to the Pinellas Education Foundation. We have all benefited immensely from the volunteer efforts of the foundation.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the paid Pinellas County School Board, which seems to create expenses, bureaucracy and dissension.
I fully support the foundation and its efforts and expect the School Board to learn from them, learn to work with them and learn how to change themselves rather than fight everyone else.
Lynne Romano, Oldsmar
It's the wrong time for Rubio April 24, Daniel Ruth column
Daniel Ruth nailed it. What does Sen. Marco Rubio bring to the table? Unresolved state ethics issues aside, there's just no there there.
Pop quiz: Name three things that Rubio's done.
The facts speak for themselves.
Bob Muhlhan, Palm Harbor
Social Security falls faster | April 24
Crack down on waste
Social Security is once again threatened, but I would like to see the government food stamp program checked into. This is a great program for the people who do rely on it, but why do I see people who are very well-dressed, wearing gold galore, driving new cars, who pay for their purchase with an EBT card? How they qualify for food assistance is beyond me.
It seems that there is lack of our government checking into the qualifications of these people and determining that they are eligible for Uncle Sam to pay for their food. I can't fathom how much of this goes on nationwide.
If this program was monitored more closely and revamped, maybe our government wouldn't be as broke as it is. But it's always the Social Security program that gets threatened to be cut back.
Let's get the priorities in order and stop the outrageous misuse of government money.
Carol Levey, St. Petersburg
Cause and effect
Is anyone surprised by the fact that the longevity of the Social Security fund has been shortened? Remember where the 2 percent tax reduction has been funded for the last two years? Straight out of Social Security deposits.
George Fox, Apollo Beach
Rubio urges more U.S. engagement overseas April 26
Back to the neocons
Sen. Marco Rubio's hawkish foreign policy speech appears to be taken directly from the pages of the Project for the New American Century, a driving philospohy behind the neoconservative invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush.
PNAC is the brainchild of neoconservative godfather William Kristol, a regular commentator on the Fox News Channel and founder of the Weekly Standard who is associated with numerous conservative think tanks.
PNAC calls for a concerted American effort to spread democracy abroad through the projection of military might and a muscular foreign policy. Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney and John Bolton are also PNAC adherents.
In his 30-minute talk, Rubio told us more about the possible direction of U.S. foreign policy under a new Republican administration than Mitt Romney has ever revealed. Rubio may be a fresh face, but his perspective is more of the same.
Alexander Malley, Hernando
Sweeping Northeast, Romney takes control April 25
As a 30-year-plus subscriber of the Times, I was appalled to see you relegate the news of Mitt Romney's sweep of the Northeast primaries to page six. This is obviously front-page news — and you must know it.
Your liberal bias has always been apparent in your editorial page, but this is appropriate since you're expressing opinions. However, when you let your left-leaning views affect the reporting of important news, then you besmirch journalistic standards.
Bill Schwob, Clearwater
Holy Land divestment, pro and con April 25, commentaries
The problem with the arguments, both for and against divestment, is that both sides start with a false premise: Israeli "occupation." There is no Israeli occupation according to accepted international law. There are armistice lines, and the final boundaries of a future Palestine and Israel must be decided through negotiation.
What the cited Kairos document and 60 Minutes segment omitted was that most Christian Palestinian suffering and flight is due to Muslim extremist violence, not Israeli treatment.
To refer to Israel and apartheid together shows a complete misunderstanding of Israeli laws, courts and life. South African apartheid has no relationship at all with Palestinian living conditions. What the arguments do show is an Orwellian manipulation of words which are false, but can be used to create a logical argument anyway.
Susan Segal, Palm Harbor
How to plug budget gap | April 25
Police station is priority
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster told the City Council, "We're looking at every single method to cut costs." It was the mayor's and City Council's decision by their vote alone to initially spend $50 million of taxpayers' money to demolish the existing Pier and replace it with a winding loop to nowhere.
We have a dilapidated, mildewed police headquarters that should be the first priority for our citizens.
Who at City Hall is representing the best interests of the citizens of St. Petersburg?
Evelyn Rupp, St. Petersburg