Fight firearms in the schools Sept. 3 letter to editor
Stop criminals' access to guns
Letter writer Arthur Hayhoe may unwittingly be moving closer to the NRA's position on one issue than he may care to acknowledge.
He writes, "Guns in schools and colleges is simply another more-guns solution the NRA continually pushes, instead of restricting criminal access to handguns that would make a difference." How does Mr. Hayhoe's fight against allowing students with concealed weapon licenses to carry handguns on campus restrict criminal access to handguns?
If a student with a Florida license to carry a concealed weapon or firearm is permitted, through an act of the Florida Legislature, to carry a handgun on campus, how can that student be considered a criminal? Does Mr. Hayhoe consider a person with a concealed weapon or firearm license who carries a handgun to be a criminal?
He was partially right. Now, we just have to get him to work harder in his attempts to "make a difference." Please, heed your own wise words in this regard and make a difference by working harder on restricting criminal access to handguns, instead of working to restrict the Second Amendment rights of your law-abiding neighbors.
Frankie Steinbeck Jr., New Port Richey
Re: Alcohol sales downtown in New Port Richey
Alcohol sales can help revive city
Wake up people! It's not about to drink or not to drink, it is about revitalization, making changes. I haven't heard any positive feedback on how to save our dying city, only pessimistic views on how beer and wine sales will tarnish our family-friendly environment. Get real!
The mayor wants to try something new and innovative; obviously, what we've been doing in the past isn't working. New Port Richey is dead! We have an absolutely gorgeous downtown, from period architecture to expansive green spaces. No other town around here has as much going for it, so where is our downfall? Could it be close-minded people?
Events invite people from afar to visit. People who hopefully will return to patronize our local businesses. Without regular foot traffic our downtown businesses cannot survive. Events allow us to showcase what we have to offer. The better the quality of the event, the bigger and better quality of the crowd.
I have read Council member Marilynn deChant's claims that the success of her March on Art show wasn't dependent on selling beer and wine. Two questions: What success? And, if so successful, where is it now?
Art Harvest in Dunedin is celebrating its 45th year. Tarpon Springs Art Show by the Bayou is celebrating its 34th year, each drawing over 50,000 people in one weekend, not to mention over 200 artists. They both offer high quality art and upscale beer and wine tents, not to mention children's activities. Yes, they are both billed as family affairs.
Those of you who think family-friendly and beer and wine can't mix, need to think again. We need to show we can offer something for everyone. The more diverse the crowd the better our chances are of success in retaining them as regular visitors. With regular visitors comes more commerce and more businesses will be able and willing to open downtown.
Someone wrote that a whopping 69 percent voted against beer and wine sales in Sims Park. Let's consider what that really means. With the city having an average voter turnout of 12 percent, that means 8.28 percent of the total population of New Port Richey voted for this ordinance. Not so whopping when you figure that's only 1,159 out of 14,000.
As C.T. Bowen stated in Aug. 31 column, with the reality of Amendment 1 our government can't be as free with their subsidies. We as citizens have to come up with new ways to help our city thrive. This is a simple way to start the change and add revenue. I suggest that if this ordinance comes back up for vote every open-minded person in this community pay attention and exercise your right. Get out and vote!
Sherry Downing, New Port Richey
Editor's note: In the March 2000 presidential primary, New Port Richey voters turned down a referendum to allow alcohol sales in Sims Park 885 to 397.
Schools' drug policy shameful
The School Board's new so- called "reasonable suspicion drug testing program" may or may not result in an alcohol and drug free school system, but it will most certainly result in one that is dignity-free. I learned of the United School Employees of Pasco's complicity in creating this policy after receiving a 20-page tutorial which I was forced to sign as a condition of employment. That complicity is a travesty I will not tolerate despite my 35 years of loyal membership, sacrifice and service, and I hereby withdraw my membership from the union.
USEP agreed with the superintendent and the board that after "60 minutes of training" using observations that meet "reasonable suspicion" (instead of probable cause), a supervisor may subject a teacher or other employee to a battery of immediate and humiliating mandatory drug tests remote from the workplace.
Reasonable suspicion is an arbitrary and capricious standard so ambiguous that the police do not have the legal authority to apply it, even to minor children in elementary school! Further, subject to "timeliness," it can be used to subject an employee to testing without a union representative or other neutral witness at or during the time such accusation takes place. Failure to submit to the test is cause for termination.
The three column behavioral observation checklist used to identify possible abusers by these 60-minute wonders is far from reasonable, and many of the observations are arbitrary and capricious on their face!
A person who appears "suspicious," "is hyperactive or fidgety," "frequently uses mints or eye drops," is "sweaty" or has a "flushed complexion," has "teary or watery eyes," or has "exaggerated enunciation," is "silly," or "distracted," is an eligible suspect. Many of these observations are identical to those used to identify witches in the Dark Ages.
What if, under these standards, your child's teacher is taken from the classroom and rushed off to mandatory drug testing, and the teacher passes? What parent would want their child back in that class? And, we will know. How is that person's reputation and standing in the profession and the community protected?
By failing to defend the fundamental constitutional rights of its members, the union leaves the implementation and interpretation of this policy largely at the discretion of the administration, as well as the parameters of liability for its abuse. By agreeing to apply reasonable suspicion as cause for what would otherwise be an illegal search, the union willingly equates the constitutional rights of professional employees with those of an 11-year-old in middle school.
Substance abuse can be a problem in any workplace. Certainly, one case in our schools is too many. Procedures do need to be in place to deal with substance abuse. However, substance abuse is far from a chronic problem among the thousands of school employees in Pasco County. This policy is over-reaching, Draconian, and smacks of the tactics of a police state.
For decades, the district has had the authority and professional tools to properly supervise, and as necessary dismiss, employees who clearly exhibit symptoms of substance abuse. It has done so. The real motivation for this policy is political. It exploits public fear to bolster a get-tough reputation for the superintendent and the board at the expense of the public trust and reputation of the overworked and underpaid teachers and other employees of the District School Board of Pasco County.
The officers and agents of the union, the superintendent, and the members of the board should be ashamed.
Frederick Rydzik, New Port Richey