Police slam brakes on drag race fans | June 23, story
Street racing can be deadly
Your recent report on street racing in St. Petersburg illustrates the widespread ignorance of the dangers of such activity. Just ask the family of Luis Rivera-Ortega, an honors student from Orlando, what the ramifications can be from this seemingly harmless behavior. Luis was killed early last year while riding his bike as two individuals were involved in illegal street racing on the streets in Orlando.
Thanks to the hard-fought efforts of Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, legislation was passed in 2008 that imposed penalties on spectators in order to discourage the congregating and resulting glorification of illegal street races as well as to provide law enforcement with a tool to make a legal stop in order to investigate races and identify the potential racers.
This year Soto, with help from Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, was successful in passing additional measures revising the definition of "street racing" and increasing the impoundment period. However, the third-degree felony provision, a key element in stopping repeat offenders, did not win approval due to fiscal concerns arising from the current budget crisis.
These types of races need to be conducted where they belong, on sanctioned race tracks in a manner that is legal and safe so other young people like Luis Rivera-Ortega, who show much promise in life, are not struck down well before their time.
Denise Lasher, Lutz
Police slam brakes on drag race fans | June 23, story
Claims of ignorance are hard to believe
As a recently graduated 18-year old, I draw a few conclusions from this report.
First, it's virtually impossible to concede the claim that the fined individuals had no prior knowledge that they were witnessing illegal street races. Fourth Street N in St. Petersburg, Gandy Bridge, and the Courtney Campbell Parkway have been home to this pastime for the past 10 years. In fact, there are a multitude of free, public forums that around 11 p.m. on Saturday night begin to fill with reports of members "heading out."
Second, even the regular attendees of the local street race meets will freely admit that "if you want to play, be prepared to pay." If you choose to attend a meeting where you know there is illegal activity, be smart and anticipate the possible (legal) consequences.
Third, besides increasing police presence, the city of St. Petersburg should consider cooperating with local tracks to make sure that the street racers (who will return) have a legal venue. This decision would be in the best interest of everybody.
Finally, I find it a bit surprising that the participants had no knowledge that simply watching is subject to a hefty fine. Part of becoming a mature driver and a citizen is familiarizing yourself with the laws that govern your activity. This responsibility becomes even more pressing when you begin to walk (drive) the gray line.
Lukas Pleva, St. Petersburg
A failing school success story June 23, commentary
Nathaniel French's op-ed piece seemed to point out several problems and solutions at St. Petersburg's Gibbs High School.
In the first place, if students have a desire to learn, they can if they are motivated.
Second, school discipline should be enforced, by expulsion if necessary. If there were consequences to the misbehavior, the student would have two choices: either behave or leave.
If the undisciplined school attendees have no desire to learn, then throw them out. Do not let them disrupt the students who are there to learn.
I know the schools don't want to lose state monies based upon how many people attend their school, but the purpose of having public schools is to educate the students, not to baby-sit uninterested, undisciplined disrupters. The cost, lost by the schools, will be more than made up by having a properly and well-educated group of high school graduates.
St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon will probably be up in arms crying that the streets will be filled with more rowdy teenagers, but they already are out when school lets out anyway.
George Burley, Tierra Verde
FCAT school scores
A questionable test
It is past time to look at the FCAT. I mentored a student who just graduated from high school in St. Petersburg. She failed the FCAT three times. She also is an honors student and a Bright Futures scholar. To get a Bright Futures scholarship, students need to make a certain grade on the ACT, a national test. Because she made a 20 on the ACT she gets her scholarship. It negates the FCAT and she got her diploma.
I am strongly in favor of accountability for our schools. I have appreciated how accountability has made a difference for some students, the throwaways, who were ignored or not offered enough help or consideration because they were not A students. But FCAT might not be the right test.
Gail Eggeman, St. Petersburg
In the Nation section of the June 20 St. Petersburg Times was a revealing statement of the values of the supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The first article described the extra-marital affair of Sen. John Ensign with an aide. The story talks about how the husband of Ensign's former mistress supposedly tried to extort money as a result of the affair. During this period, the aide's salary doubled and the aide's husband landed jobs with two companies with close ties to Sen. Ensign.
The second story was an innocuous one regarding gay couples using their married names on their passports.
Yet, according to Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, the threat to marriage comes from having the names of gay couples on passports, not the illicit affairs of a heterosexual U.S. senator.
Richard Feigel, Clearwater
To defend freedom
The Internet and nightly news are bringing into American households the chill of authoritarianism as displayed in Iran. As we get ready to celebrate our independence from tyranny, glance over our Constitution and give thanks to the Second Amendment. This is our right to "bear arms."
Our government must fear its citizenry for this right. We will shoot back — not like those starving for freedom in Allah's Iran (or Hitler's Germany or Stalin's U.S.S.R.). Our right to defend and protect ourselves is what gives us our freedom, along with the strengths of the First Amendment.
Gun control has a place due to our societal ills and criminal element, but these faults do not remove the need for the Second Amendment.
Pray for those seeking freedom and justice in Iran on our national birthday, and God bless our farsighted forefathers.
Jeff Bender, Tampa