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Sunday's letters: Bill Poe was an urban visionary

Former Tampa mayor dies | May 3

Visionary leader for downtown

Bill Poe was never one to back away from a challenge.

As the new mayor of Tampa in the 1970s, he hired city planner Charles Miller to assess the condition of Tampa's nearly dead city center. New, outlying shopping centers were taking its business away.

From Miller's report a new central business district was envisioned and Poe met with key business leaders to finance and actually build a new city center called the "quad block." A new, major hotel and high-rise offices were built within its four-block area. A new city administration building and City Hall Plaza, edged by the original 1914 City Hall building, were constructed to generate growth to the north and east.

Next, Bill Poe tackled the eastern side of the Hillsborough River, lined with 1920s-era wooden storage buildings. These structures cut off downtown Tampa's view of the river and the historic University of Tampa buildings on the western bank. A fire eliminated most of these buildings and Poe proposed a riverwalk along this edge, which began but was not completed during his time as mayor.

The riverwalk will finally be completed this year by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has his own grand vision of what Tampa will become. Others, including Joe Chillura — architect, former city councilman and county commissioner — helped earlier to establish a north-south Tampa shopping mall to extend the vision Bill Poe had.

John Howey, architect for City Hall Plaza, Tampa

Divestment as a tool of justice May 4, Bill Maxwell column

Outpost of democracy

In this column Bill Maxwell invokes the words of the late Rev. Martin Luther King. I encourage Maxwell to look at King's own words when referring to the state of Israel. Before his untimely death, King said, "Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy."

While Maxwell is correct in his pursuit of human rights for all, neither the campus of the University of South Florida nor the greater Tampa community benefits from the actions of Students for Justice in Palestine. According to the Anti-Defamation League, "SJP has consistently demonized Israel, describing its policies toward the Palestinians as racist and apartheid-like, and comparing Israelis to Nazis."

Since its founding in 2001, the SJP has tried unsuccessfully to pass Israel divestment motions on campuses across the nation. Much like other student government associations and university administrators across the nation, the leadership of University of South Florida correctly recognized the fallacy behind the SJP and its manipulative tactics.

While every democracy is flawed, the vibrant, democratic nation of Israel is unique in the Middle East. The 2013 Freedom in the World annual survey and report by U.S.-based Freedom House, which attempts to measure the degree of democracy and political freedom in every nation, ranked Israel as the Middle East and North Africa's only free country. Those who are familiar with Israel understand that Arabs proudly serve in the Israeli parliament and on the Israeli Supreme Court. Unlike any of its neighbors, Israel recognizes and defends the rights of all its minority groups, regardless of religion, race, sex or sexual orientation.

It is for this reason that support for Israel is at an all-time high in this country — well over 70 percent of Americans support Israel. The vast majority of our nation understands that Israel innately values and respects the same democratic principles that we hold dear.

Gary Klein, Clearwater

Courageous column

Bill Maxwell and his editors have shown much courage and journalistic fair play in demanding justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by condemning those American corporations that prolong the conflict. Equally important is student involvement in questioning the domestic and foreign policies of governments.

Arthur Hebert, Largo

Spotlighting oppression

Praise for Bill Maxwell for reminding USF of its commitment to justice and for the informative interview with Students for Justice in Palestine public relations manager Omar Erchid for detailing the persistence he shows in creating awareness and speaking out against oppression.

Tourists visiting the Holy Land who are willing to ignore the warnings of tour guides quickly grasp the unjust situation of oppressed Palestinians. Near Bethlehem's Nativity Church, nonviolent resistance persists. BDS pamphlets (boycott, divestment, sanctions) and pamphlets urging visitors to visit Palestine are handed out. But many tourists are hustled quickly onto buses back to Jerusalem without meeting a single Palestinian.

Mainstream media shares the blame. Trigger words such as "occupation" incite pressure groups to attack with accusations of anti-Semitism, and the press buckles. The demands of everyday living leave little time for understanding world problems; truth is left to sound bites.

Kudos to Students for Justice in Palestine for revealing that "the emperor has no clothes." It's time to tell Israel that unless expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands stops and occupation ends, BDS will grow.

Doris Norrito, Largo

Honor Flight

A veteran's thanks

Last week, I was among 60 honorees on a trip to Washington for surviving west-central Florida World War II veterans to see the National World War II Memorial and other commemorative sites.

While the trip was represented as a "thank you" for our service, I want to thank the thousand or so members of the Tampa Bay community for welcoming us back. From uniformed Junior ROTC to command-level MacDill officers, from babies to flag-waving adults, it was impressive. Thank you.

Col. Richard C. Gibson, USAF (retired), Sun City Center

Sunday's letters: Bill Poe was an urban visionary 05/09/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2014 4:06pm]
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