Gentle people shall prevail | Sept. 27, Garrison Keillor column
We have a civic duty to be civil
We are in a tough period in our social and political history. I have never felt so besieged by public negativity and stressful discourse. Just as road rage is frightful and dangerous, in some ways, vocal rage is a form of violence and is similarly perilous.
Vile language spewing from anyone's mouth is an embarrassment. Words matter and if we don't find a way to limit the vitriol we will doubtless suffer dire consequences. Pronouncements which divide us by inflaming animosities — pitting one against another; magnifying differences rather than celebrating our diversities — creates a setting for hatred to thrive.
I'm always eager to look on the brighter side even in times of challenge. My dear departed Grandma Minnie was a mentor in her "glass half full" mindset.
As a family policy advocate my role is to dissuade anyone who sets a bad example for our children, to find common ground and stimulate civil conversation to reach mutual goals across the generations. Setting a good example for others of every age, especially for our children, is the key to future progress.
It's time to defuse the insults and elevate the tone and tenor of words in our homes, communities, nation and worldwide.
Let's hone our skills in positive thinking and keep ardent advocacy flowing forward. Only through active civic engagement can we defeat negativity.
Jack Levine, Tallahassee
Jack Levine is founder of 4Generations Institute, which advocates policies that bridge the generations in families and communities.
Patchwork of shelters inadequate for big one | Sept. 24
A solution for shelters
Your article on the inadequacy of the "patchwork" of shelters was an excellent wake-up call as to how unprepared we are for a major storm. Currently Florida's best answers to evacuations are to clog the highways or to head for a school gymnasium. Florida has two problems beginning with the letter "H": hurricanes and homelessness. Rather than continue to muddle through, the state could begin a building program of purpose-built hurricane shelters in centrally located areas less prone to flooding and resistant to high winds.
Throughout the year these shelters — which might resemble World War II bunkers — could be used for temporary homeless shelters. They could be staffed quickly and efficiently without the confusion and bickering among various government and private agencies.
Rather than our legislature funding the continuous paving of our state to build "roads to nowhere," funds would be much better utilized for these basic human needs.
Robert Mathews, St. Petersburg
A popular vote for president | Sept. 26, letter
Electoral College works
Sandy Sroka presents an interesting analysis making a case for electing the president by popular vote. But it is wrong. The United States is not a democracy, it is a republic composed of states that have a form of equal representation.
It was never a democracy, where popular vote dictates. In any case, under the Electoral College every vote counts now. One vote in Wyoming goes to nominate a small number of electors. Every vote in the big four — Florida, California, Texas and New York — goes to choose a large number of electors. So the one vote in Wyoming is exactly that — one vote. Maybe our founding fathers were even wiser than we already give them credit for being.
Edward Lafaye, Safety Harbor
Florida's deficit of courage on taxes | Sept. 24
What low taxes won't buy
This article on how Florida won't collect enough tax revenue to pay for its mounting bills for Irma, Medicaid, etc., was very informative. Largely about the failure to keep the tax on services that was initiated to meet that same problem in 1987, the piece mentions only in passing that Florida is among the very few states that does not have an income tax.
Florida's tax system was made even more regressive after the election of Gov. Jeb Bush in 1998 by lowering the rates on taxes on intangible wealth (stocks and bonds) until that so-called "wealth tax" was completely rescinded in 2007.
Alvin W. Wolfe, Lutz
Kids for life | Sept. 22, column
That first job's value
The writer mentions that teen employment has plummeted. I'm watching grandchildren grow up. Some of them struggle to "find themselves" as we gently put it. The question is why? Many opportunities for first employment have disappeared. I grew up on a potato farm in Maine. My father would hire a dozen kids and we'd walk the rows with him pulling weeds. Now there's a machine spraying herbicide. What's left? Babysitting and McDonald's. Fact is, many entry-level jobs are gone. There's a great deal to be said for that first job. It may be menial but it teaches a great deal about the value of money and dealing with people.
Joanne Hannon, Pinellas Park
Lessons from the hurricane Sept. 24, editorial
Update evacuation zones
One lesson I took away from Hurricane Irma is that Pinellas County's evacuation zones badly need updating. We are nominally in Zone B, but we are 1.6 miles from the northernmost tip of Old Tampa Bay and any water connected to it, and at a built up elevation of 12 feet. Having been built in a cypress swamp, our subdivision is on several feet of fill. In the worst possible conditions of Irma's cone of probabilities on Sept. 9, when the "mandatory" evacuation was announced for Zone B, there was zero chance that any storm surge would reach us, even assuming a track in the Gulf that would push a maximum surge into Tampa Bay. In the future, it would be a very good idea for evacuation zones to have a realistic basis so we could be sure that they actually mean something and act accordingly.
James Klapper, Oldsmar