Poverty keeps stubborn grip on Midtown | Aug. 6
We need equal opportunities
In crushing detail, the Times now reports that Midtown — the poorest, most predominantly black section of St. Petersburg — has actually become poorer despite 20 years of well-intentioned mayors' promises to improve "conditions." While the rest of the city has prospered so well that it is now a favorite of the New York Times' travel section, two major grocery stores in Midtown failed in succession, as did several other city-sponsored initiatives.
Why? Because there wasn't a sufficiently prosperous customer base nearby to support them.
To be sure, the streets look a lot better, with new landscaping and trees. And there's a new post office. But as one astute neighborhood observer said: The city's deals always seem to profit banks and developers, but then nothing remains for the rest of us.
The main thing holding Midtown back is that most families who live there have never had access to the sort of capital that middle-class white families take for granted — through good credit or (less often) a modest inheritance.
As Ta-Nehisi Coates documented not long ago in Atlantic magazine, a century of housing and economic discrimination against black Americans, after the end of slavery, has conspired to keep the majority of these, our countrymen, on the razor's edge of poverty. Coates' essay is titled, "The Case for Reparations."
I'm not sure how "reparations" would work, but one thing's for sure: Until we work together so that African-Americans mired in generational poverty have the same opportunities as the rest of us — for advancement, for investment, for ownership, for growth — we will always have these economic dead zones in our cities and in our country.
Jim Harper, Tampa
Trump can't save American Christianity | Column, Aug. 6
Secular and proud of it
Rod Dreher bemoans the decline of Christianity and the increasing numbers of the unchurched. He states: "There's nothing wrong in principle for Christians to bring our faith to the public square (if you disagree, take it up with the abolitionists and the civil rights movement)."
No there is not, but there is everything wrong with attempting to be the only voice in the public square and shutting out all others. There is everything wrong with rubbing non-believers' noses in your particular God obsessions. And it is a violation of basic human rights, much less the Constitution, to compel people to pretend to believe in doctrines they would not otherwise profess (if you disagree, take it up with Thomas Jefferson).
A staunch secular American myself, I think the church should act to encourage individuals to participate in democracy according to the rules of the Constitution, to wit, by respecting and defending strict separation of church and state. There is good reason to separate church and state by the strictest and most scrupulous standards of exclusion. It safeguards individual conscience against the tyranny of either church or state.
Christianity has only itself to blame for its woes. I am reminded of a wise observation by no less than Benjamin Franklin. In a letter to Richard Price, Franklin stated that he believed that religion should support itself without help from the government, claiming, "When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig'd to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
Amen, brother Franklin, amen.
Barry Lockard, Sarasota
Mother shares story of Jimmie | Aug. 10
Reach past the present
The teenagers involved in the fatal high-speed crash all had lengthy arrest records. It's a chronic problem. But it's not an economic problem; plenty of people were poor during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and plenty of people are poor today. It's not a community problem; there are plenty of programs and activities available, but you have to want to attend. It's not a wealthy vs. poor problem; people have been wealthy and poor since the beginning of time.
There's nothing wrong with looking beyond your circumstances and wishing your life was better. But you can use your circumstances as a crutch or excuse to avoid taking responsibility for your own life, or you can treat them as a stepping stone to reach beyond them. Nobody else can want it for you, you have to want it yourself.
Debi Ford, St. Petersburg
Teach your children well
Anytime a child dies, the community mourns. While I understand those who love these teens are bereaved, my sympathy goes to the innocent man who was simply on his way to work and is now seriously injured because of the actions of six teenagers with criminal histories. One mother said she begged the justice system for help for her son. It is not law enforcement's job to teach her children.
Sherri Marquez, Clearwater
HART slashes bus routes | Aug. 8
Losing it, not using it
Does anyone else remember when HART's slogan was "You've got to have HART?" Mission Max is a heartless plan that will further widen the rifts between rich and poor, rural and urban, disabled and abled and create insurmountable hardships for many.
We wouldn't elect school board members who have had no experience with public education. How is it that the people appointed to the HART board do not use public transit? If I were in the position to move to a more compassionate community, I'd be on the first bus out of here. Oh, wait, there isn't a bus.
Elizabeth Corwin, Tampa
Building blocks of creativity | Aug. 7
Art is a wonderful gift
Many thanks to the Vinik Family Foundation for "The Art of the Brick." The Lego artwork is a joy for both adults and children. What a wonderful gift to Tampa Bay.
Anne Reidy, South Pasadena