Saving the springs | May 29, story
A place of natural perfectionWow! What a gorgeous picture of the crystal clear water at Three Sisters Springs. How could anyone imagine doing anything to destroy what precious natural beauty is left in Florida. Having visited the springs numerous times, I can say it is about my favorite place to visit.
It made me so happy to read that Hal Flowers has decided not to develop the property. I wish it could remain as it is: perfect!
Sheila M. Krause, St. Petersburg
Don't limit contact
I am very pleased to read that Hal Flowers is reconsidering his development plans. This will benefit the manatees. However, I am very skeptical of the Save the Manatees Club's vision of land-only observation.
I could not have cared less about these odd creatures until I swam with some ambassadors of this species, just as Flowers did when he was in the water helping to save one. I, too, was overwhelmed by their magical presence, friendliness and obvious intelligence. It is an experience you'll remember your whole life. And I have taken many people there to experience this natural wonder.
I believe their salvation is to increase the awareness of their presence with more direct human contacted. Harassment? I'm sure it happens, but I have not seen any. I'd speak up! And Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) on his best day couldn't keep up with one, if it choose not to allow him to.
I'll donate money, time and effort, to get a law passed that all motorboats within King's Bay have prop guards, and speed limits decreased. This would benefit our aquatic friends far more than anything else.
Bill Howard, Palm Harbor
A tidy profit
I am amazed at how caring and generous developer Hal Flowers is. He was so moved by the manatee's plight that he was willing to take a piece of property, that he paid $10.5-million at the height of the real estate madness and is now willing to dump it on the taxpaying public for only $15-million.
Is it any wonder why the state is in such bad financial shape?
Jeff Bigham, St. Petersburg
Creatures worth saving
I would like to express my support for manatee protection in Florida. I have recently adopted a Manatee and am proud to live in a state where the magnificent manatees make their home. Such gentle creatures with whiskers and wrinkled faces have resided in Florida's waterways for millions of years and are Florida's state marine mammals.
One of the highlights of my day is to spot a manatee in our waterways. Not only are they slow moving and unable to defend themselves, but they are wonderful to watch. We must protect them.
More than 900,000 boats are registered in Florida and approximately 400,000 boats registered in other states use Florida's waterways. Obviously, with more than a million boats on the waters, we need strong manatee protection. Slowing down seems like such a small thing to ask in order to be able to share the waters with these unique animals.
Protecting our manatees today will later make us proud that we did, while preserving them for our children and grandchildren.
Sandra Draper, Pinellas Park
Outback execs pile on pay | May 27, story
Executives' raisesare greatly exaggerated
We are aware of the justifiable pride the St. Petersburg Times takes in its commitment to the highest journalistic standards. However, Tuesday's article was misleading and inaccurate.
Your article states: "Saddle the company with debt. Go from a profit to a loss. Get a fat raise." Let's look at the facts.
"Saddle the company with debt." Yes, we took the company private and borrowed a lot of money to do so. Nothing misleading there. But we are confident in our ability to service the debt. And where did that borrowed money go? To our public shareholders who received $41.15 per share in June 2007. We fulfilled our responsibility to our public shareholders and provided them with a full and fair cash price. Indeed, in hindsight I am certain our former shareholders are most thankful we did so. Prior to announcing the going-private bid in November 2006, OSI stock traded at approximately $33 per share.
"Go from a profit to a loss". Your article states OSI lost $64.4-million in 2007. This is misleading. The $64.4-million loss comes from the unaudited pro-forma financial statements in the filing and does not represent the actual results for the company for the year ended Dec. 31, 2007. On an actual basis, the company generated a net loss for that year of $22.6-million. This loss was driven primarily by anticipated one-time transaction costs and interest expense due to the increase in debt to fund the going-private transaction. OSI expected to generate a net loss after taxes in 2007 due to those costs.
"Get a fat raise." This is the most misleading part of the article, claiming that the four top executives received a combined $34-million raise for 2007 over 2006. Your article actually states, "In that same period (2006 vs. 2007), compensation for the company's top four earners surged from $9.2-million to more than $43-million, including $14.4-million in restricted stock."
In fact, of the $43-million in total compensation shown in the SEC filing for the four executives, $34.7-million consists of gain on stock options granted by the prior OSI board and earned over many prior years of service ($17.7-million), the assumed value of restricted stock that will be earned over the next five years ($14.4-million) and stock option expense required by SFAS 123R ($2.6-million). These items are hardly "pay" for 2007.
The $17.7-million gain on stock options resulted from those options being cashed out in the going-private transaction at the same price as all OSI shareholders received. Yes, the transaction happened in 2007, but this $17.7-million gain is from stock options granted years ago and earned and held over many years (in some cases over 10 years). Another $14.4-million represents the assumed value of restricted stock that will be earned and vested over the next five years, but there is no guarantee of this value. The $2.6-million of SFAS 123R stock option expense does not represent any cash actually received by the executives.
Base salaries for all four executives had a combined increase of $277,000 from 2006 to 2007. Our bonus plan (approved by the prior OSI board) was exactly the same for 2007 as 2006 and resulted in a total combined increase in bonus for all four executives of $647,500. This bonus is based on increases in cash flow. The four executives also shared a one-time bonus of $4-million for completing the transaction.
So, what increase in compensation is actually attributable to 2007? After eliminating gains on stock options earned over many years, the assumed value of restricted stock not yet earned and the 123R stock option expense, the actual total increase in base salary and bonus for all four executives from 2006 to 2007 is $925,000 and a one time bonus of $4-million. Yes, a lot of money, but also a fraction of your sensational $34-million "pay raise" number for 2007.
All of the numbers cited above regarding executive compensation are taken directly from theS-4 filing your reporter used for the article. This is shoddy journalism far below your standards. And it does a great disservice to a company that was born and bred in Tampa and has been a leading corporate citizen with an unparalleled record of community service.
Joseph J. Kadow, executive vice president, OSI Restaurant Partners, Tampa
Editor's note: OSI is the parent company in Tampa of several restaurant chains including Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill, among others.
Let us vote on stadium | May 24, letter
Facts first, then a vote
This letter says that "POWW does not want to give the citizens the right to vote on the [stadium] issue." Such a statement could not be further from the truth. Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront has always felt very strongly that everyone in St. Petersburg should have a say in what is done with their land and money. That is what democracy is all about.
The members of POWW are strongly committed St. Petersburg residents; many are lifelong residents with families going back five generations. They are baseball fans, teachers, business owners, parents, neighbors and volunteers active in many areas of our community's life. All are very concerned with the well being of St. Petersburg, its environment, history and financial stability.
They sincerely believe that everyone should have a vote on this issue but only if the stadium plan has been shown to be viable, financially feasible and in the best interests of the city. I am sure the letter writer would agree that the taxpayers cannot vote on a pretty dream with many loose ends and unanswered questions. As City Council member Jeff Danner said, "I don't think we have to put an incomplete or bad proposal on the ballot [just] so that people will have a vote."
It is the City Council's job to evaluate and decide whether or not the stadium is feasible and worthy of a vote. That is why POWW is raising questions and encouraging all voters to research this issue and help contribute to the understanding of this complicated and important decision. If everyone is knowledgeable on the issue and the council has guaranteed that our finances, city stability and environment are well protected, then — and only then — can we vote yes or no.
Faith Andrews Bedford, St. Petersburg
Ball park would be a boon | May 24, letter
An outdoor game
I agree with the letter writer that folks watch air-conditioned baseball games at home. The proposed new stadium would provide the sweet outdoor sound of "the crack of the bat" and "the roar of the crowd" that you cannot duplicate indoors. Baseball is an outdoor sport and if most games are scheduled during evening hours, the heat and humidity controversy would be moot.
By the way, most successful major league teams have demolished and built new ballparks for many years now, with increased attendance in the right locations.
John Stafford, Largo
Vandals strike two cemeteries | May 27, story
Put things right
What a terrible display for these poor people to see on Memorial Day. To see such total disregard for the feelings of others on this of all days. The punishment should be at least six months of community service repairing this damage and returning these grave sites to their original condition. Clean the stones or put in new ones, plant flowers, mow grass, and offer the most sincere apology that can be mustered.
These are someone's loved ones. It just brings tears to your eyes that anyone might be that disconnected from reality that they would leave this as their mark on this day. Shame.
Jack Frain, Spring Hill
Vandalism shocks mom | May 28, story
A parent who cares
My faith in American parenting was partly restored Wednesday morning when I read the reaction of Theresa Moore, mother of one of the teens arrested for cemetery vandalism.
It gives me hope that at least some parents take their jobs seriously and teach their children to do the right thing. Normally, all we ever hear from parents of children caught breaking the law is "my child would never do that" or he/she is just acting out because they had a "difficult" life. Then they run out and hire an attorney to represent their wounded little darling to prevent any punishment.
How refreshing it is to find a parent who actually allows her child to face his consequences and reinforces the fact that society does not accept her child's behavior.
As a parent of two daughters, I let them face their consequences and gave them their punishments. Now as adults they thank me often.
Mrs. Moore, I feel the day will come when your son, too, will thank you for being a caring parent.
Lindsay Paolillo, Dunnellon
Liberty City 6 retrial: a waste of money?May 24, story
As a retired trial attorney of 40 years, I find this article on the "Liberty City 6" to be misleading. It misrepresents the actual costs incurred, since almost all the costs reflected would occur with or without these trials.
The judge, prosecutors, marshals, investigating agents, "courtroom costs," etc., would all be incurred whether or not this particular trial took place. These are salaried personnel and fixed costs that should not be apportioned to any given trial (any more than they are regarding a nominal offense that can take weeks to try).
The only costs actually attributable from the U.S. taxpayers' perspective are a portion of the non-salaried, non-governmental experts and informants used by the government (approximately $300,000 in total). By way of example, prison upkeep would not change if the defendants had never been incarcerated.
I, therefore, believe a new trial is not only justified and necessary, but well worth the effort and cost.
Frank N. Yurasko, Redington Beach
Money too often a matter of trust | May 29, story
Europe has a better idea
This article deals with the difficulty a "sight impaired"person has in identifying different denominations of our paper money.
I have recently returned from Europe, where the euro currency is used. All of their paper bills are a different color, but more important, a different size. Moreover, there are no bills smaller than 5 euros; anything smaller is in the form of a coin. There are 2 euro and 1 euro coins, as well as 50-, 20-, 10- and 5-cent coins. The 1 euro and 2 euro coins are different color metals, and much different in size. After a very short time, one becomes very comfortable with this.
Our government would love to stop the waste of constantly replacing worn dollar bills, but it comes out with dollar coins that are almost identical in size and feel to smaller denominations. These euro coins are (in my opinion) superior to paper. Did I mention that they have done away with the penny?
We do not have all the great ideas in this country.
Howard G. Olsen, Safety Harbor