Raid on transportation trust fund
Crist's veto helped to save jobs
Following the end of the legislative session, a certainly bleak future faced those of us in the transportation construction business. Tough times were poised to be even more dismal with $160 million positioned to be hijacked from transportation funding. However, to our surprise, a leader actually took an action to spur the economy and save jobs, rather than just talk about it.
With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Charlie Crist strengthened Florida's work force and kept the state from slipping into an even further economic falter with the line-item veto of the multimillion dollar sweep of the state transportation trust fund. This veto of ill-conceived legislation not only saved approximately 11,000 jobs but also kept more than $400 million in statewide road projects from being postponed — projects which keep my company in business and reduce congestion on Florida's roadways.
Florida history has shown a thriving transportation industry gives way to the growth and strengthening of the state's economy. If Gov. Crist had ignored this irresponsible raid, many of my employees' livelihoods would have been at stake.
As a small business owner and member of the Florida Transportation Builders' Association, I would like to sincerely thank Gov. Crist for keeping the trust fund intact. Without this veto, thousands of Florida workers would have been let go and many Florida businesses would have been forced to shut their doors for good.
Jeff Nelson, president, David Nelson Construction, Palm Harbor
Cleaning up St. Petersburg's image | June 8, letter
Put public interest first
I agree with the letter from St. Petersburg City Council member Jeff Danner. We need to remove the panhandlers from the sidewalks.
They are a distraction to drivers, neighbors and businesses. If we don't stop this, St. Petersburg will be attracting more panhandlers, like Tampa Bay attracts prescription junkies. It's a slap in the face of all of us who try to work hard, and do what is right, to see these individuals demand someone give them something. Why don't we see them on the sidewalks of Sarasota?
Yes, the newspaper takes a hit with this law, but like their name, "times" change. We now have coin-operated newspaper dispensing machines, so we don't have to go back to the days of handing out papers on the sidewalks. We now have cell phones, and the Internet to get the news, and most of the under-30 crowd read only in digital form.
What you are telling me by going to court is that selling newspapers on the sidewalk is more important to the community than removing panhandlers. That is my main beef here: Special interest trumps the interest of the community. The City Council did not act on their own in this case. It was because of public outcry. So government taking freedom away has no place in this argument — we ask for it.
J.R. Demmy, Kenneth City
Shiny, happy people (only) | June 8, Howard Troxler column
Revisit the ordinance
St. Petersburg needs to re-evaluate this ordinance banning soliciting of any kind on street corners by newspaper vendors or firefighters soliciting donations for worthy causes, etc., yet exempting politicians or want-to-be-politicians from soliciting votes on street corners.
This ordinance was initiated to stop panhandling, and I very much support a ban on this as panhandling is simply begging for money and serves no purpose other than benefiting the individual. But this ordinance should make just panhandling illegal, not the selling of newspapers or soliciting donations unless it will include soliciting votes by people running for office.
Government should not be allowed to make laws that exempt themselves from violating these laws or ordinances. This is the apex of hypocrisy.
Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City
Making things worse
As a Roman Catholic moral philosopher and theologian (Barry University ACE program), I hold the deepest sympathies for the plight of the poor. I donate time and money to local homeless ministries through my parish and the diocese of St. Petersburg.
However, when those who desire help are standing on street corners waving signs rather than frequenting the established ministries such as St. Vincent de Paul or Daystar, then not only are the truly deserving poor not being helped, but a cause of traffic congestion and overall drain on local charitable giving is promoted.
I suggest the St. Petersburg Times actually help the poor. By filing a federal lawsuit against St. Petersburg's wise decision to ban street panhandling you have instead exacerbated, rather than assisted, in a difficult economic plight!
Robert King, St. Petersburg
Oh, the horror
For thousands of years panhandling has been with us as a means for the poorest of the poor to reach out for a helping hand in good economic times and in bad. The recent actions of the city of St. Petersburg are truly ridiculous and inhumane.
Oh, and the horror for us drivers in our air-conditioned cars sitting at a traffic light and seeing a person standing in the Florida heat asking for money. Give me a break.
Jim Steinle, Clearwater
Disappointing response | June 3, letter
U.S. needs come first
Letter writer Norman Gross can always be counted on to criticize anyone who is not 100 percent in agreement with any and everything Israel does. So it is no surprise that he is attacking President Barack Obama over the U.S. position regarding Israel's attack on the ship that was trying to deliver supplies to Gaza, even though Obama is taking a balanced approach to this incident.
I do not take a position against Israel. But the United States has often found itself in disagreement with its closest allies over various matters, including Canada, Mexico and Britain.
President Obama's job is to take the position that is best for the United States, not any other country, including Israel. That is what the American people want and expect him to do.
Robert Monroe, Tampa