Decades of integrity, service | Aug. 27, editorial
A leader on mental health issues
Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats is more than just a lawman. While he has certainly served the criminal justice system well, a lesser known accomplishment is his service to the mental health community.
In 1999 he handed out certificates to the 35 graduates of Florida's first crisis intervention team course, a weeklong program that teaches law enforcement officers how to properly deal with people with mental illness in crisis. Since then, he has championed the training. More than 1,100 people in Pinellas County and more than 10,000 statewide have attended the course. Coats' support of this program changed the face of mental illness to law enforcement.
The sheriff also personally resolved a chronic problem of people with mental illness in jail not receiving the appropriate medications. He established a dialogue with advocates, providers and his staff that continues today.
Another significant achievement was his establishment of the psychological services coordinator position, which ensures that first responder law enforcement officers receive the appropriate counseling after traumatic incidents.
These are not the usual accomplishments sheriffs get elected on, but they are ones that earned the gratitude and respect of those suffering with mental illness and their families, as well as mental health providers.
The Pinellas County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, comprised of over 300 families, wishes Sheriff Coats and his family the best in retirement and all future endeavors.
Donald Turnbaugh, past president, NAMI Pinellas County, Palm Harbor
Mexico: U.S. bears some blame for casino attack | Aug. 27
Wrong to single out U.S.
Does anyone take seriously all of the remarks of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, particularly his call for the United States to stop the "criminal sale" of "high-powered weapons and (so-called) assault weapons" that somehow make it across the border to Mexico?
Aren't politicians prone to make remarks for domestic consumption, in this case the Mexican public?
Whereas drugs are illegal both here and in Mexico, firearms are legal in the United States. Calderon sounds like a 300-pound man blaming his neighbor for his weight problem.
Moreover, why is the United States singled out? Mexico borders both Guatemala and Belize, and those borders are not exactly secure. The guns used in the casino attack could very well have been smuggled through the jungle, not over the Rio Grande. Not to mention that there could be firearms pilfered from Mexican military bases or provided by corrupt police.
Admittedly, there are some criminal types who are sneaking guns into Mexico. This is a violation of U.S. federal law, not to mention Mexican law.
But if common weapons are so "evil," then why is crime so much worse in Mexican border towns compared to places like El Paso, Texas? Gun critics are looking at the wrong end of the telescope.
Leonard Martino, Tampa
Raising your taxes? Republicans are for it Aug. 25, commentary
Social Security a tax source
Harold Meyerson's column exposes the true purpose of the Social Security program. The Republicans want to raise the payroll tax back to 6.2 percent from the present 4.2 percent in January. Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and producer of the Path to Prosperity, says the rollback is needed or "it would simply exacerbate our debt problems."
So is Social Security a supplemental retirement plan or a supplemental income tax plan only for those under the $106,800 cap? It was no problem for the deficit when the upper income tax cuts did not expire, but now the GOP favors this increase.
Social Security was a cleverly designed supplemental income tax plan sold as a retirement plan.
You pay tax to get into the system. Along the way cuts will be made to the payout, and when you receive the payout, taxes must be paid on those. Could anyone sell you this plan today?
Jim Demmy, Kenneth City
Proud to be American
Last weekend I was a rider in the Bubba Army Benefit Ride for Hernando sheriff's Deputy John Mecklenburg, one of the most recent law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
What amazed me was not the participation — all of the participants volunteered their time — but the people along the route who pulled over to the side of the road; the people who stood outside with their children and waved flags; the community that had golf carts lined up along the side of the road while waving flags; and the lone woman waving a huge flag.
All these people are what's right with our community, and they brought tears of joy to my eyes and proved that we are proud to be Americans.
Kim Britt, Tampa
This is a winning platform?
Over the past week we've heard Sen. Marco Rubio say that our social safety net has "made us weaker"; Michele Bachmann say that she would consider reducing or eliminating the minimum wage, and raising taxes on the poor and middle class but not the rich; and Rick Perry say Social Security, Medicare and unemployment compensation are probably unconstitutional.
What a platform to run on for president of the United States!
Raise taxes on the poor while lowering wages, do away with Social Security and Medicare, and eliminate unemployment insurance. Do they really think that will get one of them elected?
Ron Hoddinott, Largo
Rocky road, quick end | Aug. 24
Wrong time for a change
When I read that the Pinellas County School Board will have its fourth superintendent in seven years, it became obvious it does not know what it is doing. It appears that board members are not competent in interviewing prospective candidates or explaining what they expect of them. Furthermore, why should they pay a year's salary if they feel the superintendent does not perform to the level of their expectations?
If the School Board was not satisfied with Julie Janssen's performance, why did it wait until school opened to think of making a change? A change should have been considered in the winter or spring so that there would be more eligible candidates available.
Audrey Kopelman, St. Pete Beach