New pier gets green light | May 18
Lens, as built, will exceed $50M
I admit that my opposition to this arises primarily from the nostalgia in seeing the old Pier replaced. But my position is based on more than nostalgia; it's based on my 30 years working in the Miami-Dade County Planning Department as chief of research and the de facto economist for the county's administration. One of my tasks was to gather information on how other areas carry out large public and private projects — stadiums, large public buildings, public housing, monuments, etc.
One of the biggest problems is when a project is pushed forward with a cap on expenditure. The new Pier will almost surely cost more than $50 million. Something can be built for that, but it won't be anything like the Lens design. Putting in more money or accepting something cheaper are the two options.
During design and construction, when it is most obvious if the cost limit will be bumped into, options should be considered.
Charles Blowers, Clearwater
New pier gets green light | May 18
A lens to murkiness
The Lens would be a great idea in an area with clear water and schools of colorful fish such as the Bahamas. The new Pier, though, will be a lens to nothing but murky bay water.
Most of the City Council members seem happy to be associated with a fatally flawed idea, but to protect his professional reputation, the architect should withdraw his "Lens to nothing" design rather than see his image ruined forever by a failed design.
Bruce Matern, St. Petersburg
More reason to protest | May 19, letter
Best peacemaker: weather
Letter writer Chip Thomas worries that protesters won't be able to get "close enough" to delegates and media at the Republican National Convention. How close is close enough? To squirt people with urine from squirt guns or to spit on them? How about adequate proximity for the Occupy crowds to turn Channelside into an Oakland-style war zone on national TV?
Local Democrats are already scaling back previous plans so as to give our "guests without hotel reservations," as described by one City Council member, a parking structure or the like for shelter from the elements along with water and portable toilets. Are Democrats who control Charlotte, N.C., doing likewise for tea party groups? Our climate in August is our best ally for keeping mayhem to a minimum. I like and respect Mayor Bob Buckhorn, but he'd be smarter to ban umbrellas and tents rather than licensed firearms if he truly wants peace.
Dwayne Keith, Valrico
Choosing speakers is tricky task | May 19
Colors of persuasion
Once again Aaron Sharockman and now Adam C. Smith can't help but inject their political bias and racial inferences into a story. They say the GOP highlights its diversity "even if the audience inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum is overwhelmingly white." Isn't it true that almost every convention, except perhaps the NAACP's, is overwhelmingly white? This same statement was used by Aaron when he reported on Sarah Palin speaking at the Villages. I'm waiting to read about their saying that the Democratic Convention is overwhelmingly white, which it will be.
Nelson Crowell, Weeki Wachee
Board bickers over unity | May 19
Truth comes out
Jodie Tillman's article finally offered some light on what had been a dark series of articles on the Hillsborough County Children's Board, including allegations of mismanagement, a maligned staff, a toxic work environment and a divided board. In several articles, Tillman painted a portrait of a tax-funded organization in chaos, possibly mismanaging funds, and a leader out of touch with the needs of her organization.
The truth appears to be the opposite of the characterization of the organization and of Luanne Panacek, the CEO. When unhappy staffers and individual board members, who have issues with the CEO, are allowed a public voice in a series of newspaper articles, the CEO's job becomes impossible. The board's communication must be with the CEO.
Panacek is a well-known and highly respected professional with a vision and a heart for meeting the needs of children and their families. She is an extraordinary leader with a wealth of experience as a child and family advocate who is motivated by high ethical standards. In an economic downturn, resources are limited; the needs of children and families are not. She has been providing leadership in trying to maximize the value of the public resources available, and she has been doing this while being publicly attacked.
The board needs to get its own house in order and function on the basis of credible information about the leadership and the staff. It must now act in a way that creates a clear perception that professionalism trumps self-interested politics.
James Paul, Temple Terrace
Psychiatrist rights a wrong, with an apology to gays | May 19
Breaking the silence
As a gay person, the debt of gratitude I owe the Tampa Bay Times is hard to overstate. I'd say most of us gay folks expected to go to our graves accustomed to and resigned to the deafening hush in society about the true nature of our existence. May 19's paper is witness to the honor and respect citizens can get when principled, caring dialogue is permitted.
John Meros, St. Petersburg
Teachers' lax standards
We continue to hear the cries of pain regarding the FCAT system. As a School Board member in Ohio in the early '60s, I was the recipient not only of an excellent public school education but honored to be a member of the board. What happened between the '50s, when a graduate of a public school was prepared for either industry or higher education, and now? Whose fault is it that we now have fallen behind the rest of the developed world in educational achievement? There is plenty of blame to go around, but our children did not suddenly become too dumb to teach.
If professional educators had addressed this problem in the '70s, we would not have to worry about kids' inability to read or to fill out a job application. Instead we took the easy way out. We promoted children from grade to grade whether they could read or write. We undereducated the teachers themselves.
Teachers, I don't minimize the problems you face every day. But I do criticize the results of your work. You gave up the responsibility of in loco parentis. You buckled to the demand for grades without effort. A grade of D now passes in many places, what used to be a C is now a B, and what used to be a B- is now an A. If the profession starts applying standards of the not-too-distant past, there will be no need for the FCAT.
Richard Dimberio, Brooksville