'Stand' law: from bad to worse | March 21, editorial
Don't cut access to crime records
It would be a mistake to enact legislation to delete public records documenting a person's involvement with Florida's "stand your ground" law. Arrest and court records reflect the realities of the criminal justice process by including original charges, plea bargains, judge and jury decisions, fines and jail terms. They also note when charges are dropped after an official investigation into the facts of the case. Records track trends in how our laws are applied and administered.
The intent of record-keeping, whether in government or the private sector, is to document the failures and successes of management systems. Society needs this information to better understand how we are doing and what changes may be needed.
Businesses have more control over how detailed their record-keeping should be. It's the boss' money. But the state criminal justice system affects everyone in Florida, and its records need to identify everyone — including those who might be mistakenly arrested — on whom tax dollars are being spent.
If the records of some are expunged because their use of the "stand your ground" law might cause them grief, the same could be said for those accused of driving under the influence, domestic violence, etc., but later released or charged with lesser offenses.
Roger Crescentini Sr., Tampa
Chase policy for deputies gets tougher March 18
More sensible chase policy
Thanks to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri for the wisdom he showed in tightening restrictions on high-speed chases.
I can never forget, shortly after moving to this area, coming upon a fatality that had just taken place as a result of a high-speed chase on Tyrone Boulevard. The life of a registered nurse, mother and grandmother had been needlessly lost as she turned to go on duty at the VA hospital.
Since then, I have read of many other fatalities and near-fatalities caused by police pursuits. Now I am relieved of the uneasiness I felt every time I heard a siren while my grandsons worked and attended college in St. Petersburg.
Grace Erdman, Belleair Bluffs
NRA-backed bills clear House | March 21
It has become painfully obvious that the Republican-led House in Florida will rubber-stamp any and all cockamamie bills brought to the floor with the full support of the NRA.
The latest embarrassment is the "Pop-Tart" bill, which passed by a 98-17 vote with only Democrats voting against. Passing a bill that will specifically allow children to fashion "pretend pistols" out of pastries only goes to show how much "dough" the NRA has to pad the pockets of our legislators.
Bob Lindskog, Palm Harbor
Russia seizing bases in Crimea | March 23
In the immortal words of Gen. Jack Ripper in the movie Dr. Strangelove: "Two can play at that game, soldier."
Vladimir Putin depicted the annexation of Crimea as correcting a "historical error," arguing that the region has played a vital role in Russia's history and culture for centuries. Kaliningrad, created by the Potsdam Conference in 1945, was once part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Its annexation would also correct a grave "historical error."
Kaliningrad is an enclave that is hardly ever noticed. Sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, it is isolated from mother Russia. It therefore represents a spearhead in the side of the NATO's wall of defense.
Both Poland and Lithuania are concerned with its strategic location on the Baltic sea, a position from which Russian forces could interdict marine commerce.
Kaliningrad covers a mere 86 square miles, with a population of 432,000, a number that could be easily absorbed into the nearby Russian provinces. It would not take much to use the Kaliningrad enclave as a bargaining chip in this test of wills.
John Johnson, Pinellas Park
City Hall still no help on EMS | March 22, editorial
Too many fire chiefs
The primary responsibility of government is to provide vital services to citizens in a more efficient and effective way than if the citizens were to provide them for themselves.
Imagine if each U.S. state provided its own military forces, its own army, its own air force, etc. Pinellas County is the second-smallest county in the entire state in terms of square miles, and yet we have 18 separate fire departments providing service, each with its own fire chief, captains, lieutenants, administrations and contracts. It is redundant, inefficient and very expensive. Irregular municipal boundaries make the system even more difficult to justify.
Thank you, Tampa Bay Times, for finally proposing what others of us have been espousing for years — a countywide fire department that could far more efficiently deliver both fire and EMS services. It will require a focus on genuine public service and not the self-service that too often surfaces in these discussions.
Dave Loeffert, Dunedin
History revised for DEO director | March 16
Failure is rewarded
It must be nice to be appointed department head at age 33 by the governor of Florida and get paid $141,000 in taxpayer money. It's even better when the department you oversee fails miserably and you don't have to own up to your mistakes. Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, oversaw the flawed CONNECT unemployment benefits website that prevented tens of thousands of Floridians from applying for and receiving the unemployment benefits they were entitled to for months.
Imagine being out of work and trying to apply for your entitled unemployment benefits only to be bombarded with CONNECT's glitches, freezes and error messages. Now, as a reward for making thousands of people's lives a living hell for months, you find yourself on the verge of being able to keep your job overseeing 1,621 employees with a $872.7 million budget. Our lawmakers overwhelmingly support confirmation of Panuccio and are not asking for an investigation as to why the new, $63 million website was a train wreck for months.
Marie Cunha, Hudson