St. Petersburg Housing Authority
Housing board choices are cost-effective
The St. Housing Authority has never considered evicting St. Petersburg College from the Center for Achievement to put our administrative offices in its place, and doesn't believe that it is in the best interest of the community to do so. SPC has rented this facility from the Housing Authority since 2003. While we have listed the building for sale, we would like it to remain a permanent educational complex that will benefit Midtown residents, and particularly the residents of Jordan Park.
All the authority's real estate sales or acquisitions are board-approved actions that support our strategic goals. Our strategic plan calls for divesting the agency of commercial properties that do not align with our strategy to acquire or develop more affordable housing, to deconcentrate areas of poverty, and to expose our residents to other housing choices and economic opportunities.
Over the past two years, the Housing Authority has reviewed at least 21 properties for our central office, including vacant land and existing structures. Our entire board of commissioners has publicly discussed these options in board and committee meetings throughout the process, and we also have presented them to the City Council's Housing Committee.
Weighing construction costs against rehabilitation costs, the parcel of land in the Gateway Business Center best fit our needs and was the most cost-effective choice. The property, which was purchased with nonfederal dollars, already includes a full pad and utilities. With a bank appraisal of $1.75 million, we believe that the final negotiated price of $1 million for 5.36 acres was very fair.
We planned from the outset to construct our office on only a small portion of the land, and on the remaining acreage we intended to build 50 units of Wounded Warrior housing. However, despite initial positive discussions, the city would not allow us to move forward with those plans. The Housing Authority will be selling off the excess 3.6 acres, and the sale proceeds will be used to reimburse the land cost.
While we understand the Times' role as a governmental watchdog, we feel that the recent articles featured sensational quotes but a deficit of facts. Also, we question why the articles have a decidedly negative slant. Where has the Times reported that the Housing Authority has once again been named a "high performer" by the Housing and Urban Development Department, which is a considerable achievement for any housing authority and should be a mark of pride for the city of St. Petersburg?
Dr. Arnett Smith, chairman, board of commissioners, St. Petersburg Housing Authority
Americans should support Egypt's push for freedom
Call on your elected officials to support the Egyptian people's actions against the demagogue Hosni Mubarak and help support them in their pursuit of justice, freedom and respect for human rights.
The Egyptian populace lives in a daily prison, and now the government has pulled the plug on Internet access, phone networks, and is hardening its censorship of the media.
If America is not to be a hypocritical nation, then we as citizens must stand firm in supporting what the Egyptian people want — democracy, and a government that supports the will of the people in an open and transparent manner.
My father was an Egyptian immigrant who came to America because he knew it was the best country where he could be a better person and practice his faith, Islam, in the freest way. But millions of Egyptians, even Muslims, cannot practice their faith in an independent way. Coptic Christians and other religious minorities are denied their rights, too.
Please, contact President Barack Obama, attend protests, tell your friends, contact Congress, and be with the Egyptian people in spirit.
Nora Zaki, Tampa
$14 trillion U.S. debt: It's large, but don't panic | Jan. 24, commentary
Debt isn't a disaster
This article put into focus what anyone with common sense and a mortgage on their home knows: that the large debt America faces can be paid down even with zero economic growth.
Now, what would it take to convince the deficit-panicked masses that we could have better than zero growth if we would put our tax dollars and minds into the challenge of getting people back to work by building our crumbling infrastructure and mass transit and funding alternative energy sources?
Politicians who want to bring an end to our nation's deficit and limit the size and scope of the federal government are actually saying, "Let's get rid of social programs and tax the rich less."
They have told us the debt will be $70 trillion in the next 75 years; but they have not told us we can pay it off over the 75 years, even if we have zero growth. Tell Congress you've had enough of its deficit panic. It's a failure of professional ethics to only tell half of the truth.
Karen Doulin, Brooksville
On brink of collapse
This column is a classic argument for Keynesian economics in the same style advocated by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. This line of thinking has placed the European economy and certain states such as California and Illinois on the brink of collapse. By contrast, the National Bureau of Economic Research has reported that public debt levels become perilous when they reach 90 percent of gross domestic product to the degree that the strength of an economy becomes dissipated by overwhelming interest debt service.
The $14 trillion in debt that these professors so blithely gloss over is enough to consume the annual GDP. They do not focus upon or analyze the profligate and reckless spending practices that have caused this debt to accumulate. If all of the total economic output of America for one year would be devoted toward paying off the debt, we would still be confronted with a prospective $1.4 trillion annual deficit for the next year, which compounded over 10 years would place us right smack back into the same financial crisis with which we are now confronted.
The professors need to get away from the cloistered atmosphere of academia and come out into the real world where the rubber meets the road.
Jack B. McPherson, New Port Richey
Stop the spending
Our national debt is not sustainable. It is as simple as that. In less than 30 years our debt-to-revenue ratio has exploded by 300 percent. Yet in his State of the Union message President Barack Obama barely addressed the crisis, choosing instead to focus on even more spending.
It is time for the members of Congress to do what is necessary to stop the spending, cut the budget and reverse the course of this disaster. The November election mandate was clear that this is the reason that they were sent to Washington. They represent the interests of the American people, and we are watching them.
Patricia Jennings, Dunedin
Group: Justice omitted income | Jan. 23
Why did two recent articles in the Times seem to reinforce each other? The first was the stunning disclosure, or lack of it, concerning the income of the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The second was a study by the University of South Florida that there is a "clear tie between corporate political activity and improved performance."
It seems that Mrs. Thomas has been paid almost $700,000 by the Heritage Foundation over a recent five-year period. Where does that money come from? According to Sourcewatch.org, a large amount of these funds came from large corporate donations. She has also started her own foundation, from which she is paid, which received large donations totaling $550,000 from undisclosed donors. This is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit dedicated to, in her words, "opposing the tyranny of President Obama and Democrats in Congress." She doesn't have to disclose who is giving her these enormous sums under the very ruling on which her husband was in the majority, Citizens United.
It now seems that Justice Thomas is under no legal responsibility to inform the American public that his wife is receiving these funds. He certainly did not do so. I can only wonder what the donors are expecting in return. Is the Supreme Court bought and paid for? As this ultraconservative, activist court continues to erode the rights of individuals in favor of corporations, we can only wonder.
Peter S. Cohoon, Tampa
Above the law?
I found the article on Justice Clarence Thomas' failure to disclose his wife's income on his tax statements for six years, required by law, interesting. The last sentence says, "such an infraction was unlikely to result in a penalty." So much for no one being above the law in our country. Apparently the Supreme Court alone is not to be bothered with those pesky rules of ethics. Who deemed them gods above human flaw?
Gail Burke, Hudson