Senate districts all set | April 28
Districts don't serve community
Citizens expected, and voted for, better state Senate districts than those that were approved.
As a homeowner in south St. Petersburg, what do I have in common with residents in east Tampa, Progress Village and urban slivers of Bradenton? Is there any legitimate justification for lumping the poorest communities in Tampa Bay into one district? These communities are separated by a relatively large body of water. To traverse this district requires going through another district, over a bridge, and paying a toll over another to enter a different county.
For my part, I share the public roads, parks, beaches, gas stations and a struggling downtown with residents of exclusive Tierra Verde, the downtown condos and St. Pete Beach. But when it comes to sharing my concerns with my state senator on local matters, I'm given an 813 number to call. How can it be called good democracy to allow state representatives to ignore and pass off a significant block of local voters to another representative? How can we expect Sen. Arthenia Joyner to successfully campaign for our community needs when her district has no practical geographic continuity?
Even worse is Rep. Kathy Castor's congressional district, which, like the state Senate lines, essentially paints a label on south St. Petersburg that reads: "Your opinion doesn't matter on this side of the bay." Creating poor districts from a smattering of isolated communities with no other common trait condemns our representatives to a poor-issues agenda, protects representation for the rich and isolates them from the voting power of a certain group without regard to our equally vested interest in community success.
Let's call this new map what it really is: a voter segregation map. Its borders represent factors no more complex than sectors of the haves and the have-nots. This practice is harmful to our sense of community, and it is a shameless disregard for the democratic process.
Jeff Mathers, St. Petersburg
War crimes verdict: guilty | April 27
The conviction of Charles Taylor for war crimes in Liberia and in Sierra Leone brought back memories of my trip to Liberia in 2009. The country has strong ties to the United States, having been founded in 1822 by freed American slaves.
The country is now in a state of peace, albeit fragile, and has been united, to a great extent, under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the only female president in Africa. Much work and rehabilitation remains for the country, however, after the atrocities and war crimes committed by Taylor, its former president.
There is no electricity except when generators run in government offices and in some homes. There is no municipal water system; the country survives on bottled water and outside wells. The boy soldiers who are now young men need to be educated; the market women who kept the country fed during the Taylor years need to have agriculture assistance and education.
Because this African nation, unlike any other, has such a strong history forged through people from the United States, we should all pay attention to its progress now that Taylor has been convicted of the horrible crimes he committed against the people of Liberia.
Susan Zwieg, St. Petersburg
L.A. riots at 20 | April 29
King is not the hero
I noted with dismay that the media is making a hero of Rodney King on the anniversary of his confrontation with the law.
If you are looking for heroes in this incident, choose Bryant "Pooh" Allen and Freddie Helms. Never heard of them? Allen and Helms were passengers in Rodney King's car that night. The reason most people have never heard of them is because both Allen and Helms did everything the police told them to do. No story there.
If Rodney King would have acted responsibly that night like Allen and Helms did, no one (except the Los Angeles criminal justice system) would have ever heard of him. And 54 people would still be alive, 2,300 people would not have been injured, 3,100 buildings would not have been damaged (half of them destroyed), and $1 billion dollars would not have been lost through fire and looting. Sorry, Rodney King, you are no hero.
James S. Woodrow, Bradenton
Too many hurdles
Being out of work is hard enough. Bills are tight; jobs are scarce. To even get the unemployment you qualify for, you need to jump through all kinds of hoops. They repeatedly have you make trips to the One-Stop Center, which is far for some people, and the trip accomplishes nothing.
Every two weeks, you have to go online and give them the names of 10 companies you've contacted, five from each week. You can't claim your weeks early and if you're out looking for work all day and get home after the time limit, you could lose your unemployment benefits. This system is hardest on the people who are actively looking for work.
Why do they make it so difficult to collect a check that you've paid into for years? I understand that people abuse the system, but is all this necessary?
Joey Schneider, Tampa
Florida GOP fights penalty | April 29
Florida Republican Party chairman Lenny Curry has pushed for the national GOP to bend the rules, again, and not punish the state of Florida for breaking its own rules, again.
"If you push on a wall long enough eventually you get a way to go around it or over it," he said. Is this the message that the GOP wants to send to the country? Don't like the rules? Ignore them. Get penalized for doing so? Push back until you get your way.
Is this any way for a national party to behave? The entire argument of the state GOP flies in the face of taking personal responsibility for one's actions. What blatant hypocrisy.
Christopher Jonathan Gerber, St. Petersburg
Rubio may be losing ground in veepstakes April 29
Lack of experience at top
I'm just guessing, but I believe it's a safe bet that those quoted in the Times who question Sen. Marco Rubio's experience to be a vice presidential candidate voted for President Barack Obama.
I find it ironic that these people would question Rubio's experience, when in fact if they want to find a politician with absolutely no leadership or executive experience, they need to look no further than the Oval Office.
Frank S. Fischer, Spring Hill