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  1. Archive

Time to eliminate Florida's second primary election

Re: A bad idea back again. The Times editorial of Feb. 14 against doing away with Florida's second primary election was based solely on the belief that the state would not have had

several outstanding governors who finished second, and, thereby, would have been eliminated in a single primary, the year they went on to be nominated and elected. The leading example is Reuben Askew.

This conclusion relies on hindsight and presupposes several unknowns: 1.that the runoff primary loser would have been a worse governor; 2.that candidates would have campaigned the same way with a single primary (unlikely); 3.that the outcome would have been the same in a single primary among the same candidates; 4.that voters would cast ballots for favorite-son and dark-horse candidates instead of making a serious choice between front-runners.

It also seems to assume that the two-primary system will filter out "bad" governors, when it's just as likely that a well-financed poor choice, in a large field of first-primary contenders, could make the runoff as easily as a good one and win, grabbing a second-round switch of voters through massive media exposure.

In their attachment to a second primary the media seem to have forgotten that they are exclusively a product of the South, in nine states, born in what used to be a virtual one-party system, and used as a device to prevent blacks from winning elections. When the South was 99 percent Democrat, the second primary was decisive because, as was so often said, the Democratic nomination was "tantamount to election." The runoff was the general election. With Florida now a genuine two-party state, that tradition is outdated and serves no purpose.

In the days when there was concern over the power of the black vote, and a desire to control it, the second primary allowed a field of candidates to be safely narrowed, and the black vote safely diluted, before the decisive runoff, in which the white majority would always prevail. I doubt if this negative aspect of second primaries has ever been considered by editorialists as they advocate ensuring blacks their full share of power at the polls.

Inasmuch as the nomination of neither party is tantamount to election in modern Florida, your concern over extremist candidates I find a little overdrawn. I'm disappointed that the Times finds no appeal in the democracy of a larger voter turnout. Voter participation is the essence of the democratic system. If you want two of every 10 citizens nominating your political leaders, we have the second primary that makes it happen. But if you want democracy as it was designed, make the primary as decisive as the November presidential election, when 75 percent of registered voters turned out to name their government.

Jim Smith, Secretary of State, Tallahassee

A vote for Morgan Freeman

I was delighted to see that Morgan Freeman has been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the film Driving Miss Daisy.

He was the particular favorite of all the middle school students who had ever seen The Electric Company _ a particularly fine educational and entertaining series.

Dorothy Heflick, St. Petersburg

New tax suggestion

Re: A red ink reversal, Feb. 7.

In considering new ways to raise revenue perhaps Gov. Bob Martinez and the Legislature may consider a revolutionary new tax.

Legalized casino gambling on Florida's inshore waters.

Florida now has many foreign flag casino gambling vessels operating out of Florida ports, but receives no tax dollars from the gambling proceeds. Why? Because these foreign flag vessels only open the casino doors on the high seas in international waters.

The states of Iowa and Illinois have recently enacted legislation that permits casino gambling on riverboats. These states will receive 20 percent to 25 percent of the gambling proceeds in taxes. In only six locations in Iowa, the committed capital investment by entrepreneurs is already in excess of $300-million. Obviously, the return to the state will be an important source of tax revenue, not to mention the benefits of the capital investments.

If inshore vessel casino gambling is enacted, Florida's many miles of navigable inland waterways will be a gold mine. The tax proceeds could easily surpass the revenue of the Lottery. Of course, the billions of dollars in capital investment, new jobs, payrolls, etc. would certainly be welcome also.

The foreign flag offshore gambling vessels currently operating out of Florida ports do not have to meet the stringent laws of safety and vessel seaworthiness of American flag vessels. Their officers do not have to be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. Their crews often are a mixture of many nationalities, speaking many different languages. History has proved that in an emergency these inadequately trained crews, speaking in many tongues, have led to needless deaths and injuries. According to the National Transportation Safety Board the safety record of foreign flag vessels leaves much to be desired.

By contrast, all vessels operating exclusively on the inland waters of the United States must be American flag. This means that they must be American built to the highest standards in the world for safety and seaworthiness. They must be manned by American officers and crew that are highly trained and certified. The U.S. Coast Guard periodically inspects and certifies the vessels, as well as certifying the competence of the officers and crew.

If one had the choice of gambling aboard a foreign flag vessel and getting seasick in rough weather or gambling aboard an American flag vessel in smooth inland waters, and always in sight of shore, there is little doubt which vessel would be selected.

There is no moral question here. We already have casino gambling aboard vessels. The only question is; do we do the sensible thing by bringing it inshore and taxing it for the benefit of Floridians and provide safer vessels for the passengers, or do we continue to allow the "flags of convenience" to rip-off the taxpayer while seeking new ways to increase tax revenue?

Philip A. Ritchie, St. Petersburg

Democracy in America

Re: Tampa legislator up front at Mandela talk, Feb. 13.

And what are state Sen. John Grant's views on democracy in South Africa? "There is a question of what happens to a country if it is turned over to a people who are not ready to govern."

I guess we should know. We had Ronald Reagan. And we've got Sen. Grant.

Donald Wolcott Johnson, Safety Harbor

To reduce illiteracy

Florida's population total is 9,739,992 (1986). Of this number, educated predictions project 20 percent are illiterate. It means one of every five individuals is unable to read.

Is this the United States of America? Does President Bush really want to be the education president?

What kind of job must you take if you cannot read?

What can be done to correct this national disaster? It can be reduced if the federal government, state and local taxing bodies will assume responsibilities for this situation. How?

By adjusting the curriculum in grades four and six to make up losses of subject matter that occurs in grade five. The fifth grade becomes a learning center for all pupils in the field of reading.

The fifth grade becomes a year of concentration in reading thus taking the pupils, after tests, from his level of ability to his highest attainable skills. Each room will have two teachers. No other subjects will be taught. Every related aspect of reading will be taught engulfing phonics, spelling, comprehension, word use, writing, grammar, etc.

The above program would reduce illiteracy by approximately 35 percent.

As each pupil reached grade nine, a refresher course would be added to the curriculum as a required course.

Dr. L.

E. Hansberger, Pinellas Park

Mail in storage?

Re: Postal rates.

Perhaps if the Post Office would spend a little less time worrying about FAX machines and ATMs and a little more time worrying about delivering the mail, we would be a lot better off.

Louis Rukeyser put it very succinctly on Wall Street Week when he suggested that 30 cents was not to pay for postage. "After all," he said, "that's 5 cents for delivery and 25 cents for storage!" When it takes six days for a registered letter to get from Largo to a brokerage house in St. Petersburg, you have to figure it was in storage at least part of the time.

Julia L. Solomon, St. Petersburg

Save American wildlife

The excellent article For saving the Florida panther, it's desperation time, by Jeff Klinkenberg (Feb. 11) was most timely and important. It contained a message that should be broadcast around the nation.

The World Wildlife Fund recently held a meeting in Washington, D.C., on saving the African elephants. Two senators, Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) and Robert Kasten (Wis.) were invited to attend the meeting and were commended because they sponsored an appropriation of $2-million to save the elephants.

I firmly believe that if American dollars are to be spent to save wildlife, the money should be spent in the United States.

Warren Thurber, Bradenton

Bravo to the St. Petersburg Times for its coverage on environmental issues! From water quality and wetlands to the Peak Oil site, the Times is consistently there, providing information and raising reader awareness. Your consistent support of community events, including the Pier Aquarium project, is likewise commendable. Organizations like the Times are a godsend to St. Petersburg. Please don't stop!

Jo Claire Spear, St. Petersburg

We have waited too long to restore Florida's degraded estuaries. Technology breakthrough in the culture of oysters and barnacles as fish habitat provides the means to transform estuaries into food factors. Biologists and educators overlooked the estuarine dependent animal skeletons of oysters and barnacles as habitat, yet colonies of coral polyps formulate the beautiful and protected habitat coral reefs found only in tropic waters.

Oysters and barnacles may not resemble beauty to man, but they are rich habitat to fish. One square meter of oysters amounts to 50 square meters of surface area for algae, bacteria and detritus. These are the same food values found in seagrasses, which juvenile fish feed on.

The fresh-salt waters of Florida's estuaries provide the nutrient values to culture these estuarine animals and in turn these species provide the replacement habitat values of lost seagrasses.

Florida's idle and barren bay bottoms can once again be transformed into billions of life forms which nature intended. Man learned rapidly to transform or cultivate rich uplands and wild species of plants and animals into productive farm crops and today farming the sea is long overdue.

Gus Muench Jr., Ruskin

Check and checkmate?

Re: Gorbachev borrowing U.S. model for democracy, Feb. 12, by David Broder.

Let us hope that Chairman Gorbachev understands what he borrows. For instance, many discussions of presidential-congressional conflicts terminate in citations of our traditional check and balance system. But, in 34 years of teaching American government I never encountered a good analysis of what the word "balance" means in the context. It is my opinion that "balance" is chiefly a euphemism, added by commentators after the Constitution was adopted and not really descriptive of how our system works.

During the two millenia of Western political thought from Aristotle through Montesquieu to John Adams, "balance" referred to a balance of the social classes, each represented in a different branch of government. No doubt, that concept was relevant to the diverse ways in which offices of our several federal branches were originally filled. Now, however, we elect presidents and senators as well as representatives, and we expect all branches to represent all classes of people.

Very little use was made of the word "balance" by Hamilton, Madison and Jay in The Federalist. That term does appear in my copy, but chiefly in remarks and sub-titles added by later editors.

Does "balance" really help one to understand how our system works, or is it a euphemistic term for what is actually a check and checkmate system?

Ivan W. Parkins, New Port Richey

Share your opinions

We invite readers to write to us. Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731. They should be brief and must include the handwritten signature and address of the writer.

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