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Stop the madness on Florida's waterways

Re: Turf war on the surf and Scooters an invitation to hot rod. I am writing in response to your articles focusing on the problems relating to the use of personal water craft on waterways around the state, May 28. The articles you printed touched on issues that I feel warrant closer attention.

I have long been an advocate of safe operation of water craft, protection of the environment and a supporter of individual rights to access and use of public waters. Living along the banks of the Hillsborough River for a number of years has provided me with a ring-side seat on which to base the following observations.

I believe most water craft operators do navigate their craft in a controlled and responsible manner. It is an irresponsible and reckless minority who make a bad name for other craft operators by endangering the lives of others on the river and the wildlife that inhabit waterways. They also threaten to obscure any pleasure that comes from living along a waterway. The problems and menaces I have seen on the Hillsborough River are not unique and can be found on most inland/coastal waterways.

Because of a few immature water craft users, I suggest the following steps be taken to neutralize irresponsible operators:

1. With a swelling number of water craft users in the state, the category of a "few" inconsiderate water craft operators grows proportionately to more than a "few." Because of the growing demands on limited recreational water resources, the time has come to require the education and licensing of all water craft operators. Stronger public support must be shown for licensing of water craft operators. During the last three legislative sessions, various bills proposed to institute licensing have failed. How many times does such legislation have to be introduced before the legislative membership gets the message that there is a need and desire for licensing?

2. Chronological age is not necessarily a valid measure to draw limitations on use of water craft. Develop a testing methodology that will screen out those incapable of operating water craft responsibly.

3. Dramatically increase penalties for breaking marine operational rules. Set a limit for offenses and revoke water craft operating privileges once that limit is reached. Direct funds collected through fines back exclusively to the marine units responsible for patrolling the waterways.

4. Lessen the temptations of scooter operators to harass other shallow-waterway users and wildlife by banishing them to deep-water bodies, like the gulf. Large racing-style boats with oversized engines should be restricted to deep-water areas as well.

5. Prohibit open containers of alcohol on board any vessel. The effects of sun, water-glare and speed, mixed with alcohol use, are deadly. What is the logic of allowing alcohol use on boats and not in automobiles?

6. Improvements in technology and design don't mean everyone is prepared to control them. Discourage the search for higher speeds and thrills by limiting access to high-tech power toys _ such as high performance speed boats _ through extremely high user taxes. Insist such craft are used only in the gulf.

7. Promote compassion for fellow waterway users and particularly helpless wildlife. Promote environmental sensitivity. Teach respect.

Stop the weekend madness on Florida's waterways. Write and call your local and state representatives, demanding they take action. Do it today. At a maximum, it's only six days to the next weekend, and it starts all over again.

Sylvia Espinola, Tampa

While I enjoyed Dave Barry's May 27 column, Plying the high grass of Miami, if there was a sand grain of truth in what he wrote, you could not argue more forcefully for instituting a boat operator's licensing program. Increased boater education would help reduce boating accidents and prevent deaths of the endangered manatee. With the enormous numbers of leisure boaters in Florida, the state needs to better protect the marine environment. I hope you continue your campaign for boaters' education, even if it is through tongue in cheek. Keep up the good work.

Mark A. DeCrosta, Land O'Lakes

Selected, not elected

Cease and desist! We should have done with Dan Quayle's bashing! Rather we should focus on the real culprit _ the one who willingly accepted our vice president's shortcomings. Certainly George Bush had been well advised of our vice president's background; yet President Bush selected him in spite of that. No doubt, the president felt that voter demographics supported his choice of a "Middle America" running mate. So be it. And who can blame young Dan for being elated at the news?

One thing, though _ I read the other day where someone said we should show our vice president proper respect because he was elected. Hold on! He was selected, not elected. Who has ever heard of a viable presidential candidate being defeated because of his choice of running mate? Not me!

Regarding our veep's shoe-filling qualifications, let me tell you _ he is more than qualified to fill just his own!!

John D. Woodward, Largo

Bring back the militia

I agree with the letter writer of May 30 regarding the Second Amendment being clear about the need for a well-regulated militia as necessary to the security of a free state, particularly since the demise of the state guard concept and centralization of all such units under the federal National Guard program. Who now is to protect the people of the individual states against an oppressive national government (Murphy's Law) if all military power is ultimately in the hands of that same federal government _ one which now wants to disarm me?

In keeping with the Second Amendment, all citizens who wish to keep and bear arms should be permitted to do so, contingent upon membership in a well-regulated state militia. Just as when our nation was founded, this army of civilians in each state would, by their very presence, provide a deterrent against oppressive, centralized power and enhance the sovereignty of each of these United States.

Required membership in the militia would remove guns from the hands of all but serious shooters (and criminals who, of course, will always have guns, no matter what) and would keep both Handgun Control Inc. and the NRA happy. The periodic training obligations laid upon all lawful gun-owning civilians by such a state militia would not be an infringement upon one's right to keep and bear arms within the strict wording of the Second Amendment. In fact, it would make our forefathers proud to see men and women, old and young, side by side with our modern weapons, training in their footsteps.

Big game hunter? Join the state militia. Target shooter? Join the state militia. Home owner who wants a pistol for protection? Join the state militia. State governors? Now that you have regained your own constitutionally-provided military power, all that remains between the sovereignty of your state and the federal monolith is economic power. I'll solve that problem next time.

Kenneth J. Miller Jr., Largo

In reference to a recent letter to the editor, I take exception to the statements concerning the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the "militia" as identified in the Second Amendment of the Constitution. We who are members of the NRA neither falsely interpret the amendment nor fail to recognize the militia. On occasion, I have personally written letters to the editor concerning this very subject.

For the letter writer's edification, the Second Amendment cannot be interpreted by modern standards. It must be understood in the same context as it was written over 209 years ago. Our independence was won by a "ragtag" militia of "we the people." In those days, the militia consisted of every able-bodied citizen who owned a rifle or musket and bag of powder and shot. When men like Hamilton, Franklin, Adams and Madison were framing the Constitution, the document called for a unified nation and a standing army. However, after fighting the war, experience led them to be wary of the power of a standing army. Therefore, James Madison was delegated to author the Second Amendment as an equalizer. Madison stated, "The ultimate authority is with the people alone due to the advantage of being armed."

Despite the false interpretation concerning militia, as stated by Handgun Control Inc. (HCI) and most of the media, the militia as we know it today did not exist for over 100 years after the Bill of Rights. It did not become a nationally controlled organization until the passage of the Dick bill of 1903! During the interim, the individual states and the able-bodied "armed people" constituted the militia. If you look back on history during the Civil War, it was the states that raised a major portion of the troops that fought that war.

In the opinion of most NRA members, the people's "militia" still exists today in the law-abiding armed citizen. Down through the years, NRA firearms training and competition have sent many good marksmen into battle to protect this nation.

Harry L. Keneman, Palm Harbor

Required reading

Congratulations for including the column by Robert B. Reich (Democrats ought to lead the way in rebuilding nation) in your issue of May 28. This is the kind of economic and social philosophy which should become better known and accepted by all Americans.

I have read his latest book, The Work of Nations, and it reveals him to have a rare insight on the problems of our society and the world. It should be required reading for all college students and elected officials at all levels of government. The book exposes as myths many of the views which currently active those officials, and urges a more desirable perspective on the global economy and the way it affects our citizens.

Tony Connole, Homosassa

The answer is No

Re: Additional billions for Israel and the Soviet Union.

Attention: Washington, D.C.

"Just say no!"

Dorothy E. Karkheck, Palm Harbor

Helmets save lives

During the past 11 years that I have been in family practice in St. Petersburg, I have attempted to emphasize the importance of preventive medicine to all of my patients. Among the most important recommendations is that bicycle riders of all ages wear approved helmets whenever they get on their bikes. Children should have attractive helmets supplied by their parents at the same time they are given bikes.

My recommendations were based upon published reports of the effectiveness of helmets in the prevention of head injuries during falls from moving bicycles. In particular, it was reported that the vast majority of fatal bike accidents occur to people who suffer severe head injuries, and that Snell or ANSI-approved helmet use could have prevented most of those deaths.

The reality of those statistics came to me with a "bang" yesterday afternoon as my head hit asphalt at 22 mph. While on one of my usual training rides, alone on a good road, I lost control of my bike with the help of an unwelcome wasp. After swatting away the wasp, I looked up to find myself on the curb. After a split-second losing battle to regain control, I was catapulted head-first to the roadway. My rear end touched down first with a painful skidding thud, following immediately by my head. Thankfully, this doc follows his own advice, and my well-constructed Bell helmet absorbed most of the impact. Whereas my back and rear were severely bruised, I didn't even have a headache. In my opinion, I owe my life to that helmet.

Perhaps one day, you or your children will also be able to say the same thing.

Bruce Edward Day, M.D., St. Petersburg

Downtown dreamers

On Wednesday, May 29, two Times team efforts proved again what a superb job this newspaper can do in shedding light on local issues.

First was the two-page editorial feature, Examining the urgent issues of our region and the fascinating discussion of growth by four Tampa Bay leaders.

Second was the fine package of stories on changes in the Bay Plaza management and strategy and what they mean.

In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I must point out a couple of significant omissions in the sidebar on earlier Downtown dreamers.

The first-mentioned dreamer was Vlastimil Koubek, credited with being the developer of Bayfront Plaza, a proposed mid-1960s project aimed in part at sparking the renewal of the downtown. Actually, Koubek was not the developer but the prominent Washington, D.C. architect whom the developer, Homer Davis, engaged to design the project. It was Davis who practically commuted between St. Petersburg and his home in Richmond, Va., working out the details of the complex transaction which, incidentally, not only contained the 340-room hotel, 262-unit apartment building and 1,364 parking spaces mentioned in the story but also _ significantly _ the new high-rise headquarters of Florida Power Corp.

Davis' hard work, and that of several city leaders as well, paid off. By 1967, it was a "done deal." Davis had his financing in hand; construction was about to start. Then a lawsuit challenging the city's role virtually assured a long and costly delay and rendered the project economically unfeasible. Thereupon, Florida Power moved its headquarters out of downtown St. Petersburg to its present location on 34th Street South.

Many of the city leaders involved in that project are gone, so I come forward as a former Times staffer whose major assignment in 1967 was to cover the Bayfront Plaza transaction. Before my retirement last year, I reviewed those old clippings and feel comfortable that this is an accurate synopsis.

Elizabeth Whitney, St. Petersburg

Objections expected

Re: France outlaws surrogate births, June 2.

France has proclaimed a democratic society civilized answer to "surrogate birthing."

The legal profession (which, too frequently, is on a par with the oldest one) will no doubt object.

J. A. Farrell, St. Petersburg

Action needed

Referring to the extensive coverage of the growth situation, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) once said everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.

Wouldn't this apply to our growth problem?

Theodore H. Peters, St. Petersburg

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. Or they can be sent by facsimile machine by calling the Times' fax number, 893-8675. They should be brief and must include the handwritten signature and address of the writer.

Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be printed.

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