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Conclusions on poverty "grossly flawed'

After reading James J. Kilpatrick's column, Poverty report is baloney, and then looking at Don Addis' cartoon in the same edition (Sept. 11), both of which were comments on the recent census bureau "findings" that some 35-million people are living in poverty in this country and allegedly therefore going hungry, and wondering which of the opinions, 180 degrees apart, the Times endorsed, I felt compelled to express my own thoughts and observations.

By even the most conservative of today's standards, I spent the first 18 years of my life in poverty. Nor was I alone. Many if not most of my neighbors and school acquaintances were in the same boat. We had, however, one advantage. We were unaware of our dire circumstances. We didn't have a bunch of bleeding-heart liberals and a huge self-serving bloated bureaucracy to tell us how awfully bad off we were.

I was the oldest of 10 children. My father earned the munificent sum of $50 per week. All of us worked as soon as we were able, from selling magazines, peddling newspapers, working at a department store at the then-going-wage of $9 per week and in the local steel plant at 40-cents an hour, almost the entire amount of which went to my mother to help support the family. No, we did not feel either deprived or victims of injustice, and with the help of the government after serving in World War II, with only two exceptions, we all graduated from college.

To any neutral observer, looking at the current restaurant patronage, the number of people attending athletic events, the shopping malls, the 97 percent of households which have at least one TV, the fact that there are more automobiles registered in this country than there are licensed drivers, etc., even without statistics it should be apparent that the figures, or at least the conclusions on poverty are grossly flawed, and with the current welfare and food stamp programs even in the most frugal states, there is no necessity for anyone to go hungry.

Yes, we do have needy people in this country, some through no fault of their own and some incapable of helping themselves, and most certainly these should be taken care of, but they are a very small minority. As mayor of a small upstate N.Y. city for eight years, I saw much of this first hand, and it was my observation that laziness, ignorance and, yes, corruption were far more significant factors than lack of means.

We have as noted above a huge, well-remunerated bureaucracy whose very existence is dependent upon convincing us how bad things are and how much needs to be done. I recall seeing "statistics" about 10 years ago that concluded that less than 25 percent of the money spent on welfare programs ever got to the people who actually needed them. How valid these statistics were I do not know, but I suspect they were at least as valid as the current ones.

Donald F. Murphy, Dunedin

A success in Arkansas

Many of us were disgusted with the Willie Horton slurs in 1988, but we are now appalled at the outright Bush lies about Gov. Bill Clinton and Arkansas. Gov. Bill Clinton has been a great success in Arkansas and is esteemed by other governors.

Francis J. Bassett, Bradenton

A "step backward'

Thank you for publishing Very little ladies (Floridian, Sept. 29). I found the article to be quite interesting and informative, although it did make it a bit difficult for me to keep my breakfast down. How sad to see such a step backward.

It is indeed fortunate for me that this column was printed before I did my Christmas shopping.

Joanne White, Pinellas Park

Editorial challenged

Re: High-priced vision, editorial, Sept. 13.

You have your facts wrong.

Your editorial said: "Now the county is spending thousands more on fancy weekend getaways for court officials "

Your editorial said: "Then in March court officials spent a weekend at the Radisson Suite Resort on Sand Key for something they call "visioning.'

"

Your editorial said: "They need a weekend at the Hilton to decide that "

Your editorial said: "No swordfish dinners or cocktails there."

Your editorial said: "spending thousands more to give court officials cushy surroundings for adding their own ideas "

The facts are that the visioning seminar held on March 3, 4 and 5 neither occurred on a weekend nor involved a "getaway." The November conference is planned for a Thursday and Friday, does not provide for overnight accommodations for any of the participants, will not occur in cushy surroundings and will not involve the expenditure of public funds for cocktails.

Only a few judges were in attendance at the March visioning seminar. The group included the clerk of court, attorneys, human services professionals, court staff, county administrative staff and a variety of community leaders. The $185,000 Department of Justice grant which funded the seminar required that the Sixth Judicial Circuit provide a place for the conference and meals for the participants. None of the participants stayed at the Radisson Hotel and none of the judges received "cocktails" at government expense, as was implied in your editorial.

Your editorial said: "Pinellas officials have chosen a Cadillac approach. First they paid a sky-high sum for an outside study, but have not implemented the study's recommendations "

The facts are that many of the recommendations made by the National Center for State Courts in an exhaustive two-year study have been implemented and the remainder are in the works.

I told your reporter that "some of the recommendations" have not been implemented. Study recommendations implemented include the following examples: the establishment of a family law division; the implementation of a comprehensive court personnel system; a master motion calendar; new statistical tools for evaluating case-flow processing standards; the removal of the criminal justice planner from this office; the implementation of a unified trial court budgeting system; and the maximization of collection rates for bond estreatures and forfeitures which have added literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to the public treasury. There are numerous other examples.

The Pinellas Board of County Commissioners has also implemented many of the recommendations of the study, including asking the clerk of court to justify her expenditure of $800,000 per year in overtime payments to her employees, a fact brought out by the study. The board has implemented, with the cooperation of this office, a new trial court budget and expenditure reporting system to better measure the costs of the justice system in this community and which, for the first time, will document expenditures fostered onto local taxpayers by the state. The board is exceedingly concerned about the efficiency of the justice system. So are judges. Every effort is being made to cooperate with the board toward improving the efficiency of the justice system in this community.

Your editorial quotes me out of context. It says that I referred to judges as "myopic." What I told your reporter was that judges will process nearly 400,000 new case filings this calendar year. I added that there are only 51 judges to deal with this massive caseload and that it is not surprising that judges focus their attention on the work before them. I said that they seldom have an opportunity to look at or deal with the systemic dynamics of justice in our community. I said that "visioning" would provide them with such an opportunity. I used the term "myopic" to mean that judges are so focused on dealing with massive caseloads that they don't always deal with what the system dynamics mean. The fact is that judges are very concerned about such issues. Judges do want to become involved.

What you didn't tell the public in your editorial was that every meal and every expense of the seminar were itemized in a memorandum from me to the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, and were approved by that body prior to the expenditures being incurred. A copy of that letter and the materials presented to the board were provided to your newspaper prior to the board's consideration at a public meeting. Your reporters were invited to attend the March session. They chose not to do so. Your editorial fails to mention that expenses for the November session have also been publicly disclosed.

Florida law provides that state employees and elected officials are entitled to be reimbursed for meals when attending meetings that involve public business. The facts show that every expenditure for the March seminar was fully disclosed and provided for by law. Nothing has been hidden from the public eye.

Your editorial overlooked the fact that the courts of this community were selected from all courts in the nation to help formulate and implement nationally the concept of envisioning a better justice system in all communities across the country. Judges need the time to formulate policy. Judges need the opportunity to become pro-active about resolving important public issues.

The judges of this circuit have not had an opportunity to decide whether they wish to meet in a hotel in November. They will do so at a forthcoming meeting. Your newspaper article and subsequent editorial were premature. I think that it is unfair for you to criticize judges generally for this decision when they have not had an opportunity to make such a decision and to date have not done so. They share your concerns.

Those of us who struggle daily with critically important issues which affect the very foundation of our culture would welcome your understanding of the visioning process. Those of us who have participated in this exercise think that it is a positive opportunity to get critically important issues on the table and then to find ways to involve the community in their resolution.

J. William Lockhart, Courts Administrator,

Sixth Judicial Court of Florida, Clearwater

"Such disrespect'

I cannot believe Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Ron Alderman has not been fired on the spot. Such disrespect for the people of Florida! No wonder people won't register to vote. God help us all.

Joseph R. Cline, Clearwater

Lack of leadership

I'm appalled that 10-million able-bodied people are idle at this moment when there are 100-million jobs needing doing in this country. Where are the CCC camps, the WPA cleaning up our cities, etc.?

Nothing _ total _ I mean total lack of leadership from the top down.

W. L. Dominy, Holiday

Share your opinions

Address letters for publication to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL. 33731.

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