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Florida's new look _ one huge concrete block?

Re: Pave state; don't save it, Feb. 19.

Hooray for the environmentalist "Pavers' Bill of Rights"! What they say is exactly what the politicians, developers and government bigwigs want for this state! One huge block of concrete, from gulf to ocean, Georgia to the Everglades!

One wonders why, with Swiftmud crying the blues about water shortages, we have new developments of 2,000 to 4,000 homes going up, and humongous malls to be built, on ground that now absorbs and delivers water to the underground aquifer from rains that fall. And of course, to go along with the new homes, there will be numerous golf courses _ there is probably one for every golfer in Florida right now _ and they have to keep everything lush and green all year round.

Why not the draw the line on development?

No-o-o! Politicians would not get all the money they want, or the free condos on the beach! What good is it to make rules and regulations and then make all kinds of exceptions for anyone who wants to change the rules to suit himself? And I have never figured out how developers got their hooks on all the beaches and shores of Florida in the first place.

Pat Noel, Tampa

I was watching a TV news program the other day, and the water shortage was on the agenda. It was pointed out to the viewers that the members of Swiftmud were considering a no-sprinkling ban, as the water was growing so scarce.

It would seem to me that the county would hire a needed number of men or ladies just to police the county and fine violators of the water-sprinkling restriction ban. It seems to me that they would be an asset, and bring in much more money than they were paid in salaries.

Not a day goes by that I don't view some individuals who blatantly break the law and water their lawns any day and time that they please. They are greatly contributing to the water shortage, and think nothing of it.

I also would favor a central location so that one might phone in to report the violators.

Louis M. Winters, St. Petersburg

He'll continue reading

Re: A yuppie moves into Tonya's trailer park, by Howard Troxler, Feb. 18.

I have read Mr. Troxler's articles for years and have always enjoyed them, and pretty much believed in them. But I think on this article, he had a bad night _ especially the last paragraph, where he said he loved Tonya. I doubt this!

In the past, I have given him credit for having a more mature attitude.

I will continue to read your paper and Troxler's articles.

Gil Fancher, Brooksville

More on hoax

One would think with the colossal amount of newsworthy events that happen in the Tampa Bay area daily that attacking a children's make-believe character would not be worthy of one centimeter of newspaper space. The articles done on Luscious Bromley did exactly what the creator intended. It got him and his counterpart free publicity, nationwide, I might add, for their amateur comedy act.

A group that forms to contest that Barney was the "anti-Christ" would really have little to do to make this their life's mission. Adults, in their sound mind, would automatically know that a make-believe character could never be the anti-Christ. People in the professional news trade usually have a "nose for news" and they should have been able to see right through this farce.

It really upsets me that important news coverage space was wasted on these articles and now John Bunch and David Bennett have free, national media coverage and promotion of their comedy act.

Kathy J. Barnes, Plant City

I am a religious liberal. I have read Thomas J. Billitteri and applaud his open-minded approach to the broad spectrum of "religion."

In his Feb. 19 column Barney hoax is no joke, he stated: "My point is this: I don't like pranks that make one religion or another buffoonish or dangerous." And later, he says: "But making a laughingstock of "Christians' (whatever that label implies), creationists, fundamentalists or people who happen not to like secular humanism is repugnant."

I disagree. One's religious expression should be no more a shield than his flag. To expose the insanity of closed minds is very Christian, very religious, very American. Jesus was not the first teacher to use political satire to attempt to topple a religio-governmental oppressive regime, just the most written about. You'll find parables in most religious texts which point out how despots are despicable. This country was formed by people for whom both religious and political dictators were intolerable. Guerrilla theater played an inseparable part of that transformation.

All religions use education as essential to understanding the world. If we do not expose those who would educate and control us for their own ends, then we deserve our Pontius Pilates, our church inquisitions, and continued reactionary erosion of our basic human rights.

Those who live by the microphone must expect to hear themselves. I think Barney is grossly stupid. I think the "Human Kennel" comedy team of John Bunch and David Bennett are gross and creative. I think the dangerous one in this scenario is the unnamed North Carolina minister who had "advanced the Barney-as-satanist theory." All deserve the same treatment _ being held up to the spotlight of reason. Got a match, Tom?

Norman A. Peterson, Clearwater

I am truly dismayed at the lack of responsibility taken by the print media in the Tampa Bay area when so much publicity can be given to a hoax engineered by local comedians regarding the "satanic qualities" of Barney and almost no attention given to a world renowned author and lecturer on child development. Joseph Chilton Pearce spoke to an embarrassingly sparse audience at the University of South Florida in November. With the exception of two St. Petersburg Times writers, Bob Henderson and Ruth Walsh, there was no proper publicity for this important event, which presented invaluable information for parents and teachers about children in today's society.

The media is powerful and I fear that the undue attention given to sensationalism serves merely to feed the appetite for sensationalism by the public. I am appealing for ethical and moral and intelligent discernment on the part of the media in deciding the fate of stories presented to them and in looking at the role you can play in bringing to the public's attention something that is truly worthy of their attention.

Barbara Bedingfield, Largo

Teaching in the '90s

Re: Teen tries to poison teacher, Feb. 16.

Perhaps I've been retired from teaching too long _ 15 years doesn't seem too long ago _ yet this news item made me feel like I taught during the stone age.

I couldn't believe the last paragraph. "The 29-year-old said she had placed the cup on her desk, occasionally returning for a sip."

The idea of teachers having cups of coffee on their desks and returning occasionally for a sip during class time would have sent them packing a few years ago. The laid-back, easy going educational system of today where teachers call each other by their first names and carry coffee into their classrooms is too informal for many of us.

What's next _ a parents' group soliciting the school system to allow coffee machines in every classroom in the interest of "fairness"? Why should just teachers enjoy coffee? Parents, form a group, hire an attorney, your kids deserve fairness.

Back in the old days (1978) coffee sipping was done in the teachers' lounge or the lunchroom _ but who wants to go back to the "old days"?

Richard B. Schneider, Clearwater

Re: Motives murky in teacher poisoning, Feb. 17.

The 14-year-old who put rat poison in a teacher's coffee is not "just immature" or "busy," as Webb Junior High Principal Angie Ripple is quoted as saying. This boy has major problems with identifying right from wrong. The classmates have to bear responsibility for not challenging his behavior as unacceptable. Entry into an "off-limits" cabinet as well as putting anything in someone else's drink is clearly out of bounds.

The school environment is clearly not under control, and student behavior is not clearly defined either.

The student and his peers should have had standards of behavior instilled and enforced consistently at home by parents or caretakers. Unfortunately, the permissive or laissez-faire attitude of most parents has created an out-of-control generation. Obviously, the permissive and condoning attitude of school officials does nothing to correct the problem.

Ms. Ripple's ending statement (she made an announcement over the intercom to all teachers:"No more coffee in classrooms") clearly identifies how ineffective her "leadership" is for both teachers and students. No standards and no enforcement, if there are standards, lead to disaster. And we wonder why we have guns and guards at schools? I wonder how Ms. Ripple would feel is she were targeted next time. Perhaps she'd still say he didn't mean to do it?

Elizabeth Keith, St. Petersburg

Stop military training

We have seen nothing in our local paper about the fact that 4,500 U.S. troops are currently taking part in a six-month training exercise in Guatemala. The most militarized country in Central America, Guatemala does not need our training. The presence of our troops contributes to the Guatemalan army's control of the country _ the same army that is already guilty of destroying villages, compelling over 500,000 campesinos to serve in civil defense patrols, and subjugating Guatemala's impoverished population.

It was the army's murderous military campaign that caused 200,000 indigenous people to flee to Mexico in the early 1980s. A few hundred of those refugees have returned to Guatemala during the past year, under an agreement signed in October 1992 that the areas to which they are to return are to be demilitarized. How can that agreement be honored if we are providing military training instead of promoting human rights? Amnesty International considered the Guatemalan army one of the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere. Our support of and cooperation with the military tend to reinforce dictatorial and repressive controls over civilian leadership which could bring democratic reforms.

If the United States were sincerely interested in promoting human rights and democracy in Guatemala, it would end its training exercises there and, instead, support the peace negotiations to end the 30-year-old war and urge the dismantling of the terror mechanisms of the Guatemalan army, including the 500,000-strong civil defense patrols.

Clark and Pat Bouwman, St. Petersburg

Prison security

Re: 5 escape from jail in Citrus, Feb. 18.

For many years I have been watching movies about prison escapes. They all seem to use the air duct for the escape route, as they did in this escape.

The facility in Citrus is approximately 16 months old. You'd think they would learn something about building prison security.

William Kaiser, St. Petersburg

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