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Fairness of Melone column questioned

In Mary Jo Melone's column of Sunday, Jan. 23, (Clubs give Tampa's image a beating), she insulted my integrity and injected herself in a lawsuit between Dr. Kirk Woodson and myself using unfounded facts and her own distorted opinions. She did this without any effort on her part to ascertain the true facts from me, my wife, or my attorney.

Her statement that I was ashamed to sell my home to a friend is patently untrue. We solicited many of our friends to buy the home and thought on several occasions that a friend would buy it. We can easily prove this.

The statement that the home was a "disaster" when Dr. Woodson bought it is totally false. My wife and I lived in the house for nearly two years and it was in excellent condition when Dr. Woodson bought it. My wife and I have built 20 homes and done 14 major remodeling jobs in South Tampa. We have never failed to satisfy any owner on any construction aspect. We have an excellent reputation and Dr. Woodson's antics cannot destroy it.

The problems with the Woodson home today are either problems that developed after we sold the house over four years ago or are newer problems, both of which have been greatly exacerbated by poor or no maintenance. Even though the home is now in bad shape and continues to deteriorate due to Dr. Woodson's negligence, it can be repaired properly for a fraction of the $170,000 Dr. Woodson claims is required.

Mary Jo Melone has jumped into this case without the benefit of any background search of either party. She identifies me only as a member of Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club, a "cousin" of the Gasparilla Krewe. I am one of what she identifies as the "belongers." Then she accused me of selling Dr. Woodson a home that was a disaster. Then she shifts the whole matter to minority discrimination and lays the root blame for Woodson's problem at the feet of unnamed, influential Tampa people, whom she claims are insensitive to all of Dr. Woodson's problems.

The lawsuit Dr. Woodson and I are engaged in, however, has nothing to do with racial discrimination. Ms. Melone does Tampa a terrible disservice to drag this case into that arena and rekindle ill feelings. Private clubs in Tampa have made a strong effort to bring minorities in as members. If your Tampa edition of the St. Petersburg Times wants to build believability you are going to have to practice a higher form of journalism.

Michael J. Shea, Tampa

Truth and honesty

Re: The truth according to North, editorial, Feb. 15.

Talking about truth and honesty in politics, how about the really big, "true and honest" liberal politicians: John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy and the biggest of all, our president, Bill Clinton?

If honesty and truth are to be found, don't look for them in our politicians. Oliver North is a small fish in an ocean full of "honest" liberal whales of the kind mentioned above.

Andres A. Fontanez, St. Petersburg

"Now we know"

"Illegitimacy" is a convenient scapegoat in an economy that has little room for unskilled, ill-educated people. Elijah Anderson's Feb. 13 column, Abolish welfare _ then what? goes to the core of the problem: lack of family-sustaining jobs.

Charles Murray, a spokesperson for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), ignores the fact that so many low-skilled jobs have either gone to low-wage countries or have been automated. He fails to mention that federal funds for schools, housing and neighborhood improvement were cut to throw more money to the Pentagon and give huge tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 percent who were then supposed to provide more jobs.

African-American husband-wife households went from 70 percent to 39 percent since 1970 for two reasons: the loss of jobs and the subsequent crumbling of black neighborhoods. Affirmative action helped the upwardly mobile who left those communities to the poor and less educated.

Of course, the same thing has happened to whites for the same reasons. But Murray cannot possibly blame economics. AEI is an elite conservative think-tank whose business is to shape public policy and public opinion. Murray says our social problems are due to a lack of morals, as the stigma of illegitimacy has disappeared in the last 30 years. Coincidentally, we've had a reborn feminist movement about that long.

So now we know, according to Murray and his ilk, just who is responsible for crime, drugs, poverty, etc. _ single working mothers and welfare mothers who are too indecent to get and keep a husband. If these think-tanks could come up with a way to blame them for wars, all our major social problems could be solved.

Maria Falbo, Tampa

Keeping TV affordable

Re: Device aims to zap taped TV ads, Feb. 17.

It seems inevitable that if TV commercial zappers become commonplace, the advertisers will quit paying for the programs we watch. This will eliminate the commercial broadcast stations and leave nothing but subscription PBS and pay-per-view cable.

Just as advertisements hold down the cost of newspapers and magazines, they keep TV affordable. Perhaps we owe some degree of attention to the "word from our sponsor."

Joe Weygandt, Homosassa Springs

Still a bargain

As far as I am concerned the U.S. first class postage stamp is still by far the biggest bargain in the whole world. The postal workers do a very good job.

Boyd Mannon, Largo

Products "cruelty-free'

I enjoyed reading the article about the cosmetic chain, the Body Shop, in the Feb. 15 Business section.

In addition to the company's social and environmental concerns, it should also be noted that all the Body Shop's products are cruelty-free. The company will not sell any products that have been tested on animals.

Michael Furlong, South Pasadena

No justice in Waco

I can't help but wonder what justice is being sought for the nearly 80 Branch Davidians who died in the Waco compound on April 19, 1993.

I feel compassion for the families of the four federal agents killed there; they were at the mercy of misguided judgment by their superiors.

I also feel compassion for the mothers and children huddled in collapsed concrete bunkers in the compound, just as dead, also at the mercy of misguided judgment by their superiors.

It's time we demand accountability for these actions by our Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Department of Justice. Do we pay them to make war on innocents?

Any cop on the beat shows more common sense.

These Branch Davidians were following a misguided leader: a result of a longing for God in their lives. If we treated all such people similarly, each of Jim Bakker's followers would have been jailed along with him. It's as insane as the Nazis killing all Jews because "they killed Christ."

We founded this country in part to avoid being put to death due to religion. We need to dig our principles out of the trash can on this matter and look at real occurrences: David Koresh was not the only person in Waco whose judgment was questionable.

The bulldozers in that compound shortly after April 19 didn't seem to be ensuring the thorough investigation promised at that time by the Department of Justice.

What we witnessed in Waco was an extermination, not justice. And it's going on still.

Eileen Buchanan, Pinellas Park

A place for winter sports

Re: Tired of skiingthere's more to winter sports, Travel section, Feb. 13.

Much of the article was about sports in Michigan _ Pando ski area near Grand Rapids; Echo Valley at Kalamazoo; Mackinac Island State Park with designated cross-country ski trails.

One place not mentioned was Muskegon, our hometown, which has one of the finest winter sports complexes in the whole state of Michigan, and we're just 40 miles from Grand Rapids.

Muskegon has one of just two Olympic-style luge runs in the United States. Real daredevils glide down the big run, but the smaller runs at Muskegon State Park are still a thrill. There are five miles of lighted cross-country ski trails and a heated lodge with a fireplace. There are marked snowmobile trails, too, over 120 miles winding through woods and past lakes and rivers. Their excellent skating rink will host the National Short Track and Speed Skating Championships in March 1995.

This struggling town needs to get on its tourist feet after industry pulled out, leaving residents unemployed and depressed. Muskegon is our summertime home.

Our winters have been spent in Clearwater for the past 15 years and we love it here. Snow is for the young and young-at-heart!

Ann and Harvey Lloyd, Clearwater

NRA's 'big lie'

I am sick of hearing and reading the big lie spouted by the National Rifle Association's spokespersons and puppets: "Gun-control laws would take guns away from law-abiding citizens."

Gun-control laws, by making guns harder but not impossible to buy, would cut down on the carnage caused by the easy availability of all types of guns. They are about control, not confiscation.

Surely, even a chimpanzee would be intelligent enough to see that gun-control laws, plus sensible removal of revolving doors at prisons, would help reduce crime _ unless, of course, he or she has a mentality like the legislator who believes John Wayne appeared before him and told him to fight against gun control.

Beth Stiles, St. Petersburg

Subtitle suggestion

Re: Pa.'s strict abortion law delayed, Feb. 17.

A subtitle read: "some 200 women were denied abortions." How much nicer it would have been if you had worded it: "some 200 babies were saved!"

Vivian R. VanLiere, Clearwater

"Fife deserves better'

Re: Clay Bennett cartoon, Feb. 18.

Heavens to Mayberry, Clay Bennett. How can you place the Legislature name tag on a dedicated, honest public servant who enforces the law to the letter in a professional manner unparalleled?

The people of Mayberry will "sleep well" tonight. There will be no jaywalking or U-turning on main street. Deputy Barney Fife is on duty.

The political jaywalking and U-turning in the Legislature give the people of Florida many sleepless nights.

Deputy Fife would have none of that.

Come now, Clay, Barney Fife deserves better.

Harry S. Harper, Clearwater

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