1. Archive

Vote doesn't end debate over T-backs

Editor: Re: "Thomas rips clergy on T-backs," Feb. 19.

There is an old axiom which states, "Half a loaf is better than none." Obviously you and your reporting staff believe that half a story is better than none.

Ned Seaton reported on the events of the Feb. 17 City Commission meeting and highlighted that one member of the clergy resented a letter from Commissioner Fred Thomas.

Commissioner Thomas responded in kind and truthfully. I agree wholeheartedly with his answer and his anger. However, that is not the point of this letter.

What Mr. Seaton failed to report or you edited from his report was the statement of the next clergyman who spoke. What he said was worth printing. He stated, and I am not quoting directly, that he did not take offense at Mr. Thomas' letter, that instead it got his attention. I believe that was definitely worth reporting and Mr. Seaton or you were remiss in not including it in your report.

What Mr. Thomas' letter did was create a wake-up call to the clergy that it was time to stand up and be counted publicly. I do not hold any ill will against the first clergyman who voiced his opinion. That is the purpose of the public hearing. I disagree with his opinion and I disagree with the action he took at the podium. Perhaps Mr. Thomas' letter gave him some food for thought and he was trying to cover up his earlier lack of response by taking the offense. Like Mr. Thomas, I feel that is his problem, not mine nor anyone else's.

Nor do I feel that Commissioner Thomas was out of line in responding as quickly and as forcefully as he did. Despite Mayor Rita Garvey's attempt to keep the meeting moving, this was a moment that needed a quick response. I did not take offense at her action in trying to quickly put an end to Mr. Thomas' response, since that is her job as chairwoman of the hearing and it was important to keep the meeting moving. But when a member of the audience makes a personal attack on a member of the commission, I do not feel that a member should sit mute, and this was a personal attack on Commissioner Thomas.

Commissioner Thomas should be applauded for taking the time to put the clergy on notice of the importance of this ordinance and the importance of their cooperation. I feel that the clergy is at times too slow to respond to the decay of public morality except from the pulpit. Sometimes you have to take your message out of the church and onto the public record.

In the future, when you are reporting something of this nature, please tell the whole story, not just selected versions.

Daniel J. Moran


Editor: Re: "Thomas rips clergy on T-backs," Feb. 19.

I must strongly protest such a misleading article. David Smith, in representing the Upper Pinellas Clergy Association as its president, did not speak before the commission concerning our group's view on the "morality" or "immorality" of T-backs on the beach. (Our group never took an official position one way or the other on this matter.)

And although the Rev. Smith did indicate that for many of us there are far more vital and important issues facing our community than this one, even that opinion referred solely to T-backs on the beach, which we consider quite different from nude clubs or scantily clad hot dog vendors.

The Rev. Smith was speaking in response to a letter Mr. Thomas sent to area clergy in which he attacked us because we had not come forward to voice an opinion on an ordinance that he feels is important, and so we are thus accused of not reading the newspapers, of not paying attention to what goes on in city government, and of being blind to the secondary and criminal effects of public nudity.

This, combined with Mr. Thomas' subsequent accusation at the commission meeting (after the Rev. Smith made his statement) that we thus promote immorality, is totally unacceptable, especially coming from an elected official.

The members of the Upper Pinellas Clergy Association are vitally involved in the community. Most of us serve on city boards and on the committees of a wide variety of civic and charitable organizations. We are involved in most ecumenical efforts in the area. We are concerned about affordable housing, poverty, health care and the homeless (which the Rev. Smith indicated, but which was ignored in Mr. Seaton's article).

We are anything but ill-informed and blind. And while our concept of morality might differ from that of Mr. Thomas, his anger was misplaced and inappropriately expressed.

Given his performance and Mr. Seaton's coverage of it, I feel they both owe us an apology.

Herbert Freitag


Editor: I applaud the City Commission of Clearwater for passing the ordinance banning the wearing of T-back bathing suits in public. At the same time I decry those members of the clergy who find that it is "no big deal."

It is evident that these men of the cloth are, both literally and figuratively speaking, wearing moral blinders if they cannot see that this type of public display is contributing to the unraveling of the moral fabric of society.

Robert P. Costen


Editor: Re: "Clearwater: New Munchkinland," Feb. 21 column by Diane Steinle.

The opinion of Clearwater Commissioner Dick Fitzgerald on the issue of T-backs is pure humbug, in my thinking.

I am happy about the decision to ban T-backs.

The last paragraph of the article describes exactly the kind of beach I want. Hooray for the commissioners' vote on the public nudity ordinance. Let's keep Clearwater sparkling.

June E. McClenahan


Religious right

encroaching on city

Editor: It would seem that our city policies are now being made by Beverly LaHaye's Concerned Women for America, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, and segments of other extreme religious right-wingers obsessed with Christian values.

Will our commissioners next go along with their attacks on theaters that program movies and plays they don't like or approve of, or boycott newspapers, catalogs, or magazines that advertise women in bras and panties (I'm surprised they haven't done that yet), or perhaps ban cars from the roads that do not have a "Jesus Christ" sticker on the bumper?

Civil rights, bought and paid for at a great cost to our country and unprejudiced citizens, are quickly being eroded by a commission that is acting more out of revenge and resentment and with pressures from these rabid religious groups.

I guess it's all right for Commissioner Fred Thomas to spew his insults from the pulpit, but let anyone speak their mind against his proposals and they are immediately subjected to his tongue-lashing. Do he and the other commissioners forget that they represent all Clearwater citizens and not just their personal views or the views of the religious right?

I hope all this is not forgotten when the next election takes place.

L.E. Brotsky


Computer is good

with words

Editor: In this marvelous age of computers, I never cease to be amazed at how smart these darn things are. Electronic thesauruses turn us into poets, and "spell checkers" have made us as accurate as legal secretaries.

The spell checker in my computer offers alternative word suggestions for words that are misspelled or that it doesn't recognize. For "Pinellas," the offerings include: pinheads, pinholes, pinwheels, pinballs, penniless and binomials.

You gotta love artificial intelligence!

Alan C. Bomstein