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Democrats should aim programs at working families

In his June 25 column, Families need traditional solutions, David Broder addresses the impending rift in the Democratic Party. He quotes Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who expressed concern about "millions of men and womenstruggling to stay afloat." Broder takes pains to point out that these are not welfare recipients, but working families who worry about paying their bills as well as their health and safety. Reich's remedies are described by Broder as traditional and include expanded Head Start, protecting the earned income tax credit, saving affirmative action, raising the minimum wage, welfare reform centered on improved access to child care, and job training for those who lose their jobs in a changing economy. Reich argues that if the Democratic Party abandons those people and the programs they need, it abandons its reason for being.

If the Democratic Party's base is the typical working family, then it is obvious why Democrats are having so much trouble appealing to this constituency. The average working family is having trouble making ends meet. A family of four with an annual income of $36,000 will pay about $7,100 in FICA, federal and state and local income taxes. This leaves about $2,400 a month to cover mortgage and car payments, utilities, food, clothing and entertainment. This is not a family that needs Head Start (in fact, they generally pay for their preschool children to attend nursery school part-time), welfare reform or child care (often the mother works only part-time so as to spend more time with her children). Nor is this family likely to benefit from affirmative action, raising the minimum wage or the earned income tax credit. These are traditional Democratic programs which have evolved over the last 30 years to benefit the lower class.

The typical working family worries about whether their children will be safe in the public schools they attend and whether the education they receive will enable them to compete in an increasingly competitive economy. This family knows that they will not enjoy the same standard of living that their parents did and do not believe Social Security will provide the safety net for them that it has for their parents. If the Democratic Party wants the support of working families, it must offer remedies that will allow these families to feel secure about their present and their future.

Mary Anne Reilly, St. Petersburg

Gosier evokes memories

What a pleasant way to start the day _ reading Elijah Gosier's column Some days are perfect for going back in time (June 17). I can't tell you how many memories it evoked for me.

The column can be summed up in his own words: "Over a lifetime we accumulate experiences and file them away under smells or sounds or colors or feels." How true!

For me, it is the first breath of cool air in fall, the feel of the wind that precedes a summer rain, or certain smells from the kitchen. Like the writer, I'm back on a small farm, too, but in Florida, not Georgia.

Gosier is a sensitive writer who commands words in a pleasing way. I won't miss his column from now on.

Gladys Oberly, New Port Richey

The way it was

Re: Hearing on water draws 250, June 23.

I would like to share my feelings about Swiftmud's policy of "local sources first." I'm a native of St. Petersburg and during my youth I experienced many things that today a young boy in this city/county will never know.

In the 1950s I lived just north of Lake Maggiore. During that period of time I can recall shooting quail with my grandfather after church _ where Tyrone Square Mall now stands. Furthermore, I still can feel the hair raising on the back of my head every time we harvested alligator, and whenever I heard my mother's .22 rifle going off, I knew that tomorrow we were going to have fried rattlesnake for supper. I could go on and on about my childhood here _ like being able to sink a flat-bottom boat with fish caught just off the downtown fishing pier _ but I won't.

I don't believe that just because I was lucky enough to have been born here, I have any more right to live here than someone who was born up North. We all are countrymen. "Their problems" are really my problems, and mine are theirs. I'm not in favor of seeing another part of our country take the beating that the Tampa Bay area has taken since my youth.

If desalination can give another child the opportunities of my youth and help slow down the type of destruction I've seen here in the Tampa Bay area, then the extra cost each month on my water bill is justifiable.

Raye Minor, St. Petersburg

Divine presence

Re: Where was God in Oklahoma? June 10.

I concur with the (June 20) letter writer's statement on the exclusionary mentality as to where God was in Oklahoma City. However, it is also the same exclusionary mentality evidenced by statements such as the writer of We're on our own (June 20) that God's existence is nil and we are here by ourselves that continues to inundate our lives, thereby resulting in such chaos.

What we do need to remember is that God was there _ in the volunteer workers who worked so hard and tediously to help those frantic to learn of their loved ones' conditions; in the firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses and, yes, even just the passers-by, who took the time to help or just "be there" _ and in all of us who, dare I say, prayed for all the victims and their families.

Our God is not inadequate _ it is we who cannot accept someone because of his race, color or creed, as was shown on national television at the prayer service in Oklahoma attended by our highest ranking American officials and some of our well-known religious leaders.

Virginia Burczyk, St. Petersburg

Divine confusion

Here it is, only a few weeks since Capt. Scott O'Grady's God rescued him from the forests of Bosnia. As I watch the local 6 o'clock news, I am horrified to see yet another young child, a boy of 10 or 12 years, with his legs shattered by mortar fire delivered by those brave, religious crusaders of Bosnia. Doctors don't know if they will be able to save his legs so that he may run and play again or, in the future, get a job to support himself and a family.

I can't understand this. Bosnia is a country divided by two religions, each claiming that its God is the right god. It was visited by a man of war who claims that his God is the right one because his God saved him. I can't understand. Where is the God that protects little children from other people's Gods?

Ed McDougall, Sarasota

Saving God's creatures

How refreshing and moving to read in the Times and see on TV the acts of selflessness and love that the dolphins received at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The veterinarians, staff and numerous volunteers who stayed around the clock to aid these sick and dying dolphins literally brought tears to my eyes.

For all such good people who continually rescue and help animals in distress, let us not forget to give them thanks, and pray they and these other acts of kindness never stop, and that God's creatures never face extinction but rather be treated with more respect, dignity and compassion.

Remember, they cannot speak for themselves, and it is our duty to speak for them. Help them, please.

Alberta McConnell, Clearwater

Save the babies

Re: Four dolphins go home to the sea, June 20.

The accompanying picture showed a helpless little dolphin being rescued in the loving and caring hands of five human beings, with the sea in the background.

Wouldn't it have been nice to see a helpless little baby being rescued in the loving and caring hands of five human beings, with an abortion clinic in the background?

I saw a car the other day with two bumper stickers. On one side of the bumper it said, "Save the Florida Panther" and on the other side of the bumper it said, "Keep Abortion Legal!"

Save the panther! Save the whales! Save the spotted owl! Save the sea turtles! Save the dolphins! Save this and save that! Meanwhile, 1.5-million babies are destroyed every year.

Will we ever get our priorities straight?

Len Vivolo, Clearwater

Refunds for all

Re: Florida impact fee discrimination.

I have not read any letters with the above-mentioned title. If there were any I could have missed them. But I really feel like _ and I'm sure others feel the same way _ that if they can refund this fee to some people why can't they do the same for everyone, meaning me and all of us who coughed up the money in 1990. Our money means as much to us as the other guys', so let's put a stop to this discrimination and either write checks to all of us or none at all.

Hilda Garrison, Treasure Island

As a newcomer in 1990 I'm having a problem understanding the fact that refunds are only going to those people who paid in 1991-1993. Well, I paid the fee in 1990. I feel the fee was illegal in 1990 as it was 1991-1993. To me this is discrimination out and out.

Rita DeStefano, New Port Richey

I applaud the writer of the letter Full refund is only fair (June 21). But given the option to keep what they've collected or being fair to the public, our "ethical" Legislature will naturally be unfair to the citizenry. Once they get their grubby hands on our money (by legal or other means), they hate to let go.

In my case, I had the misfortune to come into Florida before their "legal loophole" date of July 1, 1991. I come into this fair(?) state in September of 1990, so they're keeping all of my $295. Is it any wonder the opinion of politicians on both sides of the aisle is so low?

I wonder _ if I decided to move out of Florida and take my car with me, would they then refund my $295?

Come on, Tallahassee, give back all of the illegal impact fees you collected.

Art McIntyre, Spring Hill

Klinkenberg's a "must read'

Re: Jeff Klinkenberg.

Every time I see a story written by Jeff Klinkenberg, it becomes a "must read." His Builder of boats (June 13) is a good example. Why, I even read his two stories recently about a rare butterfly in the Keys. Butterflies? I would have never read an article about butterflies had it not had Jeff's byline. Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed them. This man could write about parking meters expiring and grab your interest.

The Times is indeed fortunate to have someone of his caliber.

Harry Hodge, Bradenton

Chain gang benefits

The editors of the Times may be overly concerned about the revivification of "chain gangs" as a means of punishing anti-social behavior. Not to worry! The marks of the chains can be used as references when applying for jobs as talk-show hosts, or as qualifying experience when running for political office. It is also the "stuff" of which books and movies are made.

Chain gangs may well be nothing more than a step on the road to sanctification and financial success. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

Chester Osheyack, Lutz

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