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Rudeness is not the right way to express dissent

The Belleair Town Council meeting of July 16 was a sad event for a lovely town. Civility and courtesy in our public encounters are the only proper behavior. We may not agree with one another, but we must always afford one another basic respect and decorum. To do otherwise is to make a mockery of the democracy and freedom we recently celebrated on July 4.

You may not agree with Commissioner Don Sprague's views on MTV, and you are certainly welcome and encouraged to state your opposition publicly, but to characterize a commissioner as "Hitler" and to cheer and jeer is both unnecessary and inappropriate.

We expect our elected commissioners to refrain from sarcasm and character assassination in public, and we the residents should impose the same constraints upon our own public behavior. Contrary points of view always are welcome and healthy in government. Rudeness and crudeness are never called for.

Council member Sprague is to be congratulated for bringing the matter of cable television up for discussion in Belleair.

Let's always remember that the act of discussion does not make it law. Discussion simply allows us to air our views so that we can come to a decision based on the majority will. Our democratic system worked perfectly on July 16. Don Sprague stuck his neck out on an issue he feels is important. He was shot down by a vote of 4-1. To his credit, he accepted overwhelming defeat with grace and civility.

Let us emulate his gentlemanly behavior at all future Belleair council meetings, and let us be comfortable with the notion that we have representatives who are not afraid to question the system.

Best of all, let's rejoice over the very clear evidence that our elected officials do not vote as a bloc, as some have claimed, but vote according to their best understanding of the issues. That is what democracy is about and that is what we want our representatives to do for us.

Perhaps the silver lining is there after all.

Margot Woodrough


Keep suspended students off campus

On June 13 I made a proposal to the Juvenile Welfare Board at a public meeting to respond to its future plans. The proposal was to create three detention centers (one in south county, one in mid-county and one in north county) that would be the assigned location for all out-of-school suspended students in Pinellas County schools.

The centers would be off campus and there would be a "pickup" order on any student who failed to report to the center. The law enforcement department that had jurisdiction over the school from which the student was suspended would be responsible for picking up the student at his or her home. Each center would be staffed with a certified teacher, a social worker and a law enforcement officer.

While the Clearwater High School plan has obviously been effective as a deterrent to further suspensions, it does not go far enough. Thus, I agree that the Clearwater program should not be funded per se, but should be expanded with money from the Juvenile Welfare Board, Pinellas County schools and possibly local businesses with a stake in the future welfare of our students.

It is time that the community became involved in the increasingly severe discipline problems of the schools since, when the students are suspended and out on the streets, the crimes generated all too often by these same students decidedly become a community problem.

I agree with the editorial on July 21 in the Times, Program for suspended students is worth keeping, except that the program needs to be moved off campus and needs to be expanded to include students from all high schools in Pinellas County.

Cindy Gamblin


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