Re: Public hearing on the "One Florida" plan.
It was supposed to be a public hearing. Instead, it turned out to be a "dog and pony show" by the governor's office. I attended as state director for public policy of the American Association of University Women and spoke on its behalf. For more than 80 minutes, we had to sit and listen to Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan, university system Chancellor Adam Herbert and Wendell Paige of the state minority business officer tell us about the wonderful program.
Then the chairman of the committee, Jack Latvala, announced that the state had seven more officials who were to speak about the program. After much protesting from the audience, they finally gave up their time so that we could be heard.
We were told we would have 3 minutes to speak. Some speakers were allowed to go over-time, while others were cut off and criticized for not sticking to the subject.
The meeting was a fiasco from the very beginning. We were also told that if we tried to bring in any banners, posters or signs they would be taken from us at the door. Yet, the state Republican Party was allowed to distribute T-shirts with the slogan "One Florida" on them, and they were allowed in the auditorium.
We were accused of coming to the meeting with our minds made up and not being willing to listen. No one attended the meeting with their minds made up more than the panel members. They looked upon us as if we were mere "commoners" that they had to tolerate. The panel members treated us in a very condescending manner.
We really have a problem in Florida. In one year, Gov. Jeb Bush has done everything possible to pit us against each other: the rich against the poor, the haves against the have-nots, the white against the black and other minorities. The governor has forgotten that he was elected governor _ not emperor. We are residents of the state _ not his servants. We have a right to be heard, and, one way or another, we will be heard.
Margaret Hyde, Clearwater
The people want to participate
I was able to attend the One Florida meeting last Friday from 2 until 4 p.m. I was sad to have to leave so early until I saw that people were waiting to get in. The state's presentations (although long and filled with some amount of self-congratulation on the part of the presenters) gave me a better idea of what Gov. Jeb Bush wants to do.
The governor says he vetted this plan with many people. Then why were organizations like the Urban League and the NAACP not asked for input? Their representatives gave cogent reasons for not going forward with the plan. Or as the woman from the Urban League put it, "these ideas are good to supplement affirmative action, not supplant it."
I was proud of people for coming out, taking off from work. The awkward speakers as well as the eloquent ones showed me, and I hope the representatives and senators, that people do care about this issue and want to be a part of the decisionmaking in this state.
I'll be watching and reading about the next two meetings. They had better get a big hall!
Oona Fessenden, Tampa
Reject the governor's plan
Jeb Bush's One Florida plan should be scrapped. That is my advice to the governor, the One Florida task force and an answer to state Rep. Rudy Bradley's request: "We need specific recommendations."
It has been so poorly handled and it will never work, even if were written with the utmost wisdom.
The governor wants to "transcend" affirmative action. Considering the diversity of America today and in the future, eliminating affirmative action is the wrong thing to do. Minorities and women today are still under-represented and underpaid.
First, we have to ask: Has affirmative action worked? Most of us agree the answer is yes and no, and that something needs to be done to improve its effectiveness. What the governor and his committee want to do is throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to examine what is working and what is not and develop an improved approach to affirmative action.
There are good ideas in the One Florida plan, but there are many thoughts and viewpoints that haven't been heard or incorporated. Such an important issue needs more input from the people, and the governor needs to be involved, at least attending the state meetings.
I am afraid the governor's mind is made up. His style of leadership may have been appropriate for the '60s or '70s, but today a leader must be willing to listen, weigh the input and make a decision, even if he or she is not in total agreement. We need democratic, not autocratic, leadership in Florida and America.
We must first define Florida's vision, values and mission relative to affirmative action. Then we must put in place a documented process to review how government, businesses and organizations act to provide equal opportunities.
There is nothing wrong with affirmative action if it is done right. After all, it is how we want government, organizations, businesses and individuals to treat us. America is about freedom and opportunity. Affirmative action done right should be a clarification and application of these principles.
Richard Oliver Mayer, Palm Harbor
Don't shut the door to opportunity
A voter initiative has been proposed to eliminate affirmative action. Each side of this debate claims to be motivated by the desire to promote racial equality. The uninformed, bombarded with an avalanche of simplistic demagoguery, have difficulty knowing whom to believe. Much inflammatory rhetoric is being tossed about. However, before we are suckered by the demagoguery, we need to take stock of the facts and deliberate upon the issue with reason instead of emotion.
It is easy to concoct horror stories about the white guy who lost a job opportunity to some minority applicant who wasn't qualified. It's easy to portray "equal opportunity" as "preferential treatment." And it's easy to forget that prior to affirmative action the only job opportunities available to minorities were for jobs digging ditches, picking up garbage, waiting on tables or perhaps as a maid or janitor. Racism and bigotry ravaged their every attempt at equality.
The only effective remedy is affirmative action. Affirmative action was written into American law to extend economic equality to minorities.
Now with conservatives in control, we are finally witness to the attempted destruction of this tried and proven tool of economic equality.
There is only one credible measure of economic equality. It all comes down to money. Logically, if minorities have enjoyed three decades of preferential treatment in job opportunities, minorities should have all the good jobs locked up. Minorities should be making more money than whites. Women should be holding better jobs and making more money than men. But wait! Department of Labor statistics dispute this assertion. The economic facts demonstrate that "minority preferences" are actually a far cry less.
Are racism and bigotry really dead? Jokes, stories and other rhetoric which fall upon our ears evidence substantial prejudice, bigotry and racism. Yet, affirmative action has given minorities a chance to enjoy many economic opportunities, opportunities racism, prejudice and bigotry would deny.
Racists long to return to the days when low-paying jobs were the only jobs available to minorities. The destruction of affirmative action would make their dream come true. I care enough about equality to make sure that doesn't happen. The question is, do you?
James A. Young, Lithia
The governor is doing the right thing
In connection with those readers who feel Gov. Jeb Bush does not listen to them, I feel very strongly that he is against affirmative action justifiably because the concept is demeaning to women and minorities. Our governor recognizes that women and minorities are worthy of equal treatment and above needing the extra points and privileges that affirmative action offers.
I applaud Gov. Bush's policy to remove affirmative action practices and rely totally on the individual's merits and qualifications to compete for jobs in government and positions of trust. Society would benefit greatly if all governmental employees were hired solely on merit.
Rita Levy, Belleair
It can be a lethal attitude
Re: Cops mistakenly kill off-duty officer, Jan. 29.
I had barely begun to skim the front page of the Jan. 29 Times when the tears started to flow _ tears because the picture and story about Cornel Young, the young Providence, R.I., police officer killed by his "supposed colleagues" brought to the surface the fact that "some things never change."
Young was killed doing what any police officer would have done: coming to the aid of fellow officers. But he wasn't just any police officer _ he was a "black" police officerand, yes, to some that still makes a difference. Tears flowed because I know in my heart that all his academy classmate saw was "another nigger with a gun." I know in my heart that because of his race, he is dead.
Tears flowed because memories surfaced _ memories reminding me of the fact that in many instances, being a professional in this community for 27 years really doesn't matter. Through the years I've been asked if my guest and I were "the head cook and his assistant" as we left a popular brunch in the area. I've been told "deliveries are in the rear" upon entering an upscale furniture store in town. I've been told, "No, you can't rent my condo. Nobody black lives out here," by a former "friend" and patient.
Tears flowed because after a few years of affirmative action, many have had enough, and even have the audacity to say that "it isn't needed anymore" _ as though these few years have made up for the past century of injustice. Yes, there have been some gains through the years, but the attitude that killed Cornel Young still flourishes, and I say to you, "Open your eyes!" Look at the picture of Officer Young on the front page of the Jan. 29 Times. He's gone! Going back to the old way is unacceptable.
Tears flowed because "some things never change."
Dr. Leroy A. McCloud, Gulfport
Free expression is in danger
Re: Rocker suspended until May 1, Feb. 1.
I must be missing something. Baseball player John Rocker was fined and suspended for expressing his opinions? Though a majority may disagree with his statements and find them offensive, he has the constitutional right to make them without fear of reprisal.
It amazes me that the "free" press, for the most part, has aligned itself with the politically correct speech police. When open discussion is thwarted, we all lose. Political correctness does not change what a person thinks, only what he says.
Mike Lyons, Apollo Beach
A moving tribute
I want to congratulate writer Jeanne Malmgren and photographer Lisa DeJong for their sensitive and intelligent treatment of the series of stories about Marilyn Myers. Both the writing and the photos are uplifting. Together, they provide an authentic and moving tribute to Marilyn, herself, and to the loyal friends such a loving person is bound to attract.
It has been my own privilege to know her well, and for that, I am grateful.
Mark Canter, Tallahassee
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