1. Archive

Convention would be boon to bay area

As you know, Tampa-St. Petersburg is involved in the bidding to host the 2004 Republican National Convention. Bidding on and winning convention business is a highly competitive endeavor. And at a time when the dwindling economy makes every piece of new business an important contributor to the local bottom line, our success becomes even more important.

This convention presents the Tampa Bay community with an unprecedented opportunity to make a significant economic impact. More than 20,000 hotel rooms will be used during each night of the six-day convention, filling area hotels at a time we typically see 50 percent occupancy. Up to 30,000 additional rooms will be needed during the week prior to the convention.

The scale of this opportunity is unprecedented for this community and may never be duplicated at this time of year.

In addition to the economic factors, the convention would bring with it many social and historical implications. Our plans involve numerous opportunities for the residents of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to participate in the activities surrounding the convention.

Participation in such a historically significant event will elevate this community to a new level of worldwide awareness thanks to the publicity we will receive in virtually every country in the world.

This opportunity rises above political parties and candidates. It's not about Democrats or Republicans, but about a chance to provide an economic windfall at a time when our businesses need it most. We would be pursuing a convention of this size just as aggressively if it were for the Democrats or another kind of group.

The Host Committee hesitated to release the bid document earlier because we thought it would hurt our chances of winning this extraordinary piece of business. We did not want to tip our hand to our peers in New York and New Orleans. It's hard to win a game when your competitors have your playbook.

We want to land this convention for the Tampa-St. Petersburg community because we know it will bring positive and lasting economic benefits to our area. The premature release has put us at a competitive disadvantage, but one that we will overcome through preparation and hard work.

Much has already been written regarding the amount of public funds involved in hosting the convention. The preliminary budget proposed in the bid document was created based on information gathered from the actual budget of the 2000 convention in Philadelphia. We built these numbers based on what we believed to be reasonable figures, taking into account what would normally and customarily be spent on a convention or special event of this size and significance.

No government officials were involved in the creation of this preliminary budget, although they did pledge their support in bringing this convention to the area. The initial budget proposed in the bid document does not represent any official commitment on the part of city or county governments in Hillsborough or Pinellas county. However, the Republican National Committee wants to know that there is public and private support in their host city, and we attempted to reflect the support we hoped to receive.

Most large-scale conventions that take place in Tampa, St. Petersburg and across this country involve some type of public funds. Our anticipation of public support is not a new development in the convention business. The state typically provides funds for events that create an economic impact of this magnitude, and the local funds used would be those generated by tourists and visitors to the area in the form of the existing bed tax.

We will only ask for funding from existing resources already allocated to support events of this nature and from those that will be generated by this event. Tax dollars from local governments' general revenue funds will not be used.

The Host Committee is committed to doing everything within our power to win this convention for Tampa Bay. We are busy preparing for the Site Selection Committee's visit in early August and intend to show off our community in the best possible light.

We want, need and expect the community's support.

Paul Catoe, president, Tampa Bay

Convention and Visitors Bureau,Tampa

Schools getting data

Your July 21 editorial Confusing school grades confuses the issue regarding school accountability in Florida.

You claim an "administrative blunder" has prevented schools from receiving accountability data. In fact, clear answers have been provided at every step of the process. We have conducted informational sessions broadcast statewide via the Internet for any interested party to view. We have also provided a plethora of information on our Web site,, detailing all components of the accountability process.

At our recent Assistance Plus Summit in Tampa, low-performing schools received information not only on their schools but also on schools demographically similar to theirs that are performing well. Each low-performing school also is receiving customized support through Assistance Plus specialists in fields from reading to leadership to resource management. This summit was not a "finger-wagging" but a commitment by the state to help each low-performing school turn things around.

Florida's school districts have received straight answers, accurate data and quick responses to their questions. The Department of Education is sharing data and information with school administrators, and we will work them until all issues are clarified.

Jim Horne, Florida secretary

of education

A clear analysis

Re: Bush built success on Harken sale, July 21.

Congratulations to Robert Trigaux on his superb reporting on the Bush debacle. This is the

clearest and best analysis of this too much ignored story we have seen in the media, and we read a lot of newspapers including some internationals.

This excellent work dramatically demonstrates what the St. Petersburg Times can achieve when the editors can separate themselves a little from their usual over-the-top obsession with sports, which too often relegates real news from the front pages.

Please be unrelenting and, yes, obsessive with your further _ and we hope thorough _ coverage of this monumentally important story.

Mr. and Mrs. H. Alton Lee, Gulfport

Just good business

Re: The Harken deal.

The Democrats have no good ideas of their own on any of the major issues, so, as usual, they are trying desperately to dig up dirt on the president and make it stick. This brings us to President Bush's handling of shares of stock he received when the Harken Energy Corp. bought an oil company he had an interest in.

He received a $600,000 share in Harken stock in this transaction. Nothing at all wrong with this. It's done all the time and considered good business.

He later borrows on this stock to secure a loan to buy an interest in the Texas Rangers ball club. Nothing wrong with this either.

The article then says Harken sells one of its companies and lends money to the buyer. Then Harken declares the sale a cash gain. There is nothing illegal about this either as long as the buyer makes good on the loan. The article also doesn't mention that President Bush probably didn't know anything about the accounting methods used by this company.

President Bush's final sale of his stock was investigated by the SEC and was cleared. The clause about the SEC leaving the case open in case something else shows up is standard fare for them. It means nothing.

Nothing about President Bush's actions was illegal. In fact, it was downright good business.

The last poll I saw on this subject is that the public believes the president did nothing wrong. Seventy-five percent of the public believe him, like him and trust him!

Jim Gardner, Homosassa

Bush's insider role

I applaud Robert Trigaux's article (Bush built success on Harken sale) detailing the suspect accounting practices that allowed George W. Bush to amass his fortune through Harken Energy Corp. and other deals. Trigaux asks, "Did Bush know bad news was coming when he sold (his Harken stock at inflated prices)?" Trigaux goes part of the way to answering "yes" by pointing out that, as a member of Harkin's auditing committee, Bush almost certainly had access to all the insider information he could use. But I don't think Trigaux emphasised enough the role Bush played and the information he was privy to, while on the audit committee. According to Spencer Ackerman in the July 10 New Republic:

"As a member of the audit committee, Bush should have had access to the company books. He should have attended meetings in which company finances were discussed in detail. And he should have seen, up close, the audit reports being assembled by the company's accounting firm, Arthur Andersen. In 1994, a reporter from the Dallas Morning News asked (E. Stuart) Watson, who served on the audit committee with Bush, if they had been briefed on the shameful state of Harken's finances. He said, "You bet we were.' "

Bush was fully aware that Harken stock was overvalued when he was ready to sell and he used that information to make a huge profit at the expense of Harken stockholders. He should be held accountable for his unethical business dealings.

Sean Kinane, Tampa

Where's achievement?

Having read the article in last Sunday's paper describing the Bush "success" all I saw was favoritism, cronyism and questionable ethics. There was no mention of any actual achievement.

Where was the press with this story before the last Bush success, laughingly called an election, in Florida?

Peter M. Smith, Dunedin

Reno's fear

Re: More debates are needed to help voters, July 21.

I agree with Philip Gailey completely that there should be more than just one debate. But, frankly, I think Janet Reno's afraid of falling down again (and isn't going to take any more chances than she absolutely has to).

True, it's not in her best interest to debate anyway. Still, for her to swoon as she did in February could make Bill McBride _ and, possibly, state Sen. Daryl Jones _ a lot more interesting to voters.

Al Gray, Belleair Bluffs

Are we any better?

Re: Inside Saudi Arabia, July 21.

I think it says all that needs to be said when a woman in a society believes she needs to cover her face to be respected.

Of course, when you consider that in our society, many women believe in wearing masks that make them resemble shiny rocks (see Estee Lauder's "Mineralites" makeup campaign) or that their faces should be injected with poisons to make them look better, I don't know that we're all that more advanced.

Brent Yaciw, Wesley Chapel

Avoid culture bashing

In response to your article Inside Saudi Arabia, especially the caption to the July 21 picture on Page 10A:

Imagine a picture of Sand Key printed in a French paper. A family has just arrived after a fun sail through Clearwater Bay, and the caption reads:

"American women disembark at a beach in Central Florida. Even with a heat index of 110-degrees, American women are not allowed to shed their tops or expose their buttocks. Their modesty is enforced by the Clearwater Police Department."

Sorry, I'm not into culture bashing.

Daniel Tartaglia, Palm Harbor