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Largo's message: Racism tolerated

Re: Fire official admits to using racial slur, story, Nov. 8.

The city of Largo has failed to improve race relations. This is due to lack of leadership and vision in the Fire Department and city government.

It is not surprising to hear another officer of the Fire Department has admitted using racial slurs. In 1993, after similar problems, the city promised to increase the number of black applicants and employees to the Fire Department. Ten years later, nothing has changed. Of 120 Fire Department employees, three are black. Of those, two were with the department in 1993. None of the three are officers.

Lack of appropriate action by city officials in 1993 and now sends a message to current employees, prospective employees, businesses and citizens of Largo that racism is tolerated. City commissioners, the city manager and Fire Department officials need to take immediate action to demonstrate that racism will not be tolerated at any time _ not because it is politically correct, but because it is the right thing to do.

Paul Lee, St. Petersburg

Was deadly force really necessary?

Re: Clearwater officer shoots and kills 16-year-old boy, story, Nov. 12.

I am writing on behalf of my son and his friends at Palm Harbor University High School.

I would like to say that I highly respect the police and I am not asking them to compromise their lives, but what if a tazer gun had been used? What if pepper spray had been used? What if psychology had been used, instead of a gun first?

We will always wonder what Brian, who had troubles in the past, who had become an honor student, who volunteered at the SPCA, who wanted to become a vet and who made his friends laugh with his sense of humor, would achieve in his life.

Instead our children are standing here crying and getting ready for a funeral for their 16-year-old friend. Brian, you will be missed.

J. Bailor, Palm Harbor

Firefighters, not studies, needed

Re: Clearwater meets challenges of high-rise fires, letter by Bill Horne, Oct. 24, and Clearwater to assess firefighting procedures, story, Oct. 24.

In your paper, Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne stated that there was going to be yet another independent examination of the fire at Dolphin Cove with a consensus from management and the union. I had waited to see if there was going to be any open dialogue between Mr. Horne and myself before I responded, but there has been none. I believe this is just another stall tactic to prolong this saga and hope that everyone forgets about it. I hope that is not going to happen.

Let us review what has happened. Under (former Clearwater City Manager) Mike Roberto's tutelage, fire Chief Rowland Herald came forward and stated the many needs of the Fire Department. Then, under pressure from the Times and Mr. Roberto, the chief retracted them. This was even after the city paid $50,000 for an independent study initially rejected because it was so negative.

Next, a Fire Task Force was formed that affirmed our needs 100 percent, including staffing. This had Chief Herald's blessing. Then, the tragedy at Dolphin Cove struck _ a firefighter's worst nightmare: death and injuries. This was right after NFPA 1710 came along, which further confirmed the Fire Task Force recommendation for four-person staffing on engines and trucks.

Next, the Times provided an independent examination by two chiefs who were in agreement with our staffing deficiencies.

On top of all this, Mr. Horne wants more studies? Can you say, "Analyze to paralyze"?

Let us review what city management has done to date:

+ July 2002: Eight new firefighters are supposed to be hired; city management stops that.

+ July 2002: The mayor and chief go on C-View and tell the citizens they have hired 26 new line firefighters. The unions says no way, you have only hired 16. The chief and mayor say it was an oversight. Sounds like an integrity issue.

+ October 2002: According to the recommendations, the chief was scheduled to hire six new firefighters. Once again, management slashed them.

I ask you, as concerned citizens, to look at this situation and contact elected officials to stop these costly, unnecessary studies and delays and supply the Fire Department with the staffing it needs to get the job done.

John Lee, president,

Clearwater Firefighters Local 1158 Inc.

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