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Smoking ban in restaurants a welcome move

Editor: As a former smoker, I can relate to the concern smokers have for places to relax, eat and enjoy their freedom to smoke. On the other hand, these businesses also should take into account the amount of patrons they will gain once smoking is prohibited in their establishments.

My husband is one who will not go to a local small restaurant if smoking is permitted, and he is definitely looking forward to bowling again and letting our children enjoy the sport with him. As you can see by the wide margin this amendment was approved in Hernando County, I believe non-smokers feel this way and look forward to the amount of new dining possibilities open to the non-smoking population.

D. Shaw, Spring Hill

"Times' coverage of fire district amounted to tabloid journalism

Editor: For months I have watched the Times make a spectacle of the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District commissioners. It all started on a fateful summer morning when Times reporter Jamie Jones dazzled us with a breaking story about three firefighters and an alleged rape. I had to add "alleged" because after reading her coverage of the story you would have thought these men were already tried and convicted. And I say "dazzled" because I have never seen such tabloidlike reporting in the Times.

From the very first article, facts were misrepresented, wrong photos published, and, worst of all, commissioners misquoted. My personal favorite was the article describing what the alleged victim wore that day, down to the brand of her shoes.

Then there was the district's bid for independence. After looking through the archives of articles and editorials written, I realized that nothing was ever published highlighting the positive aspects. It is my understanding that a newspaper is meant to report the news and facts, not always opinions. Why would anyone want to vote for independence after the coverage these commissioners got?

It is easy to sit back and judge a person or group by what you read in the newspaper because you trust you are reading accurate, unbiased news. If that were the case here, readers would be led to believe that our elected fire commissioners are bumbling, uncaring Neanderthals with no business or common sense.

What you failed to report is that these are successful businessmen, some running million-dollar companies. They are family men, married, some with children. It was the first time in their lives dealing with a rape allegation against men they believe in and support.

Over and over again I have read in the newspaper how these men fumbled through the investigation. I would be hard pressed to believe that an average citizen or news reporter would handle it better. They followed the directions of the Altamonte Springs Police Department and the chairman of the board because they did not know what else to do at first. In hindsight, that was the wrong thing to do. In addition to the stress of dealing with a rape allegation, they had to live their everyday lives.

On Nov. 10 I was not surprised to see a column written by Jeff Webb (Voters said no, so let it go) about the rejected independence referendum. It seems as if he has to have the last word on every issue facing the public. Again, the commissioners' quotes were taken out of context. I am starting to believe that in journalism school they teach you how to take a comment, then spin just a fragment of it to reflect the tone of the article you are writing.

As a taxpayer and resident of Spring Hill, I also refuse to accept defeat. And it's not that I can't accept the word "no," Mr. Webb. That is something I mastered at age 2. It is because the public was not properly educated. There is always a sparse crowd at the commission meetings; few people showed up for the workshop meant for education, and the Times constantly put down the idea.

Independence isn't for everyone, but the defeat would be more palatable if I knew the public was provided with unbiased facts for and against the issue.

Jennifer McLaren, Spring Hill

Behavior is despicable

even if allegations are untrue

Editor: Re: Evidence lacking of rape by fire crew, Nov. 6 Times:

At this point it is beginning to look as if no criminal proceedings will go forward on this case. However, to the young lady accusing the firefighters, she probably is going through a whole range of emotions right now, none of them pleasant.

I'd also like to emphasize that, the married firefighters' actions as married men is despicable. Yet, it's not actionable in a court of law. It's been a long time since I've seen anyone criminally prosecuted for cheating on one's spouse.

Maybe the young lady can use her experience to alert other young ladies out there who wish to cavort with married men (for whatever reasons: sense of power, physical attraction, whim of the moment, etc.).

Vilmar Tavares, Spring Hill

Letter overlooked deputy's duty to protect public, enforce laws

Editor: Re: Sheriff should take closer look at deputy, Nov. 10 letter to the editor by Joe Norton:

Unlike you, Mr. Norton, I gathered some facts before writing this letter.

First, Deputy Scott Lamia was not "going after" a speeder on the Suncoast Parkway; he was behind a suspected drunken driver and called 911 to report the crime. Incidentally, there was another person in the vehicle with the alleged drunken driver, an infant who was not properly buckled into an infant seat.

Second, Deputy Lamia didn't endanger the lives of Hernando County residents; the incident and the arrest occurred in Pasco County.

Third, Deputy Lamia was not "suspended;" he was on paid administrative leave following the police shooting. All law enforcement agencies follow the same or similar policies when deadly force is used.

The regard Deputy Lamia displayed at the time was for that of every driver and every passenger on the parkway and any other roadway this driver may have decided to use, and most importantly for the infant inside the car that may have been killed in a crash. Deputy Lamia did what I hope all law enforcement officers would do whether on duty, off duty, on paid administrative leave, etc. _ protect innocent people from becoming victims of yet another drunken driver.

Mr. Norton, aren't you glad you and your family can drive on the roads of Hernando County (and Pasco County) and feel safe because the law enforcement officers are taking drunks off the road? I am!

Do you have any idea how long it takes a jury to determine if they will hand down a death sentence? It takes hours, days, and sometimes weeks. How much time does a law enforcement officer have to make the decision? The answer is less than a split second.

Instead of criticizing, we should all be saying "thank you" to all of the brave men and women who risk their lives daily to protect our rights, our freedoms and our safety. Do you realize these men and women have to wear bulletproof vests just to stay safe from the dangers they face during the course of a shift? Do you have to wear a bullet proof vest to work, Mr. Norton?

Finally, Sheriff Richard Nugent should be very proud of the well-trained, highly disciplined individuals he employs to keep all of us safe. Their main objective in going to work each day is to allow you and I to enjoy safety and freedom in our community. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office is a professional and highly respected law enforcement agency throughout the state of Florida. Be proud and thankful they work for you, Mr. Norton. I am!

Maybe you should look into the Sheriff's Citizen's Academy. Learn what your law enforcement agency has to offer.

Nancy Murry, Spring Hill

Flu shots should be reasonably priced, not fluctuate in season

Editor: Here it is the flu season. Are you going to get your flu shot? What do you pay for the shot?

I got mine for free through a Disabled American Veterans program, but as you look around, places are charging $12 to $20 for the same shot. I guess there is no price control on the flu shot.

And $20 is an outrageous price. The price should be regulated. Jacking up the prices is a sin and a shame. The serum, in bulk, is cheap, so why charge so much for the shot? It's fast money for the shot-givers. You can see that with the way the prices fluctuate from one clinic to the next. There is no stability.

Michael J. Kowalik, Spring Hill