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Leaders should forget about more gambling

Gov. Jeb Bush and House Speaker Johnnie Byrd should forget legalized gambling. What's the real cost of casino gambling? Today, Americans wager an astounding amount, more than $400-billion a year, and that's just on legal gambling. The church and the state used to rail against gambling; now the churches sponsor bingo and 36 states run lotteries. About 10-million fellow Americans now have gambling-addition problems that break up families and create poverty. Cities with major gambling "attractions" report elevated crime rates, low-wage jobs and high-priced real estate.

Gov. Bush should also forget further tax cuts to his plutocrat friends and his nit-picking here and there on reducting necessary state spending. His bragged-about tax cuts in four years have now cost our state about $4-billion! This money would have prevented us from going in debt and kept us from having to think about cutting valued state services.

Ken W. Poulsen, Tarpon Springs

Needed sources of revenue

Re: Smaller classroom funding.

I strongly urge our governor to consider the idea of legalized casino gambling and offshore oil drilling as a way of financing the smaller classroom amendment. I am totally against raising taxes to fund this questionable venture.

Richard Chandler, Beverly Hills

Dog track gambling shouldn't expand

Re: Class size could revive gambling option,

Nov. 19.

I trust that Gov. Jeb Bush's wisdom will exclude dog tracks in his consideration of slots for Florida's future. We need to find a way to pay for smaller classes and free prekindergarten classes, but video gambling at dog tracks isn't it.

Free enterprise is a wonderful thing but the drastic decline in dog racing's popularity over the past decade shows it is a business that has seen its day come and go. This is no doubt due in part to the revelations of the cruelty and abuse inherent in this sport.

Perhaps the most recent incident is the worst. In May the carcasses of as many as 3,000 dogs were found on the farm of Robert Rhodes in Alabama. This man has been indicted for illegally transporting these athletes across state lines and shooting them in the head for a $10 fee.

Most dogs that race in Florida are sent here by out-of-state owners and are "retired" when they do not earn money winning races. At that time they are put up for adoption but may be euthanized by Florida state law if no one comes to take them. It is estimated that there will be 5,000 dogs available in our state this year alone. Half of these dogs will be euthanized. Visit http://www.greyhounds.org/ to learn more.

Video lottery terminals at dog tracks would mean more dogs and more dogs euthanized. And more money in the pockets of out-of-state owners, which is something lobbyists for the tracks do not reveal to the public. Florida may be a gambling state, but let us not teach our children on the bodies of more dead dogs. I trust in Gov. Bush to do the right thing.

Gail Ross, Port Charlotte

Don't prop up a cruel industry

I am truly shocked and disappointed that lawmakers are actually considering allowing video gambling machines at Florida dog tracks.

It is no secret that dog racing is inherently cruel and inhumane. Thousands of greyhounds are killed every year when they are no longer profitable at the racetrack. While at the track, greyhounds are caged for up to 22 hours each day.

Legalizing gambling machines at dog tracks would artificially prop up this cruel industry, removing it from ordinary market pressures. These wealthy racetrack owners have already been given too many handouts, and should not be allowed to cash in on video gambling when it means supporting and/or causing animal abuse and suffering.

Only a few months ago, about 3,000 dead greyhounds were found on the farm of an Alabama man who admitted shooting them for $10 each. Now these wealthy dog track owners want us to reward their cruelty by giving them gambling machines. Have they no shame?

I hope Florida lawmakers will do the right thing and show their compassionate side regarding this issue.

Jennifer Cohen, Plantation

Compassion is lacking

Re: Pig questions, confusion: It must be election time, by Mary Jo Melone, Nov. 3.

I found Mary Jo Melone's column very disturbing. Why is it that she is unable to feel compassion or pity for the pigs that are treated horribly and then slaughtered, and voted "no" for Amendment 10?

Yes, there are children in jeopardy in the Florida system, but how does voting "no" help them in any way? Does it take money away from them? No. Does it free up more hours for workers on their cases? No. Does it change their situation in the slightest? No. But will the approval of Amendment 10 help stop the inhumane treatment of the pigs and help stop their pain? Yes.

Melone may consider herself a compassionate and caring person, but I don't see how she can consider herself thus if she is unwilling to help in any small way something smaller, weaker and more defenseless than herself (in this case, the pigs).

I urge Mary Jo Melone to reconsider her views and hope that in the future, she finds herself a more caring and kind individual _ the type of person others could be a proud of _ and include in her heart the four-legged beings that are unable to speak for themselves and look to us for protection.

Donna C. Fostel, New Port Richey

Put emphasis on teachers

Regarding your Nov. 10 editorial Class size stakes, I believe that you (and, probably, many others) have misevaluated the problems of Florida's educational system.

Certainly, many factors affect the quality of the educational process, but, I feel that class size is but one of these and not by a long shot the most important one. I feel strongly that the quality/competence of the teacher is, by far, the paramount educational factor and that teacher salary is a consideration that must be weighted heavily. Good teachers do not generally work for a poor salary, even in a fancy, new building.

Let's put proper emphasis where it belongs _ on the teacher, not on bricks and mortar.

Glen R. Spetz, Yankeetown

We need an alternative to amendments

Re: What's next after citizen initiative flurry?

Nov. 11.

The Florida Constitution is no place for directives to build a high-speed train or to prohibit two farmers in the state of Florida from keeping pregnant pigs in small crates. While the Constitution is, indeed, a living document, the people should not be barely shuffling along shouldering the enormous burden of minutiae which does not truly serve the general public health, safety and welfare.

But, when the Florida Legislature is unresponsive to citizens' interests, it is clear that they should have a means to bypass Florida lawmakers without amending the Constitution. How can this be accomplished? Perhaps what we need is a citizen initiative amending the Constitution to provide that by the same criteria required to amend the Constitution, the citizens can cause, by majority vote, legislation that goes directly to the governor with the same veto override provisions as now provided by law. Citizens' voices would be heard and the Constitution would remain uncluttered.

To be sure, it would be interesting to discover how Gov. Bush would have exercised his veto power and the legislators their override powers concerning the class size and university amendments, which Gov. Bush opposed. One measure to assure that our representatives are responsive to citizen initiative is to require such initiatives to be considered prior to general elections in order that the voters be enabled to exercise their vote should, either the governor, or Legislature choose not to pass such citizen initiative legislation into law.

Finally, this citizen initiative amendment enabling direct legislation by Florida citizens, should also require that further enabling legislation and appropriations be committed within a certain time frame from the passage of the citizen-inspired legislation so that the people's mandate is not a toothless exercise such as the 1996 Everglades Cleanup Amendment, requiring those primarily responsible to clean up their mess, or the 2000 high-speed train amendment, both of which have been largely ignored in execution.

Don't trivialize our state Constitution with citizen initiative amendments. Rather, provide the citizens with the constitutional right to directly legislate by initiative when either the legislative or executive branch is hard of hearing.

Roy L. Glass, St. Petersburg

Don't cheapen the Constitution

Re: Stop cluttering my Constitution, Nov. 12.

How glad I was to read Elijah Gosier's excellent column about the cheapening of our state Constitution. From the amendments that passed, it is evident that many voters are kindhearted and really desirous of making society better. Who can be against abolishing smoke-filled restaurants and the suffering of pregnant pigs? Who can object to smaller classes in school and a broader education for small children?

Yet in voting for these, as Gosier rightly points out, people lost sight of the fact that the Constitution is not to be used as a "situational remedy." It is much bigger, much more dignified than that. It aims to endorse our general philosophy of government, not the day-by-day details, worthwhile though they are. These are the province of local government.

I especially like his admonition: "Don't create new law when conscientious enforcement of existing ones is the answer." Also, I would add, consider before voting for a new law: How well can it be implemented? And (bottom line?) how will its enforcement be financed?

Abigail Ann Martin, Brandon

Requirements are lax for citizenship

I very much liked the questions and answers page in your Nov. 12 issue. It would be a good idea to continue this very informative page. However, I need to mention the answer to one item, Citizens' requirements.

Regardless of what the INS Web site says, virtually none of the requirements listed in your answer apply. I recently became a citizen and was offered an interpreter, in case I didn't speak the English language. I asked the person in charge if that would apply to any language and the answer was affirmative.

The interviewer asked a few basic questions about the United States that were so simple a child could have answered them. There were no questions about moral character or disposition toward the United States, nor was I asked whether I could financially support myself. I am proud to be an American but was shocked that anybody, yes, anybody, can become a citizen without those basic requirements mentioned in your answer.

One example: I recently sold a home in Tampa and was shocked that the buyers, American citizens, could neither speak nor write the English language.

Edith Huber, Tarpon Springs

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