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Lip service not Largo solution

It does not surprise me that a hate crime has recently occurred in Largo. For too many years, Largo has been known to be a place that tolerates racial insensitivity and inequality _ the epitome of the "old South."

Minorities trying to move to the city are denied housing. Minorities who apply for work with the city are not hired. The few minorities that do remain with the city are subjected to harassment, insensitivity and, if reported, retaliation.

To this day, the Police Department and Fire Department remain almost all white and hostile to minorities. Ask City Manager Steve Stanton about his city's hiring record, and he will throw his hands in the air and say they are having a hard time attracting minorities _ the same answer he gave more than 11 years ago.

Actions speak louder than words.

Largo city commissioners have known for a long time that they have have a problem, yet none of the commissioners has the courage to step up to the plate to do the right thing. The commitment to diversity needs to be more than lip service. It needs to be real and measurable, otherwise the City of Largo will continue to struggle with its image as a racist city, and taxpayers will be settling a lot of lawsuits.

Paul Lee, Tierra Verde

Don't target firefighters

I don't know who is at fault more for continuing to stir the kettle of disharmony stew at the Largo Fire Department, City Manager Steve Stanton or the St. Petersburg Times.

Largo firefighters seem to be the bull's-eye for creating an impression that the city is filled with racists who continue to defy the recently implemented anti-discrimination policy. While no city employee who exhibits harassment or discrimination toward fellow workers or to the public they serve _ or has a record of displaying such _ should be allowed to hide, one has to question the true intent of the reporters who are focusing on these incidents exclusively, to the detriment of Fire Department morale.

Firefighters possess a certain amount of bravado, even defiance in some cases. And we should all be so glad. That same attitude allows them to run into burning buildings and rescue adults, children and pets, or untangle a car filled with dead and dying bodies, or restrain a screaming, bleeding victim of violence who's just tried to kill himself or someone else. That same impulse doesn't often involve a lot of thought as to the consequences of the efforts, and it may just be what partially explains the actions of the firefighters most recently written about in the Times.

If your reporter would ask any of those dismissed firefighters if they wish they'd never said what they did, or even acted as they did, is there any doubt what their answer would have been?

Is this all so simple as foot-in-mouth disease? Probably not, but bad things get started that way, and they escalate, and before we all know it, we've got more man-hours and money invested in consultants pontificating on the n-word and at what age a woman can be called "honey" without it being deemed age discrimination than we do in firefighters' improving their skills at saving our property and our lives, and at paying them salaries congruent with the skills they possess and exhibit every single day.

When your paper quotes City Manager Steve Stanton as saying, "We own your mouths," what kind of firehouse fodder do we think that makes for? What brave, surefooted firefighter reads that and doesn't feel scolded, like a child, and then maybe even reacts like that child, subconsciously defying their scolder?

And now we read "firefighters seem to be the most resistant to the harassment policy." Stanton also says, "This group of employees (referring to firefighters), nobody in the city is going to tell them they cannot express what they need to express in order to do their jobs." Huh? What firefighter has or ever will ascertain that they need to make discriminating remarks or act in a racially biased way in order to do their jobs? Who owns Stanton's mouth?

Since Stanton is not likely to have to make a split-second decision in an interview with a reporter, might I suggest he exercise the luxury he has of delay time between his thoughts and actually verbalizing those thoughts? It has never been more true that words have power.

The St. Petersburg Times does a fine job of reporting, even editorializing, most of the time, but I implore your editors to take a close look at the balance of articles written on issues in the City of Largo, and to stop targeting firefighters in an effort to sell more papers.

True, firefighters are a much more colorful group to talk about than say, computer operators or administrative assistants, but discriminatory actions and attitudes exist all over the city's employee ranks, whether those incidents make the papers or not.

Sandra Webber, Clearwater

A ridiculous tension trigger

Re: Firefighter should be fired, analyst says, story, Jan. 10.

Here we go again. This racial business is so ridiculous and causes so much trouble.

God did create all of us and, in his eyes, we are his children. Firefighters, police officers, the military and anyone who works with and lives with others, while on the job, are like brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters say things when angry. They don't mean it; they're just getting their anger out.

Do you realize that firefighting is a very stressful job? You go to a fire and find someone dead or pull a 2-year-old out of a pool or see traffic accidents the rest of us would run from. I believe our city manager, Steven Stanton, and the analyst, Jack Loring, should live with these men and women on their shifts before they judge them.

What is wrong with being called a Cuban or Puerto Rican if that is what they are? What else would you call them? I remember when I was a child and we called black people "colored people." Then it was "Negro," then "black," then "African-American." Now I think it is "people of color." Doesn't this seem a little ridiculous? They should be proud of their ethnicity and stop using it to get ahead. It only creates more racial tension.

P.S. Why was Argelio "Frank" E. Rodriguez Jr. so anxious to run and tattle like a baby? Grow up, Frank. If the newspaper is right, you were speaking in Spanish on your walkie-talkie in the TV room where men were watching television. Don't you think this was wrong? You're lucky they only got angry with you.

Sylvia Campbell, Largo

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