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Focus on racism dampens spirit of 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 target for creating an impression that the city is filled with racists who continue to defy the city's recently implemented antidiscrimination policy. While no city employee who exhibits harassment or discrimination toward fellow workers or the public 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 is what allows them to run into burning buildings and rescue adults, children and pets, or untangle a car filled with the dead or dying, or restrain a screaming, bleeding victim of violence. 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 be?

Is this all so simple as "foot in mouth" disease? Probably not, but bad things get started that way, and they escalate. Before we all know it, we've got more man hours and money invested in consultants pontificating on the "n-word" and calling women "honey" than we do invested in firefighters improving their skills at saving our property and our lives.

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 acting in defiance?

The 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 the issues within the city of Largo and to stop targeting firefighters in an effort to sell more papers. True, firefighters are a much more interesting, 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, ClearwaterFor good or bad, kids mirror parents

Re: Noose incident spurs teen to advocacy, story, Jan. 23.

The intolerance in Largo is just the tip of the iceberg compared with the rest of the country.

Despite all of the ugliness and ill will generated by the noose which Louis John Giannola allegedly placed around the neck of a black teenager, the victim, 14-year-old Dionte Hall, was able to walk away from this racist incident. That alone speaks volumes about Hall and his family. Hall's reaction is indicative of his upbringing and his parents must be exceptionally proud of this young man.

It is terribly unfortunate that such hate and bigotry is not only alive and well, but compelling today's youth to act out against one another. Children are usually products of their environment, for better or for worse. Even though Giannola's mother claimed that they were not a prejudiced family, no one really knows what goes on in another person's home.

Just as hate and intolerance are learned at home, so are love and tolerance. It is time for parents to take responsibility for the actions of their children. If parents have to suffer the consequences, perhaps they will take their job of parenting more seriously. My hope is that this case will set a precedent. Let us all hope that justice will be served and Hall can put this ugly incident behind him, emerging from it as a stronger individual. With the ability to keep a cool composure, this starter on Largo High's junior varsity basketball team has already scored enough points to claim a victory for himself.

JoAnn Lee Frank, ClearwaterTaxes could run retirees out of town

Re: Task force supports gas tax increase, story, Jan. 10, and Poll finds support for school tax, story, Jan. 12.

I am shocked that they are considering a property tax increase to fund teachers' salaries. Also being considered is a 6-cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline, which is already $1.59 a gallon. We previously approved continuation of the Penny for Pinellas sales tax.

If all of the above happen, the writer of the Jan. 11 letter Retirees need to stay out of rush-hour traffic will get his wish. In fact, we won't be on the road at all. We fixed-income retirees will all be forced to move out of here. Here I come, Tuscaloosa, Ala. Yuck.

Frank Cuttitta, Palm Harbor

Increased gas tax burdens seniors

Re: Task force supports gas tax increase, story, Jan. 10.

We hope that the Pinellas County commissioners realize that they are elected. Have they given thought to the current price of gas? It is going up. We are senior citizens on a fixed income. What do they want us to do, walk? People will remember at election time.

M.L. Kudelko, Largo

Parents need to make adults of children

Re: When parents bail out kids, no lessons are learned, letter by Len Vivolo, Jan. 4.

If only the permissive and overly indulgent parents would read and pay attention to Len Vivolo's helpful words. But they won't, and who suffers? Their children.

For some unknown reason, today's parents want their children to have all the things they never had when they were young, even if their children grow up to be useless bums. Where's the common sense in such action? Anyone with common sense can see the writing on the wall, and today's spoiled-rotten children think the world owes them a living. Mom and Dad just can't bear to put their foot down and hurt the child's feelings, even if it makes a man of him. The child may get kicked out of school or detained in the local jail overnight, but he or she knows Mom and Dad will be there to make bail. Why should these children stand up and do what's right when someone else always takes the punishment for them?

And why should Junior worry as long as Dad and Mom can work a few more hours to pay for his mistakes, since they chose to have a child in the first place and they owe it to him?

It's hard to believe that parents can't look back on their youth and their parents' youth and see what was required of them as children, which made them into the responsible, hardworking parents they are today. If a child has no responsibility at home from the age of 2 or 3 until he leaves home, why would that child want to work?

A child has to be taught responsibility to be responsible. As parents, we are responsible for what they learn and don't learn. Life is not free, and the sooner the child learns the better, for him and for those who are around him. Parents need to take back control of the home and let Junior be the child they teach, not one they listen to.

Fran Glaros, Clearwater

Declare Veterans Day a school holiday

Another slap in the face _ this time by the School Board _ to the veterans who have served their country, by making Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday for students and not Veterans Day when the children could attend veterans functions and learn what a veteran stands for. Most young ones have no idea as to what it's all about.

Lester (Les) Davis, Safety Harbor

_ Letters to the editor may be faxed to (727) 445-4119 or mailed to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. To send a letter electronically, go to www.sptimes.com/letters and fill out the required form.

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