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A utility rate hike would be unreasonable right now

Re: Power rates may stairstep soon, Sept. 17.

How unforgiving and inconsiderate of the utility companies and the Times to even mention a rate hike at this time. It is deplorable! Florida has just been ravaged by three major hurricanes with its residents suffering insuperable damage and loss.

I realize it is not the fault of any company providing needed service to its customers suffering losses due to unforeseen circumstances. But by the same token, it is not the fault of the consumers either, and they should not be subject to any rate increase right now.

Progress Energy, Florida Power & Light, Tampa Electric Co. and any other investor-owned utility co. should seek reimbursement from FEMA or other government agencies the same as the consumer whose loss included a lot more than a few points in the stock market.

If the Public Service Commission even considers this proposal for a rate increase at this time, then they are less compassionate for the well-being of Florida residents than these money-hungry companies, our governor and our president who chooses to pour billions of dollars into other interests.

Say no to this rate hike proposal and let your representatives know about it. This is not a political issue. It is a survival issue. Quit socking it to the consumer.

Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City

TECO settlement makes sense

Re: TECO's offer misses the point, editorial,Sept. 20.

For close to a year, some have argued that Tampa Electric's new contract with TECO Transport is above market. Prior contracts have saved our customers over $500-million over the past 15 years, and the new contract rate is lower than the previous one; however, due to this year-long dispute, Tampa Electric has not been able to pass those lower rates on to our customers.

Last month, the staff of the Florida Public Service Commission issued its recommendation on this docket. The Times states that "the course proposed by the staff is better for the public than TECO's settlement offer." Which "course?" The staff actually proposed five courses: a primary recommendation that sought additional information, and four alternate recommendations, each of which appears to summarize the position of one of the parties to the proceeding (including our own).

In addition to these five options, the commission is of course free to choose a course other than the ones outlined by staff, such as the offer of settlement proposed by Tampa Electric, which contains many of the elements in the Progress Energy settlement that was entered into by most of the parties in our proceeding, and which was recently approved by the commission.

The Times also misstates that the PSC staff "found the existing contract seriously flawed." It did not. The staff raised issues only about the bid process that resulted in the contract, but determined (correctly, we believe) that the commission has no authority to require us to rebid it.

While we may disagree with staff on whether the bid process was comprehensive enough, our settlement proposal offered voluntarily to rebid the contract. In the proposal, we also adopted every recommendation made by the staff as to how to rebid it. Finally, we agreed to reimburse our customers should the new bid process result in rates lower than under our existing contract.

Richard Lehfeldt, senior vice president-external

affairs, TECO Energy, Inc., Tampa

Get Iraqis out of deadly job lines

Scores of Iraqis are being blown up waiting in line to get jobs with the police and other agencies we are trying to build.

My question is, if Publix and other stores can serve people by handing out numbers, why hasn't our military figured out how to make appointments for the people who want jobs, or hand out numbers and then simply post a large billboard in front of the office where the jobs are being offered? People who want the jobs don't have to wait in line and be sitting targets for suicide bombers. This is probably way too simple for the Pentagon. No wonder we won the war but are losing the peace.

Bob Tankel, Dunedin

Electoral College keeps things fair

Re: Electoral College hazard, letter, Sept. 15.

I am a naturalized citizen who came to this great country in 1961. I always wondered about the purpose of the Electoral College. Why not elect the president by popular vote? I only saw the "light" after the 2000 elections and finally realized that this had to be one of the most brilliant acts performed by our forefathers. They were smart enough to see that only with the Electoral College could there be a fair election. Otherwise, the smaller states would never have a chance to elect a president. It would be a privilege afforded only to a handful of heavily populated states.

I will fight tooth and nail to keep the Electoral College in place for as long as I live. I want my vote to count no matter where I live. I beg that people think very hard about this matter, and I'm sure they will also see the "light."

Anna Foster, Palm Harbor

Two approaches to terrorism

Re: Verbal violence redefining the terms of debate, Sept. 15.

Elie Wiesel's column suggests, at its conclusion, that neither presidential candidate has addressed what to do about world terrorism. I beg to disagree.

President Bush has made it abundantly clear that he intends to go it alone from country to country kicking down doors and hauling terrorists out squirming and screaming, and damn the cost. Sen. John Kerry wants to heal severely strained international relations and strengthen international organizations to fight terrorism at the international level.

There you have it: Bush, the idealistic but misguided war president or Kerry the diplomat-statesman. Which approach do you think is most effective? The choice seems clear to me.

Gerard W. Sudell, St. Pete Beach

A familiar response

The U.S. government is shocked by Russian President Vladimir Putin's grab for power after the school killings. To make his country safe from terrorists, he is taking away some of the rights of the common man. Does that sound like what George W. Bush and his gang did after 9/11? All in the name of protecting our country.

David Landy, Seminole

What it takes to fight terrorism

Re: Russian regression, editorial, Sept. 16.

Whoever wrote that editorial should rapidly review the conditions under which President Vladimir Putin, and other leaders such as our President Bush, must understand the strategy and determination of hundreds of thousands of radical Muslims and direct both their military and populace in manners that prevent the radicals' domination of the world's oil, its international economies and its social and religious directions.

When the Russians, and we, are faced with the suicidal determination of such a large number of well-funded, internationally dispersed terrorists, the willy-nilly, splintered and inconsistent manners of resistance by so-called democracies such as ours can hardly be expected to do other than fail. A prime example is the current high-level criticism of our president's handling of the wars on terrorism and in Iraq, which on CNN gives daily solace to leaders such as Osama bin Laden.

And now you jump on President Putin! While I was never fond of him, I cannot think of a more qualified man for his job at this time.

Gilbert M. Brown, Dunedin

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