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Stand with the cranes against development

If faced with a choice between more cookie-cutter subdivisions in west central Florida or preserving and protecting the lives and habitat of sandhill cranes, I'm voting for the cranes.

I tend to see the choice as a clear either-or proposition. Florida can choose between the grace, charm and natural beauty of old Florida, or continue to rush headlong into the sickening creation of more concrete, plastic and neon that seems to be the trademark of new Florida.

At least Floridians get a choice (or what passes for a choice in the political system we have in Florida). Wildlife is left with no option as what was once habitat is now housing. The least we can do as we plunder all that is good in the state is try to live with wildlife.

The pathetic individuals who are torturing cranes in Pasco County should be caught and punished severely. Then again, so should the official criminals who permitted the tremendous growth that now changes wild Florida into concrete Florida. I suspect our grandchildren, left with no water and no wild places, will see them for who they really are.

Joe Murphy, Ridge Manor

Culprits are lowlifes

It's bad enough that man's hunger for the almighty buck in so-called progress and development continuously destroys pristine land and drives out the wildlife that lives there, but to purposely kill, hurt or maim animals definitely proves who is the lowest life form on this Earth.

Sandhill cranes or any other birds and wildlife are creatures of habit and domain. They are born in certain areas, may venture out but will return to their birthplace to raise a family of their own, seeking security and comfort. They don't understand about not being able to come home, and what right do humans have to deny them? If people purchase condos and homes in these new subdivisions with the atmosphere of nature but are annoyed by the wildlife whose real home was taken away, then they should get out!

It is indeed a shame what is happening in Florida with overdevelopment destroying virgin land and driving out the natural inhabitants. And it's more of a shame that we elect representatives who condone this.

There should be a $10,000 reward offered for anyone who can bring to justice a culprit purposely hurting any form of wildlife. The sentence should be a minimum of 364 days in county jail with a $10,000 fine. Since development and so-called progress can't and won't stop harm to wildlife, perhaps justice can before these creatures become extinct with development and progress!

Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City

Some just don't get it

Oh, the arrogance of the human race. This article clearly divides the ones who get it from the ones who just don't, and obviously never will. The concern and caring attitudes of veterinarian Michele Lentovich and former wildlife abuse investigator Dennis Parker are to be commended. Their compassion and ongoing interest in this awful state of affairs regarding the abuse and torture of sandhill cranes in Meadow Pointe should set the standard for all who are involved in this sad situation.

Unfortunately, the ridiculous comments of the unnamed construction manager about a crane stabbing someone with such force to inflict severe injury are laughable, at best, and flat-out stupid. Gary Morse, a "spokesperson" for the Florida Fish and Wildlife "Conservation" Commission, ramps up the idiocy by saying the birds "need to back off," and that one shouldn't "try compassion" when dealing with them, because the birds "don't understand it."

It seems to me that the ones who need to "back off" are the sick blankety-blanks who are abusing them, and in this case, the one who doesn't "understand compassion" is the misguided, mean-spirited Gary Morse. Every living creature, Mr. Morse, understands and needs compassion. Merry Christmas to you, too.

Karen Fostel, New Port Richey

Say no to developers

The Meadow Pointe area in Wesley Chapel has been the sandhill crane's domain for thousands of years before "development." When are the people of this state going to wake up and realize that everybody cannot live here! Aside from the coming traffic insanity and water shortages, we are destroying and torturing the natural wildlife.

We need to stand up to big-money developers and say no to any more developing and destruction of our natural habitats. We need to get out and protest, fight this war on our own soil for our wildlife and environment and stop the apathy and burying our heads in our sand!

B. Havice, Gulfport

Court weighs race and schools | Dec. 5, story

Education before diversity

If you ask me, the subject of diversity in schools is like a wad of gum that has been chewed too much and has lost its flavor. Please. Enough already.

If you ask me, the racial composition of a student body has as much to do with the education they seek as the architectural design of their school building. The fundamental purpose of a school is to provide education. Resembling the racial makeup of America is not needed to fulfill that purpose.

If you ask me, we are so afraid these days of appearing racist that we overcompensate in almost everything we say or do. The "politically correct lockstep" I call it.

Educators are no exception. In fact, when they review applications, their "fear of appearing racist" has effectively put a "hitch in their swing," so to speak, and they miss the point of what the admissions process is or should be all about.

The process should be discriminating. Using race as a criterion makes that process discriminatory.

Yeah, well, nobody asked me.

Jack Bray, Dunedin

Court mulls schools' racial mix | Dec. 3, story

Beware of resegregation

As a relatively new Floridian, I am disgusted and appalled that our governor would support school resegregation. To file a supporting brief on behalf of all Floridians with the U.S. Supreme Court is an act deserving of huge public outcry.

Your article, with the Pinellas students speaking for themselves, was outstanding in its presentation of the issue. As long as Americans continue their racist housing patterns, public schools are the primary places where the children of the "melting pot" come together to learn as Americans first. It is the most important civics lesson we teach.

Each community is different and each should address this issue with fairness and concern for student welfare. But there must be limits. And if local school boards are negligent, citizens and parents must be able to turn to the courts. Should our most powerful court issue an ahistorical, essentially racist, judgment, this country will pay the price for generations to come.

Dianne Maughan, Brooksville

Task force on transit? Been there | Dec. 5, editorial

Better service is key

Thanks for the editorial urging Hillsborough County commissioners to move forward with public transportation. Those of us who are involved with providing public transit know the solutions and they are not complicated. Improve the service and more people will use it!

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is in the midst of an expansion plan and the results are equally predictable. Ridership grew 5 percent in 2005, 9 percent in 2006 and 8.5 percent in the first month of fiscal year 2007. This happened simply because of a series of improvements in service: earlier, later, more often and new routes. Hillsborough's HARTline is experiencing similar growth for the same reasons.

The problem is that public transportation has been an afterthought in terms of transportation spending. We spend more money every year upgrading U.S. 19 in Pinellas County than we spend on all the public transit in Pinellas. Dozens of transit agencies around the country are in the midst of expansion plans. The challenge is that there are many more agencies seeking the limited federal dollars than there is money available.

We are learning that it is impossible to build enough roads in Florida to handle the growth. We need a continuous series of improvements in public transit, both local and across county lines. The other great need is to build "mixed use" areas so that more people live, work and play with a shorter distance between each activity. Pinellas County, St. Petersburg and a number of other Pinellas communities have recently changed their zoning laws to encourage this kind of redevelopment.

Karl Nurse, PSTA board member, St. Petersburg

Transportation dreams require some realism | Dec. 2, letter

Don't be afraid of light rail

The letter writer raises some valid issues regarding the huge regional light rail system proposed by Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and her unlikely ally, a prominent businessman.

He is right in questioning the scale of the regional system in an area unaccustomed to viable mass transit. The best way to start building a realistic light rail system is to start small, gather feedback and plan accordingly. Virtually every region served by light rail has a central line or two, even more depending on the size of the metropolis.

Light rail lines are notoriously positive components of economic development as businesses clamor for the commerce generated by foot traffic.

The letter writer insists that highways have the cost advantage, mile per mile, over rail systems as 70,000 to 125,000 cars travel on area highways daily and rail ridership is likely to be less. His analysis doesn't factor in highway maintenance, patrol, accident prevention and cleanup, which are only some of the exorbitant costs associated with freeways. Environmental costs are substantially lower with rail. Quality of life is improved, too.

The first thing that the bay area needs to do is to put aside the irrational fears of regional rail systems. Highways and cars are more expensive. Let's not forget that we are a tourist-driven economy, too, and the last thing that a visitor wants to experience is a traffic jam. Tap into this huge base of potential riders on a rail system and let their experience lead the way.

Rand Moorhead, St. Petersburg

Toll road finalist jabs at light rail | Dec. 7, story

Views on rail were distorted

This recent story in the St. Petersburg Times related to my comments about a proposed fixed rail system in Honolulu, Hawaii, have been intentionally slanted by reporter Janet Zink to create an image of opposition to Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio's suggestions for light rail in Tampa that is completely untrue. By printing only bits and pieces of my responses to her direct questions and then mixing in parts of my written comments to a media outlet in Honolulu on a totally different subject, Zink painted a picture exactly opposite from what was said in our interview.

I took notes during the interview and here are the key questions and answers that support my contention that she decided not to let the facts get in the way of her good story.

Zink: From your statements about the Hawaii project, it seems you are opposed to rail.

Stone: On the contrary, I am a supporter of rail and public transit going back to my days in graduate school at the University of Florida in the late '70s when I attempted to write my master's thesis on an idea I had for a high-speed rail system along the I-4 corridor from Tampa to Daytona Beach. My mentor and graduate counselor, Dr. Earl Starnes, Florida's first state planner, would not allow me to investigate that subject because he said it would never happen. But I always thought it was a good idea. I love mass transit and ride trains whenever I get the chance.

Zink: But your comments about Tampa make it sound like you are against Mayor Iorio's plan for a light rail system.

Stone: That couldn't be further from the truth. I am in support of her efforts to begin looking again at rail because she is focusing on the most viable of the rail corridors: a line from the airport to Westshore to downtown Tampa and the use of existing tracks for the other three legs, one north along I-275, one to the east and one south. The use of the existing rail tracks makes a lot of sense and would keep the cost down. In fact, I have included her suggestions in my recent presentations to show how they dovetail with a system of new expressways that would allow transit customers to have better access to rail stations.

Does this sound like someone who is opposed to rail in Tampa? Of course not. But a reporter can make you sound like you are in favor or opposed to almost anything when she conveniently leaves out statements that contradict her position.

Shame on you for an approach to one-sided journalism that decides the issue before gathering the facts and then bends the information to support that predetermined position.

Martin Stone, director of planning, Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority, Tampa

Paying for those paths | Dec. 2, letter

A bike bureaucracy?

Surely, the small-minded drivel of this letter proposing a bureaucracy to issue license tags and collect fees for the use of bicycles was intended as satire!

If not, the letter writer conveniently forgets that in most cases, bicyclists also own cars and already pay their share in taxes and fees.

Maybe bike lanes would not be an issue if there were more courteous drivers on the road. But far more U.S. drivers could take a lesson from the French and other Europeans who are so much more civilized and considerate when encountering bicyclists on the roads.

Barbara Cabrera, Beverly Hills

Paying for those paths

Then there's insurance

This letter was right on! The writer forgot to ask why bicyclists don't have mandatory insurance and a state-issued proof of insurance card.

Mike Wallenmaier, Clearwater

Democracy? Sure, just as long as the right guy wins | Dec. 2, column by Diane Roberts

Institute serves us well

The last paragraph of this column is a fraud and an attack on the good people who worked at the Army's School of the Americas.

President Bill Clinton closed the SOA six years ago, after 54 years of service to our country and region. Not one example of anyone using what he learned there to commit a crime has ever been found. Even an English teacher should be expected to provide some evidence of her statements.

President Clinton also created the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation when he signed that law, and the institute continues to serve our country and our region well. Every review of its operation has been commendatory, including the annual reports of its federal oversight committee, the Board of Visitors. This board consists of four members of Congress, two military commanders, one State Department official, and six civilians (a Catholic bishop, a Catholic priest, a Methodist minister, two attorneys and an international consultant at present). Their assessments can be found on the federal committee Web site.

The waivers signed by President Bush merely reflect the will of Congress, and affect (in this hemisphere) 11 countries, most of which were sending students to U.S. military education facilities under other types of funding. This is not a "resumption of training" but a resumption of using certain security assistance funds with these countries.

Finally, your readers should know that they can know us for themselves. The institute is open to visitors every workday; Fort Benning requires a photo ID for entry.

Lee A. Rials, public affairs officer,

WHINSEC, Fort Benning, Ga.

How to build an art museum | Dec. 3, editorial

Limit permanent displays

Your editorial said the new Tampa art museum "should open the design to public input ... and be open to changes that give the facility fuller reach as a focal point." Last week, when the museum trustees hired architect Stanley Saitowitz, they indicated that people will either love or hate the choice, but his design will have an edge.

My opinion is the museum should move the Barbara and Costas Lemonopoulas Gallery of Greek and Roman antiquities elsewhere. It is more appropriate in a history museum than in this art museum and civic institution.

This gallery has been static at least the last 25 years. It occupies a disproportionate percentage of the available exhibition space. With the two other permanently displayed collections, only about half of current museum space is usable for rotating collections.

Since the museum has no major works of art, no major collections and the foreseeable prospect in this billionaireless community is only for more borrowed, rotating collections, it should plan a new museum without as much space devoted to permanent collection(s).

By spending $40-million of public and private money, Tampa will acquire one piece of good art-cum-architecture - a museum building. How well the museum functions depends on prior constraints such as commitments to store collections on display in perpetuity. This is the time to change.

Owen Linder, Safety Harbor

Museum trustees hire an architect | Dec. 1, story

Design echoes

I was delighted to read your story about the choice of architect Stanley Saitowitz to design the new Tampa Museum of Art building, presumably with a modernist, "edgy and seminal" flavor.

I was delighted, at least until I juxtaposed the accompanying photo of Saitowitz's New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston (Tampa & State, Page 6) with that of Calumet Florida LLC's Raccoon Point oil field installation east of Naples (Business, Dec. 1, Page 1).

Who's copying whom?

Jeff Corydon, Tampa

Homeless man held in alleged attempt at arson in Ybor City | Dec. 3, story

Unintended consequences

I read the recent article about the homeless man who was arrested in the nude for attempting to set fire to a restaurant which had refused him food. He is also apparently a suspect in the disastrous fire that almost destroyed the historic building across from the Columbia Restaurant and also threatened that historic structure.

A number of years ago under the Reagan administration, a program was implemented to reduce the cost of indigent health care by reducing federal subsidies to support mental health programs. Now, a number of years later, we find the homeless population swelling with a large number of these people needing mental health care, many who need institutional care.

I can't help but wonder about the true hidden costs of such programs which may only be partly illustrated by the great loss of such beautiful historic structures throughout our country.

Jay Hall, Tampa

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