The people's debate - July 24, story
Is there really much difference in using cyberspace to solicit questions rather than the tried and true telephone? Come on, there was probably a lot of money involved in getting YouTube to provide this service. In spite of this so-called communication breakthrough, the baby boomer candidates are, once again, clueless about the needs and expectations of the average American.
Ross Perot championed the concept of the electronic town hall meeting a long while ago. Monday night's debate didn't even come close to his concept.
It would have been much better to have a brainstorming session with American citizens so that we could implement some fresh approaches to the problems facing us today. Instead, the candidates not only are starting this ludicrous debate season much too soon, but also are probably setting records in their expenditures for image consultants and computer consultants.
The war in Iraq is an urgent issue. The oil monopoly is strangling the economy with their prices set by the cartel. Violence is threatening virtually every American, rich or poor.
We need solutions, not promises. We need a team that will gather ideas from citizens and will work as hard as possible to implement the good ones and will utilize all the breakthroughs in communication technologies to make this country great again.
Monday night's debate was a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
Rand Moorhead, St. Petersburg
What part of "fully" isn't clear to them? - July 24, Howard Troxler column
Quality is overlooked in tuition rhetoric
Howard Troxler hits the ball out of the park in his criticism of the Legislature and our lawmakers' disingenuous discussion of university tuition. As someone who has been involved since local boards were created, I am disheartened by the comments (threats) from Sen. Ken Pruitt. In all of his comments about seeing the Board of Governors in court and his concern about providing access, he never talks about maintaining quality.
I can assure you that no one wants to raise tuition, but given the level of state funding, there is no choice. There is no pleasure in telling students that the cost of an education is going up, but I'd rather take the heat for that decision than to allow them to suffer a reduction in quality that will impact them for the rest of their lives. Failing to act now penalizes those students already in school. They get to pay, one way or another, for more students with less funding. While access is critical, quality must take precedence.
It is time for the Legislature to admit that the current system of funding is a miserable failure. If we don't fix it soon, we will see the result in diminished quality, and that is totally unacceptable.
K.C. Clark, St. Pete Beach
In universities, we get what we pay for - July 18, letter
I strongly disagree with the letter writer's implication that the students enrolled in Florida's public universities neither realize nor appreciate the funding that has come from the state treasury in order to reduce the personal costs of tuition.
The letter writer fails to appreciate the benefits to the state that come with this pricing plan. By keeping tuition "artificially low," there is an incentive for Florida's best and brightest to stay in the state after graduation. Staying here, they continue to pay higher-than-average property and sales taxes to the state, acting like an annuity to help pay for future state programs. Raising tuition costs simply makes Florida universities look less attractive to future students.
When I chose where to attend college, the price of tuition heavily weighed into my decision. I am currently in my last year of undergraduate work at the University of Florida, and aside from tuition, I still have had to pay for housing and food and other necessities. I work and have had support from my parents, but still will graduate with some debt.
The implication that students do not realize or appreciate the true costs of attending a public institution is insulting and untruthful.
William Murray, Gainesville
Lift lottery restraint
Revenues to the Florida Lottery could be substantially increased if the lottery officials would pay attention to the wishes of the customers and join one of the two multistate lottery consortiums.
Rather than have Floridians spend money on fuel to drive up to Georgia or South Carolina to have a chance to participate in the occasional huge jackpots, these funds would be far more beneficial to our state if some of them were applied to lottery tickets purchased in Florida instead.
It is obvious that the huge jackpots attract a base of customers who otherwise would not participate in most lottery products. The larger states of New York, California, Texas and others have found it highly advantageous to participate. Why can't Floridians?
Louis A. Carliner, Masaryktown
Teachers to get 8 percent raise July 19, story
The raise that wasn't
As a teacher, I would just like to thank my employer, the Hillsborough County School District, for providing teachers with the perfect way to teach propaganda to our students: the 8 percent pay "raise" superintendent MaryEllen Elia is gushing over.
Read past the bold headlines, and it becomes clear that we are simply getting paid more for working more. That is not a pay raise, although the district is to be commended for its Orwellian attempt to sell it as such.
As the article states, and Elia and the School Board will no doubt conveniently ignore, half of this raise is eaten up by requiring teachers to work 20 minutes longer each day. In addition, high school teachers will be taking on an additional class and losing a planning period. That time will have to be made up somewhere, and that means teachers will be working those 50 extra minutes on their own time. That's more than an extra hour each day teachers will be working for this 8 percent pay hike.
If you consider the amount of additional time required to work, what you actually have is a pay cut, not a raise. Ah, the masterful doublespeak!
Doug Saguto, Brandon
The nonsensical trial over 58 Vicodin pills - July 23, editorial
Alter sentencing law
I doubt that prosecutors even considered whether or not Mark O'Hara was a drug trafficker. Strange as it sounds, "justice" is not their job. Their job is to convict as many defendants as possible, and when the law gives them the power, they do it. The root cause of the Mark O'Hara case is the Florida Legislature.
Enacting mandatory minimum sentencing laws, we now know, transfers too much courtroom power from the judge and jury to the prosecutor. When such sentencing law is coupled with antidrug law, as it is in this case, the results are often unjust.
The change most needed is to delete the subchapter that added mandatory sentencing to the Florida Statutes. Such a change has nothing to do with legalizing drugs; it simply would give courtroom power back the judge and jury in drug prosecutions.
John Chase, Palm Harbor
Drug war insanity
Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober is proof positive that America's drug crusade has gone completely insane. When a district attorney portrays Mark O'Hara's prescription drug use as "drug trafficking," can there be any doubt that madness has taken over?
The true measure of the depravity of Mark O'Hara's prison sentence for "drug trafficking" comes from the fact that no sales were involved in his "crime."
Mark Ober ran for office based on his character and ethics, which have been revealed as highly flawed by his attempt twist the law to put an innocent man in prison. Ober's promises to restore public confidence in the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office were obviously empty words.
Raymond Givens, St. Petersburg
Airport patdown searches
Now that cigarette lighters are permitted on planes, it is time for the rules to be reworked for other things, too.
As a senior citizen with replacement parts (hip and knee) I always set off the alarm and have to submit to a patdown search. This is getting very old. The attendants need to be paying attention to potential terrorists and not to me. Although I have the cards from the doctors that validate the surgeries, still the patdowns continue.
Last time I came through the Norfolk, Va., airport I almost asked to see a supervisor as the attendant patted down my breasts for the third time!
Betty Holzwarth, Wesley Chapel