I am a nobody. I have no voice. I, along with thousands of people directly involved with education such as educators, PTAs, communities and unions, wrote, emailed, called and visited legislators asking that teachers not be armed. Those contacts were ignored. Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, which gave voting rights to felons who have completed the terms of their sentences. Legislators have decided to alter what voters wanted by adding restrictions, which now might make felons pay court costs and fees before being able to vote. Floridians spoke about money that was earmarked to be given specifically to public schools. But legislators, in their ploy to dismantle traditional public schools in order to promote charter schools, disregarded the will of the people, giving more money to charter schools in spite of the fact that charter schools are not held to the same rules. This year I am a nobody. But eventually, my voice will be heard.
Marilyn Warner, Clearwater
We shouldn't idolize or demonize wealth | Column, April 30
It's personal character
David Von Drehle's column is a fair rebuttal to the ignorant and dangerous anti-capitalist rhetoric that has been growing in recent years. In my 40-year career in corporate accounting, with over 25 in management, I have seen from the inside numerous examples of both exemplary civic and moral behavior on the part of business owners, and I have also seen examples of greed and callousness. It has nothing to do with politics. It always comes down to the personal character of the individuals in charge. As a senior manager for a privately held company in Tampa I worked for an owner who consistently demonstrated civic responsibility, ethical conduct and a sincere concern for his employees; he dug into his own pocket to pay Christmas bonuses in a year in which he lost money and he always offered affordable health care benefits to his employees. I also had the dishonor to work for a different privately owned company that treated its employees as disposable assets and was ruthless and unscrupulous. That company recruited by word-of-mouth only and never advertised open positions and, not surprisingly, was not a diverse workplace. In my experience, capitalism is the best imperfect economic system ever devised by man, but its application as a tool for human progress always comes down to the individual integrity of senior management.
Roland St. Marie, Clearwater
Andrew Gillum agrees to $5,000 ethics fine | April 25
Hardly a vindication
For those of us who are not offered trips to Costa Rica nor tickets to Hamilton, let alone in New York, it is arrogant to say it is "vindication" of the charges. How could accepting such gifts be explained any other way? You should not put yourself in that situation. It shows terrible judgment and is insulting to voters and taxpayers.
Robyn Dalton, Largo
We, the people
For which we stand
With almost daily news of deranged or misguided people shooting up our places of worship, education, entertainment and shopping, let's keep something in mind: A true American doesn't care one iota where you're from, what color you are, what religion you worship or whom you happen to love. All men and women are created equal. Read the Constitution and figure that out. This land was built upon the blood and guts of red, black, white, yellow — and red, white and blue. All of us! Some sneaked in, some came and applied, some come and go. But they — we — are here because this country is great. Division from groups wishing to tear apart our great nation can no longer be accepted. Stand as an American and force our nation back to what it was when so many of us were from someplace else and were different and just wanted a place to call home. The United States of America means something.
Thomas Cook, St. Petersburg
Looking beyond the 'rigged society' scapegoat | Column, April 27
Rigged at birth
In pursuit of balance, professor Steven Lawson seems to me to miss the point of the popular claim that the systems of our society are rigged. I take the "rigged" claim to assert that our social, economic and political systems are constructed to persistently favor one group of people over others. That is, some of our people are substantially boosted by the system and the people in other groups are denied opportunity to fulfill their potentials for safety and happiness.
Social research, I believe, has found that the difference in achievement and wealth in America does not correlate highly to innate potential, but to birth status. Born poor, stay poor; born to power, stay in power — regardless of the actual potentials of the person or family. This I would call "rigged" — and unjust and wasteful — with the price of injustice and waste paid by the poor and unlucky.
What if we rigged the system so that everybody was born into a system of equal opportunity, enabled by the society to fulfill their human potentials, including their potential to add to the well-being of the whole community? I thought that was the rigging intended for our ship of state.
Jack Donovan, St. Petersburg
They know change is coming | April 28
Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, is quoted as saying he does not believe desperate women used coat hangers to perform abortions on themselves. Just because Hill does not believe this does not make it so. I am old enough to remember women using hangers, knitting needles and chemicals, among other dangerous methods for abortion. The representative needs to make an effort to educate himself on this issue before making decisions that affect women's lives. His attitude is uninformed and irresponsible.
Ann Jamieson, Tarpon Springs