Open debates to third parties
In 1988, the League of Women Voters withdrew sponsorship of the presidential debates. League president Nancy Newman said the organization had no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of America. She said the league regretted that the American public had no opportunity to judge nominees outside of campaign-controlled environments.
The league's reasoning is even more relevant today, given that the Commission on Presidential Debates continues to ensure that only two parties have the opportunity to demonstrate their competence before the public. In doing so, they establish criteria for participation that exclude Gary Johnson and Jill Stein of the Libertarian and Green parties, respectively, both of whom are on most state ballots. This is especially egregious given the 24-hour attention corporate media has given to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over the last year.
The majority of voters have not heard the policies of the two third-party candidates, who were given only token media coverage over the past several weeks. Instead, we have two of the most unpopular candidates in the history of our political process — one deemed a "con artist" and the other viewed as a corporate establishment candidate with questionable, self-serving judgment.
To exclude third-party candidates by requiring them to meet 15 percent voter support from five independent polls is unjustified. Even 3 percent of the electorate supporting these candidates amounts to almost 4 million voters who have an equal right to hear from them on a national platform.
It is incumbent on all of us as these debates are set to demand that all viable candidates be allowed participate. To refuse is to deny the democratic process.
Jim Willard, Parrish
In remembrance of Higgins | Aug. 30
A life worth emulating
A few weeks before Monsignor Laurence Higgins' passing, my wife, Judy, and I visited with him. In the course of our conversation I asked him if he had any regrets. He looked up toward the ceiling, took a deep breath and said, "I feel I didn't do enough for our Lord."
The man was brilliant, tenacious and passionate about all good things. His driving and grounding force was his unshakable and demonstrable faith in God.
After his arrival in the Tampa Bay area, Monsignor Higgins gradually became embraced by everyone — Christians and Jews, atheists and agnostics. He was loved in all communities and by all colors. His supporters lived in ghettos and in mansions. He artfully balanced conservatism and appropriate social agendas. He stood tall with and was recognized by the Roman Catholic Church and all levels of government. His awards were so many they took up more space than he would care to admit. Not nearly as much space, however, as the space he occupied in tens of thousands of hearts.
While there is no perfect way to honor or thank the monsignor, each of us knows what would please him immensely. Could we in God's name embrace each other, embrace a stranger, or even an enemy as he embraced us, with love and without judgment? This is how he loved God, by loving us.
When the monsignor expressed his regret, I didn't know what to say at first. I thought about his goodness, the faithful servant that he had been, and then I thought about Jesus' last day. I don't know for certain of course, but as it is with all people who love so much, Jesus must have said to our Lord, "I feel I haven't done enough for you, Father."
Thank you, Monsignor Laurence Higgins. I wish we could have done more for you.
Jack Guggino, Tampa
Let altered mosquitoes fly | Aug. 30, editorial
Science to the rescue
This editorial discusses using altered mosquitoes to fight the Zika virus. A similar plan was used some time ago to fight deadly screwworms. The larvae would ensconce themselves in the umbilical cords of newly born calves and other animals. The animals invariably died. Florida released genetically altered screwworms (unable to reproduce) and in a pretty short period, there were no more problems with this pestilence.
Carole Gleason-Minor, St. Petersburg
The half-full, half-empty Tampa Bay transit debate | Aug. 28, editorial
Land plan is a must
This editorial does not mention the most crucial element of a transportation plan: land use. Without a comprehensive land-use plan that creates higher density residential zones and concentrated commercial development along with a jobs/housing balance, a region is doomed to empty public transportation and gridlocked highways.
A transportation and land-use plan must be a regional effort that all municipalities are required to follow, as the problems do not end at borders. One county's unbridled residential growth has huge impacts on a neighboring county's highways and infrastructure. As a 20-year resident of Portland, Ore., I can attest to both the success and turmoil that a regional government brought. The Portland metro region has become a model for sustained development and should be emulated here.
Daniel Maloney, Palm Harbor
No cigars for the troops | Aug. 29
The Food and Drug Administration has banned cigar donations to our troops, presumably because smoking is bad for one's health. It's okay, apparently, to send these same troops off to unending wars in the Middle East where many are maimed and killed. No health problems there.
Philip Thompson, Tierra Verde
Mental health break
A recent letter writer objected to sending cigars overseas to our troops. I can understand the health aspect. But to be honest, dodging bullets is considerably less healthy. After a 14-hour mission, are our soldiers looking forward to decompressing with a nice tossed salad? No.
Give a soldier a pot of coffee and a cigar. The reminders of home far outweigh anything. Mental health is the key to a healthy soldier.
Dan Wilson, St. Petersburg