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  1. Letters to the Editor

Sunday's letters: Overhaul drug, policing policies

Tensions rise over shooting | Sept. 2

Overhaul drug, policing policies

Unfortunately, our community is dealing with another police killing of a pot smoker.

In May 2014, we had a Tampa Police Department SWAT team shoot and kill Jason Westcott in his bedroom, resulting in recovery of $10 of pot. Last month, the Hillsborough County sheriff's SWAT team stormed a home, shot and killed an unarmed pot smoker named Levonia Riggins. The final report has not been released, but initial reports say Riggins had $20 of pot.

The nearly $100 billion spent nationally on the drug war since the 1950s has not affected the addiction rate in the United States. The drug war is only a boon to police budgets and a profit center for government-run and private prisons. The hidden costs of the militarization of policing include dead civilians, broken families, seven-digit judgments against municipalities, broken homes, more people on public assistance and scarred childhoods.

The solution: Treat these "recreational" drugs like beer — those 21 and over can buy them anywhere you can buy beer. Regulate the products to prevent poisoning and black markets.

Also, if police and sheriff's deputies are professionals, why are they not carrying professional insurance? Why is the taxpayer the insurer of last resort on militarized policing agencies and SWAT teams? I understand that Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee holds an insurance bond for the office he holds, which transfers to his deputies. I also understand the taxpayers are the ultimate payer of the costs of the bond.

We should remove this taxpayer-funded bond and replace it with a marketplace of insurers that will measure the risks in covering these deputies or officers, and the insurers can offer them the insurance for purchase. The present system is a colossal ripoff for the taxpayers.

The time for Policing 2.0 has arrived. End the drug war, legalize and regulate recreational drugs, make professional cops get their own professional insurance, and end the taxpayer bailouts of these disastrous outcomes of local SWAT teams — for the safety of our people and the cohesion of our families.

Kevin O'Neill, Tampa

The writer is chairman of the Libertarian Party of Hillsborough County.

A violent milestone | Sept. 7

Obama fails to deliver

After another violent weekend that pushed the Chicago homicide totals to over 500, the worst in 20 years, the Chicago police superintendent, Eddie Johnson, said: "Impoverished neighborhoods, people without hope do these kinds of things. You show me a man that doesn't have hope, I'll show you one that's willing to pick up a gun and do anything with it."

This is President Barack Obama's hometown, and he ran on a campaign of "hope and change." What has been done in the last seven and a half years to give the impoverished communities in Chicago and other Democratic strongholds like Detroit and Baltimore any hope for change? If anything, the problems have gotten worse. Should these communities continue to believe that the Democrats are their salvation?

Joe Wareham, Tierra Verde

Campaign 2016

Put focus on climate change

Although Hillary Clinton, at her Tampa rally last week, addressed the importance of shoring up Florida's infrastructure to protect against the effects of climate change, none of the pundits on CNN or MSNBC made any comment about it. She also attacked Donald Trump for being a climate change denier. This is undoubtedly the most significant difference between the two candidates, yet even the Clinton campaign fails to stress this. Only Sen. Bernie Sanders placed it as the most urgent crisis of our time. He, Pope Francis, the mayors of our coastal cities — and myriad eminent scientists around the globe — are sounding the alarm.

So why is it that mum's the word throughout our media? All they can talk about is poll numbers and scandals. Could it be that the fossil fuel industry allocates a large budget to a barrage of commercials on every cable and major network channel, along with the auto industry, closely allied with Big Oil? They have PACs urging us to be "energy voters." After a brief mention (primarily in newspapers) of Exxon being under investigation for hiding many years of climate change data, much as the cigarette industry buried the research linking cancer to smoking, the media has zipped its collective mouth.

I have little hope that whoever enters the Oval Office next will put climate change at the forefront of the agenda, but at least Clinton recognizes it as a threat. Trump tells us it's a hoax, then has his lawyers petition to protect his property against the rising tides inevitable with climate change.

Marian Yeager, Sarasota

Things aren't that bad

What are you angry about? That is a question I ask my conservative friends. Eight years ago, we experienced the biggest recession since the Great Depression, but since then we are back down to 4.9 percent unemployment, the economy is averaging 200,000 new jobs each month, and the growth of the U.S. gross national product is the best of all industrialized nations. True, Congress is dysfunctional. Despite that, governance has been pretty good, and for that we should be thankful.

Sure, we can do better, but do not let anyone tell you that America is not great.

Alan F. Nitzman, Pensacola

No hostage ransom | Sept. 7, commentary

It's called diplomacy

Sen. Marco Rubio must know that the $400 million was not ours to begin with. It was Iran's advance on U.S. weapons that were not delivered when the shah's government fell in 1979. The funds' return was part of the recent deal coupling Iran's nuclear program with several other things, one being their release of a few prisoners.

Obama would not release the $400 million until he verified that the prisoners were on their way home. It recalls President Ronald Reagan's famous "trust but verify" as he negotiated with the Soviets. It is the kind of things that nations do when getting to know each other. It is called diplomacy.

John G. Chase, Palm Harbor

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