"Defend Our Democracy" ordinance
Ban super PACs in local politics
How can we help ensure that our elected officials represent us the way our forefathers and mothers intended? One way is to ban super PACs. These include foreign-owned corporations — those with more than 5 percent foreign ownership — that can spend unlimited amounts of money, often from sources that are untraceable to influence elections.
A proposed "Defend Our Democracy" ordinance will come before the St. Petersburg City Council on June 22. The ordinance would curb any influence of "big money" in city elections by banning super PAC contributions and limit the amount of money contributed by "significantly foreign owned" corporations to $5,000. This proposal would clearly be good for local democracy, and polls show that 80 percent or more of people from all political affiliations believe that big money has too much political influence. This deserves the support of all city council members.
The one objection to the ordinance is that the city may be sued by the very special interests it seeks to control. Nationally known constitutional lawyers have pledged to work pro bono for the city to defend it in such a case, but if the city potentially loses, it could be responsible for the legal fees of the other side. Irresponsible estimates of up to $2 million in legal fees have been thrown out, and less than $500,000 is a more likely projection.
In response to this, I say: (1) St. Petersburg has a good chance of winning; and (2) this is a small price to pay to defend the very essence of democracy. The price we will pay if we don't curb the influence of big money is insurmountable. Pass this ordinance.
Karen Berman, St. Petersburg
Withdrawal sends the wrong message | Column, June 6
Leave the planet better
Surprise! I'm in agreement with former Sen. George LeMieux. His perspective is mostly from the right and mine from the left, and it's rare that we are on common ground. But he is as disheartened by President Donald Trump's repudiation of the Paris Climate Accord as I am. It proves a point that I've been trying to make for a while: Climate change issues impacts everyone, and the Paris accord should be above the divisive politics suffocating our country. Those on the right don't "win" because of President Trump's decision to pull out, and those on the left are not "losers." We all lose when we lose focus on the human responsibility to leave the planet no worse than we found it.
Thankfully, there are other ways to defend the planet from the excessive buildup of carbon dioxide, and I pledge to be a part of the solution. But everyone in the United States suffers a loss by pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord so abruptly.
When I was a child, we were often chided with " ... is everyone out of step but you?" Think of this and the Paris Climate Accord: If every nation in the world (except for two minor outliers) is making a pledge and we elect not to for trumped-up, spurious reasons, is the rest of the world out of step, or is the problem closer to home? What is the downside from being a part of the accord?
The president's justifications have been widely debunked, and most see vastly more upside than downside. I'm too old to worry about most of the impact of climate change in my lifetime, but the impact on my kids, grandkids and great grandkids will be real.
Today's generations should not pass up opportunities for the reduction and mediation of climate change. It's our responsibility, right or left.
Jon Crawfurd, Gulfport
Tracking nine who made mark here | May 28
The costs of corruption
There is a push among some progressives to put everyone on Medicare. A doctor who was accused of stealing up to $105 million from Medicare recently was convicted of fraud. While I feel that 99 percent-plus of health care personnel do not cheat the government, there are those who do. Let's just say that there are another 100 doctors who have done this and just haven't been caught. Now they want to add everyone to the system. What are the odds that more money will be lost?
Tom Craig, Riverview
Hillary Clinton lacks remorse of conscience | Peggy Noonan, June 4
Passing the buck
President Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, had a sign on his desk that said, "the buck stops here." Since then, the left has become irresponsible. Hillary Clinton should say, "This is all my fault. I failed to campaign hard in the swing states."
The Democratic National Committee should say, "This is all our fault. We didn't provide Bernie Sanders a level playing field."
The mainstream media should say, "This is all our fault. We spent all our time attacking Donald Trump instead of listening to his constituents. He won, we lost; yet we still aren't listening to his constituents."
Early Sorenson, Dunedin
Time for vestige of state's racist past to go | Column, June 4
Really, who's to judge?
I want to thank columnist Daniel Ruth for having the courage to call for us to "cast off the shackles of ignorance" and remove all monuments and statues and rename any schools that glorify the names of Confederate traitors and the institution of slavery. Bravo. Please continue to shine that light on ignorance and call for removing any memorial or tribute to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, two gentlemen who owned slaves. Let us not forget Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who supported the fire bombing of Dresden, Germany, which killed thousands of innocent civilians — we should not honor them. Nor should we forget Harry Truman and the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. But removing monuments and statues and renaming schools and streets may not be enough. Maybe it's time to call for a national history convention and rewrite our history to emphasize that America is not worthy to be a shining light to others and the leader of the free world. While all tongue in cheek, I suspect some would find no fault in what I propose.
Don Ottinger, Tampa