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Letters to the Editors

Democracy hinges on people's access to public information


© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002

Re: Keeping the public in the dark is a mistake, Jan. 24 Jan Glidewell column.

Editor: I have practiced administrative law for more than a quarter-century and firmly believe that a meaningful democracy depends on an informed and educated electorate.

The electorate cannot be informed if it has limited access to the public's business. I am rather radical in my belief that documents and information withheld from the public do little to protect privacy concerns but do much to limit a meaningful dialogue and debate over public issues, and as stated, protect public policy from public criticism.

I agree with the viewpoint that public records belong to the people and should be easily accessible to them. The Public Records Act should not be amended to make those records less accessible. There are many exemptions in the law as it now exists. Among those exemptions are restrictions on the release of Social Security numbers and the addresses and telephone numbers of various officers and officials.

As fear of terrorism should not cause us to refrain from travel and shopping, neither should fear of identity theft cause us to erode our democracy and our ability to cast an informed vote by concealment from the public of the business of the public. A locked public drawer does little to deter the thief but much to conceal the actions and decisions of the public official. The Public Records Act should not be amended as proposed.

Right on, Mr. Glidewell.
-- Ben Patterson, Tallahassee

Wall, bridges needed on U.S. 19

Editor: In Port Richey, we have bike paths next to U.S. 19. Most motorists don't know what they are. Why don't we paint the words, "bike lane" on the lane once every mile?

For safety reasons, we also need a 1-foot-high cement wall between cyclists and the traffic. Want fewer people run over? Reduce speed in town from Hudson to the end of Holiday on U.S. 19 to 45 mph.

Also, build an overhead bridge in each town for bikes and pedestrians to cross U.S. 19. We should care about our people, but I guess money talks and the rest of us just get run over.
-- Terri Joiner, Port Richey

To stop speeders, enforce limits

Editor: For two years we have had excessive speed on our residential streets. We have tried to address it several times, but it always fell on deaf ears and there is no compliance.

It doesn't matter how many speed signs you have posted if there is no enforcement.

We wish to thank the Port Richey City Council for their recent vote to drop the speed to 20 mph on residential streets. Now, their next big job is to get the enforcer to enforce and not just keep the status quo.

We received the usual comment from Chief William Downs: "We had officers monitor speed in what we call a speed survey." (Speed is really not the problem.)

I remember reading once, and I don't know who the author was, but here it is: "Great oaks from little acorns grow!" Thanks to the council and the Citizens for Awareness of Port Richey for their help in getting this ordinance passed.
-- Eugene A. Reas, Port Richey

Gas leak handled the wrong way

Editor: I am writing about the Jan. 29 gas leak on U.S. 19.

I think the hazardous materials crew and gas company caused more concern than what was there. For one, spraying water on trees to create a mist to keep gas down creates a problem. Natural gas is lighter than air and dissipates in air. Keeping it down creates problems with vehicle engines running, burning cigarettes and static electricity as potential ignition sources.
-- Dennis J. Yarmesky, Holiday

Truth about pets needs to be seen

Re: Unwanted, unloved and facing a death sentence, Jan. 13.

Editor: Maybe some people prefer to have blinders on, but other people need to see the not-so-sugarcoated truth about the consequences of their actions. We are such a throw-away society that doesn't even stop at throwing away a living creature!

I commend the Times on its choice to publish these photos. Sure, it's very disturbing to look at. But, it is the cold, hard truth, and hopefully one person saw it in time and decided to spay or neuter their pet. Maybe someone even decided to keep Fido, even though he ate all of their furniture.

The truth needs to be seen, regardless of whether it is offensive, especially if it has been caused by the ignorant people who don't get the message.

I do, however, agree that Animal Control should keep an animal alive longer if space allows.
-- Chris Russell, New Port Richey

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