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Letters to the Editors

Don't let development ruin Panhandle

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2002


After reading Florida's Great Northwest (April 21), I was shocked and saddened by the devastation planned for our wonderful Northern Florida. From Fort Walton Beach east to U.S. 19 lie thousands of acres of beautiful woods and beaches that are now going to be destroyed by development.

After reading Florida's Great Northwest (April 21), I was shocked and saddened by the devastation planned for our wonderful Northern Florida. From Fort Walton Beach east to U.S. 19 lie thousands of acres of beautiful woods and beaches that are now going to be destroyed by development.

The St. Joe company has 70,000 acres to work with, and we, the taxpayers -- willing or not -- are going to pay for much of the work, since the company is asking the state and local governments for millions to aid its endeavors. The shocking part is that the company already has had large projects approved, such as an airport on 4,000 acres of wetlands, a former wildlife management area.

If you have never visited the "forgotten coast," please try to do it before it is forever forgotten. Write to your state legislators to stop this desecration of our beautiful state and to Gov. Jeb Bush and see if he has any interest in stopping it. And ask them what is going to happen to the wildlife in that area.

Any legislators who agree to this rape of our land should have their names printed in the Times in bold letters so they will not be re-elected to that office or any other.
-- June Einboden, St. Petersburg

Adding common sense

Re: Florida's Great Northwest.

Thank you for the broad coverage of St. Joe's Northwest Florida development. I am one of a few dozen residents of the more than 70,000 acres to be "re-drawn" by the questionable Bay County Airport Authority and related developments. We have organized a small group to temper the well-paid lobbyists and P.R.-types of St. Joe and their sycophants, but even we did not know all the angles you reported.

St. Joe is not an unbridled monster, but it is a pale imitation of the Disney approach. I think St. Joe chairman Peter Rummell identified the problem very well when he said the company would be poorly served by drastically altering the character of the Panhandle or "Great Northwest."

As you pointed out, that is a difficult task in the world of marketing themes, storyboards, hired-gun lawyers, faux architecture and stock incentives to deliver "value" quarterly. Rummell has some additional baggage as Disney's former point man for the ill-conceived theme park defeated in Virginia.

We will continue to try to bring some common sense to the "bright future" (another St. Joe term), and stories like yours are encouraging.
-- Tonja Haynes, president, Citizens for Enduring Communities, Inc., Southport

A majority maligned

Re: A handful of criminals makes the rest of us look bad, April 21.

Bill Maxwell's assertion that the individual black person represents the entire black race to the majority culture only when the individual's behavior is negative and not when it is positive is a gross lie.

The "grotesque figures" he mentions ("He's an exceptional black," "She's really smart," etc.), though they are not the most sensitive remarks, are representations of this race, cliched or not. Considering that a much larger percentage of blacks are incarcerated than whites, and that whites generally achieve a higher level of education than blacks, the bigotry underlying these statements can be attributed not to the need of white people "... to unload their guilt and to deny their real duplicity in black history," but to simplemindedness and a failure to realize the multiple causes of this situation (poverty, prejudice, etc.).

I am white and I, for one, do not see a bad black as every black any more than I see a successful black man as unrepresentative of African-Americans; it is the simpletons and bigots of every race who do. So please, Mr. Maxwell, don't let a handful of the majority culture make the rest of us look bad.
-- Jonathan Simkins, Brandon

People are people

Re: A handful of criminals makes the rest of us look bad, April 21.

Since I have worked with, taught, and worked for a number of black men and women, I can say that the fundamental thread that pulls them away from being "violent and dangerous" is education and family. This is the same thread that keeps white, Asian, Hispanic, and other ethnic groups out of the violent and dangerous path.

This is just a wild guess, but I believe that more blacks live in the inner cities, receive poorer education, have less family support, and need to find a way to survive through violent and dangerous drug use, shootings, etc.

In other words, Mr. Maxwell, people are people are people. They are not good black people, good white people, good Asians. They are good because of their accomplishments through education, family, and myriad other personal achievements. Conversely, they are also bad because of the lack of same and not because of their race.

Having said all that, I really do understand your message and believe that people like you and me could really, some day, find the cure. Thanks for your column.
-- Don Slough, Inverness

Writing is taught

Re: Class seems to overlook basic purpose, letter, April 21.

I share the letter writer's passion for teaching writing. I only wish he shared mine for accuracy. Bill Maxwell's thoughtful column of April 14 (The real-life lessons about the plight of migrant farm workers) correctly described those parts of my writing classes that were devoted to linking the research and writing done in freshman composition to such community concerns as the shameful treatment of our migrant workers.

By what logic does the writer assume that creating a freshman writing experience that involves students in concern for others' needs means that I am neglecting the teaching of writing?

As most of my dedicated colleagues at the University of Tampa, I teach writing as an individualized process that takes students from where they are in terms of ability to where they want or need to be. This involves multiple drafts, written critique, peer review and individual conferences that lead up to final drafts. I have met individually with each student at least three times, the most recent being half-hour conferences on their long research paper. Before each conference I have read each paper and made one to three pages of notes to which students must respond in their next draft.

Most surprised by the writer's false assumptions will be those students who have been sent back again and again to check facts, document more closely, substitute concrete argument and facts for generalities, find more convincing data or back up their arguments more fully. What I am attempting in these classes is to create a paradigm linking some of the energy that goes into teaching research on the freshman level with active social concern. What better way to learn to think critically, than to weigh theory against the realities of those working in the community?

Students in my classes have written wonderful, well-documented research papers on the effects of pesticides on workers, migrant education, media stereotyping of Mexican-Americans, existing laws and the failure to enforce them, and the militarization of our border, among other topics. But they have not treated the university or their research as an ivory tower; they have tested it in conversation or interviews with teachers, social workers, growers, farm field workers, legislators and writers like Bill Maxwell, who himself grew up as a migrant worker.

Might this not be our challenge as educators: to link social concerns of our community with the most rigorous intellectual research? At my university alone, 1,000 students take English 102 each year. Add to that the thousands across our state. If we could get one-quarter of them involved in linking the most rigorous research and writing with community concerns, what a difference that might make for our communities over five, 10 or 20 years.

As I told my students, "Our society needs you because you do not yet know what cannot be done." Through their commendable research, writing and dialogue, they have learned how difficult change may be but they remain, for the most part, undaunted.
-- Frank Gillen, Ph.D., Dana Foundation Professor of English, University of Tampa, Tampa

Cheap to a fault

Re: Masters of frugality or cheapskates?, April 21.

Geez. What were you thinking when you solicited public involvement in this story? I guess the Frugal Gourmet didn't call. Initially seduced by the headline, I thought I'd get insiders' secrets to finding off-priced Guccis and cheaper-than-Sam's Club Chianti Classico. Instead, I can now make a salami sandwich with salami-scented margarine, down it with coffee filtered with an old sock (or a cup of tea with a saturated bag on its fifth life) while wearing yesterday's underpants inside out and using the St. Petersburg Times newspaper bag that sat in the dirt to wrap up my leftover salami. Truly, I just might find those Gucci loafers some bag lady left in the trash can in a public restroom, maybe in Hyde Park.

You have a terrific newspaper, but this story should've been canned.
-- Carol P. Osborne, Tampa

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