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    Letters to the Editors

    A common-sense approach to growth


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 19, 2002

    Dan DeWitt's May 12 article, Policing of growth appears to lose teeth, celebrates the filing of lawsuits as the best way to promote growth management. His primary sources are lawyers who make a living by filing lawsuits over land-use decisions. No wonder they dislike an administration that tries to work with Florida's communities before we resort to costly litigation.

    The Department of Community Affairs' stance on comprehensive plan amendments is not an abdication of responsibility; rather, it is a common-sense, good-government approach to public policy. DCA still follows the law and requires local governments to do the same. Are we suing local governments less? Yes, and I'm proud of that. It means we're working harder "at the front end" with local governments to resolve disputes. It means there are fewer technical objections and mistakes as local governments learn how to deal with this complex law. And it means DCA is trying to spend its time on statewide issues rather than on purely local issues.

    Dealing with the impacts of Florida's population growth is a complex, polarizing and supremely important effort. The essential truths are that most land-use decisions that matter to people are made at the community level, that it is in our collective best interest that these decisions are the wisest possible, and that most people believe both state and local governments need to do a better job.

    With the strong support of Gov. Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature recently reformed the 17-year-old Growth Management Act to better deal with school planning and water-supply planning. The focus of the new law is to hold cities, counties, school boards and water-management districts to a higher standard and to require them to communicate and coordinate more effectively. This improves the process and the substance of growth-management law.

    Equating good growth management with a higher number of state lawsuits is not only a poor barometer for success, it is silly.
    -- Steven M. Seibert, secretary, Florida Department of Community Affairs, Tallahassee

    Environment loses

    Re: Policing of growth appears to lose teeth.

    Dan Dewitt's article was right on the money. It only points out what most of us already know about our illustrious governor: No matter how hard he tries to hide it, he can't escape his pro-development roots. At a time when our state continues to experience runaway growth and more of our beautiful landscape is being devoured by the bulldozer, the governor wants to turn more decisionmaking over to local governments. In other words, let's leave the counties alone because we all know they won't police themselves when it comes to irresponsible development.

    This is simply more evidence that Jeb is anything but concerned about the environment. I never thought I would say this, but I am extremely disappointed in Gov. Bush. As a registered Republican, but an avid environmentalist, too, I won't vote for Jeb this time around.
    -- Brad Bates, Brooksville

    Balanced views

    If history is any indication, the St. Petersburg Times will be inundated with letters to the editor, denouncing Bill Maxwell as being biased against Israel and uninformed about the Middle East crisis. Maxwell's May 12 column (Poll shows desire for fairness in Mideast) referred to a new national poll that suggests the U.S. public has a much more balanced view of the crisis than does the Congress.

    One does not have to be an enemy of Israel to reach the conclusion that there will never be peace in the Middle East as long as the disputed settlements exist. That both sides must find a way to coexist without threatening each other is a given. But, that becomes harder to do when the Palestinians can see, each day, the land that was taken from them.

    The Israelis cannot continue to cite the U.N. action that created the state of Israel when it suits them, and then condemn that same United Nations when it disagrees with them, and expect to get unquestioning support from U.S. citizens whose tax dollars make it possible for Israel to be such a strong nation. U.N. study commissions and peace conferences are absolutely necessary to the improvement of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors and the advancement of the peace process.

    With the encouragement and support of the United States, Europe and Arab countries, a way must be found to return the land to the Palestinians, so that an independent Palestinian state can be created, while ensuring secure borders for Israel. Anything less than that will lead to permanent conflict.
    -- Robert Monroe, Tampa

    Other polls differ

    Re: Poll shows desire for fairness in Mideast.

    The conclusions drawn by Bill Maxwell in his May 12 column are hasty and based not on facts but on the author's preconceptions and the results of a single public poll.

    While the data Maxwell cites are in favor of the Palestinian view, other recent polls have not illustrated the same tendencies. A Pew survey conducted in April showed 41 percent of Americans to be more sympathetic with the Israelis, while only 13 percent were more sympathetic with the Palestinians. Another survey in April, this one by ABC and the Washington Post, asked Americans which side was more responsible for the current violence. The results: 50 percent blamed the Palestinians, while only 20 percent saw the Israelis as culpable.

    Maxwell asserts that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's actions are the primary causes behind the current violent conflict, and he blames the United States for attacking PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and contributing to the illegitimacy of the Palestinian people.

    Both views are incorrect. The deplorable situation in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip is not the fault of Sharon, but stems from Arafat's cowardice and, now exposed, direct support of terrorism. At Camp David, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat a monumental deal that would've given Palestinians control over a huge portion of the occupied territories and enabled the beginnings of a Palestinian state. But Arafat refused to budge.

    Since the failure at Camp David Israelis have lived in terror as Palestinian hate groups encourage their young with hopes of martyrdom and dreams of eternal paradise to strap bombs around their waists and blow innocent civilians to pieces. Arafat has done nothing but encourage these abhorrent acts.

    The White House's criticisms of Arafat are, if anything, too mild. The Palestinians who do wish for peace and dream of a nation to call their own should examine the true causes of their social and economic deficiency. The problem does not stem from the outside; it festers from within.
    -- Liam K. Julian, St. Petersburg

    New topics needed

    We read Perspective every week and discuss it with a group of senior professionals at Eckerd College (ASPEC). These people are from all backgrounds and religions. The standard comment is, "There goes Bill Maxwell again."

    It gets very tiresome when three out of five columns by Maxwell are routinely devoted to Israel bashing. May 12 was just the latest. It would be nice and equitable if he occasionally gave a balanced perspective and even broadened his literary scope to other subjects. The world has many hot spots besides Israel.
    -- Henry Goldsmith, Gulfport

    It's a shame

    Re: The sin of falling in love, May 12.

    Falling in love is not a sin. Of course not. Sin is a serious offense against God. Love can, however, sometimes lead us to sin.

    As a Catholic and an ex-seminarian, one who's "been there, but not done that," I was quite disturbed by the story about the priest and nun falling in love and marrying. Father Breyer and Sister Carol Ann, according to the writer, "first had sex in 1969 while both were still in ministry. They weren't married. They didn't consider it a sin." Whoa. They didn't consider it a sin? Ridiculous. Surely they knew sex outside marriage, in the eyes of God, was a sin. They were clergy and, without a doubt, they knew that breaking their sacred vows of celibacy was also a sin.

    "They prayed a lot beforehand and asked God for guidance," said the writer. Praying and asking God's guidance may have given them a warm feeling, but not God's permission.

    Coming on the heels of all the reports of many priests' sexual abuse, this article is just another low blow to the body of the Catholic Church. It's not enough that the priesthood appears to be filled with pedophiles, but now, the priesthood seems to be filled with philanderers. Certainly, we should not condemn Father Breyer and Sister Carol Ann for what they did. But to picture them as "living happily ever after" is, to my mind, to celebrate their fall from grace.

    No, it's not a sin for a priest and a nun to fall in love. It's a shame.
    -- Jack Bray, Dunedin

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