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    Letters to the Editors

    Expansion of college would aid downtown


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 29, 2002

    Re: College's proposed land deal draws fire, concerning the City Council's response to St. Petersburg College expansion into downtown St. Petersburg, July 26.

    I saw last week's meeting a little differently than the editors at the St. Petersburg Times. The article implied that City Council was against St. Petersburg College expanding to downtown. Although two members of council did voice strong objections, as noted in the article, I did not hear that tone from the balance of the council members in attendance.

    Council members did ask tough questions so they could completely understand all the complicated issues involved. A couple of things to me are absolutely clear relative to SPC and the Florida International Museum. One is that SPC is already in downtown St. Petersburg and for that school to further expand there may bring along many benefits. Just one of those benefits would be having many more young people enjoying our beautiful downtown.

    Secondly, moving the museum to smaller, more manageable quarters and teaming up with SPC, I think, would be a boost to this community's overall cultural enrichment. Some of the best museums in the world are partnered with colleges.

    Lastly, opening the south half of the block for future private development has countless benefits, mainly turning the block into a payer of taxes rather than a taxpayer's liability. I am certain that City Council will work thoughtfully through this process and appreciate the opportunities that SPC is offering this city.
    -- John Bryan, council member, St. Petersburg City Council

    Stress the importance of integrity

    Re: Caseworker faked visit to slain child, July 13.

    When I read the article about the caseworker who wrote a report that she had visited a child when she had not and then the child died, I was reminded of students and young people I know and work with. When I challenge them about how important it is to develop impeccable integrity, many think it's a joke.

    Too many of these middle school and high school students see nothing wrong with lying or cheating to make their lives easier. Many times this comes in copying homework or taking unethical shortcuts when preparing class assignments or when filling out job applications. They're convinced that because they don't cheat on tests, they're fine upstanding young people.

    I see students who have developed a habit of setting integrity aside and are convinced they're hurting no one. Along with disciplining them, I tell them such habits are hard to break and will follow them into the workplace and could have dire consequences. I plead with all young people I encounter to say "no" to lack of integrity early on. As Barney Fife said: "Nip it in the bud."

    Along with the idea that integrity is essential to success, I tell them that even though they may not get caught and punished for all the lying and cheating they do in school, the Bible's truth will hold: "A liar will not escape" consequences (Proverbs 19:5).

    I will be using the newspaper article about Erica Jones to teach the young people I have in my life more lessons about integrity. Now when they ask, "What harm does this do?" when I catch them cheating or lying in what they consider "little ways," I will have a solid example.

    I will urge them to consider this (we all need to consider this): Before you decide to do something a little shady, ask yourselves, "Am I ready to have my lack of integrity -- what I've done in secret and am convinced no one will ever find out about -- on the front page of the newspaper?" If Erica Jones had asked herself that question, she might have chosen a different -- even an ethical course. She would not be facing this question: "Would that child still be alive if I had chosen to do the right thing?"
    -- Elaine Creasman, Largo

    Things can be done to help children

    Re: Caseworker faked visit to slain child.

    When is the state of Florida going to wake up to the fact that it is hurting children who have already suffered? The state has once again failed the children, along with the parents who have abused them.

    Firing overworked and underpaid people is not the answer to a problem that is already horrendous. The Department of Children and Families worker who falsely reported visiting Alfredo Montez should be fired but not made the scapegoat.

    Stop promising to keep our children safe and do it. Things can be changed to help the needy children and adults in this state. Give back the money that has been taken away from various programs, and make sure that every child in protective services has a guardian ad litem to safeguard and ensure the best interest of that child.

    The state of Florida is only interested in preserving the family even when the family itself will not take the necessary steps to help themselves.
    -- Mary M. Connell, guardian ad litem, New Port Richey

    False abuse reports hamper DCF

    The Department of Children and Families has come under fire for not providing adequate services in response to an overload of abuse claims. DCF workers sift through hundreds of reports each month, some which are blatantly and knowingly fabricated by the reporter.

    The state is now punishing workers for not meeting unrealistic deadlines. Shouldn't there be repercussions for those who misuse the system as a means of harassing a neighbor, ex-spouse or estranged family member? How many abuse allegations can be cross-referenced with recently filed domestic violence injunctions or divorces? How many reports are made the same day as child support enforcement hearings? For every false report DCF investigates, time is taken away from those children who are truly in danger.

    While the DCF worker who falsified reports committed a crime, her guilt is shared with every reporter of every false allegation filed within that district. When will those people be prosecuted? Immediate reform of DCF is needed starting with stricter laws to allow the prosecution of those who purposely misdirect the state's limited resources to satisfy their own grievances.
    -- Cheryl Hadley, St. Petersburg

    Accountability up the line

    Re: The right questions can save a child, by Elijah Gosier, July 23.

    The management line in the Department of Children and Families, all the way up to Secretary Kathleen Kearney and beyond, should be held severely accountable for the lack of action by the fired caseworker and supervisor in the Alfredo Montez case.

    Elijah Gosier's closing phrase, "the governor's focus will continue to appear aimed more at saving face than saving children" says it all.

    Gov. Bush should be reminded of the sign on Harry Truman's Oval Office desk:

    "THE BUCK STOPS HERE."
    -- Harry Harper, Clearwater

    Birth control is part of the solution

    With all the publicity about children who are lost (or murdered) while in the care of the state, my question is: How did so many become wards of the state in the first place? Let's have some general figures with the facts.

    Also, why isn't something more done to discourage people from having children they are not able to care for? We see sex, sex, sex on situation comedies. We see ads for Viagra and dozens of other drugs on TV. Why not ads for birth control -- pills, patches, condoms?

    Maybe TV can do more than school education programs. Show crying children asking for "Mommy" or "Daddy." Sad, but isn't that better than lost or dead children?

    With all the birth-control methods, there is no excuse, none at all. If the church says "No," fine. Let them care for the unwanted children.
    -- G. Wilson, Pinellas Park

    Librarians should do their duty

    Re: A chill in the library, editorial, July 23.

    I have been a library board president, an elected member of the American Library Council and a strong supporter of intellectual freedom and I am not a librarian. You have touched the "third rail" with your editorial and it is not limited to terrorism. Public libraries, the use of public money, local control and unrestricted access to information have been hot spots for decades.

    A worker in a public library is a government employee even with a professional degree in library science. These workers will unhesitatingly report a person looking up dresses in the stacks to the police. Anyone stealing books will be prosecuted. Don't pay your overdue fines and you will feel the wrath of law. View pornography on the Web, and libraries will purchase filtering software.

    As we yield our freedoms to body searches, as our underwear is searched both in our luggage and on our persons, as our nail clippers are confiscated and as we undergo other safety measures for a simple airline flight, why is it unreasonable that we want to know if people are using public facilities to blow up those same airplanes?

    Had all of the terrorists on Sept. 11 been Irish instead of Middle Eastern then we might be looking with suspicion at those with a brogue and red hair. I sat in a plane on the ground in London while mortar shells landed all around it and you have to know that Scotland Yard was looking for IRA soldiers and not Middle Easterners.

    Losing some freedoms or losing our lives both create a chill, and we will feel it a bit less when we can gain some confidence that government employees are through turf-fighting and are now tracking those who enter our country with evil intent. Librarians are some of those government employees that we expect help from in our quest to regain our basic freedoms. I suspect that no librarian wants to explain that people died because one of them turned a blind eye to suspicious behavior in a public building.
    -- Tony Leisner, Tarpon Springs

    Experiences with not being welcome

    Re: Objectionable assumptions, letter, July 18.

    The letter writer took issue with several points in Mary Jo Melone's July 7 column Barbarians at the gates, or vulgarians behind them? I agree with Melone. Gates do signal "If you're not the right color... your type not wanted here."

    These signals were loud and clear to me, a black social worker case-managing the elderly and disabled in upper Pinellas County. The security guards at those gated communities and mobile home parks treated me with much suspicion. I compared notes with white workers who had no problems gaining access. On occasion I was queried, "When did you move in?" by residents. One manager insisted on sitting in during an initial visit with a client. He appeared to have difficulty understanding that his presence during the interview would violate client confidentiality.

    Over the 21 years I've been a protective service worker in the Aging and Adult Program of the Department of Children and Families, I was slapped in the face time and time again with "your type not wanted here" in many of the upscale, gated communities and mobile home parks. It doesn't take a leap of logic to go from "gates" to "classism and racism," as the writer stated.

    Mary Jo Melone's logic was not just leaping about; it convincingly speaks truth.
    -- Frances N. Pinckney, St. Petersburg

    Share your opinions

    Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. They can be sent by fax to (727) 893-8675 or by e-mail to letters@sptimes.com (no attachments, please).

    They should be brief and must include the writer's name, address and phone number. Please include a handwritten signature when possible.

    Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be published.

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