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    Letters to the Editors

    'Devious plans' comment reveals Bush's character

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 30, 2002

    Re: Jeb Bush 's "devious plans."

    The concept of character has been a favorite idea that Republicans have long loved to scream about, especially during the Clinton years. Now that one of their own, Gov. Jeb Bush, was caught saying that he had "devious plans" to thwart the class size amendment should it pass, they are crying foul. Jeb's lame excuse was that he didn't realize a reporter was present.

    It has been said that the definition of character is what one does when no one is looking. I believe this applies to everyone, but even more so to our public officials who are (or should be) held to a higher standard. When Bush became governor, he took a solemn oath that he would "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and that of Florida." Clearly, when he brags about plans to circumvent the will of the people, this is a very serious violation of a public trust. Whether or not he agrees with the class size amendment is irrelevant -- he is duty-bound to uphold it if it passes and becomes part of the Constitution.

    Although I am a liberal Democrat and disagree with most of Bush's policies, I at least had some respect for him and thought he was a decent person. I have lost all respect for him because of these comments. The governor is entitled to have private conversations with other officials and to state his opinion about this amendment, but he should never have said, even jokingly, that he would, in effect, willfully and deliberately fail to live up to his oath of office. I can never support anyone, Republican or Democrat, who would even think of committing such a breach of public trust. This is proof of Jeb Bush's arrogance and contempt for the people of Florida.
    -- Kevin T. Hurlbut, Winter Haven

    'One size fits' all is ludicrous

    The appearance of the proposed class size limitation amendment to the Florida Constitution in the forthcoming election is another manifestation of our culture's propensity to deal with all problems with legislation (or constitutional amendments). If something is bad, pass a law against it! If something is good, pass a law requiring it! The cure is often worse than the disease.

    Such is the case with a requirement limiting class size. There is no denying that smaller class sizes are "a good thing." However, a "one size fits all" decree at the state level is ludicrous.

    If the voters in a community desire improvement in their school system, the place to work on the problem is with local school boards and taxing authorities. Communities with a homogeneous ethnic makeup, for example, can effectively function with larger class sizes than those with multilanguage difficulties. The state's role would appropriately be to provide research data and guidelines.

    A primary beneficiary of such an amendment will be the trial lawyers when suits are filed because of noncompliances in districts -- which will surely happen! The losers will be the taxpayers when they incur the costs of dealing with the litigation -- in addition, of course, to the costs of additional facilities, teachers and increased bureaucratic inefficiencies in their districts.

    The provision for a state subsidy to school districts to implement the amendment carries the usual deception in matters like this. "Gee, the additional facilities and teachers for the schools are at no cost to the district; the state provides the money!" Note that the state not only will incur the costs of additional facilities/teachers, but those associated with a huge bureaucracy to administer the program.

    The state Constitution is no place to deal with this class size issue (or with how to treat pigs, either).
    -- Don Barnhill, Trinity

    Let the people be heard

    Re: No on Amendment 9, editorial, Oct. 27.

    While your arguments on the class size amendment make some sense, so do those of the petitioners. Everyone seems to be worried about cost; if we can't afford to do this then maybe we can't afford education in Florida to be anything but 49th. Your editorial states that only "five states put more students in each classroom and not a single state packs more into each school." We have a governor who said smaller is better to get elected, then changed to his true agenda.

    It is time to stop looking for excuses to fail and start looking for excuses to succeed. In defense of those of us who signed the original petition, please remember the average person can't afford to buy a legislator to get heard. This action was taken as a last resort to be heard and have the will of the people put into action.

    This is what the majority of the people in Florida want; to place the will of the people ahead of the will of the corporations (tax breaks).

    I suggest if our leaders can't figure out how to fund this (do the will of the people), then maybe we should give them vouchers to go to a private business and get someone who can. As for your worries of recklessness, we will cross those bridges when we get there. Please don't give credibility to those who would use "devious plans" to subvert the will of the people.
    -- Richard Lehner, St. Petersburg

    Cost is a critical issue

    Howard Troxler's Oct. 25 column, Want anchovies on that amendment? imagines Gov. Jeb Bush and Bill McBride ordering a pizza. Bush wants to know how much the pizza will cost and McBride says "Between $8 and $26," but has no idea where to get the money.

    Troxler's analogy struck a common-sense chord with me: I would not order a pizza for a family without knowing the cost first. And if someone else is paying for the pizza, I feel even more responsible to find out the cost before I order it.

    It is irresponsible for me, as a citizen and a voter, to vote for something my neighbors will have to pay for when I have no idea what it will cost them. Writing my own blank check and letting the state of Florida fill in the amount would merely be foolish. But forcing all my neighbors to sign blank checks to the state is irresponsible and wrong. The fact that I can do so legally by means of the voting booth does not make it right to do so. The only responsible thing I can do is vote "No" until I have a reasonable idea of what I am committing my neighbors to.
    -- John Nystrom, Seminole

    A clash of amendments

    Bill McBride wants to reduce class size (Amendment 9) in our public schools. The cost is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars. Source of revenue: a 50-cent tax per pack of cigarettes.

    Amendment 6 calls for elimination of smoking in restaurants and public workplaces, applying pressure on those who would be asked to pay the added 50 cents.

    It's enough to make a smoker quit! Whoops! Then where does the 50 cents per pack tax come from? Another source? Guess where?
    -- Arnold E. Kromphardt, New Port Richey

    A Big Brother effort

    Re: Amendment 6.

    Once the voters have approved Amendment 6 to prohibit public smoking, Big Brother has another amendment ready. It will, like the Taliban, require all men to let their beards grow, lest someone accidentally cut himself while shaving. Freedom of choice be damned, we must all cater to the prejudices of self-appointed arbiters of conduct.

    If we want clean air, we should ban automobiles, responsible for a major percentage of urban air pollution. Even better, ban people and get rid of virtually all pollution.
    -- Charles L. Fontenay, St. Petersburg

    What will they want to ban next?

    I am a nonsmoker but an amendment to ban smoking in all public places leaves me wondering what they will try to ban next -- peanuts? After all, many people are allergic to these ballpark favorites and we wouldn't want them to accidentally eat one, touch one, or smell them.
    -- John F. Marretta, Port Richey

    A disservice to readers

    Re: Political allies manage Bush's not-quite blind trust, Oct. 26.

    This is a a blatantly biased attempt to smear the opponent of the gubernatorial candidate endorsed by the Times editorial staff. This article's insinuating, accusatory and, at best, flimsy allegations belong in one of the cheap-shot television commercials inundating the airwaves, not on the front page of the Times.

    The Times insinuates that Jeb Bush has an inordinate financial stake in Pioneer Natural Resources, perhaps enough to influence his decisionmaking. Here are the facts: Pioneer Resources represents 6 percent of the Longleaf Partners Fund holdings. If your contention that Bush holds $66,000 in Longleaf is correct, his indirect investment in Pioneer Resources is $3,960, less than four-tenths of 1 percent of the reported value of Bush's blind trust! For the record, because his Pioneer holdings are held through a mutual fund, he doesn't even have voting rights on this tremendous stake!

    The article fails to mention another Longleaf holding associated with Florida: Knight-Ridder, parent corporation of the Miami Herald. Knight-Ridder represents 3.85 percent of Longleaf holdings, compared to Pioneer's 6 percent, I suppose the Herald has endorsed Bush due to his tremendous financial clout!

    Printing this misleading pulp was a disservice to readers and most of all the St. Petersburg Times.
    -- Mark Hutchinson, Ridge Manor

    The only poll that counts

    I can appreciate that reporting the results of polls regarding the election of the governor is news. However, polling that shows Jeb Bush out front in such a dire forecast of events will keep voters from the polls that really count. I think that the message of a media outlet like the St. Petersburg Times should be aimed toward getting out the vote. I think you should encourage voters to cast their ballots as a counter to what would appear like a "foregone conclusion' to an election. You hurt the process when the emphasis is placed on polls rather than the election process.

    Please encourage everyone to participate in the only poll that will really count, not on the "news."
    -- Randall Gainforth, Tampa

    Protection for pigs is important

    Re: Don't clutter our Constitution with amendments, letter, Oct. 26.

    The letter writer poses the question: "Do you really want an amendment in your Constitution that regulates the size of cages for pregnant pigs?"

    My answer is a resounding "Yes! I do." I agree with the writer that it is a shame that something so evidently essential should have to be legislated, but the farmers and the foxes in government guarding the henhouse have proven that this is the only route available to those who don't want to go down in history as people who knew about abuse and suffering and did nothing.

    I've seen today's "factory farms" and for humane readers fortunate enough not to have to actually witness the institutionalized atrocities, they can show their compassion by voting for this amendment.
    -- Jayn Meinhardt, Redington Beach

    Listen to candidates on WMNF

    Re: Candidates to get air waves for free, Oct. 29.

    Kudos to our community radio station WMNF-FM for providing free air time for candidates. We urge all voters to tune in to 88.5 FM today, to hear what the candidates have to say.
    -- Mr. and Mrs. William Hoeper, Redington Shores

    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 (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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