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  • We shouldn't take voting for granted

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    Letters to the Editors

    We shouldn't take voting for granted


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published November 3, 2002

    On Election Day the citizens of these United States take things for granted. Only half of us get out and vote. Many undeveloped and poor countries have far better voter turnouts; they put us to shame. Call it smugness, call it cynicism, call it what you will, we just don't bother to vote. And voting is the basic test of good citizenship.

    Some say smugness about our great prosperity and world power dictate our indifference on election days. But we have war staring us in the face right now. That should wake people up! The election on Nov. 5 will say a lot about whether we go to war with Iraq or not, also whether our schools get better or not.

    The cynics complain that all politicians are alike and all corrupt, that Washington and Tallahassee are sinks of political maneuvering and insider wheeling and dealing. True, of course, but the time to improve that is on Election Day.
    -- Edward Rapp, Inverness

    Turn off the negativity

    Gov. Bush: I do not want your opinion on how bad Bill McBride is going to be. Please tell or show me what you are going to do for Florida in the next four years.

    Mr. McBride: I do not want your opinion on how bad Gov. Bush has been and will continue to be. Please tell or show me the specifics of your vision for Florida the next four years.

    The saddest part of this election season is that no one campaigns on his or her own merit and ideas. All we hear and see are negative snide remarks and anti-opponent advertising. If each liberal or conservative candidate clearly explained his own points of view maybe the voters would have a real "choice" and come out to the polls to cast an educated vote rather than holding our noses and voting to elect the "best" of the "worst." Turn off negative ads and you will turn on the voters. It's time to show and tell!
    -- Michael Benesch, St. Petersburg

    Fed up

    I don't know about everyone else but I am fed up with negative ads. These ads are not held to any kind of reliability standard, and are usually filled with total inaccuracies.

    I am a registered Independent and I plan to vote for those candidates who rely less on the negative and concentrate on issues. Unfortunately this doesn't leave too many candidates to vote for.

    I love the scare tactics directed at senior citizens. I hope people use their heads when they vote.

    I think it's time we voted to control lying and cheating to win a vote. I'm only one vote, but I'll make sure it counts.
    -- Joe Tyberghein, Spring Hill

    The matter of trust

    Re: The governor's race comes down to whom you trust, Oct. 27.

    With the gubernatorial election coming up, the candidates will ask voters to sort between their claims and counterclaims. Certainly, no one can argue that Bill McBride's priorities on enhancing educational objectives, from pre-K to higher education, are consistent with the emphasis that Americans have always placed on public education as the vehicle for "getting ahead" in our society. But can this be accomplished by increasing cigarette taxes and reordering budget priorities? What other sacrifices will Floridians have to make to meet this goal?

    Consider this issue of trust, relative to the governor's track record. Jeb Bush ran on a campaign that also emphasized education in addition to a number of other priorities that included fixing the Department of Children and Families, pharmaceutical assistance for senior citizens, protecting Florida's already fragile environment, an emphasis on family values, and so forth.

    As far as educational accomplishments, Florida's teachers continue to be poorly underpaid and are leaving in droves while our children are instructed in overcrowded classrooms or "temporary" teaching units. At the same time, desperately needed funds are diverted to unaccountable private schools. Children in the care of DCF are lost in a vast and unmanageable system while their cases are passed on to workers who leave within several months for other jobs.

    As a senior citizen I am still waiting for the governor's initiatives. Environmental degradation continues unabated; witness the sell-out of the Itchetucknee. And finally, can we trust a father who is so concerned about family values that he fails to stand by his daughter when she is faced with a hearing on felony charges?

    Perhaps there is some question as to which of the two candidates can be trusted. I can say, however, I am willing to make any reasonable sacrifice to improve the state's educational system for my seven grandchildren and I know which of the two candidates can't be trusted based on failed promises over the last four years.

    There is a proverb that applies here: "Fool me once, shame on you -- fool me twice, shame on me."
    -- Jack Sandler, Tampa

    Wary of leadership change

    As a teacher in Florida for the past 15 years, I have seen the state educational process go through a plethora of "trendy" methods and ideologies, mostly aimed at building self-esteem, and which should have (so teachers were told) led to great educational strides to be made by our students. While many of these methods have had limited success, for the most part they have left us with almost an entire generation of McDonald's workers and customers who cannot read a menu and must order and take orders by pictures and numbers.

    The past four years, I believe, have been different. I can only speak of this difference from my experience as a high school English teacher. Perhaps the greatest and most rewarding difference has been the emphasis on reading. All high school classes -- not only English -- must incorporate reading, analyzing, responding, etc., into the curriculum. High schools in my county have also instituted special reading programs to help students raise their reading levels. These classes do not emphasize worksheets or skills, but emphasize extended sustained silent reading. To see sophomores in my English classes who have completed reading their first novel ever and are excited about reading another is proof that the system is working.

    My fear is that, if our state leadership changes, these important skills will be de-emphasized, much to the detriment of our students.

    Lastly, the endorsement of Bill McBride by the teacher union may send the signal to voters that McBride is the candidate with the educational well-being of students in mind. In fact, this is an endorsement that has the well-being of teachers in mind -- a good thing for teachers, but not necessarily for students.
    -- Janice Short, Tampa

    Thanks for the help

    I want to thank the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times for publishing The Times Recommends, regarding the candidates and issues for the upcoming election. As in past years, I find it invaluable, and am pleased that your newspaper has once again made its "recommendations" in order that all voters might vote intelligently.

    You may be interested to know that I have clipped this article from the newspaper, and will once again take it with me to the polling booth, in order to refresh my memory, and to make certain that my one vote might count for something.

    As a native Floridian, senior citizen, Vietnam veteran, retired law enforcement professional, father, grandfather and moderate Republican, you may be certain that I will vote, for the most part, exactly the opposite of your recommendations.
    -- David C. Cumming, Clearwater

    Disappointing mileage

    Re: EPA: Vehicles just keep getting less per gallon, Oct. 30.

    It is extremely disappointing to read about the low fuel economy report on 2003 model cars, which is the lowest in years.

    It is disappointing because the United States has the technology to make more fuel-efficient cars, trucks, and SUVs, but Detroit fails to implement fuel-saving devices that could even be put into gas-guzzling SUVs.

    When America has the technology and know-how to make cars and trucks that make us less dependent on oil, we should be doing the responsible thing and putting these technologies into our new models.

    The Bush administration should be encouraging higher mileage standards; it would be one of the most truly patriotic things American carmakers could do. Think of all the American wealth that flows overseas every time we fill up at the gas pump. That could be money that stays here in our economy instead of being spent at the pump to support anti-democratic regimes in the Middle East.

    How many American lives have to be sacrificed in oil wars until we start making fuel-efficient vehicles for our future?
    -- G. Nadia Chmeissani, St. Petersburg

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