© St. Petersburg Times, published December 1, 2002
Re: Rail report good for a laugh, editorial, Nov. 24.
I am very disappointed that your newspaper chose to make a mockery of the recently released ridership report for the constitutionally mandated high speed rail project. The Florida High Speed Rail Authority does not serve as a "lobby" for high speed rail. Rather, it is a state agency created by the Florida Legislature and is responsible for the implementation of high speed rail service in the state in accordance with the Florida Constitution and the Florida High Speed Rail Act enacted by the Florida Legislature in 2001.
The authority is composed of nine members, three appointed each by the governor, the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate. The individuals who serve on this board have taken their task most seriously and in strict accordance with Florida law, which requires that investment-grade ridership studies be conducted. The authority has hired the most qualified and renowned consultants in the ridership business. Given the importance of this study and its results, the authority used two firms to produce two independent ridership estimates. The authority also utilized an oversight peer review panel of experts from academia led by the highly regarded Center for Urban Transportation and Research at the University of South Florida to review and oversee these study activities.
This study approach has generated highly responsible results that will be used by private-sector entities in developing proposals to implement high speed rail service between Orlando and Tampa. Proposals have to be submitted by Feb. 10, 2003, and must include a firm, fixed price for the infrastructure and other fixed facilities and indicate the level of government (both state and federal) funding needed to undertake this project.
While the results of this study are encouraging to those who advocate a high-speed rail system for our state, and are critical to the high level of private funding we all expect, the decision to build, or not to build, lies solely with the Florida Legislature and governor.
I realize that your editorial opinions are not required to be based on facts, and that even tongue-in-cheek remarks may be acceptable to your readers. However, it is important that our citizens be given facts, not fiction, on such serious matters of public policies.
-- Frederick R. Dudley, chairman, Florida High Speed Rail Authority, Tallahassee
Re: Keeping our promise in reducing class size, by Kendrick Meek, Nov. 24.
I keep hoping against hope that the likes of Mr. Meek will, one day, realize that the quality of education does not depend on class size, administrative waste on counselors and such, or even intelligence. Hard work is the secret, but don't try to tell this to our top-heavy, slumbering educational morass and its supporters. In their minds, sex education, drugs and sports are far more important than reading, math, or science. Will Mr. Meek ever realize that he is doing more harm than good?
-- Stephen Casakos, New Port Richey
Re: Muslims aren't alone in breeding intolerance, by Philip Gailey, Nov. 24.
Muhammad Ali was not the face of Islam in this country; Louis Farrakhan was. Belief in God does not cause violent intolerance if that God is Jesus Christ. He never did kill or told anyone to kill people in hordes. He never forced his Gospel on anyone, and he never begged or pleaded with anyone to believe him. He was not a militant or a warmonger.
It is very important to note that all of the killing, raping, robbing and torture done during the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the persecution of the Jews by Martin Luther was done by the Roman Church in the name of religion. It is true that much of the world's greatest wrongs have been and are still being done in the name of religion. There is, however, a great difference between religion and Christianity. People who follow the teaching of Jesus would never have wreaked all the past havoc in the world, because it cannot be justified by God's word, which is the Bible. As to the things Moses did, he did them on direct command from God, and you argue with God at your own peril. True Christianity is tolerant and loving and by name is totally Christlike; any intolerant extremist religion is just religion and not to ever be confused with Christianity.
-- Lynn O'Keefe, Largo
Re: Muslims aren't alone in breeding intolerance.
I found Philip Gailey's column on religious intolerance interesting, but perplexing. I am wondering where in the Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures, or Torah) Moses takes the Israelites to task for sparing women and children of a vanquished tribe, and orders them to save the virgins for slaves and concubines. I readily admit I don't have the Bible memorized, but I can't find this reference and am curious.
Second, with all due respect to Christianity in all its forms, I don't know that in the last 500 years it has "evolved into a more tolerant religion." I think the progress regarding Judaism is more recent. Gailey mentions Martin Luther's The Jews and their Lies, published in 1543, and I think of my grandmother hiding in a cellar to avoid a pogrom in the first half of this century.
Christian anti-Semitism bred a climate ripe for Hitler to scapegoat the Jews. Franklin Graham is still vigorously preaching a brand of religion with little tolerance of other faiths. The dialogues between Catholic and Jewish groups in recent years has represented significant progress, as has the visit to Israel and apology to Jews for past actions of the church by Pope John Paul. I hope these measures continue. Fanaticism in every religion has been fanned by the intolerance of the various churches from which it springs.
-- Elaine K. Markowitz, Tampa
Philip Gailey's Nov. 24 column, Muslims aren't alone in breeding intolerance, should be mandatory reading in all our schools -- and maybe these thoughts might also trickle home to the rest of us!
-- David Knowles, Indian Shores
Re: San Angelo turns blind eye to racism, Nov. 24.
In his Nov. 24 column, Bill Maxwell asserts that the town of San Angelo, Texas, will never fix its race problem because too many whites are unwilling to admit they have a problem. The question he begs, that these people have a race problem in the first place, is unsupported. Maybe there are people who turn a blind eye to racism in San Angelo. Maybe collectively, there is a problem; although for the life of me I am unclear how one assigns culpability to a pseudo-entity such as a community.
But if these problems do exist, Maxwell failed to present the slightest bit of credible evidence. Instead he presents vague insinuations such as "everyone knows," mentions an avalanche of letters without quoting any of them, and quotes a man unwilling to use his own name. Finally, he makes the bold assertion that as long as individuals do not confess that they have a problem, the "problem" will never be fixed.
Let me explain to Bill Maxwell and all of the other professionally aggrieved how my personal expiation for racism works. It is not, as he generalizes, "I didn't own slaves. Don't blame me." It is the following: I have never mistreated an individual based on race in my life. I have never advocated policy that does not guarantee equitable opportunities for everyone, and never made a derogatory comment based on race. The opposite has happened to me dozens of times in my life. Where do I go to gripe?
-- William Davenport, Tampa
Re: San Angelo turns blind eye to racism.
Why is Bill Maxwell writing about Texas instead of Florida? He closes with, "Yes, San Angelo -- because of its politeness and generations of denial -- might well be a Jasper waiting to happen." Not St. Petersburg?
Who's in denial? "Black people do not discuss racism and related abuses because they do not want to anger white people . . ." That doesn't sound like Rosa Parks. "Even the head of the local NAACP chapter ducks the issue of race." Good grief, Charlie Brown!
Virtually everything the columnist says about San Angelo (or Jasper) can apply here in St. Petersburg and nearby. Just substitute the names.
This columnist has virtually nothing to offer which is constructive, tangible or capable of being implemented. And his logic is faulty, in plural places.
-- Lawrence F. "Fenn" Ellery,St. Petersburg