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Letters to the Editors

Pasco pays price for delay of Ridge Road project

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 4, 2003

Editor: It is very disappointing to see Clay Colson and Citizens for Sanity continue to cost the residents of Pasco County and the state of Florida by attempting to block the Ridge Road Extension. Citizens for Sanity is costing Pasco residents the opportunity to create more jobs, the opportunity to enhance small business and the opportunity to increase the tax rolls for a county that is in desperate need of taxable land.

Citizens for Sanity also is costing everyone the huge benefits of the time savings and the gas savings. It may very well cost some residents of New Port Richey their lives should a quickly developing hurricane or tropical storm require a sudden evacuation.

Considering the fact that the county has agreed to compensate by conserving more than 1,600 acres in exchange for 49, Citizens for Sanity is doing no more than costing all of us more money. I have been a resident of Pasco County since 1977 and a resident of Florida all my life, and I welcome the growth and development of Pasco County.

Anyone who has ever driven on U.S. 19 to Tallahassee and sees the vast amount of undeveloped land will realize how selfish this group is being.
-- Louis Bradley, Land O'Lakes

Pawnshop bill deserves support

Editor: The Pasco County legislative delegation was certainly concerned about the state's budget shortfall, and I thought there would be interest in a legislative proposal that did not require new state funds, would make law enforcement more efficient, save lives, exonerate the innocent, apprehend criminals, solve crimes and provide law enforcement and the citizens of all counties a new tool to locate and recover stolen property. Unfortunately, I was badly mistaken.

Four years ago, 400 officers of the Pawn Shop Recovery Unit, House and Senate sponsors, the pawnshop industry and other supporters created a statewide computer system that would link all county pawnshop databases into one statewide network.

Since stolen property is often stolen in one county and pawned in other counties and without this statewide linkage criminals cannot be apprehended, criminal activity cannot be stopped and people cannot find their property.

In 2002, the pawnshop bill was introduced, but came to a halt because the NRA called it gun registration. It seems that about 7 percent of pawned items are guns and the NRA accused law enforcement and supporters of this bill with trying to create a registry of gun owners because they wanted to keep the gun data as long as data for TV sets, which currently is two years.

Pawnshop law enforcement officers pointed out that this data is very rich with leads to crimes and that they routinely use this data to solve crimes and that provisions in the bill prevented it from being used for any other purpose. Bill Bunting, the head of the Pasco Republican Party, also opposed the bill for the same reason. Our chief law enforcement agent, who sided with the NRA, decreed this data cannot be kept for longer than 48 hours, too short a time to work the data, robbing the public and gun owners of a tool that can be used to find their stolen property.

I spoke before this delegation to ask for their support for the 2003 version of the pawnshop bill that would restore the data on guns to two years, the same as TV sets, and I expected to be asked how this bill would achieve the ends I, and others, claimed it would produce. However, all I got for my efforts was a grilling by Rep. Ken Littlefield and Sen. Mike Fasano demanding to know, not the details of the bill, but instead how many members I had and how my organization was financed!

The details of my membership is not public information. Rep. Littlefield and anyone else can find the complete financial details of both the nonprofit organizations I lead by simply going to the state's Web site on Florida Corporations. I find it significant that no other speaker, including Bill Bunting, was grilled about membership and finance and the room was filled with ad hoc and nonprofit groups.

Since I am a constituent of Rep. Littlefield, I find this most troubling. It's not a secret that both Bunting and Rep. Littlefield have been hostile to all efforts to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Now the question is: Who does Rep. Littlefield represent, his constituents or the NRA?
-- Arthur C. Hayhoe, executive director
Floridians For Gun Safety Inc.,
Wesley Chapel

VA clinic's care is second to none

Editor: I feel I must reply to concerns about veterans' not receiving good medical care. That may be true in some locations, but as a patient and a volunteer at the New Port Richey VA Outpatient Clinic on Little Road, I must disagree. We feel our clinic is the best in the VA system, as can be attested by Rep. Mike Bilirakis of Florida and Rep. Steve Buyer of Indiana.

These two were given a walk-through of the clinic and were greatly impressed with what they saw and heard. Dr. William S. "Duke" Miller, chief medical officer at the clinic and an assistant professor of medicine at the Department of Internal Medicine, University of South Florida College of Medicine, has been with the clinic since it opened in 1985.

Sylvia Jordan, the administrative head of the clinic, has not been there long, but has displayed an understanding of the problems before us and takes steps to correct those problems.

Aside from being a primary care facility, the clinic has an eye clinic, podiatry, X-ray lab, psychiatrist, audio, a women's clinic and several part-time specialists such as orthopedics.

We do have some problems there. When you see around 115,000 patients in a year as the clinic did last year, you are bound to have some difficulties. Last year new enrollments had a waiting time of six months or more. This year, through the efforts of the staff, the waiting time is much less. The reason for the wait is, of course, people moving down from the cold North and some veterans who can afford outside health care are now signing up for the VA because medicines are much cheaper.

As the American Legion service officer, a volunteer position, I am there every Thursday afternoon and have been there since the clinic opened. I see how well the clinic is run and how fast the patients are treated. They are also handled with care.

Along with me as a service officer, we have Ted Jackson, a Department of Veterans Affairs service officer who is a paid employee, and service officers from the DAV and VFW to ensure the veteran is given help filing claims and getting his/her VA benefits.

The clinic was originally set up so the older, service-connected disabled veteran would not have to travel to Tampa for medical care. That was before Washington opened the clinics to any and all veterans.

Our main problem is parking, particularly in the winter when the snowbirds come to roost. Thankfully, the Publix store next door lets the clinic have some parking spaces, which helps. But, as you can see by driving up Little Road, parking is still a problem.

Another problem the VA clinics in Florida face, as usual, is money. When a patient is registered in a clinic, that facility is alloted a specific amount of funds. When the veteran visits another area and uses that VA facility, his funds remain at his original facility. That means that Florida and other retirement areas do get shortchanged. But, I'm proud to say, we give our all to help our fellow veterans.
-- Kathryn L. Robinson, Holiday

Cable company lauded for art channel

Editor: In the past I have expressed criticism of our present cable company, Shaw Communications, serving east Pasco. Now, I would like to give praise to the cable company. It added an art channel (68).

Classic Arts Showcase shows short video clips, mainly of music such as opera, ballet and concerts without commercial interruption. Naturally, since it apparently runs 24 hours, it is repetitious. But every day I have found new performances.

Since Shaw Communications has a tendency to suddenly eliminate a particular channel and replace it with another channel that brings a different type of programming, I only hope what it shows on Channel 68 will stay.
-- Charles W. Arnade, San Antonio

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