Today's Letters: Overburdened taxpayers don't need this PennyLetters to the Editor
Published March 4, 2007
The past 20 years justify another 10 Feb. 28, editorial
I was surprised to see an editorial in last Sunday's Opinion page that "strongly recommends" a yes vote to approve extending the Penny for Pinellas sales tax for 10 more years after 2010. I guess I should not have been surprised. After all, I do not remember an instance when the St. Petersburg Times has ever recommended against additional taxes. However, I still find it astonishing that the Times would recommend approving additional taxes in the midst of a minor taxpayer revolt against outrageous property taxes that have local government coffers overflowing.
When the Penny was approved in 1989, it was generally billed as a temporary tax to fund projects that were deemed necessary in an era when existing tax revenues were insufficient. The editorial goes on to credit many good things to the Penny and states that the money was "wisely spent." These are purely subjective judgments contrived to support the gist of the editorial.
I will concede that monies from the Penny probably contributed to worthy projects over the years. But I also submit that there were also projects that were not so worthy and were funded only because the money was available. I submit that governments should never be allowed to have at their disposal what can be called discretionary funds. Governments will spend discretionary funds regardless. That is what governments exist to do.
So now, after almost 20 years of Penny for Pinellas, the entity responsible for spending the tax money is funding a marketing campaign to try to convince Pinellas County voters to approve 10 more years of the Penny. This is particularly galling. This action, in essence, can best be described as governmental incest. No good can ever come from it.
Property taxes have risen astronomically over the past five years or so. Pinellas County is a fully built out county. I personally cannot find good cause for today's property taxes and thus cannot support continuing what was originally billed as a temporary tax when there is no obvious continuing need.
Thus, I urge all voters in Pinellas County to go the polls on March 13 and vote NO to the Penny for Pinellas. We, the taxpayers in this county, need to draw a line in the sand, and this is a good place to start.
James M. Overby, Treasure Island
Selective about what's regressive
Last Sunday, the Times wholeheartedly supported extending the 1 percent Penny for Pinellas sales tax with no thought of it being regressive (The past 20 years justify another 10).
But on Wednesday an attempt to corral runaway real estate taxes by imposing a 2.5 percent sales tax is highly regressive (GOP's tax scheme is reckless, unfair). So is it not regressive only when you approve of the use of the tax?
Mike Mikkola, St. Petersburg
One-sided arguments don't promote peace
Lame duck president has Middle East mess Feb. 25, by Bill Maxwell
I could have saved the Times some ink and its readers some time with a more succinct version of Bill Maxwell's column. It would read: "I don't like President Bush; Israel is to blame for most of the Israeli-Palestinian problems; and President Bush is responsible for the others."
While the Israelis are heavy-handed, while our policies do lean toward the Israelis, and while Israelis are colonizing Arab lands, these are not the sole causes of these intractable problems.
Maxwell says one must know the area's history to understand the issues. Perhaps the fact that many of the Palestinians were forced from their homes by fighting that began with an Arab invasion of Israel within days of its independence is a fact one concerned with solving the problems should acknowledge.
Another might be that a crucial part of Hamas' charter concerns the destruction of Israel. Maxwell says Israel should work with whatever government the Palestinians choose. Maybe he can explain to Israel exactly how it should go about negotiating its own destruction with Hamas.
As for the current situation being President Bush's fault, one should remember that presidents going back at least as far as Jimmy Carter have exerted tremendous efforts on Israel and Palestine.
Both sides bear blame in this tragedy. Both must make realistic demands of the other if any progress is to be made. Maxwell's column was extremely one-sided and is, in my opinion, of no help in bringing peace to these antagonists.
J.W. Williams, Lithia
A two-way street
Lame duck president has Middle East mess Feb. 25
I agree with Bill Maxwell that if Israel is ever to live peacefully, it will have to learn that it must coexist with the Palestinian government it will have, not with the one it wants.
But more importantly, if the Palestinian state is ever to live peacefully, it will have to learn that it must coexist with the Israeli government it will have, not with the conviction that Israel does not have the right to exist.
Mark A. Linsky, Tampa
Where's Arab aid?
Lame duck president has Middle East mess Feb. 25
Bill Maxwell writes: "Bush probably is serious about leaving a respectable personal legacy in the region, but Israel seems to have little genuine interest in empowering Palestinians with the tools to become self-reliant neighbors."
Maxwell should look again. No one shows any genuine interest in empowering Palestinians with the tools to become self-reliant neighbors. Arab oil money could rebuild Palestine tomorrow. Look at Dubai in the U.A.E. Ask those folks to give some of that money to create business and infrastructure in Palestine.
Israel merely waits for the proper leadership from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. When other Arabs provide the funds and the know-how to their Palestinian brothers, Israel will quickly take its place in that parade to prosperity, stability and peace.
Will Grant, St. Petersburg
Give Hamas a chance
Amid turmoil, a Hamas mayor builds and builds Feb. 24, story
Please continue to keep Susan Taylor Martin's excellent reporting on the front page. She provides contrast and illumination to the infantile foreign policies of the United States and Israel as they relate to the newly elected Hamas government.
The United States and your editorial page rail against the corruption of Fatah but refuse to recognize its duly elected replacement (Hamas) which seems intent on governing. Political movements have the capacity to mature. Give Hamas a chance.
Ken Cooley, Tampa
Take a different road
Transit's long road ahead Feb. 25, For A Better Florida story
If Sen. Mike Fasano is worried that people cannot afford car travel at the current rates (which include the gasoline prices he was so worried about raising), he won't really be doing his constituents much good by taxing them for by-the-mile driving.
And the DOT's Lowell Clary must be joking when he says that gasoline taxes are outdated because of increased fuel efficiency. American usage of gasoline has increased steadily throughout the '90s and beyond.
The crisis in car travel, in Florida and in the nation, will only be resolved when we are honest about our options. We can increase taxes and use the extra dollars for larger roads that will create more environmental damage but let us continue to develop in our familiar way.
Alternatively, we can tax gasoline or mileage or whatever to make the cost of traveling by car more expensive and less desirable, therefore increasing the use of public transit, decreasing urban sprawl, etc.
Anna Henderson, Tampa
Our lawsuit mentality
Falling speaker hurts boy's head Feb. 24, story
What does it say about us as a nation and as a society, when, instead of being concerned about his injured son, the father of this injured boy is asking who he can sue? I fear we have become a nation filled with greed, uninterested in working, and looking for a way to line our pockets at the expense of others.
No doubt, those responsible and/or negligent should pay for medical treatment, but caring more about who to sue than a boy's injuries makes me want to send this person home from court with nothing more than actual costs incurred.
Kenneth R. Gilder, St. Petersburg