Today's Letters: Tax dollars are guarded in prison construction

Published May 11, 2007

A prison plan fit for lockup May 4, editorial 

An old reliable adage sums it up best: "There are always two sides to every story." Accordingly, I would like to share a different perspective.

Each year the Legislature has the difficult task of allocating limited taxpayer dollars for needs that far outweigh resources. Florida is a state that constitutionally mandates a balanced budget, and it is my committee's responsibility to maximize the dollars allocated for public safety issues. The fact is, Florida has a shortage of prison beds, and expanding a currently operating prison is much more cost-effective than building a new facility from the ground up.

It is true that the two current private prison companies have had questionable management practices. It is for that reason I requested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct an investigation of GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America to ensure that the state's resources are being spent in a responsible way. The investigation has yet to yield any charges.

What we did learn from the inquiry is that the deficiencies occurred while the contracts were managed by the Corrections Privatization Commission. The 2004 Legislature abolished the CPC and moved the responsibilities to the Department of Management Services. The DMS audit identified all irregularities and has made the necessary corrections.

It is not the Legislature's or my job to defend or support the private prison industry. Our responsibility is to make sure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted and that the Department of Corrections has adequate prison beds in order to prevent inmates from being released early, back into our communities. Rest assured that we will continue to be vigilant in our stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Sen. Victor D. Crist, Florida Senate, District 12, Tampa


Crisis could be ours 

Guard ill-prepared for crisis at home May 9, story

In the aftermath of the huge tornado that destroyed nearly all of Greensburg, Kan., I find that there is much truth in the words of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius: "I have said for nearly two years, and will continue to say, that we have a looming crisis on our hands when it comes to National Guard equipment in Iraq and our needs here at home."

With hurricane season beginning June 1, Florida could find itself in the very same predicament - although, it could happen anywhere. And let this be one more reason why our president should work with Congress on setting a timetable for troop withdrawals from Iraq.

JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater


Immigration dangers 

Clerk helped foil terror attack on Fort Dix May 9, story

Somebody please tell me how another possible terrorist attack almost came to life. How much has to happen, how many lives must be lost before our government starts cracking down on immigration? Why do people have to die to get the officials in this Bush administration to get off their sorry duffs and start protecting their own homeland instead of a place half a world away?

The campaigning for the next election has already started and you hardly hear a mention of immigration. How can we vote for a new president when the candidates don't even care about saving their own country from more homeland disasters?

Our officials need to get serious and very strict about who enters our country and for what reasons. They need to stop permanent immigration to this country for at least five years until the proper governing bodies can catch up with all those loose in this country. And the ones who come here for vacations or temporary visits should be carefully kept track of.

Nobody should be able to get in or out without being checked up on. Let's show a little backbone when it comes to saving lives in your own country.

Rob Gibson, Dunedin


Known by their acts 

Bedier: Media distort Islam May 5, story

Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, claims that suicide bombers act on political motivations, not necessarily in the name of Islam, as the killers say. However, in the Islamic world, there is usually no separation of church and state. The truest submission to Allah is to align all religion and politics in an Islamic world.

Suicide bombers are almost always Islamic fundamentalists, and Islam by its nature encourages fundamentalism. Christians have their share of fundamentalist abortion clinic bombers, but fortunately the Christian fundamentalists do not have control of the law and the state.

Muslims are teaching their sons to bring honor to their families and to Islam by making the ultimate sacrifice. Stop blaming the media and take responsibility: When Muslims stop blowing people up in the name of Islam, then we will stop thinking of Muslims as fundamentalist killers.

Amy Sauers, St. Petersburg


Wayward are labeled 

Bedier: Media distort Islam May 5, story

Recently Ahmed Bedier, of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke to the Tampa Tiger Bay Club and complained that the media distort Islam by making reference to Arab and/or Muslim terrorists. It was his observation that you never hear about "a Christian terrorist, " "a Christian thief, " or "Christian child molester."

Two thoughts: One, there haven't been any Christian "extremists" who have flown hijacked planes into buildings, strapped bombs on themselves to kill/maim thousands of innocent people, or beheaded kidnapped victims in the name of their God.

Two: When those who have worn their Christianity as a badge of honor do fall, they are certainly exposed as frauds and their religious background is well covered in the media reports.

Dale Robbins, Bradenton


War funding veto

Stick with time line

George Bush vetoed the bill to continue to fund the war in Iraq and said that if the Democrats don't remove the time line they would be responsible for failing to support our troops. I believe that the Congress must send this bill back to him unchanged, repeatedly. If he continues to veto it, he becomes the one refusing to support the troops.

To compromise on this would be a flat-out failure to implement the mandate that the citizens of the United States gave Congress to end the war. It would give Bush permission to continue to do what he has been doing.

Ellen Levett, St. Petersburg


Pay for war now

The Democrats missed their opportunity to end our military presence in Iraq by tying the spending bill to a withdrawal time line. What they need to do now is tie appropriations for Iraq to a related revenue measure. Raising new revenue would be the best way to demonstrate support for our troops.

The Democrats should propose that every supplemental dollar appropriated for military action in Iraq must be matched by an equal amount of new revenue. A windfall tax on oil tycoons or military contractors would be one place to raise the needed revenue.

If Bush really believes this war is essential to U.S. national interests, he should be willing to pay for the policy on his watch rather than postpone paying for this war by successive administrations. Congress should not fund a policy Bush will not support with the required revenue.

C.D. Chamberlain, Spring Hill


Cowards in conflict

In a new video, Osama bin Laden's second in command jeers at the Iraq war funding bill vetoed by President Bush. Ayman al-Zawahiri's problem with the bill is that it would remove U.S. troops from Iraq before his minions can kill "200, 000 to 300, 000 infidels."

Clearly the taunt is a sarcastic attempt to call us cowards. Unfortunately, he has a point. America has a yellow streak a mile wide, and it's showing. Think of all the politicians and pundits who have supported the war, then switched sides once the going got tough. If opinion polls are to be believed, somewhere between 25 percent and 40 percent of the public did the same.

Whatever his faults, President Bush has been steadfast, and my guess is that the next president, regardless of party, will realize that running out of Iraq would be disastrous to the region and our national interests as well.

Our cowardice stems from our hedonistic approach to everyday life. It's comforting to believe that if we just walk away, everything will get back to normal. But to assume that walking away solves the problem is to assume that al-Qaida will do the same. Their cowardice is of a different type. Ours grows out of strength and comfort; theirs out of weakness and depravity. Both are dangerous to civilization.

Jay Johnson, St. Petersburg