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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Today's Letters: Don't kill God's creatures for profit
By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published May 12, 2007
How can anyone, with even a tiny conscience, apply for a permit to purposely bury living animals, sentencing them to a slow death of suffocation over months? It certainly is a reflection of what kind of people these developers are: callous and slaves to money.
Friends and loved ones of these developers should take a long hard look at what kind of values these people have. I certainly wouldn't want anyone like this influencing children and passing on their cruel natures.
Apparently money does bury the conscience along with the tortoises and other species of animals living in these burrows. According to the Bible, God gave us dominion over the planet and the animals. Considering our abuses of each other, animals and the environment, I suspect God seriously regrets that decision.
Bob Haynes, St. Petersburg
Preserving habitat is a plus
The permit that reporter Craig Pittman refers to as "pay-to-pave" is officially an "incidental take permit." It allows a landowner to destroy tortoise habitat without relocating the tortoises. Some tortoises are probably entombed by development and die in their burrows, as Pittman explains, but others likely disperse from the development site to neighboring habitat. The same is true for most wild animals and development - some are killed outright, and the others are displaced. Development is murder and mayhem on wildlife during the transition from wild to urban, and all of us have a little blood on our hands since we all use development's products: roads, shopping centers, houses, etc.
In exchange for the incidental take permit, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission obtains money used to purchase and protect wildlife habitat elsewhere. The acquired habitat provides homes for tortoises and other wildlife species. The story downplayed the program's value to wildlife, but the value is real to the animals living on land protected with the money.
I used to work for the agency as a wildlife biologist. The commission's biologists are among the most dedicated conservationists in Florida. The article portrayed the commission's program, and by extension, the biologists, as greedy for money and uncaring toward wildlife. Nothing is further from the truth. The biologists have devoted their lives to wildlife conservation, but most, like me, focus on the bigger picture of species conservation and not on the fate of individual animals. We know the secret to conserving wildlife lies in conserving habitat, and that land conservation takes money. That's a reality. None of us want to see animals killed by development, but if some good can come out of development for wildlife, it is that money can be made to conserve animals elsewhere.
I am pleased the state plans to end the incidental take permit as now administered, both from a humane aspect, but more importantly for conservation, because we need the animals to restock protected tortoise habitat in the Panhandle where tortoises were overhunted in the past.
I hope the state devises another way to charge developers an impact fee - not just development that impacts tortoises - but any development that impacts wildlife. We need the money to protect Florida's wildlife.
John Wooding, certified wildlife biologist, Gainesville
Stop the slaughter
Thanks to the Times for bringing this to our attention. Cruelty to animals is unlawful. It is thus unconscionable to sell permits to kill animals in the name of progress.
It is time right now for our government officials to rescind all permits, past and future, for this despicable practice. The new permitting rules must prevent any more tortoise slaughter.
Lee Silverstein, Marvin Silverstein and Laura Collum, St. Petersburg
It is unbelievable to realize that the government will allow developers to commit acts of animal cruelty that the ordinary citizen would be jailed for. How hard would it be for the developers to dig the tortoises up and relocate them? Or at least kill them humanely?
Slowly suffocating any creature to death for convenience is despicable, and a cruel way to die. If Joe Citizen was caught doing that to any creature, there would be hell to pay. Why is it that what is illegal for an ordinary citizen can be made legal if you pay the right price?
And I'm not really an animal rights activist. I was just taught that what makes us different from other animals is our ability to reason. My reasoning ability tells me that different is definitely not better.
Mary Taylor, St. Petersburg
The story about the gopher tortoises broke my heart. How could this have gone on so long? Why would people knowingly want to hurt God's creatures?
You developers are heartless. If it isn't the gopher tortoise it will be another species. When will it end?
Kathleen Jones, New Port Richey
Name the developers
This article just totally disgusted me. The developers around here are treated by our local officials as some higher power and get to do just about anything they please.
Do the developers have any conscience at all? How do they sleep at night knowing what they do to these poor animals who are just trying to survive amid all this rampant development?
I would like to see a list of the developers who are trying to beat the permit deadline just to save themselves some money.
Now, the state believes that the species is declining. What did they think would happen if they allowed this to continue? Now they finally do something, and hopefully it's not too late.
I have lived in Florida for 34 years now, and the things this state allows are unbelievable.
Kathy Negrich, New Port Richey
Breaking trust on preserve May 7, editorial
Keep Brooker Creek intact
Because Brooker Creek is such a beautiful and rare open space for Pinellas County citizens and since it is a designated preserve, the county commissioners should not cut it up in little pieces and use the property for things that are not part of the original agreement of maintaining it as a preserve.
It is an ecosystem that needs to remain intact to remain healthy. It protects our water supply. It allows all citizens a place to breathe the air and explore nature without intrusion from urban sprawl and concrete. It fosters quiet and passive, nonconsumptive recreational uses for all citizens. It allows endangered and threatened species of plants and animals a place to live and breed.
Surely there is some unused or underused property in Pinellas County that can be turned into ballfields. Team sports are great but children also need wide open natural areas to enjoy.
There is broad support among the public for Brooker Creek to remain a preserve. Please keep it that way.
Rebecca Falkenberry, St. Petersburg
We need a place of refuge
I am deeply disturbed at the news that Pinellas County commissioners are contemplating the evisceration of our county's largest parcel of wild lands through removal of what were formerly utility lands. Commissioners must find other ways of providing services to increased development without dismantling one of the best conservation areas accessible to the people. Pinellas is the most densely populated county in the state. We are very protective of what little remaining natural environments we have. If we are to have sanity in our citizens, we must have places of retreat and refuge from the stresses of civilization and urbanization.
If Pinellas County Utilities is owed funds for these lands, let's do some creative accounting. If the concern is that water under the preserve would be unavailable for necessary human consumption (not landscapes) in times of emergency, let us make the assurance that it will be.
Do our commissioners have the creativity and will to accomplish these objectives and preserve Brooker Creek from further development? I certainly hope so.
Bill Bilodeau, St. Petersburg
Heed the majority
This is a critical time for the county in terms of either restoring or relinquishing the credibility of Brooker Creek Preserve stewardship. This public land was acquired by tax monies paid by all of us for the intended purpose of preservation, not development of active recreation or other inappropriate uses. Granted, children need recreation areas if there are none within a reasonable distance. There are other options without carving out these active fields from preserve land.
Please institute an ordinance to protect the preserve and accept no substitutes that leave loopholes that continue to jeopardize our natural areas. Please hear the majority of people who want to conserve the Brooker Creek Preserve vs. the minority who want to develop it.
Bill Stokes, St. Petersburg
Raise your voices
Your editorial on Monday and the graphic hopefully will give those in the public who have not been involved an incentive to call their county commissioners and protest losing this beautiful intact property to "shoplifting" by special groups.
Public voices should be heard when public land is given away. We need an amendment that will not allow this to happen in the future.
Catherine Quindiagan, St. Petersburg
What makes cities special is what we stand to lose May 5, commentary by Bill Foster
St. Petersburg's budget can be cut in many ways
St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Foster is still trying to guilt people into paying higher taxes by complaining about necessary cuts in subsidies to local programs. He should remember that "quality of life" does not come from a government program, but is what people enjoy when they can afford to live in our great city without distress from high taxes. People are leaving St. Petersburg and houses can't sell. How does that make St. Petersburg "special"?
Council member Foster's cuts are designed to be politically charged and generate sympathy, but it is not working. People can't afford to write fat taxpayer checks to groups that can easily raise their own money through private donations or ticket sales. Here are some bigger cuts you won't hear from the duplicitous mayor and City Council that would save much more for taxpayers. End or phase out $5-million annual subsidies to the Mahaffey, the Pier, Sunken Gardens, Albert Whitted, the Sea Port and Tropicana Field as detailed at cuttaxesnow.com. They are designed to pay their own way and should. End wasteful busy-work projects that use overtime and waste money such as the 47 stop signs replaced in my neighborhood on a Saturday by two city workers. End corporate welfare to politician friends and stop pandering for votes with failed social welfare programs. Next cut the excessive benefits received by St. Petersburg government workers that most private workers don't have: high-cost health insurance with low deductibles, nearly free health insurance for family members of city workers, high-cost and outdated pension plans. In their place should be high-deductible, low-cost health insurance with Health Savings Accounts and 401(k) plans.
As a man who claims to be a Republican, Bill Foster should remember what Thomas Jefferson said: "Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have."
David McKalip, chairman, CutTaxesNow.com, St. Petersburg
Expiring tax cuts divide Congress May 7, story
Whether Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Judd Gregg and their GOP allies are right "depends a lot on how you define 'tax hike, ' " according to this story.
When Bill Clinton said that it depends on what your definition of is is, it really started something. What do we mean by up and down and is it possible for up to be down or vice versa?
To the average American paying 20 percent in taxes, going to a 15 percent rate is a cut. To someone paying 15 percent, going to 20 percent is a hike. To say you didn't raise taxes, you just allowed the cut to sunset is playing with semantics. If my tax bill goes up, that is a tax hike - period!
Quit playing semantics. If you think government should take more of my money and spend it on things I don't want it spent on, just say so. If you think all money is the government's and you're doing me a favor by letting me keep some of it, just say so.
Me? I think my money is mine and I should be telling government how much it can have and shutting off its spending after it runs out. We the people are the parents in the American family and we've been letting the children in Congress handle the family budget for much too long!
Patrick W. Brown, Tampa
Go to gym class; it's the law May 4, story
Will music be pushed out?
As a veteran music educator in Citrus County, I have several concerns about SB 2746. I do not disagree with the idea of daily physical education for all students, but feel that this legislation could have a severe negative impact on the delivery of music classes in our schools.
The bill sets a specific number of minutes of instruction per week, but does not allow for any change in the length of the school day. Since music classes are often blocked within the same time frame as physical education classes, this will result in a significant reduction in music classes due to the physical education requirement. There are also other legislative mandates in place due to FCAT remediation for reading and math that already narrow the opportunities for our students to have music classes.
Since research shows a direct positive correlation between the study of music and test scores, this is a sad irony within our current educational system. Our students desperately need the opportunity to express themselves creatively through music classes, but more and more legislation is being passed that will not allow that opportunity within the current school day.
No additional funding for class time or teachers is included in the legislation. School district administrators must take a very close look at scheduling in all schools when interpreting and implementing this legislation.
Barbara Dover, Inverness
Pay the compensation
Florida has plenty of cash for corporate welfare to fat cat corporations that come here and then leave us holding the bag when they flee to another place.
Why doesn't the state have the money to compensate one of its citizens who spent years in prison for a crime he didn't commit? A mere $1.25-million dollars. We spend that much on a mile or so of roadway.
Come on. Get with it, Florida. Do the right thing.
Stephen L. Goodman, Tampa
Dems' primary may not count May 9, story
The Democrats seem to have come a long way since 2000. Back then they said they wanted every vote to count. Now they may decide they want to make sure that no votes count.
Bob Klase, Largo
Dems' primary may not count May 9, story
What is new about the Democrats' votes not counting, whether in a primary or general election? I sometimes wonder why I bother going to the polls.
Mary F. Bales, Largo
Taquito works its mojo May 8, story
What's up with you folks? I hate to be a fussbudget, but how can you run something like the first chunk of your front-page, supposedly feel-good, cutesy story on the Taquito?
What is in any possible way "cute" or meaningful about some dude in the Detroit area shooting and killing a convenience store clerk over the price of a $1.16 piece of junk food? There's more than enough evidence in the rest of the week's news to prove that life is cheap in America without your cheapening it further by such editorial selections.