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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: UF police overreaction an affront to free speech
By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published September 22, 2007
Citizens of Florida, you should be disgusted by the treatment of Andrew Meyer, a student at the University of Florida. When during an open forum he asked a question of former presidential candidate John Kerry, the brutal UF police swarmed over him and Tasered him.
What has happened to "free speech in America"? It has been taken over by the rabid Republican right. I have no dog in this fight other than my disgust over how democracy in America is being destroyed by the rabid right. Please contact Gov. Charlie Crist at: firstname.lastname@example.org and express your outrage over the brutal overreaction of the UF police. It could be you next.
Jay Kenney, Seminole
Urgent! Act now or developers will suffer!Sept. 15, Steve Bousquet column
Developers show theydo not deserve our trust
Thanks for your article calling attention to the despicable action of the development industry in their letter sent to people who have signed the petition from Florida Hometown Democracy. Their misleading letter is another reason to not to trust developers or their government lackeys.
For decades developers have devastated our natural landscape while leaving taxpayers holding the bag. The referendum Florida Hometown Democracy is trying to get on the ballot will finally give the average person a say on local land-use issues. This is something developers are terrified of. For too long in Florida it has been government of the developer, for the developer, by the developer.
I implore everyone to go to www.FloridaHometownDemocracy.com and see how we, the average citizens, can finally take some control of development issues in our city or county.
John Murphy, Big Pine Key
Developers' lies taint battle over petitionSept. 18, editorial
An inept effort
You've really got to feel sorry for the big developers. Despite their buckets of money and legions of flunkies they hired a completely inept ex-government employee to tout their disinformation campaign to the electors voters. His effort really doesn't help the developers' campaign to defeat the Hometown Democracy amendment.
Were this amendment in place, Largo wouldn't have a chlorine warehouse next to its new Town Center, Tarpon Springs wouldn't be threatened with a Wal-Mart and the Pinellas County Commission would have to keep its hands off the Brooker Creek Preserve.
Voters, rather than a small, influenceable set of elected government employees, would make these decisions. But we needn't take the St. Petersburg Times' advice to "keep the trash can handy" for your signature revocation form. Big developers would love to hear from you. Write a nice little note, put it in their postage-paid return envelope and mail it back. They can afford it.
George Goodenough, Largo
Land use amendment
Send them a message
Last week I received one of "those" letters seeking to revoke my signature from the land use amendment petition. This week "those" people called me. After sharing my opinion of them with the unlucky phone solicitor, I typed my response and sent it in the prepaid return envelope. They will have to pay postage on it, and that helps me feel a little bit better.
So don't throw that envelope away. Let them know what you think and have them pay for it.
Lyn Quarantello, Spring Hill
Shoving democracy farther from viewSept. 16, Howard Troxler column
Cable move is bad news
Howard Troxler's recent column addresses a vital issue. Democracy does not work unless the public is informed. This includes persons on fixed incomes and with limited means.
Bright House's announced intention to move the government access stations out of its basic package will put government access beyond the means of a large part of the viewing public. According to an earlier Times article (Watching local government may cost more, Sept. 1), as many as 400,000 area customers will have to pay more to see county, city council and other government bodies deliberate and make decisions. Costs will increase anywhere from $7 to nearly $15 a month to continue to see these channels revealing government at work.
The recent election turnout in St. Petersburg was a pathetic 11 percent. We have recently seen proposals from the League of Women Voters and the Council of Neighborhood Organizations to add television coverage of at least one forum of city council candidates to help stimulate voter knowledge and turnout. Bright House's proposed action would do just the reverse.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has said the proposed Bright House proposal "is not a good thing for St. Petersburg." The public should support him in asking Bright House to reconsider.
Will Michaels, St. Petersburg
Manatees and new marina slip ban
Focus on boater education
Having a sailboat, being a U.S. Power Squadron vessel safety examiner and having taught boat safety courses, I find disturbing the recent ban on new marina slips in the cause of manatee safety and protection.
I do not object to protecting our manatees. I do object to the ever increasing loss of marina slips as the way to do that.
The reason manatees are being harmed by power boats is the total lack of education and responsibility of those boaters. Anyone can buy a boat without any proof of operational competence. They are just given the keys and they go off to enjoy the waters here in Florida. Hopefully they survive, or miss injuring themselves or others.
My solution would be testing and licensing of all pleasure boaters as we do for motor vehicles. The Coast Guard already does this for commercial boaters.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons give boat safety courses that should be the basic requirement for those licenses, thus the burden of teaching or testing would not be on the state. The state of Florida already has part of the process in place when it issues a Florida Boating Safety Education ID card to a boater who offers proof of the successful completion of those courses.
Responsible boating comes with education on the boat's use, responsibilities of the operator, and protection of our environment and wildlife.
Responsible marina development needs to be encouraged, not inhibited.
Christopher Garill, Safety Harbor
Child abuse for profit
The saddest realization about the new television show Kid Nation is that not one but legions of adults had to consider the negative effects of the show on kids - both the children on the show and those watching it - and still decided that profit was their priority. The United States is still one of the few remaining democracies in which there exists no officially sanctioned Children's Bill of Rights. Most of us would believe that we are a country that doesn't need this type of formality to protect our kids.
Apparently we need an ethics check.
Every child has a right to a humane, safe and nurturing childhood. In any other situation I can think of, if a child is exploited for monetary gain or for the purpose of voyeurism, it is considered abuse. The premise of recruiting 40 children, ages 8 to 15 years, to subject themselves to the physical, emotional and ethical traumas adults experience on reality TV programs for network profit is abhorrent.
Let's consider the following facts about Kid Nation. The parents of the children who participated were required to sign away their children's legal rights, including all medical treatment decisions on these minors' behalf. Instances of life-threatening injuries sustained by the children during their participation have been documented as well as significant emotional trauma sustained by the children.
Parents in the Tampa Bay area who would subject their children to these circumstances could be charged with abuse and neglect under Florida statute. Endorsement from a national TV network does not alter these facts. I suggest we contact CBS network executives and their advertisers with our outrage for their business practices that exploit and victimize children.
Luanne Panacek, CEO, the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, Tampa
Words you don't want to hear: 'That's my car 'Sept. 13, story
A story of many victims
We want to clarify a few things related to Ivan Penn's article.
For the most part, it represented accurately the unfortunate series of events that started with a criminal behavior in New Jersey 10 years ago. Everyone involved after that time was a victim and did everything legally and correctly. The state of Florida issued a clear Florida title to us in December 2004, which was then given to Gerald Newman, another car dealer.
There is no way we would know the car was stolen, since all the paperwork from our local Department of Motor Vehicles was in order. The car then passed through the U.S.-Canada border, where the paperwork is inspected. Then the car had to be registered in Ontario, and still everything seemed fine. If the DMVs in two countries don't find anything wrong, how would we as a dealership be able to? We did not knowingly sell a stolen car, just as the person who traded it to us did not knowingly trade in a stolen car.
There is a reference to a dozen Better Business Bureau complaints against Golden Classics in four years, which is about three per year. We sell and ship hundreds of cars each year, most of them sight unseen, to owners around the United States, as well as the rest of the world. The referred to complaints filed represent less than 1 percent of our customers. When people purchase 30- to 40-year-old cars for $20,000-$60,000 without seeing them until they arrive, of course you will have some people who won't be satisfied. Most businesses with a product like ours would consider 1 percent for serious complaints an admirable accomplishment.
Your reporter, in his "Before you buy" suggestions, says to run the vehicle identification number, or VIN, through carfax.com to check the history, but you cannot do that on a car such as this. Cars of the '60s and early '70s do not have the 17-digit VIN number required to do a carfax VIN check. He also tells people to check the DMV for a clear title, which is good advice, but in this case there was a clear title from the DMV.
The story here is that of several adult victims of a crime, trying to agree to a financial settlement that works for everyone. Gerald Newman, another car dealer, appears to be trying to make it something else.
Darwin Downey, sales manager, Golden Classics, Clearwater
Sowing his sea oats Sept. 7, Floridian story
Once again, Jeff Klinkenberg has written a "feel- good" article about our locale and one of Florida's assets, Luther Cook, and his gifts to the environment.
We are constantly exposed, I think overexposed, to the seedier, negative elements plaguing our lifestyle by our media. I'd rather read about guys like Luther Cook and his restoration of the beach near Blind Pass than the punks ravaging Channelside, etc. Jeff, keep up the good work.
Jim Pochurek, Palm Harbor
It's not about free speech
Why is the Taser incident at the University of Florida being looked at as such an outrageous abuse of free speech? Andrew Meyer deliberately grandstanded for the cameras and brought the entire incident upon himself. Besides talking animatedly past his allotted time, Meyer continued his charade when police officers attempted to remove him. As he was being taken away, he tried to pull himself away from the officers.
When you yell at police officers, forcefully resist arrest and disrupt a major function, you deserve to be Tasered and arrested. That is not stifling free speech; that is part of our legal system.
Andrew Szarejko, Palm Harbor
Anyone who watches the YouTube video of Andrew Meyer being Tasered and handcuffed will see that, while he was being obnoxious and causing a bit of a scene, his behavior was not deserving of the actions of the campus police officers. The microphone was turned off during his question, which happens all the time at speeches when there are so many questions being asked. However, immediately after the microphone was cut off the officers grabbed his arms and the confrontation began.
They overreacted and didn't seem to be prepared or aware of how these speeches are organized. He was not doing anything wrong, and as the University of Florida president stated, "UF must ensure the safety of students and their right to free speech."
How safe would you feel at another UF activity like this, designed for anyone to voice their opinions and ask questions, when a student can get arrested for voicing how he felt?
Virginia Davenport, Bradenton
A fatuous punk
My most sincere sympathy for Andrew Meyer's family, who must see and hear of this boy's antics repeatedly.
If your editors, or the University of Florida president think this was about free speech, then Atilla the Hun was a philanthropist. This was pure bully tactics by a fatuous punk.
Meyer knew of the time limit, chose to ignore it, kept on ranting after the mike was dead, and wrestled with the officers removing him. He knew he was going to be arrested when he kept shouting after the mike was dead. That's a given at such an event.
UF president Bernie Machen should be apologizing to the rest of the students and to the scheduled speaker (for whom I didn't vote) who deserve more courtesy than Meyer seems willing to expend.
You can maybe imagine what would happen to him were he my kid!
Max R. Loick, St. Petersburg
15-year-old driver crashes; girl dies Sept. 17
The vital lesson here is to remember to buckle up
This crash was a result not only of an inexperienced driver, but also of failure to wear seat belts. There would have been a better chance of the teenage girl surviving if she had not been thrown from the vehicle.
You can have inexperienced drivers, but if we all wear our seat belts, we can have a better chance of living another day. Today, when cars are loaded with air bags, seat belts for all and a computer-controlled engine power shut down with radical car movements, we still fail to utilize all the safety features of the automobiles. As parents are pointing fingers as to who is in the wrong, they better make sure that if their child is driving, that he or she will be sure all the passengers in the car are using their seat belts. Because that is the most important message here.
If this rule had been followed, there is a good chance this teenager would be alive today and that driver would not have to live with this bad event the rest of his life.
I think all eighth- or ninth-graders should be forced to go with the police to accidents as part of their driver training, and spend time in emergency rooms of trauma centers, to see the condition of crash victims and to get some real-life images of the consequences of car accidents.
Seat belts save lives. And not wearing your seat belt in a car with air bags is very dangerous. You actually can be thrown into an exploding air bag, causing head injuries.
Save lives: Wear your seat belts.
James Demmy, Kenneth City
Risky ride, familiar end Sept. 18, story
All can share some blame
My heart goes out to the family of Raquel Carreras. Losing a child must be the most devastating loss a person can endure. I cannot imagine their pain.
Brittany Vinson, one of the passengers, says, "I'm angry, but not at Shawn (the 15-year-old driver). I'm angry at his mom, who shouldn't have let him drive." That's just absurd. Shawn was made aware of the restrictions imposed with a learner's permit at the time it was issued, just over a month earlier. Is his memory so short?
There are many people responsible for this tragedy. Shawn should not have been driving, and knew it. His mother should not have permitted him to take her car. Each and every passenger in the car knew Shawn did not have a proper license but got in the car anyway. There is enough blame for everyone involved, including, unfortunately, Raquel. But it seems that none of the people involved see that, and without seeing that, no real lesson is learned. How tragic.
Maurice Rubin, New Port Richey
Risky ride, familiar end Sept. 18, story
"Six teenagers packed" into a small car, past 10 p.m., no licensed driver and no seat belts and it's "breaking just about every rule of safe driving." No. It's breaking just about every law! Don't sugarcoat it. People die when this happens, and, sadly, this time a girl did. I'm on the road too and want to make it home safely.
Angela Kasarda, Brandon
Wake up, kids (and parents). Six teens in a car; five distractions for an inexperienced driver who flagrantly disobeyed several laws; five bad decisions to accompany someone doing so; unused safety restraints; and, sadly, one death. That might be all it takes, just one poor decision. All the teddy bears and flowers in the world will not bring back that "bubbly, fun-loving" friend. My heart goes out to her mother and family.