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By Times Staff
Published September 23, 2007


Boycott threats follow giving Sept. 14

(This is a letter sent by the writer and shared with this newspaper.)

Action taken as recommendation

Dear Life Decisions: I read in the St. Pete Times that you have threatened a boycott of Outback Restaurants. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I have only been to an Outback and its related restaurants a couple of times in the past, but I will assuredly now become a very regular customer and will take my clients and friends there and encourage all of them to also go there on their own and to tell their friends.

I will not be telling them why I go there, other than it is a good restaurant. I don't want to be guilty of the same economic terrorism that you employ. I will be checking your Web site regarding other "boycotted" businesses and will be patronizing them, as well.

Thank you for the good recommendations (Marriott, Sears, Wells Fargo, Rotary Int'l, etc). Keep up the work. And I imagine that someone has reviewed the source of your funding, which itself is probably the target of a boycott. Ain't life grand?

Harvey Ford, St. Petersburg

Partner, Ford & Ford, P.A.

Blackmail tactic of 'good cause'

The word "ethics" can mean many things to people, apparently. Life Decisions, the organization that is vindictively aggressive against abortion, seems to feel itself secure in its interpretation. And of the virtue of using any means to advance its cause.

It uses the threat of boycott against large corporations who give charitable contributions to Planned Parenthood. To many of us, this has an ugly name: blackmail. Life Decisions does not stop with threats. Slander is in its weaponry, also. It stridently refers to Planned Parenthood as "the world's leading pro-abortion behemoth." (Never mind that Planned Parenthood's activities encompass all aspects of women's health, including advice, counseling and information regarding abortion.)

Though Life Decisions claims that over 150 "regional or national companies have agreed to its demands over the years," it has not managed to cow some "corporate giants." One must salute Wal-Mart, Nike, GlaxoSmithKline, Wachovia, Time Warner, the Dallas Cowboys and Walt Disney. But the shabby fact remains that any organization purporting to be in a "good cause" can stoop to scare tactics and threats to achieve its ends.

We have free speech in our country, and that is right. What is not right is use of it to limit the freedom of others.

Abigail Ann Martin, Brandon

Scare tactics deserve sanctions

Life Decisions International, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, is a despotic group. Why do we tolerate Life Decisions tactics in the United States?

Planned Parenthood is an organization that provides care and services. Quality care and information and education are provided to all who go there. It's intolerable that Life Decisions can function without sanctions and no punitive measures. Why allow this 500-pound gorilla to utilize its scare tactics to hinder support for organizations that help so many?

Elvina L. Bergmann, St. Pete Beach

Agenda is one of financial terror

In a country where we celebrate differences and our right to believe as we choose, it is outrageous that Mr. Scott should resort to financial terrorism to shove his agenda down the corporate throat. Mr. Scott is free to believe what he wants about abortion, but imposing his personal view of the world on viable businesses smacks of the Taliban. And he needs to know this: Boycotts work both ways. How about a boycott of any place that yields to Mr. Scott's threats? Personally, I intend to double my business in places that resist Mr. Scott's strong-arm techniques.

Judy Ellis, St. Petersburg

U.S. foreclosure rate soars Sept. 19

American dream, no money down

I suspect many of these homeowners purchased houses far beyond their means and the lenders just kept on allowing these homeowners to buy these unaffordable mortgages. Poor speculators who purchased all this property were hoping for big profits.

I suspect all these folks filing for foreclosures are driving around in Hummers and BMWs as the automobile companies and dealers are doing the same thing, giving people the taste of property they cannot afford.

You don't have to work hard anymore to obtain the American dream. At least not for a few years, anyway. Big houses and flashy automobiles are easy to obtain with no money down, but you eventually have to pay for them.

It's a strange concept for many to grasp.

Andrew Hill, Largo

System's flaws ensure failure

I have a different take on why foreclosure rates are increasing. It could be due to the fact that lenders are using outdated or inaccurate formulas when approving their clients for home mortgages.

As a teacher, I qualify for a program called Hometown Heroes. This entitles teachers to down payment assistance on a home mortgage. However, only certain lenders are able to use these funds to assist teachers.

When I applied for a home mortgage, I was told by my lender I needed to hurry and get my contract in to them before they ran out of funds. Interestingly enough, within two hours after they received my contract, they had no down payment assistance money left. However, great news, I was now qualified for the full amount of the loan, which was $30,000 more than I had expected.

After several days, the lender suddenly received more money and my situation was supposedly remedied. However, their good-faith estimate was way off in reference to the property taxes they had figured into my loan payment, and all the paperwork they had sent me to sign was incorrect according to the loan I was supposed to receive for my home purchase.

They qualified me for a loan for which I would be paying 44 percent of my gross salary on a mortgage payment. When I went to them and explained there was no way I could possibly pay this amount of money without going into foreclosure within a short period of time, they said their hands were tied and that there was nothing they could do to deny my loan. I opted to lose my deposit rather than risk ruining my credit rating and more than likely going into foreclosure on my home purchase.

Between the mortgage companies allowing their clients to purchase homes they can't afford and the real estate agents using inaccurate information to persuade their clients to purchase these homes, someone really needs to look into the possibility of deceptive business practices by both these organizations. Someone should do something to help home buyers and property owners, instead of allowing these companies to set us up for failure.

Janet Whedon, Largo

Mattel shares blame in recalls, CEO admits Sept. 13

Greed could spell toymaker's end

I am reading the congressional testimony of Robert Eckert of toymaker Mattel. I hope this puts Mattel out of business.

First of all, he chose to take his business overseas, depriving U.S. suppliers and workers employment, then he neglected his responsibility to oversee the quality assurance of his products. Now he has placed millions of American children in danger because of it. Shame on you, Mattel. It's all about easy money!

June Silver, Largo

Progress is a shining light among utilities, Talk of the Bay, Sept. 19

Plaudits don't reflect quality

It is wonderful that Progress Energy helped bring so many new jobs to its service area and was recognized in the economic development magazine Site Selection.

However, once these new customers sign up for service with Progress Energy and experience the repeated power outages and surges, as well as the astronomical price per kilowatt hour, they may wonder why they relocated here. It certainly won't be because of a reliable source of electrical energy at a reasonable price.

M. Diane Hodson, St. Petersburg

Greenspan condemns Bush economic policy Sept. 15

Clinton finally gets due credit

I was pleased as punch to read that former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan at last gave credit, where credit is due - by giving former President Bill Clinton "high fives," for his mind, as well as his tough anti-deficit policies. My hunch is that President Bush isn't too happy with Greenspan's deep disappointment with his current policies - especially Bush's out-of-control spending, leaving our country in "deep doo-doo." Indeed, Clinton can take a well-deserved bow. It's about time that he is recognized for more than just "Monica-gate."

JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater

Give businesses some credit on health insurance

Some companies show they care

You published a recent article on health insurance in Florida. I've also been seeing it all over the news and the presidential candidates are using it as a campaign issue. I am very aware that it is a problem and something needs to be done about it. However, I think the press makes businesses look like the bad guy/girl for not providing their employees with the much-needed insurance but does not credit businesses that do provide their employees with insurance.

I have been in business for 16 years and provide my employees with one of the best insurance policies (both medical and dental) available and pay 100 percent of the premium. It is a huge expense, but I do it to make sure they don't ever have to worry about going to a doctor if they need to.

I was an employee for many years prior to starting my own business, and wasn't covered by insurance. I know what it's like to not be able to go to a doctor when I really needed to. How about a pat on the back every once in a while for the employers who do.

Pauline Hill, St. Petersburg

Professional Duplicating

Hotel bargains hard to find Sept. 13

Hotels in need of tax breaks

Put off by higher Pinellas room rates, tourists are less likely to return.

Pinellas County hotels are fetching smaller price increases, occupancy is falling and economic worries are rising. Put together, it signals growing concern that area hotels could become too pricey.

Already, significantly fewer summer visitors surveyed for the county's tourism marketing agency called Pinellas a good value or described their lodging as "reasonably priced."

Could this be due in part because of excessive property taxes? It is time to get your collective heads out of the sand and pay attention to what the people on the front line already know. We are losing business. We need help. One more time: We need help.

John Elliott, Madeira Beach

Don't forget commercial property taxes

Odds are against business survival

Much has been said and written about how negatively property taxes are affecting the residential real estate market. As a homeowner, I have seen my taxes increase fourfold in the past few years. However, the impact of ever-increasing taxes on commercial real estate makes the impact on the residential market pale in comparison.

I am an owner of multiple fitness centers in the Tampa Bay area housed in four shopping centers. Each time one of the centers changes hands, our real estate taxes increase dramatically. As an example, one of our locations in St. Petersburg was sold in January 2007. Our new landlord is passing along a $66,000 increase in real estate taxes incurred as the result of a new owner, an amount we have to come up with by January. I am fairly sure that most of our members are not aware that any increase in real estate taxes, as a result of the sale and automatic reappraisal, is passed on to us, the tenants.

This increase, combined with the ever-escalating property insurance premiums, utility costs, etc., makes it difficult for any small-business owner to survive, let alone make a profit. In the end, fewer small-business owners will make it. Legislature, please help and help soon.

Robert Buchanan, Redington Beach

[Last modified September 21, 2007, 20:22:41]

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