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Letters to the Editors

Take the walk to the nearest voting booth

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 1998

Wake up, America. All U.S. citizens of voting age: It's time to be counted.

So, stop your crying, squawking, talking. Get off your duff. Make the effort -- with a short walk to your nearest polling place.

It ain't that far, and you'll feel so good after fulfilling your duty. If you don't, you can't complain.

So remind your neighbors and your friends to get out and vote. See you at the polls.
-- Patrick J. Donnelly, St. Petersburg

The School Board did the right thing

Re: Student's sangria sip devastates, Oct. 30.

I see several problems within this situation. I tip my hat to the Pinellas County school system for not showing a double standard. This young lady, Jennifer Coonce, should have known better than to "celebrate," being under the legal drinking age and on public school time.

Her parents now wish to reshuffle the card deck because the school system implemented the "zero tolerance alcohol rule." True, the punishment is harsh (not being able to return to school until January 1999), but Coonce made that decision when she "attempted" to act like an adult, at age 17.

Terry Davidson, the business owner, should be held accountable also. This man is contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He should be happy enough by getting high school children to work for free (interns), not socialize on an adult level with them.

High school children have plenty of time to "intern" in their college years. Why rush through the "youth period" so quickly?
-- Michael F. Paganelli, Largo

Applying zero tolerance to all

Re: Student's sangria sip devastates, Oct. 30.

I'm sure that I'm not the only person in Pinellas County who isn't completely surprised by the School Board's actions against Jennifer Coonce. After all, the Pinellas County School Board isn't exactly known for being rational. However, now that they have demonstrated the scope of their "zero tolerance" policies, these policies should definitely be applied to all students in similar situations.

Among the students who need to be expelled are many of the students in the dropout prevention programs. Let's face it -- the students who are most likely to drop out are also the ones who are most likely to consume alcohol. After them, we need to expel many students who are from immigrant families. This should also include foreign exchange students. Since drinking isn't such a crime in most other countries, we can make a fairly safe assumption that these two groups of students have had at least a couple sips of alcohol in their lives. Of course, we cannot forget to expel any Catholic students. Not only have they probably had alcohol, but it was in church, no less! If there are any students left, we can hire Kenneth Starr to investigate their private lives and, with any luck, we can expel every student enrolled at public schools.

Let's all thank the School Board for an excellent example of discipline and encourage them to keep up the good work!
-- Mike Flanery Jr., Clearwater

Student deserved her punishment

Re: Zero sense, editorial, Oct. 31.

The Times editorial writers are the ones who have "got to be kidding." There is not a "universal response" to 17-year-old Jennifer Coonce being thrown out of school for taking a sip of sangria. It is an important rule she broke and she deserves the punishment she got. Ask the parents of a teen killed by alcohol poisoning or whose life has been ruined in an alcohol-related tragedy and you will get cheers for a tough school policy that needs to be tough.

Your ill-thought-out statement that "Zero tolerance makes zero sense" shows you don't understand this issue. Zero tolerance laws for young drivers have been shown to reduce the numbers of teens killed and injured in alcohol-related crashes. Zero tolerance drinking laws for students are the right message to send.

Underage drinking is a major local and national problem. Surgeon General David Satcher recently reported that "Among teenagers, alcohol is used more frequently than all illicit drugs combined. Recent data show that more than 30 percent of high school seniors and 25 percent of 10th-graders reported binge drinking. Alcohol-related car crashes are a major cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24... Adolescent drinking has been linked to risky sexual behaviors that can lead to AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies." Why isn't his important message on the front page? The fact that this news is missing is what makes no sense.

The point is that alcohol for teens is the most lethal drug of all and our society is virtually ignorant of the true magnitude of this issue.

East Lake High School principal Rick Misenti should be commended for his courage to enforce a much-needed and well-thought-out rule designed to save the lives of our children. Like most principals who have lost students because of drinking, he knows well that alcohol and teens are a deadly mix that cannot be tolerated.

The Times spent a lot of space over the plight of an irresponsible 17-year-old honors student who made a dumb choice, but it was her choice. She knew that she was breaking the law as well as school policy. Hopefully, she and other students will learn an important lesson. The business, Interiors by Terry D, should have been prosecuted as well. How come it wasn't? Providing alcohol to minors is a form of child abuse.

Instead of telling the public via Charles Dickens that those who enforced the zero tolerance rule were "a ass, a idiot" for rigidly applying school policy, perhaps the Times could spend some front-page space taking a good hard look at why so many of our children abuse alcohol and what more needs to be done about it. How about reporting the rest of the story?
-- Sandy Golden, president, the Campaign for Alcohol Free
Kids, Clearwater Beach

Fine Scientology coverage

Re: The Man Behind Scientology, Oct. 25.

I have been quick enough to criticize your coverage of President Clinton, even to the point of losing my temper and canceling my subscription. Sanity now regained, although I'm still very upset with the general media National-Enquirer approach to all that, I am writing to thank you for the marvelous coverage of the Scientologist issue.

After years of Scientologist brute aggression and stiff-arming whenever any significant question was asked, your article made it all so very clear, and I thank you. I nearly threw up at the revelation that a suicide had shot herself three times in the chest and once in the head; even more disturbing is the casual approach the law takes toward such matters. Pinellas County, for another casual if not reluctant law enforcement agency, still hasn't done anything about the young lady's death in the hotel in Clearwater -- what is it, three years ago now? And I wonder why.

Enough. I just wanted to thank you for your up-to-standards coverage in the Scientology matter.
-- Rev. Frank A. Halse Jr. (retired), Brandon

Moses packed no heat

I was fascinated by a recent news item in the Times containing Charlton Heston's remarks concerning his experiences as Moses. His references were, however, a bit limited and were far too modest. The Bible gives support to his achievements in personally confronting King Pharaoh and leading the family of Israel safely across the Red Sea with Pharaoh's armies in hot pursuit. During the journey he put down two rebellions among his people as well as overcoming encounters with the Amalekites, the Edomites, the Amorites, the Moabites and the Canaanites, bring his "family" safely to the Promised Land.

Reading the news item and doing a bit of biblical research, I was amazed (and perhaps Heston has forgotten) that he did it all without a single firearm.
-- Roy L. Johnson, Clearwater

It's not right to ridicule Catholics

We are saddened by your Oct. 21 review of the American Stage production of Nunsense A-men (Nunsense A-men is anything but a drag, by John Fleming). If, instead of a convent of Catholic nuns, the theme of the play had been the ridicule of Hadassah or a black women's organization, we doubt that your reviewer would have found it hilarious.

If you still don't get the point, please allow us to readjust the perspective of your political correctness. Would you have printed a favorable review of a play that featured Jewish rabbis lampooned as transgendered women? Would Billy Graham jokes and imitations find favor with your newspaper as did those directed at the Catholic pope? Rather than a game of "Pin the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Donkey," would you find a game of "Pin Queen Esther or Aunt Jemima on the Donkey" hilarious?

We are not so thin-skinned that we cannot tolerate a good-natured "roast;" however, there is a point where tolerable irreverence, for the sake of humor, becomes malicious. Unlike the original Nunsense, Nunsense A-men is malicious. It not only holds devoted, selfless women who have served all of American society, not merely Catholics, up to unfair public ridicule, it presents scurrilous innuendoes and lies about their moral integrity that likely will become accepted as "truth," as in the case of Pope Pius XII when newspaper reviewers failed to challenge the perversion of historical truth in the play, The Deputy. If the lie is big enough and you tell it often enough, people will begin to believe it.

Currently there are four such anti-Catholic plays on Broadway (Corpus Christi is much worse than Nunsense A-men). If Catholics are to be rightfully accorded more than second-class status, the media must begin to review these plays for what they really are -- cultural hate propaganda thinly disguised as entertainment.
-- Bill and Barbara Wis, Largo

Don't raise minimum wage

I'm writing to you because an Oct. 7 letter Graham's inexcusable vote upset me a little. I think we should not raise the minimum wage because every time it is raised, the cost of living increases.

The letter talked about raising the minimum wage and not re-electing Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla. Sen. Graham was one of two Democrats that voted "nay" on raising the minimum wage. The writer went on and insisted on Graham not being re-elected in November.

I think we should not raise the minimum wage. The reason is simple: Whenever we raise the minimum wage, the cost of living increases. However, when the government does raise the minimum wage, people like me -- servers and busers -- don't receive an increase in hourly pay.

Another reason why they shouldn't raise the minimum wage is taxes. Every time the government raises it, taxes go up a slight percentage. People who complain about minimum wage increases do not understand. If you are making more money hourly, you will be making less because the government taxes you and more money comes out of your paycheck.

There is an easy solution for this problem. If the government cuts taxes to those people making minimum wage and keeps the other tax brackets and percentages the same, the cost of living will not increase. Also, the person will be making more money -- not hourly, but tax-wise.
-- Shane F. O'Brien, St. Petersburg

A heavenly column

Re: Finding a bit of heaven on a Harley, by Bill Maxwell, Oct. 28.

I've never been a biker but, man, Bill Maxwell made me wish I was! I enjoy his columns.
-- John W. Lee, Inverness


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