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Letters to the Editors
Persecution of religious minorities is common in Europe
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000
Re: German visitor takes on Scientology, July 26 story.
It is common knowledge that our country was largely founded by individuals attempting to escape religious persecution in Europe, but I think that many Americans would be surprised to know that significant persecution still exists in Europe.
Derek H. David wrote an excellent editorial in the Journal of Church and State, titled "Religious Persecution in Today's Germany: Old Habits Renewed." The essay describes a disturbing trend of persecution of minority religions in modern Germany and provides a historical perspective of religious intolerance in Germany.
With respect to the recent press conference by Ursula Caberta, it would be more responsible and professional for the Times to do some research and discover the truth of the situation. A little investigation would reveal that Ms. Caberta's views are rooted in a centuries-old German tradition of religious oppression.
Germany is unfair to Scientologists
Unfortunately, you missed the point that Ursula Caberta is bringing intolerance and religious discrimination into this country by continuing her business in Germany on American soil. In the United States, Caberta showed up at a press conference as a German official persecuting my religion, the Church of Scientology, and its parishioners.
How could Ursula Caberta be surprised to be called a Nazi by Americans? She denies to my religion the right of existence. When I look at the many, many German Scientologists who had to leave Germany -- like me and my family -- I have to say that Caberta actually is denying people freedom and equal rights and she is denying to members of minorities the right to live there.
In Germany she created a climate of hatred and intolerance so German and American artists were not allowed to perform their art. Not long ago, some people of Caberta's state of mind even appealed to the public to boycott American movies, as some of the actors happened to be well-known Scientologists like John Travolta or Tom Cruise.
Because of people like Caberta, Germany is focused more on the persecution of honest people than on fighting the neo-Nazis who actually harm and even kill people.
Scientology an asset to Clearwater
I'm so tired of the criticism letter writers give about the Church of Scientology. The other day I counted in the Yellow Pages 143 listings for churches in just Clearwater. Only one of them was for the Church of Scientology. I would like to know how many pieces of land these other 142 churches own that they are not paying any taxes on. I'll bet it exceeds 300, and I'll bet that every time you print a criticism of Scientology, it was made by a member of one of the other 142 churches.
The Scientologists have done more to save the downtown area than the city of Clearwater, which wanted to give it away. I live by and drive through downtown almost every day. All I ever see are well-dressed and well-behaved people going about their own business. Maybe you would rather have gangs, prostitutes, derelicts and boarded-up window fronts.
Most small downtowns would kill to have an educational facility like the Scientologists have set up. Right now, Tampa is willing to give $12-million just to have a law school locate in its city, and it won't pay any taxes either. Wake up people; you're looking the biggest gift horse you have in the mouth and crying about it at the same time.
I am not a Scientologist, nor do I belong to any other church group.
Downtown Largo group challenges story
Re: Downtown plan draws praise, concerns, by Eric Stirgus, July 20.
I was very disappointed when I read this article, which covered the public forum we at Downtown Largo Main Street held to get public input on the proposed redevelopment of the Ulmer Park/Old City Hall site before we discuss it and make our recommendation to the city of Largo.
The statement "Downtown Largo Main Street Association offers its support" for the plan was totally wrong. When this story was written, we, as an organization, had not discussed or made a decision concerning this plan or any alternatives. We are still gathering public input and will make a decision by the first week in August, then send our recommendation to the city.
Although I was given credit for a statement in this story, I did not talk to the press. As the vice president of Downtown Largo Main Street Association, I have not and will not speak for the organization on any issue until the Largo Main Street Association takes a position through a vote. To date, Downtown Largo Main Street Association has not endorsed any redevelopment plan.
Each member of the association is entitled to his or her opinion and is free to speak as an individual, but is not entitled to speak for Downtown Largo Main Street on issues until a position is established through a vote of the board of directors. I hope, in the future, the Times will report accordingly.
Streetlight tax proposal is odious
I would like to commend the Board of County Commissioners and Fred Marquis for their duplicity in recommending a 6 percent fee (tax) for users of electricity in unincorporated areas of the county. Not only are we being shortchanged on the Penny For Pinellas tax, but now we are told the streets have to be lit with an odious tax that will in effect amount to a huge increase in overall taxes in these areas.
Forget about the infirm, the aged and the struggling families that are just about making ends meet. Sock them with a tax that's unfair and regressive, especially when electricity is a necessity in this heat and humidity and affects their very existence and way of life.
So, those of you on the board who do not live in the unincorporated areas, and even those who do, congratulations; you've managed to nicely put your feet in your mouths and your hands in our pockets.
Clearwater must examine its priorities
This is an open letter to the Clearwater City Commission:
It is unfortunate that you got the cart before the horse. Had you built the high-rise bridge and completed the Pinellas Trail downtown, then maybe the people of Clearwater could have seen that you were serious about doing something constructive downtown. Build the bridge and the Pinellas Trail and they will come.
The Downtown Development Board and Community Redevelopment Agency have been throwing away good tax revenue for nearly 30 years with no apparent success. It may be time to dissolve both the DDB and CRA and throw the taxes in the pot. Allow free enterprise to take over. If you don't, you had better take a long look at the blight on Clearwater Beach.
Ask yourself and the people you work for some questions before you jump into action. Hard questions like, do we really need a new City Hall? Do we want our main library relocated so it will be more accessible when the new bridge is built? Can a movie theater be built east of Osceola Avenue? Can more homes be built east of Osceola? Do we need more branch libraries? Should all city projects be put on a pay-as-you-go basis? Is a new library so urgent that we need to go into debt?
We taxpayers have a lot more questions like these that need to be tackled long before we leap.
It's time to sit down and take a long look at our priorities and $190-million annual income and come up with a plan that is best for all the citizens of Clearwater, not just downtown.
It's time to deal with panhandling
I want to call attention to a situation that has become an intolerable irritant to me. It is the turn lane coming from U.S. 19 South, under the overpass to go west on Gulf-to-Bay. It has become a panhandling station for vagrants for well over a year. They stand with signs or directly ask waiting drivers for money for food.
If you count the number of beer bottles lying about it surely shows where the money is really going. The other day I counted 20 beer bottles scattered around -- a real eyesore. I've also seen them urinating in the sparse shrubbery along the overpass and recently saw one drunk sleeping by the curb in the middle of the afternoon.
Our city has just spent money to beautify Gulf-to-Bay, yet we allow these vagrants to despoil the same area we try to improve. Unfortunately, laws protect these people. By and large, these are not unfortunates, but rather people who reject work and choose to sponge off our system and others. They also populate a wooded area close by, behind a commercial area, and are responsible for many car break-ins, including my daughter's recently.
Cities like San Francisco and New York have allowed the panhandling existence to get out of hand while other cities like Chicago and San Diego have virtually eliminated it. Obviously, they can be controlled with aggressive policies. I think it's time for Clearwater to deal with this issue and stop listening to the social do-gooders who look out for the rights of these people, who violate our own rights and community.
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