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    Letters to the Editors

    Gov. Jeb Bush rebuts article on minority data

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000

    I am writing to express my deep dismay over your Oct. 27 article Minority contract data overstated, in which Diane Rado claims that I have exaggerated the results of the One Florida contracting initiative in its first year. Rado's claims are misleading at best.

    First, the increase in minority spending by governor's agencies is historic. Even as calculated by Rado, the increase was 88 percent, an unprecedented one-year increase of more than $130-million. Rado makes much ado over figures we released in September, showing a 91 percent increase. Whether 88 percent or 91 percent, no administration in history has come close to these spending increases.

    Similarly, your article claims that the increase for all agencies combined was "only" 46 percent, instead of the 58 percent reported in September. Yet you ignore the undisputable fact that even a 46 percent increase is dramatic and unprecedented. In short, rather than focus on greatly expanded opportunities for minority-business owners, the Times chooses to play a game of "gotcha" over minor statistical discrepancies.

    Second, our September figures came from the state comptroller, an independent officer responsible for fiscal accounting. Every dollar in our report (which compared fiscal year 1998-1999 and fiscal year 1999-2000 spending) was confirmed by the comptroller to have been spent as reported. Your article questions why we used the comptroller's FY98-99 figures instead of those from my Office of Supplier Diversity. We used the comptroller's figures simply because they are verifiable by a constitutionally independent officer. Had we used figures from my office, they would have been open to greater criticism.

    Third, the only reason a few discrepancies in FY98-99 numbers existed between the Office of Supplier Diversity and the comptroller's office is that previous administrations had engaged in a poor practice of making manual adjustments to their numbers after the comptroller's office closed its books. As a result, sometimes the Office of Supplier Diversity had one number, the comptroller's office another. We discontinued this practice starting with FY99-00, ensuring that adjustments are made in time for the comptroller's office to verify them before closing its books.

    Otherwise, where valid, we have continued the counting practices of previous administrations precisely so that we could make "apples-to-apples" comparisons between our spending and theirs. Your article is inherently inconsistent in criticizing a couple of these practices and then raising some "apples-to-apples" concerns. You cannot have it both ways.

    Finally, and ironically, your article states that the figures from the Office of Supplier Diversity show a 9 percent decrease among agencies that do not report directly to me, instead of the 6 percent increase we reported in September. This actually bolsters the case for One Florida, which applies only to those agencies that report directly to me. If the agencies using the old ways declined while the agencies using One Florida increased by at least 88 percent, why wasn't this your headline? Your article actually strengthens our case, though it labors greatly to obscure it.

    When we announced preliminary figures in July showing that governor's agencies had shattered records using my One Florida plan, the Times buried a six-paragraph story in Metro & State, Page 6. When we announced final figures in September showing a 91 percent increase, the Times did not even bother to run a story. But when your analysis claimed that the actual increase was "only" 88 percent instead of 91 percent, it ran a 29-paragraph story in Metro & State, Page 1, under a sensationalistic headline.

    To objective people of good faith, we have proved that One Florida works. Moreover, we are committed to further increases next year. I will be watching with keen interest to see if your paper devotes the same level of attention to next year's spending that it has to a few minor quibbles over statistics.
    -- Jeb Bush, governor, Tallahassee

    Judge sent the wrong message

    Re: Moschella gets 60 days in jail, by Cary Davis, Oct. 14.

    When I first looked at the front page of the Oct. 14 Metro & State section, I thought there was a misprint. What was Judge Craig C. Villanti thinking?

    After all the school shootings recently, isn't it time to send a message to teens bringing guns to school? Villanti's sentence was too lenient. Even Steven Moschella, the teen who pulled the trigger that killed Teddy Niziol, said he was surprised and thought "it was a lot more lenient than I thought it would be."

    I also couldn't believe that the judge decided no prison time was needed and Moschella would speak at every high school in the county. But Judge Villanti did order that Moschella would miss Thanksgiving and Christmas while Niziol misses the rest of his life!

    Teens need to realize that there will be a severe consequence for this type of behavior or the school violence will only escalate. Shame on Judge Villanti for sending the wrong message!
    -- Anthony Fuoco, Clearwater

    Judge selection erodes democracy

    One of our most precious rights under the Constitution is the right to vote. The Nov. 7 merit selection and retention proposal removes voter choice from the judge selection process and brings us one step closer to destroying democracy. Under this proposal, you may decide whether or not you want to retain judges every two years, but alas, you no longer have the opportunity to decide who your county and circuit judges will be.

    Voters should have the opportunity to make informed decisions concerning the most qualified judicial candidates. Proponents of merit selection and retention incorrectly suggest that you as an "ordinary citizen" are not able to make an informed decision as to the most qualified judicial candidates. Unfortunately, because of the rules governing judicial campaigns, candidates are forbidden to take a stand and address the issues while campaigning. The solution is to require that state and local Bar associations provide information about the qualifications of judicial candidates as well as educate the public about other available resources providing similar information. The solution is not taking away a citizen's right to vote.

    Selection of judges by a committee is not more successful at finding qualified judges than voter election of county and circuit judges. If such were the case, why not have a committee select the governor, members of Congress or even the president of the United States? The public can make an informed decision as well or more effectively than an elitist group of people on a committee can.
    -- Kimberly Haikara, Largo

    Performance as predictor

    Vice President Al Gore is telling us all the wonderful things he'll be doing for seniors. Since past performance is the best predictor of future performance, consider the following:

    Then-Sen. Al Gore voted to increase the Social Security eligibility age from 65 to 68. What will it be if he is president? Age 70, 75?

    Vice President Al Gore is proud he cast the tie-breaking vote to raise the income tax on Social Security.

    In his entire past he has done nothing to "save" Social Security or do anything for Medicare or prescription drugs.

    Is there any reason to believe anything he claims he will do for seniors? I think not!
    -- Frederick Savalli, Clearwater

    Eliminating the "young' vote

    It is definitely too bad that as an independent, intelligent society, we end up with choices for political office that border on the offensive. I am a senior citizen, but I am appalled at the elimination of the "young" vote and our proliferation of the senior vote. How can we expect young adults to care enough to vote when they are snubbed as members of society?

    The education issue is a joke. As a recent letter suggested: Teach the subject, not the test. The letter writer was just three years out of high school and shows more intelligence than Jeb Bush, George W. Bush and many others. Tests are misplaced evaluations of students and schools and serve no purpose except for schools to appear to do good or bad. Students who fail such tests are generally shamed and frustrated, and teachers can't teach beyond an individual's IQ capacity.

    Vouchers are a joke, also. A very ill-conceived idea. Parents now are less involved in PTA and other school functions, and how are vouchers going to change that? It's not the kids that necessarily need educating, it's the parents. There is so much paperwork and red tape in schools now, the teachers have little time to teach students what they need to know and learn.

    I find that George W. Bush's comment about Social Security, "No changes, no way," sounds like his father's words about "read my lips." How about a change for the better. Let's improve it, not just leave it where many seniors can't even pay basic bills and survive.

    Both candidates acted like spoiled brats during the debates, and I even question that process because their behavior was not exemplary for people to see. Maybe it showed what a non-choice we actually have. Maybe the candidate with a little common sense will come out ahead. My common sense tells me to vote for the person that possibly and hopefully will help, not hinder some freedoms I still have. Just a person with a little common sense, I hope.
    -- S.C. Hill, Clearwater

    A matter of fairness

    I am fed up with the younger generation griping about the proposed drug coverage for seniors, complaining about what a burden this would be on them. Do they realize that 70 percent of the taxes that seniors pay on their homes goes to fund schools and education?

    Here's a reality check: Seniors don't have any children in school. Why is it all right for them to fund your children's education, but it's not all right for you to help them pay for the medication they need to survive? Furthermore, how about people who don't have any children? Their taxes go to support your kids as well. You never hear them gripe about it.

    So, the next time you find yourself whining and complaining about what's not fair, think again.
    -- Eve Wojda, New Port Richey

    If you don't care, don't vote

    Perhaps you can persuade me that the quality of our democracy is improved by the votes of uninterested and uninformed people. But until you do, I say: "Let those of us who care and who study the candidates make the decision. It's a free country, and if you don't care about your government, it's your privilege to stay home and watch TV on Election Day."
    -- Nelson R. Eldred, Tampa

    Floridians have had enough hot air

    It certainly was no surprise that the space shuttle Discovery was forced to land in California because of high winds in Florida. We're lucky that with all the hot air brought into our state by Gore and Bush we haven't experienced more problems.

    Won't Nov. 7 ever get here?
    -- Bob Wheat, Palm Harbor

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