LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Takes on downtown’s lost charm, roots of panhandling, Hiaasen’s liberties

Downtown’s just ‘not the same’

 

Editor: I agree with everyone who says that our downtown is just not the same. I still enjoy visiting our historic district. In fact, I prefer it to most parts of St Augustine. It’s just not the same as I remember. As I visit (and spend my money), I do not want to see the unsightly folks that seem to be proliferating. “They” are ruining “my” experience. They get in my way, look unhealthy, usually smell and look like they might pass out. I shouldn’t have to be exposed to this! Many times they can barely make it from one bench to another and typically occupy the whole bench. There is a movement to reverse this behavior. Some cities have imposed a tax. Most people just ignore it. Is it laziness? Bad habits? Is society to blame? Either way, I say that something must be done about it.

Joe Firrantello

St. Augustine

Is it any wonder people are panhandling?

Editor: I had a Letter to the Editor published describing the plight of the homeless, and persons who want to work but cannot because of a single misdemeanor or more on their criminal background record. Today (Jan. 2), in The Record on the front page is a young woman from Gainesville holding up a placard saying, “I am not a bad person but one who made bad choices.” She is panhandling, probably because she cannot get employment due to her mistakes. We must have the most draconian justice system in the free world and the most punitive. We have also created a nation of beggars who are now social outcasts because of a nonviolent crime.

The article is about the problems of panhandling affecting Florida cities, but no one discusses the root causes. The answer is not about repealing panhandling laws but addressing the problem of “one strike, you’re out.” How many of us has driven home from a party and prayed you will not be stopped by the police because you know you are a little over the limit regarding alcohol consumption? This is more prevalent in the younger persons who have the most to lose. They may not be able to get housing, a student loan, get into a college and certainly not employment.

This is a huge problem that no one talks about, and is hidden unless you happen to know one of these unfortunate people and hear their story. These are not bad people who have committed a serious crime. Unpaid traffic tickets will get you a misdemeanor and ban you for life from getting a job as will loitering. Possession of marijuana is another although it is now legal in five states.

Some businesses will review the crime, and make a decision regarding the seriousness of the incident, but this is the exception and not the rule. Even the minimum wage jobs will not take anyone with a misdemeanor on their record. The judiciary, the defender community and professional law organizations must address these inhumane laws that have become about in the past 10 or so years because of the national database for all crimes. Previously, a person could go from state to state — but not any more. Something must be done to put a stop to these practices involving the law and the collateral damage of a single mistake.

Barbara M. Schuerman

St. Augustine

Hiaasen writes ‘opinions’

Editor: I feel compelled to respond to the writer complaining about Carl Hiaasen’s misinformation. Perhaps the writer does not realize that Mr. Hiaasen is a syndicated opinion writer. It is my impression that the man tries to remain in the vicinity of factual journalism, but clearly takes liberties with when writing to emphasize his point.

To hold The Record accountable for Hiaasen’s vagaries is to imply that The Record can no longer publish a letter like this, as well as the writer to whom I am responding. I have seen conservative opinions and progressive opinions in the paper.

From my perspective, the paper is basically a center-leaning paper, which tries to publish all reasonable points of view. I feel sure the paper will not publish completely untrue quotes, save for Mr. Trump’s which are news, if fake.

Robert S. Walton

St. Augustine

 

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