Letters: Confederate statue removal won’t take us forward

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After reading the Sept. 23 article about a lawsuit over taxpayer money used to maintain tributes to the Confederacy, I wonder when this attempt will cease to remove any evidence of the history of our nation. I grew up in the 1950s and '60s, in the time of Martin Luther King's righteous marches for freedom. I applauded the civil rights laws that came from that era.

I have watched and lived through years of improved relationships for all people, though I realize that we still need to improve. We have been moving forward every year to leave behind those dark days in our history. Our nation has been evolving through mistakes, trial and error over time to improve life in this country.

Until the past few years, the nation seemed to improve life in most areas. However, it appears that the individual bringing the lawsuit somehow wishes to remove all historical evidence of those dark days of the Civil War. As the only conflict fought among our own people, the outcome of that war was freedom and the formal end of slavery in this nation. Those memorials to both the North and South following that war were to remember those who served; not slavery.

The lawsuit states that these memorials are violating the Constitution's 13th and 14th Amendments, as well as equal enjoyment of public accommodations (guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964). I believe many of the memorials can be grandfathered in, as most were placed more than 100 years ago. Also, "full and equal enjoyment" is meant for all people, not just some.

This is not moving forward — only backward. If this lawsuit is honored, what’s next?  Do we remove or change the name of all cities, counties and establishments tied to any past slave owners, including presidents and the Founding Fathers?

Slavery was accepted in those days as part of the culture of the time. Although it is totally unacceptable in the present day, I think most people really don't know (or care) where place names originated. We all have to accept that and move on, not stagnate in the wrongs of our past or attempt to remove what we don't like in our history.

Margaret Wright, Jacksonville 

Rubio strong on inflation

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio spoke to a large crowd on Sept. 17 during Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Marco Rubio at Melbourne Auditorium.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio spoke to a large crowd on Sept. 17 during Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Marco Rubio at Melbourne Auditorium.

The greatest threat facing American families today is inflation. For the first time in a generation, families are struggling to pay for food and gasoline. Grocery prices have had their highest spike in 43 years, and gasoline costs more than doubled since Joe Biden took office. It is a shameful turn of events after many years of low inflation and a strong economy.

The stimulus bill championed by Joe Biden and his cohorts in Congress is said to have cost more than $1.9 trillion, and their “Inflation Reduction Act” more than $700 billion. In addition, my analysis of the Congressional Budget Office report on Biden’s executive orders reveals costs of between $430 billion to nearly $500 billion, while the student loan forgiveness plan is estimated by the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn-Wharton Budget Model to cost around $1 trillion.  

That means the Biden Administration is responsible for more than $4 trillion in new spending. Economists agree that one of the core causes of inflation is deficit spending by the government; this spending spree is the root cause of our inflation and the pain it causes families in Florida.

Inflation averaged below 3% throughout President Trump’s term in office, and has been climbing consistently since Biden and the Democrats were elected. Rep. Val Demings — now running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Marco Rubio — celebrated this accomplishment by voting for the Inflation Reduction Act.

To me, the choice couldn’t be clearer when it comes to representing Florida in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Rubio has consistently voted against this unparalleled deficit spending, and he is the only choice that can represent Florida.

Michael Bell, Jacksonville

Get it together, JTA

One of JTA's CNG First Coast Flyer buses makes its rounds across Jacksonville.
One of JTA's CNG First Coast Flyer buses makes its rounds across Jacksonville.

As one who travels throughout Northeast Florida on a daily basis, I simply do not understand why JTA has lost sight of its core mission. Every JTA vehicle runs around with a license plate that proclaims "Florida” but the condition of the local roads under their responsibility is atrocious.

All over the Jacksonville area we are forced to drive on streets that are full of potholes, filled with hazard cones, blocked by obstructions or bordered by sidewalks in disrepair. They have numerous bus shelters in a storage area on Philips Highway while riders stand in the heat and rain at bus stops. At the same time, JTA leadership wants to spend millions on a Skyway with limited ridership while operating two bus systems with vehicles that are 50% full at best.

It doesn’t take a traffic engineer to visit any part of the city to see the disrepair of our streets. In the Urban Core, Brooklyn, LaVilla, Riverside, Avondale, Ortega, Lakewood, the Northside, Eastside, Westside, Southside or any of the subcommunities within these areas, there are streets that JTA has neglected to the point that they are unsafe to drive. Plus, it’s a constant cost to maintain our family or work vehicles.

Combined with FDOT’s decades-long construction projects on roads and highways under their responsibility, our city has become extremely unsafe for driving. It is time the mayor and governor use the bully pulpit to force both agencies to get their act together and perform the job they receive millions of tax dollars to do.

Eddie Brown, Jacksonville

Many layers to immigration issue

How to handle immigration in the United States has long been a point of contention. There are many sides to this issue that can’t be summed up by politicians in news conferences or stump speeches.

Addressing complicated situations requires leadership and collaboration. Being a leader means acknowledging conflict and approaching it with intelligence, ingenuity and integrity. In other words, gathering and analyzing actual data about the situation, not fear-mongering based on inaccurate assumptions and with outdated, cliched buzzwords.

When the issue at hand involves the lives and well-being of our fellow humans, leadership should also include decency and compassion. Being a decent and compassionate leader doesn’t mean always buckling to the demands of opposing forces, but it should include empathy. It can mean taking a step back to look at how a situation developed, acknowledging there is validity to the feelings of others (even if we don’t agree with them) or that we might think differently about the same situation under different circumstances.

Leadership is not staging a ploy or taking advantage of others to make a point. Unfortunately, elected officials often act first as politicians, not as leaders. And politics does not have the same standards or ethics as leadership.

I hope that our current and future state elected officials can start to approach critical issues as leaders, not just as politicians.

Cindy Arco, Jacksonville 

PBS series brings comparisons

Directors of "The U.S. and The Holocaust" documentary Sarah Botstein, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are shown. [Provided]
Directors of "The U.S. and The Holocaust" documentary Sarah Botstein, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are shown. [Provided]

I could not have watched the new six-hour PBS documentary of Ken Burns’ "The U.S. and the Holocaust" without drawing comparisons with Hitler's far right antisemitism and previous events during Trump's presidency that occurred in Charlottesville, as well as at the Capitol on Jan. 6. In fact, at the end of the documentary, Burns did the same.

The documentary emphasizes the total unwillingness of the U.S. (and many other countries) to help save the Jews of Eastern Europe by allowing them to emigrate here.

By the late 1930s, newspapers reported Hitler's desire to exterminate the Jews and his earlier actions taken against them. Americans for the most part knew of the situation and yet did almost nothing to help — particularly the government, which could have increased immigration quotas.

I cannot help drawing parallels between the recent action of Gov. DeSantis sending asylum seekers from Venezuela (who were already in Texas) to Martha's Vineyard as if they were not humans, but mere political pawns for his re-election campaign.  

Once again, to paraphrase the old adage, "if we don't know history, we are doomed to repeat it."

Maurine Meleck, Ponte Vedra Beach

Economy and rights need context

The U.S. Constitution
The U.S. Constitution

I am writing in response to the letter writer of Sept. 18, who feels the U.S. economy just naturally rises and falls. The writer also feels a constitutional right has been taken away.

First, the U.S. economy does rise and fall, but it can be influenced by events either naturally occurring or resulting from human intervention. Extreme weather like droughts, war or pandemics can affect it, as can variations in supply and demand. Another factor is the injection of too much money into the system (a 40% increase in the last two years), which creates inflation and the corresponding increase in interest rates to subdue it.

Fortunately, we have a Federal Reserve to correct the spikes and dips. Some other countries — such as Cuba, Venezuela and Greece — do not have these regulating bodies.

Second, the Supreme Court deals with matters pertinent to the U.S. Constitution. They did not ban abortion or women’s reproductive issues; they just stated that those issues are not part of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights and remanded these matters to the states, where they belong.

Jerry Miller, Ponte Vedra

Here’s an idea for state surplus

The Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee
The Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee

The Florida state government is reportedly flush $20 billion in reserve and is anticipating another $13 billion next year, for a total of $33 billion for the rainy-day fund. Historically, $5-10 billion was enough to insure adequate funds for hurricanes and other natural catastrophes.

So, what are elected officials doing with so much money? Those elected officials are so generous with our money that they are reducing or eliminating sales tax on gasoline for a brief period, and reducing the sales tax on a variety of items almost impossible to remember.

In other words, one has to buy items to receive the benefit. How gracious of our elected officials.

Why not return the money to the taxpayers? A tax refund between $1,000 and $3,000 dollars per family would be the most efficient use of these funds, and would reduce the bloated rainy-day fund.

Matt Schellenberg, former city council member, Jacksonville 

‘Don Quixote’ DeSantis

The more I read about the political actions of Gov. DeSantis against migrants, Critical Race Theory and COVID vaccines, the more I am reminded of Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

This governor’s apparent actions to dupe migrants — who are escaping a terrorist regime in Venezuela — by shipping them off to Martha’s Vineyard for political theater, the more concerned I become that he may run for president. He seems to spend all his time attacking enemies and problems that don’t exist, instead of serving the people of Florida who elected him.

He is so concerned that these migrants “might” want to come to Florida that he spends taxpayer dollars to ship them from Texas to Massachusetts. It is simply inhumane. He needs to be stopped now before those imaginary enemies (that he invents) cause more damage to lives that do exist.

Susan Gregg, Ponte Vedra Beach

Fix one problem, create two more

The Federal Reserve is working at its finest as it raises interest rates faster then any time in history. I fail to understand the logic of creating a recession where people lose their jobs and their retirement savings because you want to bring down the purchase price of goods or services. It's kind of hard to buy anything anyway if you're out of a job or your savings have been depleted.

Who’s this going to hurt the most? As always, the middle and lower classes. Reducing interest rates to historic lows just two years ago was not necessary. But guess what? Very soon, when the recession takes hold and the markets have lost billions, the Fed will lower rates again.

A vicious circle of ineptitude at its best.

Joseph Boyle, Atlantic Beach 

Downfall of a ‘stellar surgeon’

The exterior building is shown  July 5, 2022 at Ascension St. Vincent's Riverside in Jacksonville. Dr. Richard Heekin operated out of St. Vincent's Orthopedic Center of Excellence.
The exterior building is shown July 5, 2022 at Ascension St. Vincent's Riverside in Jacksonville. Dr. Richard Heekin operated out of St. Vincent's Orthopedic Center of Excellence.

The in-depth Sept. 15 reporting on Dr. Richard Heekin’s last years at St. Vincent’s provided information that was nothing other than tragic. Irreversible, inexcusable and often catastrophic mistakes were made by Dr. Heekin, as well as by others in his orbit.

However, it should be remembered that before his life unraveled, Dr. Heekin was a stellar surgeon whose skills produced excellent outcomes for countless patients over many years. I will always be grateful for the successful outcome from the surgery he performed on my daughter 20 years ago.

This is all so very sad.

Shari Weitzner, Jacksonville 

Nate nails it (again)

What is the city thinking by the proposal to put an odd-shaped tower right in front of the Wells Fargo Center? We already have a beautiful building, right on the river, which instantly identifies us as Jacksonville.

Nate Monroe was right to call the idea “ludicrous” in his Sept. 25 column. Please — just don't.

Judy Jameson, Atlantic Beach

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Letters: Confederate statue removal won’t take us forward