Sarasota County's leaders show disdain for libraries - and the citizens who use them

Protesters attend a meeting of the library board in Campbell County, Wyoming, in July. The library system is one of many across the country that has cut ties with the American Library Association amid criticism that the organization has become politicized.
Protesters attend a meeting of the library board in Campbell County, Wyoming, in July. The library system is one of many across the country that has cut ties with the American Library Association amid criticism that the organization has become politicized.
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Stop waging culture war against libraries

At the Nov. 14 Sarasota County Commission meeting, an overcapacity crowd attended in support of retaining membership in the American Library Association and the Florida Library Association and against attempts to restrict books.

One hundred handheld signs read “Don’t Ban Books!” and “Support ALA, FLA!” The chair told people they couldn’t hold them up. More than 1,000 petition signatures supporting ALA and FLA funding were presented.

The commissioners’ office previously stated that since the memberships were a discussion item, a vote wouldn’t occur that day.

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Sixty people spoke in support of the library memberships and against restricting books. A handful spoke in opposition, including several who sought book restrictions in Sarasota schools.

Commissioner Joe Neunder talked out of both sides of his mouth, saying the membership question had nothing to do with banning books, while in the next breath stating he doesn’t want anything inappropriate in libraries that his kids might see.

It was pointed out that library collections present many sides of issues and that mothers and fathers are responsible for parenting their children.

It’s disingenuous to say this has nothing to do with book banning; Florida’s become infamous for it!

In the end, the commissioners voted 4-1 to stop funding ALA and FLA memberships.

Robin Taub Williams, Sarasota

Commissioners unfazed by fascism

The Sarasota County commissioners voted to end memberships in the American and Florida Library Associations based on the ALA president claiming to be a Marxist.

I find it puzzling that these same Republican commissioners embrace former President Donald Trump, the leader of their party, who espouses fascist rhetoric. Trump pledges to use the levers of government, such as the IRS and Justice Department, to jail his political enemies, deport immigrants and curtail the free press.

The Constitution will be done away with, political violence will be embraced and the military will be used against citizens. He uses dehumanizing language like “vermin” and “poisoning the blood.”

Trump is running his campaign as a full-blown fascist, but not a word from these commissioners.

Terri David, Venice

Eliminate usurious interest on credit cards

I just got a credit card bill from one of our major department stores and was shocked to see that the Annual Percentage Rate for this account is 31.99%. What kind of company would charge 31.99% interest on unpaid balances on a credit card?

Some of my other cards charge rates around 19% to 21%. Florida’s usury law prohibits interest rates above 18% on loans up to $500,000.

How do credit cards get around this?  State law exempts institutions like banks that provide “consumer loans.” My department store credit card is issued by “Department Stores National Bank,” and my airline miles cards are similarly protected from usury because they are issued by banks.

There is no federal law that limits credit card interest rates, except a 36% maximum for military service people.

Usury means an immoral or illegal rate of interest.  Certainly 31.99% is immoral and should be illegal. There should be no exception for consumer credit debt where so many of our fellow citizens are putting their financial stability at risk just by carrying an unpaid balance.

Our state elected representatives have the power to eliminate this “bank” exception and usurious interest.

Marie Keeney, Sarasota

Conserve to save money, protect environment

I have long been impressed with the Herald-Tribune’s devotion to sharing diverse opinions, but “Your Turn” on Nov. 16 was so preposterous I could scarcely believe what I was reading (“Is it lights out for climate change? Why we need to use more energy”)!

The writers proposed that we should be striving to use more electricity? They used as a comparison the handful of countries that are blessed with abundant energy resources.

They stated that we now turn off lights based on “fear.” How about saving money? Conservation is always the cheapest way to both save money and protect the environment.

I am not against using nuclear energy, which the authors advocate for near the end of their piece. But if they wanted to make that point, why did they go on and on about the virtues of using more electricity – as if this were a good in itself?


John Manoush, North Venice

No high-rises on beach a selling point

So, as reported in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Nov. 17, Travel + Leisure named Anna Maria Island one of the world’s 50 Best Places to Travel next year, “thanks to its no-high-rises shoreline, incredible sunsets, and small-town feel.”

Take note, Sarasota County commissioners, as you ponder rezoning changes on Siesta Key. Listening to your own island constituents should outweigh everything, but it doesn’t hurt to listen to sources like Travel + Leisure as well.

Bob Clark, Venice

Trump will respect our Constitution

A column ran in the Herald-Tribune on Nov. 14 about Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s local talk on fascism and authoritarianism in the world, with particular reference to former President Donald Trump (“Speech offers an ominous survey of authoritarian, fascist tactics”).

Ben-Ghiat likened Trump’s success to the rise of Nazi Germany and cautioned about his political ambitions.

Not mentioned and very germane is that as president Trump pushed and succeeded in appointing three strict constitutionalist justices to the Supreme Court.

The Constitution stresses three co-equal branches of government in our republic. This action by Trump does not comport in any way with the fascism Ben-Ghiat talks about.

She should have talked about the party in power now trying to remove its chief political rival from election by imprisonment.

Never before seen in the USA, this tactic is not new in the world. It has been seen in Moscow, Caracas and Beijing.

Trump will again be a strong president, but within the framework of the Constitution as assured by the judiciary and legislative branches.

Richard D. Paolillo, Nokomis

Iran, Russia benefit from Mideast war

To understand the issues of the Israeli-Hamas war, we must first look at the timing and who benefits from the conflict.

Do the Israelis benefit? No, they are defending their country at a great loss in human lives and the cost of the war.

Does Hamas benefit? No, because of the Israeli violent response and its goal to wipe out the terrorist organization.

So why attack Israel now? Who does benefit? Certainly not the United States, which will now spend billions on both Israel and Ukraine. The Israel-Hamas war exacerbates a serious division between Republicans and Democrats.

So who does benefit? Iran and Russia.

Russia, because it will now have the winter to consolidate its defensive positions against Ukraine and rebuild its army and weapons.

Iran, because it knows that this is the best time to take advantage of the existing split in our nation’s political leadership. By supporting, condoning or directing Hamas in the attack, the Iranians are well aware that this is the best time to take advantage of the divisions in our foreign policy.

Make no mistake, Iran is dedicated to destroying “The Great Satan.” So the benefit goes to Russia and Iran.

Cornelius Quinn, North Port

Mexicans need help to recover from Otis

It is sad to hear that the Mexican government has mainly worked on repairing resort areas in Acapulco damaged by Hurricane Otis.

The government should prioritize helping the citizens living there repair the damage done by Otis on Oct. 25.

Although the Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has said he is going to support all his citizens, there hasn’t been much evidence of this yet.

At least 48 are dead and dozens missing. Minimal efforts have been made to repair the 220,000 houses that were destroyed. Hopefully, the citizens will soon receive the support they need to recover from the hurricane.

Gracie Smith, Bradenton, 10th grader, Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy

DeSantis: Stop hiding travel expenses

C’mon, Gov. Ron DeSantis, be transparent: Show us your travel expenses.

We’re already paying your salary, which is not being used for Floridians.

I guess I shouldn’t be too unhappy about the latter: When you do make laws for Florida, you’re unloving, un-Christian and destructive.

Show us where you’re traveling and what it’s costing us.

Lizabeth McKibben, Venice

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota County leaders must listen to citizens and protect libraries