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I had two large shrimp boats in Key West when Dennis and Katrina came thru. Both storms battered my boats too bad for me to repair them. I contacted FEMA and was told that they would help. I had to get my boats to a railway and have estimates for repairs. So I took them back to my home town of Tarpon Springs and did as I was told. And when I contacted them again I was told the devastation was too great in Mississippi and Louisiana for them to help me. I borrowed fuel on credit down in Key West to get my boats to the railway, and even though Tarpon Springs used to be a fishing village now there isn't dock space for our boats. I had to bank my boats on the edge of the river using fuel in a five-gallon bucket to move them. Now they're sitting there, and no way to repair them. I'm being fined daily and told I am gonna have two felony charges, one for each boat, if I don't remove them in thirty days. Water has gotten into the engines, so now they're in even worse shape.

I did get a job mowing grass for $10 an hour, and I'm thankful just to feed my family. Both my wife and I work and have just enough to pay taxes and insurance on our home. I sold what property I had and lost 300,000 dollars' worth of boats. I'm lucky to still have my home. Over twenty years of fishing and shrimping made a fair living for us. I sure miss my old life on the water, but need to move these boats. I don't want to go to jail or have them felonies just because two storms destroyed my life and boats. The city of Tarpon Springs wants about $25,000 in fines and then $30,000 to $40,000 to remove each boat. Are other hurricane victims being treated like this also? Thats twenty years of my life and 300,000 dollars' worth of boats, and I sure wouldn't just abandon them. I survived two major hurricanes and now I'm facing this nightmare. Thanks for any info. 727-741-1937

Joe Renardo

Tarpon Springs, FL

Oct 10 2007 - 9:27pm

Web Letter

We shouldn't ever forget the deplorable response of our government to this disaster. Today, President Bush is asking for another $50 billion to pay for a few weeks' worth of a wasting war overseas--the total cost will soon surpass the trillion dollar mark. Don't tell me that we couldn't have invested this money more wisely--including making America safer through improving the living conditions domestically and internationally; I can think of many ways, smarter ways to spend our national resources. For instance, it'd take 1/5 of Bush's latest request to eradicate malaria in Africa for one year.

Any aid to foreign lands that actually improves the human condition it is in the best interest of the US. We can't kill enough terrorists faster than they're being made, often by our own actions. Being tough and powerful is good only if such are wisely used. Good deeds and good will are more effective than bullets in the long run. And, I'd guess cheaper too.

Obviously it's not only about money, but also of priorities. For example, we spend the most than any other country (percentage of GDP) on healthcare while we leave 45 million (their numbers larger than many countries) uninsured and many more under-insured. Most personal bankruptcies are due to overwhelming medical expenses, and most of those are from people who do have some kind of health insurance.

The scenes (often witnessed in underdeveloped countries) from New Orleans two years ago revealed an unpleasant truth about the US--a reality we have to face if we're to make progress. We should begin by carefully examining our national priorities. But, we all need to pay more attention and demand accountability from our leaders who we should elect after serious consideration. Elections have consequences, and it's a serious duty of every citizen to participate in the affairs of his/her nation.

The conservatives often said that they wanted to shrink the government so much that it could drown in a bathtub. In reality what they've done under the current regime is to shrink the social services (like cutting S-CHIP) while increasing the size & scope of Big Brother! Spending money on a war of (bad) choice, while transferring wealth to the top-tier income bracket. No, we need health insurance, we need libraries, we need a good public transportation system, we need access to education, we need consumer protection, we need national parks, we need clean environment, etc.

I think we have our priorities all screwed up, and we often fall into the trap that we can't afford all those goodies. Well, let's see where the money goes, including the wealth that's shifted through tax policy. Let's have an honest debate about it. I understand that not every person has the same priorities, but I'm willing to bet that most Americans, given the facts, would not vote for a politician who promises to vote for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, while he also votes to build a bridge to nowhere for several hundred millions of dollars. What's more important, having true family values, like health insurance for kids and parents, or conducting unnecessary wars every twenty-five years on false pretenses?

The list goes on... Life too, if you're lucky!

George Picoulas

New York, NY

Aug 29 2007 - 12:16pm

Web Letter

The article states, "Because the Bush Administration refused to allow emergency funds to pay municipal workers' salaries, 3,000 were fired." Really? Since when do federal funds pay for municipal employees? Why not blame the city government, which is actually responsible for those employees? Or the state government, who is the next step up the ladder and holds initial "State of Emergency" powers and responsibility?

Oh, right... those were Democrats, and don't really fit into the Bash Bush mantra.

Bush and cronies handled Katrina terribly, but when you blame them for stuff way outside their responsibility, thinking people begin to wonder how much more was similar hyperbole. In other words, by bashing Bush inappropriately, you lessen the impact when it's appropriate.

Tony McNamara

Snohomish, WA

Aug 24 2007 - 11:51am