The hotly contested presidential campaign took Americans to extraordinary places not all that pretty with venomous personal and political attacks. Letter writers responded to the political combat in droves with strong views coming from both sides, as should be the case though some missives were a bit overheated.
The title of king of the pithy labels aimed at his opponents, both Republican and Democrat, belongs to President-elect Donald Trump — “Crooked Hillary,” “Little Marco” and “Lying Ted” among them — resonated with voters as did his policy promises and business success. Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings doomed her candidacy.
Among the latest hot topics has been the legitimacy of the Electoral College since Trump lost the popular vote but won the college in a landslide.
Those are but two issues tackled by our letter writers, who contributed mightily to public discussions and debates of local, state, national and international issues. Some highlights:
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Ed Goff of Bradenton, a frequent letters contributor and vigilant government critic, earns our respect for his thoughtful writing, though we may not agree with all his views. His most recent missive, published on Christmas, praised the Manatee County school board for its vote to restore impact fees at the full 100 percent rate as recommended by a consultant, a point we embrace and other writers applauded, too, offsetting the many barbs thrown at the board.
We like Bradenton writer Peter Ruscoe’s suggestion to turn Old Main Street into a pedestrian precinct for a couple blocks downtown where restaurants and nightclubs are prolific. Other cities have found great success with such a move, attracting larger crowds since vehicle traffic no longer imperils their movement.
Bradenton’s Sandra Bond penned a passionate message to the school board, shaming them for withholding teacher pay raises over a stalemate with the teachers union on increases in health insurance premiums for many district employees. Her daughter, a 16-year veteran teacher, works two jobs to make ends meet. Bond’s point is well taken.
The Manatee County Animal Shelter and other pet concerns continued to animate residents. Holmes Beach resident Len O’Hara’s big-picture perspective included the need for a modern county shelter; the idea that the county should work toward becoming a national animal welfare convention destination; the promotion of kindness in colleges and schools, and the enrichment and therapeutic aspects of pet ownership — all certainly desirable.
Some letters prompted action by governments and broader news coverage, even from a Tampa TV station. Such was the case with John Lundin’s exposure of a city-owned lot being used as a dumping ground for human waste in paper products. Bradenton city crews responded more than once as the perpetrators continued dumping and have yet to be caught.
The many letters of thanks to businesses and individuals whose commendable actions earned the spotlight are gratifying, including Edna L. Johnson’s appreciation to the “caring person” who turned in her purse after she left it in a shopping cart. Linda Doran of Palmetto had the same experience. Those and other letters prove the integrity that abounds here.
Palmetto’s Leland Taylor, Esq., gave high praise to the Manatee County Probation and Drug Court Services for the “thankless job” tackled by individuals who “sincerely want to improve the lives of the many they serve.”
A tip of the hat to Bradenton’s William Dalgarno, a Scot who served in the British Royal Air Force during World War II. He was “extremely impressed” with the “wonderful people of Arcadia, led by the Rotary Club,” who for the past six decades have tended to the gravesites of the 23 Brits who perished while training to be pilots here — with services every Memorial Day, too, with prayers and a piper.
On the flip side, there were also tales of evil as Bonnie Meier recounted in her condemnation of whoever stole her infirm 78-year-old husband’s sole Christmas decoration after he spent years decorating his yard with many holiday embellishments — thus destroying his holiday spirit.
Manatee County commissioners came under sharp criticism for residential development approvals. Andy Lee of Bradenton, a 40-year county resident, took aim from the perspective of someone with deep institutional knowledge who served as one of the authors of the 1985 Comprehensive Plan. He decried the loss of the quiet, farming community of Parrish to development while acknowledging he doesn’t want to halt growth but urged less intensity.
On local elections, the two half-cent sales tax initiatives — one from the school board, the other from the county — mostly reaped negative responses. Jim McKinney of Ellenton blamed commissioners for failing to address budget issues earlier, but admitted voters had little choice but approval, a “hard pill to swallow.” Both measures passed.
Out of the hundreds of letters the Herald published in 2016, we could only pick a few favorites. Our thanks to all the authors for putting your energy, spirit and views into the public arena. Please continue to write.