If reading about the 1,600 turtles that escaped a Summerville, Ga., farm had you thinking about getting one as a pet, please think again ("Turtles flee farm in Chattooga County," July 19).
In 1975, a federal ban prohibited the distribution of small turtles in the United States due to public health concern over salmonella, of which turtles are carriers. Despite the ban, baby turtles continue to be offered illegally as prizes and pets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several salmonella outbreaks have been linked to turtles, most notably a 2007 and 2008 outbreak that sickened 107 people, mostly children, in 34 states. A 4-week-old Florida infant died from the disease after her family was given a turtle illegally sold at a flea market.
The turtles are victims, too. Most reptile owners have their pets for less than one year -- countless die from being kept in inadequate conditions while others are released outdoors where they can threaten ecosystems. Proper turtle care requires special lighting and temperature control as well as adequate water and space.
The Humane Society of the United States encourages those who want animal companionship to stick with traditional household pets such as dogs and cats, instead of contributing to the cruel trade in reptiles.
JESSICA DuBOIS, Georgia State Director, The Humane Society of the United States
As they say on TV talent shows, "Give it up for the Shepherd Community!" While the city of Chattanooga spends thousands of dollars to study our gang problem, the Shepherd Community has created and funded on its own program that, in my opinion, has the potential to be very effective. The program is called STARS (Shepherd Training Academics Respect Service) (Chattanooga Times Free Press, Metro section, July 21).
This creative and positive-action approach seems to echo a favorite quote from Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche International Communities: "To love someone is to reveal to them their value and help them discover that they are precious." What a life-changing gift we can all give to our youth!
BETTY B. JOHNSON
The City of Chattanooga should have an Internal Audit Department unfettered by the personal agendas of the executive and legislative branches of government. An internal auditor should not be subject to potential intimidation by elected officials who might be embarrassed by the actions of staff or possibly implicated in the waste or abuse of city assets. When an internal auditor can be "hired and fired" by a mayor, the audit function is naturally constrained. When an audit conclusion is buried for political reasons, the public suffers. An independent Internal Audit Department is a necessity for government transparency.
Please vote yes for an independent auditor. We need an Audit Department that is as free as possible from political whims and special interests. Oversight of the city auditor, by an audit committee composed of certified public accountants, internal auditors and fraud examiners just makes good sense.
DEBORAH SCOTT, District 1 Representative, Chattanooga City Council
I have worked with Todd Gardenhire and his opponent for several decades in political campaigns. Todd Gardenhire was one of the first people in Tennessee to support Ronald Reagan and earned the president's respect while serving on the president's and the first lady's advance teams.
Through these years, Todd has lived the Reagan philosophy and has earned the right to be compared to Ronald Reagan. For anyone to suggest that Todd's opponent is more conservative is ridiculous. Todd was a member of Young Americans for Freedom before it was fashionable to be a conservative. Todd worked to elect Ronald Reagan and has lived the Reagan philosophy his entire adult life; his philosophy has not changed just to suit his political needs.
If you want smaller government, better schools and accountability, then you need to vote for Todd Gardenhire for state Senate. He will represent your conservative values in Nashville, and you can trust Todd to keep his word.
MARY KATHERINE LIEBE, East Ridge
When it comes to conducting useless investigations, congressional Republicans are faster to act than a hobo hopping on a hot dog.
For a political party that says they oppose wasteful government spending, why don't Republicans investigate what happened to $51 billion of Iraq reconstruction money that went to waste? Oh no, can't do that because that might be doing something constructive and the results may show that their rich contractor buddies were the ones who fleeced Uncle "Sugar" out of all that cash by charging $100 for common gate valves valued at $1.50 (just one example of the waste, fraud and abuse).
And how about all those freshmen "tea party" senators spending lavishly for rental cars? Oh yeah, they're against wasteful spending, all right.
Here's a solution to stop wasteful government spending. Do what the mayor of Scranton, Pa., did. Cut congressional salaries to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. No, that won't work either because if we did that, Congress would still be overpaid.
RICHARD A. SHANKEN, Rocky Face, Ga.
Define irony: The Times says I'm too conservative and the Free Press says I'm not a conservative. I don't get it.
During my interview with the editors of this paper, I believe there was a gross misunderstanding of some of my fundamental positions.
I do believe it is the proper role of the government to "protect citizens," not from themselves, but from outside dangers. A lot of our government's programs sound great but crowd out private and individual responsibility to provide these same services.
But on education, I am not for spending more money on education just to throw money at it. I believe I was very clear when I said I would strongly support "reallocating" what funds the state provides, giving more to grades 1 through 5, and promoting a "trade school" in the inner-city, similar to how Kirkman was to Chattanooga many years ago instead of making these kids travel all the way up to Soddy-Daisy.
My many years of actually working in campaigns of Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp and receiving multiple appointments from the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations should speak for themselves, but evidently, they don't.
After these editorials were printed, I have received many phone calls from many friends who I would characterize as moderate to liberal Democrats kidding me about my "new" reputation.
TODD GARDENHIRE, Candidate ,10th District, Tennessee State Senate
I have come to view the word "alleged" as one of the most despicable words in use today. It seems to convey a sense of uncertainty as to whether a criminal is guilty. For criminals caught in the commission of a crime, there is no doubt. Thus the word "alleged" does not apply, whether or not that person is ever convicted. The media would be well served to stop using it in these instances.
MICHAEL E. LONG, East Ridge
Every time there is a massacre or some other tragedy involving gore and mayhem, experts try to determine the cause. Much noise is given by the media. First comes the "guns too easy to access." Then comes the "deranged" factor. On and on it goes about the causes.
Little or nothing is said about he influence on our young people of graphic horrible scenes in movies, on TV, the Internet, etc.
Hollywood and others issue an apology and groan about their "thoughts" being with the families. Their thoughts are "when can we schedule more of the same?"
According to the media, the "Batman" movie showing at the theater in Aurora "has several scenes of public mayhem -- a hallmark of superhero movies. In one scene, Bane leads an attack on a stock exchange, and in another he leads a shooting and bombing rampage on a packed football stadium."
Any ideas, young people?
The producers will continue to produce horrific shows as long as they can make money.
God help us.
Re: the editorial "Scouts' gay ban is bad policy" (July 19). Your editorial criticized the Boy Scouts of America for excluding gays. I commend them for their moral stand of character and righteousness.
The editorial made reference to the "growing scientific opinion that homosexuality is a matter of genetics." Scientists are not the authority on the subject, our Creator is! The Word of God is the foundational truth. He made us to have mates of the opposite sex. God established that as the course of nature and crowned it with the ability to reproduce after our own kind. Homosexuals can't reproduce.
I'm thankful for the stand of the Boy Scouts of America and also for Chick-Fil-A's stand against same-sex marriage.
RONNIE JONES, McDonald, Tenn.
The story about Charmane D. Goins and the Bistro at Beth in Alton Park by Joan Garrett (July 14) was superb, especially about the real help Mr. Goins received from Bethlehem Center's faith-based program operated by neighborhood hero Lurone Jennings Sr. and from Launch, co-founded by Hal Bowling.
The article caused me to wonder: If the Chattanooga Housing Authority had operated effective economic opportunity programs for the residents of Emma Wheeler Homes when Mr. Goins was growing up there, maybe he would not have joined a gang, moved to Dalton, Ga., and spent 15 years in prison.
Maybe, if CHA did effective work today, young men, eager to be employed, would not be hanging out on corners in Alton Park and sitting on curbs in the Westside.
Maybe, if the CHA and its employees were charged with criminal and/or civil offenses for their inability to account for $3.4 million of taxpayers' money, current CHA programs would be designed to succeed.
Elder Phyllis Thomas, Volunteer Minister of Social Work, Renaissance Presbyterian Church
The Greenwood Baptist Church of Ooltewah, Tenn., would like to express our deepest appreciation to all the individuals and businesses for the outpouring of support during our efforts to help with the recent disaster relief during March in the Ooltewah community.
TOBY BROGDEN, Pastor
I feel serving the people of the 3rd District is a serious endeavor. I for one think it's important for a congressman to have experience at something before running for office.
I want my congressman to have possibly met a payroll in a small business or run a division in a corporation or served in the military. I want them to have made some decisions that have affected other people's lives. Age is not the issue ... substance and experience is.
Weston Wamp states the record in Washington is broken, but how can he fix it? How can he vote on bills to stimulate and regulate an economy in which he's never participated? No, Mr. Wamp, sorry, I do not approve your message because there just isn't one.
The articles about the Dade County Library this week have been very helpful to our cause. We have set up a site for donations online, and folks are being very generous.
We appreciate the donations by Board Chair Carolyn Bradford and Superintendent Shawn Tobin on Tuesday, but another board member deserves great praise.
David Powell and his business, Southern Lineman College, made a significant donation of $5,000 to the library last Monday after the first day of hearings. He did not want this gift to be used to enhance his re-election efforts, but I think that he deserves our public thanks. I and others have found him to be responsive to us, even before his attempt to change the budget to include the library. Sometimes all citizens want from elected officials is to know that they will pay attention to their concerns. His decision to make a motion to amend the budget was much harder than writing a check. Supporters of the library will not forget, either.
DONNA M. STREET, Trenton, Ga.
During the years that I have known Todd Gardenhire, he has been giving, kind and honest. Todd has given of himself to politics, but that is not the whole story. Todd has given his time to serve on numerous boards both locally and nationally, and he never wanted praise or recognition for his efforts.
Only people who know him well even know about Todd's civic involvements in such activities as Highland Park Baptist Church's Camp Joy, serving as trustee for Bethel Bible Village or mentoring students at Howard High School.
As a conservative, Todd understands that individuals, not government, will make the difference in people's lives -- especially our youth.
Todd Gardenhire has lived his conservative values and earned the endorsements of the Tennessee Conservative Union, Tennessee Right to Life and the National Rifle Association.
I urge all Republicans to vote for Todd Gardenhire to state senator. Todd is a man of his word and will not misrepresent his position.
KATHY Z. BLACK
Deciphering Obama's smokescreen of deception requires one to use his own intelligence and wisdom to uncover the truth. Sadly, 44 percent of Americans fail to see the propaganda behind Obama's tax-the- wealthy dogma. Moreover, the Bible teaches us to avoid covetousness of our neighbors' possessions, particularly by force. Furthermore, spreading the wealth to the less fortunate must be of a voluntary nature, not confiscatory. Redistributing the wealth by governmental means only serves to destroy the self-initiative and work ethic of the more industrious citizenry.
The more wealthy job creators should be held in high esteem by our president rather than be envied and despised. Remove the higher taxes and business regulations so both small and large businesses can thrive once again.
Four more years of the worst presidential leadership ever experienced in this nation will further perpetuate the United States as the continuing "whipping boy" for China and the OPEC nations. Restore nationalistic pride and force a greater number of people to become "producers" rather than "consumers" who sap the wealth of this nation.
Finally, remove all Democrats from office to restore this nation to greatness.
ERIC W. KRAJESKY, For Oglethorpe, Ga.