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Letters to the editor, February 24

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Alderman Craig Schmid talks at the microphone

Alderman Craig Schmid is carrying the mayor's fire pension overhaul bills. In this photo from Feb. 10, taken inside St. Louis aldermanic chambers in City Hall, Schmid requests one of the early bills be assigned to a committee for debate. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

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Why pick on police, fire departments when city's problems are far deeper?

Regarding "Fire pensions' climb to crisis" (Feb. 12): While we are reading about the cost to the city for the police and fire department pensions, let us not forget what partially got us into this fix. Barbara Giesman, the former deputy mayor for development, admitted that the city gave away more than $600 million in real estate taxes to developers, many of whom were responsible for total failures and disasters. Take a look at St. Louis Marketplace and Steve Trampe and the Arcade Building and John Steffen and Pyramid Construction Co. If the city had the $600 million back, we wouldn't be talking about financial crises in city pensions or cutting back basic city services.

This is not to say that the city pension problems do not need to be addressed. We thought the city had ended the giving back of all pension contributions with the Marie Jeffries scandal, but apparently it did not. Giving back all of the contributions doesn't make sense. The same goes for unused sick days. Use it or lose it is the norm in most businesses.

Why pick on the police and fire departments? What are the pension plans for the mayor and his staff and the Board of Aldermen?

Let's be a little honest and place the blame for our city employee pension problems where they belong, and it certainly is not with the firefighters and policemen.

Anthony J. Sestric • St. Louis

Protecting businesses

The editorial "Freedom fight" (Feb. 13) attacked the Missouri House of Representatives for its passage of what it called discriminatory bills.

As the president of Missouri's oldest business advocate association, I support passage of the employment law reform legislation. The Missouri House and Senate recently passed legislation that neither promotes discrimination nor excuses it. House Bill 1219 and Senate Bill 592 continue to protect employees from racism, sexism and any other form of discrimination. The bills simply align Missouri law with federal standards that prevent business owners from dismissing an employee when "motivated" by discrimination.

If a business discriminates against an employee, that business should be penalized. But recent court decisions have allowed frivolous lawsuits and outrageous court awards to employees who were insubordinate or a danger in the workplace. Employers have a tough time proving that discrimination played no role in the decision to dismiss an employee who is a member of a protected class, if it is evident that employee belongs to a protected class, even though discrimination may have played no role in the dismissal decision. Cases like these have punished companies or managers who are looking out for the best interest of the company and its employees.

Making sure employees who are discriminated against are truly protected while helping innocent businesses defend themselves in a manner that is aligned with federal law will not make it easier for businesses to discriminate against employees. The federal standard requiring an employee to prove discrimination was a "motivating" factor should be the law in Missouri and would allow those businesses that truly discriminate to be punished while protecting businesses that dismiss employees for valid, work-related reasons.

Ray McCarty • Jefferson City

President, Associated Industries of Missouri

Unjustifiable money grab

Regarding "School revenue up during recession" (Feb. 19): Who would have guessed in 2009 that the federal stimulus money, needed ostensibly for President Barack Obama's touted 'shovel-ready" infrastructure projects, actually was to be used to subsidize school operations? This, despite that the schools reportedly were doing quite well without an infusion of new money.

It now appears the only thing 'shovel-ready" was the load of rhetorical bull scat heaped on taxpayers to justify this money grab.

Don Weiss • Ferguson

A new Golden Rule

Regarding Kathleen Parker's "Civility is golden" (Feb. 21): Today's Golden Rule appears to translate as "he who has the gold, makes the rule," underlined and emboldened by a certain segment of our society.

The pandering to ignorance, elevation of nonsense and, most prominent, the distribution of false information serves their needs in defending their status in the status quo. Manners and civility construct a useful, polished patina, but, for many, their golden rules are rooted in the unfettered free market. Life was a lot happier for a lot more people when the old Golden Rule was the key "value proposition and critical success" factor for being a leader in society.

Bill Sharpless • St. Louis

More spin to refute spin

The "Spin is spin" (Feb. 21) editorial was just kind of hanging there. I am not familiar with the Heartland Institute or the leaked material. I guess the Heartland Institute is skeptical that global warming is caused by humans, seeks to promote that skepticism and has concluded that most principals and teachers support global warning without research of such persons' views.

I think the institute's expression of this presumption is probably correct given broadly accepted views of many, but I have no study to corroborate this. It is fair to note that some scientists take exception to the broadly accepted views, presumably on scientific grounds. As to the base question, sometimes the people acting in self-interest are right, sometimes they are wrong.

The editorial sounded a lot like spin to me.

John G. Horen • St. Louis

Governing under the influence

In other nations, businesses sometimes are expected to pay off government officials to conduct their affairs. Americans are horrified and take comfort that things like that don't happen in our country. But some day, someone will need to explain to me the difference between that kind of corruption and our system of "pay to play." The only difference, it seems, is that we report the payoffs to our politicians on tax returns, at least sometimes (not for the super political action committees).

Until campaign reform becomes the universal and predominant issue of importance, the smug feeling of superiority over those "corrupt" countries simply is delusional. When just a few people can contribute an enormous amount of money to keep a person "viable" for a run for president, our country seems headed the way of the countries we deride.

This is our fault for allowing the money to influence us rather than doing the work to educate ourselves as to the candidates and equating money to free speech.

Ted Frapolli • St. Louis

Inaction in Washington, D.C.

Republicans want more drilling for oil in Alaska and off shore. So why didn't they issue the necessary leases and permits to do so when they controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress? And when the Democrats had complete control in 2009 and 2010, why didn't they eliminate the subsidies to oil companies to which they now object?

It seems both parties talk the talk but don't walk the walk. It is time for the libertarian philosophy of government to be embraced: Drill for oil, eliminate subsidies and promote private development of all energy sources.

David E. Duke • Chesterfield

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