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Beware of easy assumptions about Florida's growth

Florida needs new road map | Nov. 3, commentary

State's growth isn't a sure thing

Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, makes a number of good observations about the need for change in Florida. But his fundamental premise about the state's future may be badly flawed.

Wilson writes: "Consider the facts: Florida is projected to grow by 7 million more residents over the next 20 years." First off, a projection is an educated guess, not a fact. Growth forecasts should be used as guidelines, not gospel.

More importantly, when was this projection done? A lot has changed in the past few years that will have a significant effect on our state's population growth, making predictions formulated before 2008 irrelevant. Many retirement funds evaporated this past year, and the great baby boomer migration to Florida is not going to happen. This state no longer has the inexpensive cost of living that long made it so easy to move here.

The main engines of our economy, construction and growth itself, are dead with no signs of life on the horizon. We grew so much, so fast during the last 30 years that a lot of the original appeal has been lost.

There is also the issue of hurricanes and their effect on property insurance. Rates tripled for most people in a couple years as a result of the busy '04 and '05 seasons. Another active summer — maybe just one big storm — could cause rates to double again. That, plus the fear of hurricanes themselves, would further dampen growth prospects.

Considering all this, the prospect of 7 million new residents over the next 20 years is not very likely. It is critical for everyone from transportation planners to the Florida Chamber of Commerce to be realistic in their expectations of future population increases. Otherwise we'll be trying to get somewhere with a defective map.

Chip Thomas, Tampa

Florida needs new road map | Nov. 3, commentary

State needs a clear economic recipe

Great! Just what we need: another five-year plan, this one "coming soon" from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. There are numerous, well-intentioned Florida plans already out there. The chamber's economic development dashboard is a rear view mirror showing were we've been with these, and it is not pretty. Will this new plan show us how to get where we need to go and turn Florida into the No. 1 economic development engine in America?

Most so-called strategic plans fail because the No. 1 goal of most finished plans start with "Develop a plan to …" What we need instead is a Betty Crocker Strategic Plan. By that I mean a clear, measurable end product with step-by-step actions needed to get there. Betty Crocker first gives you a nice photo of what it is you are trying to create. Then comes a complete list of ingredients needed, followed by a careful description of how they are combined, in what order and finally the exact cooking instructions needed to turn the raw materials into a life-sustaining product. Chamber member businesses should recognize this as a business plan and apply those solid elements to any statewide strategic plan.

Two cautionary items:

1. Don't forget that we live within a very dynamic world economy. Any plan has to take into consideration how to deal with the unexpected changes that might occur along the way.

2. Don't try to develop an elaborate recipe for a fancy cake when simple bread may be what is needed.

Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach

Good for laughs

Your letters of Nov. 3 reminded me of a minister who introduced his sermon by saying, "I read the letters to the editors the other day. I find them to be humorous …"

Several writers warn that oil drilling off the Florida coast will ruin tourism, which drives the state's economy. Do these people believe the tourists walk to Florida? We need reasonably priced petroleum to ensure that millions of Americans can continue to drive to Florida to enjoy its pleasures.

The humor continues with the Paul Krugman column (Too little of a good thing). After spending a year chastising Americans for their profligate consumerism, he is saying the private sector must now carry on the deficit spending of the government to ensure economic recovery.

Last but not least you have the president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce calling for a transition to an economy that focuses on, "talent generation, innovation and high-wage jobs." Doesn't he know that one of the state's main industries is health care, which requires talent, innovation and high wages?

Keep up the good work. I need the laughs.

Leo Cecchini, Fort Myers Beach

Seminole man now a sex offender | Oct. 29 and Lafave can be with kids | Oct. 30

Disturbing disparity

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman recently sentenced a Seminole man with no prior felony record to 20 years in prison and 10 years probation for having oral sex with two girls, ages 12 and 14, he met on MySpace. (Where were the parents?)

In 2005 the same judge sentenced former teacher Debra Lafave to three years house arrest and seven years probation for having sexual intercourse multiple times with a boy, age 14, a student at her school. Last week, this same judge gave the former teacher more freedom and ruled that she be allowed contact with family and friends' children, and unsupervised contact with anyone under 18.

I have no problem with the Seminole man's sentence, but the enormity of the disparity in sentencing in these two cases, particularly by the same judge, leaves a lot to be desired.

Whether it be man or woman, the sexual crime they commit can affect the young victims for the rest of their lives. And the appropriate sentence should be dished out equally, regardless of gender or how pretty the sex offender may be.

Alan Ryan, Gulfport

The blessing of hospice

Hillsborough County can be thankful for many blessings. We live in a beautiful area of the country with friendly residents who value the many opportunities that this wonderful community offers.

But as we go about our daily routines, some of our friends, our neighbors and our loved ones are in a vulnerable place confronting a frightening scenario: They have received a terminal diagnosis. But fortunately we again are blessed to have compassionate hospice care available in Hillsborough County with dedicated caregivers who are ready to help.

November is National Hospice Month, a time to reflect on the types of care accessible when comfort measures are now a desired plan of care. While thinking about end-of-life care can be overwhelming, not thinking about it can lead to unnecessary pain and unwanted suffering.

Being on the LifePath Hospice board of directors has given me tremendous insight into the specialized, patient-centered care that hospices provide. Many people are unaware that hospice care addresses the physical, emotional, social and spiritual challenges that can go hand in hand with end-of-life issues. With professional health care staff and trained volunteers providing a circle of support, patients and their loved ones can focus on making the most of the remaining time they have together.

I know that a terminal diagnosis is crushing. But I encourage you to contact hospice as soon as possible if you or a loved one are in this place. You will come to find out that with hospice care, you can start to worry less and live more.

Tamara Shumate Brown, vice chair, LifePath Hospice board of directors, Temple Terrace

Beware of easy assumptions about Florida's growth 11/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 6:18pm]
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