Myrtle the turtle, you're on notice | May 23, story
City's turtle obsession is absurd
Oh, good grief. This persecution of Myrtle the turtle and her family by the city of St. Petersburg is the height of silliness. A textbook case of government gone mad without so much as a nod to common sense. As a taxpayer, I would love to know how many hours have been devoted to this nonsense. So far, how much has this cost us?
Please! I can spend an afternoon riding around our city and come up with a list of perhaps a hundred glaring code violations. And several hundred snipe signs. So why are Rick Dunn and city staff obsessing about an alleged "code violation" they cannot even define in the privacy the Conklin family's backyard?
Code enforcement has taken a hit due to recent budget cuts and they have chosen to focus on a herd, pack, flock, whatever, of turtles? These are rescued animals and one can assume they're quiet. The neighbors aren't even complaining, and I fail to see why this is a legitimate issue.
The minute I stop laughing about this I'm going to cry. Grow up, St. Petersburg, and get your priorities straight. We have more pressing concerns. Elections are quickly approaching and some of us voters will be watching closely to see if there is anyone out there who can rise to the occasion, show some good judgment and simply put an end to this nonsense. A few more zen gardens in this city would do us all some good.
Julia Brazier, St. Petersburg
Turtle owners understand
I read with sadness the story of Myrtle the turtle and her loving friend and keeper, Ken Conklin. As I write, my eyes fill with tears as I recall moving just three short weeks ago — the day I had to say goodbye to my own red-eared slider, Tucker. I could not take him where I was moving, and I was devastated.
I acquired Tucker from a friend when he was the size of a silver dollar, and bonded with him quickly. His personality put a smile on my face, and when I'd stroke his head, I'm certain he was smiling, too. Turtle owners understand this bond. The only thing that eased my mind the day I had to say goodbye to my friend of four years was that his new home is in a homemade pond in the backyard of a friend. I knew he would be happy there.
All too often, when people tire of taking care of these reptiles, they let them go into neighborhood lakes and ponds. The city isn't too happy with this reality and neither am I. I would never leave Tucker to fend for himself after being in captivity, and they are not a native species to this area.
Please, Mr. Conklin, keep fighting for your reptilian friends! Personally I am so glad that there are people like you to care for these animals and to provide them the paradise that they deserve. The city should be thanking you, not fining you!
Christine R. Philbin, Largo
Lawmakers were wise to fund new medical schools
The recently concluded legislative session was among the most difficult in Florida history. Leaders were confronted with a "perfect storm" of economic decline and budget deficits while making decisions about the state's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In a time of unprecedented economic crisis, the leaders of our Legislature displayed tremendous foresight and political courage in providing full funding for the new medical schools at the University of Central Florida and Florida International University. Our first classes of students arrive in August, and we must have the faculty, staff and resources to teach them, while simultaneously preparing for future classes of students. For that bold and visionary decision, we say thank you.
We commend the leadership in the Florida House and Senate, the Board of Governors and Gov. Charlie Crist for their strong commitment not only to our two new medical schools, but to all of the medical colleges in our state.
As the state's physician shortage grows, producing new doctors is more critical than ever. One of the first steps to improving health care is to ensure that well-trained doctors are available to treat patients.
Improved health care, however, is just one way medical schools impact the state. In a time of declining economic activity, our medical colleges are proven economic engines for Florida.
Recent reports show that the UCF and FIU Colleges of Medicine will have a combined economic impact of more than $16 billion on our state and will help to create about 100,000 jobs by 2025. The two medical schools also will help to generate nearly a total of a billion dollars in additional state tax revenues by 2025.
Though these are challenging times for Florida's economy, medical education and its associated economic impact continue to be beacons that illuminate a path to a better future for our students, universities, citizens and state.
John C. Hitt, president, University of Central Florida; and Modesto A. Maidique, president, Florida International University
Health care reform
We need a real debate
The current health care system is in collapse. Unless we move to a single-payer system there is little chance for it remaining viable. As a nurse who has been a health care provider, consumer and part of the health insurance industry, I have seen it from every angle.
There is too much money going into the insurance industry and into the halls of Congress for there to be any reasonable debate on this issue. Congress serves at the pleasure of the American public, not private industry. We need to have a real discussion on how this "health care" industry dictates our access, drops us when we need health care the most and how the business community cannot remain viable with rising health care costs eating up their profits. The concept of a health care "industry" is not a democratic principle and it is destroying the very fabric of our nation.
Beyond the concept of a single-payer system we need the leadership of this nation to face up to and speak to the terrible state of our individual health due to excessive consumption of junk food. It is time to remove the subsidies paid to giant agribusiness, which floods the market with cheap garbage that is passed off as real food. Soda and toaster pastries are not the way to feed a nation of growing young minds and bodies. Please do us all a favor and tax the hell out of junk food, lift subsidies to agribusiness and support local sustainable farmers and school lunch programs so we can began to turn this ship of state in the correct direction.
Rita Sewell, St. Petersburg
One bill he should sign, one to veto | May 21, Howard Troxler column
For better patient access
The Pinellas County Medical Association appreciates Howard Troxler's recent discussion of SB 1122 and his support. The bill will greatly increase patients' access to "out of network" doctors as designated by their insurance plans. The bill allows patients to sign a form that authorizes their insurance benefit to be paid directly to the doctor of their choice.
The doctor would be paid the same amount, whether he or she is "in network" or "out of network." This vastly decreases the hassles many patients face when asking the insurance company to reimburse them for an office visit. The doctor need not bill them directly and there need not be months of confusing insurance statements and possible letters from collection agencies. Instead, the patient and the doctor can focus on what is important: managing the patient's medical problem. In fact, the patient will now be able to choose from all doctors in the area — not just the ones the insurance companies have handpicked.
Patients should call Gov. Charlie Crist and ask him to ignore the insurance companies' demand that this bill be vetoed. While they claim costs will go up, this is a familiar scare tactic. Doing things "their way" has resulted in premiums that have increased about 70 percent this decade, even with their current "in network" policy. It is time for a change.
Vibhuti Singh, M.D., immediate past president, Pinellas County Medical Association, Clearwater
Trail of errors in baby's death | May 28, story
Stay focused on this tragedy
How on earth can the Department of Children and Families not conclude that baby Emanuel Wesley Murray's death could have been prevented? Where have they been? Starting with little Bradley McGee and probably long before him, if memory serves me correctly, in almost all cases of child abuse it was the boyfriend or father who did the abusing, so there is absolutely no excuse for DCF to not have investigated the background of Richard McTear — none whatsoever!
The heads should be rolling from Tallahassee on down, but just as in the past 20-plus years this needless death of a helpless child will be swept under the rug, we'll have another name change and nothing will really change.
I urge the Times to keep the spotlight on this story and the DCF until the governor cleans house and meaningful change takes place.
Robert W. Goodin, Tampa
At every turn, food is his risk | May 26
An unreasonable demand
Just about the time you think you've heard it all regarding what parents expect from the school system, something really incredible pops up.
Why in the world would the parents of the food-allergic child think the school district should pay for a person to be with him every minute? It is unreasonable to the Nth degree.
If these parents want someone to monitor their child every minute, let them pay for it. If they both must work and can't homeschool the boy, they should change their lifestyle or hire a tutor to school him at home.
Don't expect the taxpayers to pay for your child's allergies especially since its been five years since he's had to use the EpiPen. This is unreasonable beyond imagination.
Kay Kelly, Clearwater
Budget stuffed with fewer turkeys | May 27
It's no turkey
As a docent at the Florida Holocaust Museum, I am shocked that TaxWatch would call state funding to the Florida Holocaust Museum a turkey!
The $125,000 restoration is only a fraction of the state's previous funding. Last year, with funding significantly less, the museum cut programs and laid off staff as it struggled to keep its doors open.
The museum is a major tool in fulfilling Florida's mandate to teach the Holocaust to school students.
But that's not all. Through school field trips, teaching trunks and speakers in classrooms, the museum uses the vehicle of the Holocaust to teach character education. After the three R's, is there a lesson more important?
Mary Ann Marger, St. Petersburg
We cannot prosper without a strong middle class | May 26, letter
Many are investors
The letter writer wrongly argues that the performance of the stock market "generally benefits those few with above-average disposable income."
Despite such populist demagoguery, the middle class is actually a major participant in the stock market. During the 1980s and 1990s tax law was changed to create individual retirement accounts and Keogh plans. These vehicles allowed workers to delay taxes on retirement savings.
Simultaneously, financial markets created new investment vehicles for middle class investors, such as certificate of deposit accounts, mutual funds, index funds, and 401(k) plans. These innovations decreased the transaction costs of investing; Americans no longer needed a personal stockbroker to participate in the stock market.
The numbers speak for themselves. In 1980 approximately one-sixth of Americans owned stock; in 1990 one-third owned stock; and finally in 2000 one-half owned stock.
The implication that the investment opportunities of the stock market are open only to the privileged rich is plainly incorrect. This development makes waging class warfare difficult, as punitive policymaking against business interests often does collateral damage to the savings and investments of the middle class. Liberals should join forces with this newfound investor class before it abandons them.
James Roesch, Oldsmar
Agent's dealings questioned | May 15, story
A malicious article
It is sad that our "human condition" seeks to hurt each other for egoic satisfaction. The ego loves its resentment of reality and this article was most unrealistic. When I read this malicious article, it reminded me of the insane state we are in as a species. Eckhart Tolle quoted this best in A New Earth: "Because when I criticize or condemn another, it makes me feel bigger, superior."
It is my desire to uplift the misguided and encourage us all to learn to treat each other better. I wish to live by example by forgiving and praying for those who seek to harm others.
The allegations about me are so far from the truth. But I understand the "human condition" thanks to the wise teachings of Buddha, Jesus, Albert Ellis, Eckhart Tolle, and the like. I know newspapers are dying and it is sad that some must resort to tabloid-type slander to try to survive. It is well known that negative emotion sells far more papers than factual news does. I forgive those involved and pray that they become more conscious and present. I forgive the anonymous bloggers that seek to harm, as well. I wish for them the courage to learn the skill of critical thinking and seek the truth.
I think Mark Twain put it best when he said, "If you don't read the paper you are uninformed, if you do read the paper you are misinformed." I normally would not stoop to participate in this madness, but I felt it my duty to stand up for other victims of this type of irresponsible journalism. It is unfortunate that some want to tear successful, good people down. God bless all those who are victims of this type of media malpractice.
Lori Polin, Tampa
What the GOP needs | May 22; Not government's job | May 24, letters
The general welfare
Both letter writers speak of reading the Constitution and what it does and does not mention. One seems to oppose taxing the people to provide services and the other says it is not the government's job to take care of its people in the form of health care.
Which Constitution are they reading? Obviously, it is not the Constitution of the United States of America!
The very first sentence of the very first paragraph of the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution specifically states: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America."
Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged, defines "welfare" as "the organized effort of a community or organization to improve the living conditions and standards of its members."
What the two letters writers are asking for is a "less perfect union" and I, personally, find that unacceptable!
Matthew K. Gowdy, St. Petersburg