Crist's bold step toward restoring the Everglades | June 25, editorial
Crist merits high praise for Everglades land deal
In this editorial you wrote: "Environmental groups are still stunned by the news." Stunned, yes. Also thrilled, awed, humbled, shocked and perhaps even a little giddy.
But above all, we are extraordinarily grateful to Gov. Charlie Crist and the governing board and staff of the South Florida Water Management District for the courageous and smart proposal to acquire U.S. Sugar's holdings including 187,000 acres, much of it in the Everglades Agricultural Area, or EAA.
For decades, the missing piece of the overall puzzle to comprehensively restore the Everglades, recover Lake Okeechobee, and protect the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries has been sufficient availability of land for water storage, treatment and conveyance in the EAA. Management of land and water in this region profoundly affects the lake, coastal estuaries, the southern Everglades and Florida Bay, as well as the Glades communities. We are confident that the land acquired in this deal and subsequent transactions, along with planning and implementation of restoration projects, will provide extraordinary benefits for Florida's environment, economy and the communities dependent on water from the Everglades. And we are hopeful that someday the great colonies of wading birds will again define the Everglades landscape.
It is hard to overstate the value that 187,000 acres of land will have in the long run. It is safe to say that this one event could stand as the single most important step on the road to recovery and sustainability for the Everglades.
David Anderson, executive director, Audubon of Florida, Miami
Exxon case should serve as a warning
It was no surprise that in a guest column U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite joined the Republican bandwagon regarding offshore oil drilling. Brown-Waite's opinion is that offshore drilling, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Gulf Coast waters, will magically reduce gas prices.
She makes it sound like we will receive immediate relief at the pump. Most experts agree that even if offshore drilling were approved today, it would be years or decades before it could have any effect on our gasoline prices.
On the same day, the Times reported that the U.S. Supreme Court reduced what had been a $5-billion award in punitive damages against Exxon Mobil to about $500-million in the case of Exxon Shipping Co. vs. Baker. This ruling is in regard to the Exxon Valdez oil spill that happened 19 years ago! Oil companies are quick to take their profits but have no problem allowing court battles to go on for decades before having to pay to for their mistakes.
The Supreme Court ruling was 5-3 in favor of the reduction. The five justices voting in favor of the reduction were nominated by Republicans. Their vote in favor of Exxon Mobil over the citizens of Prince William Sound was to be expected.
There is no guarantee or protections for the American taxpayer should another "accident" occur. We will be the ones paying for the cleanup while Big Oil enjoys their profits.
Tom Harju, Port Richey
Facts convict Obama's line on crime June 22, George Will column
Missing the point
George Will chuckles that Barack Obama doesn't seem to understand why more prisoners equals less crime. The logic is true but misleading. Extrapolated to its extremes, you would have zero crime if everyone were incarcerated, and maximum crime if none were incarcerated. The optimum point is somewhere in between.
We need a serious conversation about the societal damage being done by "oversentencing" and by selective enforcement of drug laws in the inner city. While the number of blacks in prison for these two reasons is not the majority, the perceived injustice alienates young black males from the mainstream, thus perpetuating the very conditions that the law was designed to prevent. That, I think, is what Obama is talking about.
John Chase, Palm Harbor
No executions for child rape | June 26, story
After my first choice for president left the race early, I chose to back Barack Obama. His reaction criticizing the Supreme Court's decision on capital punishment for child rape is deeply disappointing.
First, without an execution for this crime in 44 years, an apparent consensus has developed restricting death to only the crime of homicide against a person. Second, the expansion of executions to include rape would only put the United States more out of touch with virtually all other Western, developed nations who have abolished the death penalty. Third, this is not a position of forward-thinking change, but instead is a regression backward by half a century to a less-enlightened era.
Finally, his statement symbolizes capitulation to a popular perception among a segment of voters for obvious, political purposes. True leadership requires taking a principled stand based on sound judgment, moral uprightness and fact. This remark, among others recently, appears to be an attempt to move his campaign to the center-right on select issues. I hope that he will reconsider and realize that some of his supporters may be left with a dilemma and are looking for the bold leader that we believe he can be.
Chris Kenney, Tampa
Who will stop Florida's fleeing faculty? | June 25, editorial
Your editorial raises a central question regarding Florida higher education: "Where is the similar vision and commitment (referencing Gov. Crist's bold and creative plan for the Everglades) to save higher education?" Where indeed?
As a university professor and administrator who retired to Dunedin in 2002 after serving 30 years with the University System of Georgia, I have some thoughts on the matter, as Georgia faced similar problems in higher education at least twice during my tenure.
First, persuade the Legislature to establish a genuine University System Board of Regents, independent of legislative politics, who set policies and guidelines for consistent, statewide public universities and colleges, and who hire a University System chancellor whose job it is to help carry this out. Invasive politics frighten the best and brightest, I assure you.
Second, assure the citizens of Florida that students in Florida's public higher education can transfer university and college credits to other Florida public higher education campuses. It is not in our interest to tell students that their earned credits won't transfer.
Also, assure university and college faculties and administration that their professional services to higher education are valued highly for the intellectual and economic well-being of Florida, and that they will be rewarded for such. These leaders matter greatly to Florida's future, as demonstrated throughout the nation, and they need to be told this with a firm commitment from the top.
Finally, enable public universities and colleges to have equal representation on committees and advisory boards at the University System level, to assure fairness throughout the state, as this promotes trust and independence of legislative interference in the business of higher education and helps promote creativity among Florida's educators and administrators.
Higher education is the best investment a state can make and should be at the pinnacle of our governor's priorities.
Dr. Ron Barnette, Dunedin
As barriers rise, peace hopes fade June 26, commentary
Israel protects itself
Nicholas Kristof's article applies a logic regarding Israel that is hard to follow. He states that the security Israel needs to employ to protect 800 Jews among 160,000 Palestinians is "stifling," that more than 1,800 shops have closed and several thousand people have been driven from their homes. However, he does not mention that in 1929 all of the Jews in Hebron were either expelled or massacred by the Arabs living there. Hebron is an ancient Israelite city which almost always had a Jewish presence. The shop closings are due more to the second Palestinian intifada than anything Israel has done.
Suicide bombers are the reason for the security barriers. Since the construction of the barriers, the number of attacks has decreased by 90 percent and the number of Israelis murdered or wounded has decreased by 70 percent and 85 percent respectively.
The barriers, I would argue, have not undermined Palestinian moderates but have helped to create an atmosphere of calm in which to negotiate. They have provided ordinary citizens with a small measure of protection from those intent on eradicating the presence of all Jews in the region. The barriers arose because the so-called moderates did not stop the bombers; they looked the other way as Palestinian-controlled organizations taught hatred toward Israel in their schools and texts and shouted "Death to Israel and America" from the minarets.
Susan Segal, Palm Harbor