A chance for Floridians to redraw rigged districts | Nov. 28, commentary
Districts preserve voter choice
In response to the recent commentary by professor Daniel Smith, there is growing concern for the proposed ballot initiatives that would significantly alter how the Legislature completes its constitutional duty to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
Smith argues that incontestable districts lead to voters "not having a choice on Election Day." However, to date, there has been no clear breakdown of our current system, only allegations of partisan gerrymandering.
Consider that in 1992, the political roles were reversed: Democrats were the majority party in the state Legislature. Their maps were implemented, yet voters did not follow the party-line in later years. In 1994, voters in many Democrat districts began voting Republican. The system was the same as today, but the voters consciously changed.
As a Republican legislator, serving the Democrat-favored communities of west Pasco, I disagree with the notion that the current process creates only incontestable districts. Despite a registration advantage for Democrats, I was elected at the age of 29, was re-elected without opposition in 2006, and won with 58 percent of the vote in 2008. Success comes from hard work and representing the will of the voters, not gerrymandering.
It is evident that the people of House District 46 are well informed and support candidates and issues specific to their values, no matter their partisan preference.
The current district maps were approved through a long-established system by both the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The reality is that our system has survived decades of review, and Florida's voters are proof that independent minds still have their say on Election Day.
During the next few months, I look forward to advocating for the voters' right to elect the representatives responsible for shaping their districts, not unaccountable, political bureaucracies.
John Legg, state representative, District 46, Port Richey
Teachers honored for steady learning gains Dec. 1, story
Awards doled out through a flawed system
This article was on Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education naming 81 teachers "the greatest" in the state.
While I applaud the foundation's efforts to award and recognize good teaching, this initiative is deeply flawed. First off, only 22,000 teachers out of 170,000 — or roughly 13 percent — were considered for the award. It excluded teachers in certain grades, subjects, and those not teaching FCAT. How do you measure success for the teachers of art, music, physical education and technology and for teachers whose test scores are not "official"? For three years, I taught writing to seventh-graders, who do not take the real FCAT writing test until eighth grade. Also, I find it difficult to believe that no teachers from Hernando County qualified for this award.
Perhaps the problem with these awards is that measuring the success of teachers is nearly impossible. How do you assess whether a teacher changed a child's life, inspired them to go to college or pursue their dreams, instilled a love of learning, helped them develop a moral compass or gave them life skills they will use for years to come? These things are much harder to measure.
No doubt the teachers honored for this award are good and can raise test scores and teach reading and math, and they should be rewarded for that, maybe with an "FCAT success" award. But to call them the greatest in the state of Florida is simply unfair to teachers everywhere.
Steven Haberlin, Spring Hill
McConnell is right: Tort reform isn't in bill Dec. 3, PolitiFact
Protecting the lawyers
We all know the real reason that tort reform is not dealt with in the health care bill is that litigation lawyers are a big block of the Democrat voting base, and are huge contributors to the party and its candidates. To address tort reform in the health care bill would be biting the hand that feeds them.
Litigation law firms are a very powerful special interest group and their lobbyists have very deep pockets, but there is no true health care reform unless they are also made to come to the table. Taxpayers could end up eventually picking up the tab for hundreds of billions of dollars in litigation and settlements.
If I understand correctly, litigation under the Canadian health care system is very limited. Those who tout a system like this should realize that what is on the table for approval does not address a very large portion of health care issues, since litigation costs are built into health care costs. Unless this happens, in addition to paying higher taxes for health care, the taxpayer will also be funding another very wealthy special interest group in Washington.
S.L. Hutton, Belleair
McConnell is right: Tort reform isn't in bill Dec. 3, PolitiFact
I had to laugh at that concern from the "conservatives." Yes, Sen. Mitch McConnell is right about tort reform.
I would say, however, that conservatives' concern that this reform isn't in the health care bill is "Pants On Fire." If it is such a real concern how come the Republicans never initiated any tort reform bills while they were in control during the last two years of the Clinton administration and the first six years of the Bush administration?
Douglas Bauer, Clearwater
Tiger's reputation lost in the rough | Dec. 4, Daniel Ruth column
Tiger Woods, wailing for privacy as the media blitz descends upon him, reminds me of an old song and had me thinking, "You had it comin', you rascal you."
Those in the "poor Tiger" cohort haven't seemed to express compassion for his young wife and mother of two babies or the possibility he could have brought home some lasting "gift" from his peccadillos. No! It's all Poor Tiger!
Now, granted, she may have gone for a hole in one on his head and smashed both rear windows out of the car, but this poor woman has been humiliated in front of the world. Ol' Tiger may end up having to split that billion, which would serve him right.
Wynelle Gilbert, Tampa
It's a doggone shame | Dec. 4, story
What's wrong with us?
I have traveled to Germany, Switzerland and France and have observed dogs in their restaurants, bars and hotels. I had dinner in Switzerland while a diner at the next table had his dog under the table behaving properly while he ate. No one took note of this regular occurrence and there were no incidents of any kind wherever I noted dogs.
Why are we paranoid about dogs spreading diseases in our food! Aren't they around us all the time when we eat at home? Is anything happening to us? Why aren't the Europeans up in arms about the threat to their health? Really, what is wrong with us?
What we should have is a health code that forbids hormones, pesticides, chemicals, saturated fats, mercury (you get the drift) in so much of our food. Give the dogs a break!
Marilyn Weaver, Tarpon Springs