We need bailout, not higher bills The law passed in 2006 allowing utility companies to precharge customers for investments in nuclear power and recover such investments even if the projects fail is ludicrous. Florida Progress was granted a rate hike based on this law, which means customers will be paying an additional $11.42 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity used starting in January.
This rate increase does not pertain to any other rate hike Florida Progress may submit during the year, such as the one currently submitted for fuel costs. If that too is approved, we customers in January may be facing a 25 percent increase in our electric bills.
This nuclear power plant is not scheduled to come online until 2016. Who can be certain that this state will be economically sound or survive major storms affecting the building of this plant we are beginning to pay for? Who's to say that we will not finally adopt other sources of energy such as wind and solar power? And most important, what will our electric bills be in 2016 with the rate hikes not pertaining to the building of this nuclear power plant?
Our federal government didn't waste any time coming to the rescue of Wall Street and banking tycoons, preparing to hand them $700-billion of our money so they can remain in business ripping us off. Why can't this government subsidize utility companies for investments in other alternatives for energy instead of further burdening the average consumer?
Escalation in prices for commodities and services vital to our daily living while we are using them is becoming a losing battle in itself let alone being additionally charged for something years away from happening. Where's our bailout?
Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City
Make people stockholders
If the people of Florida must purchase a power plant, let Progress Energy issue stock to the people of the counties who are going to be paying these outrageous charges for the building of this plant.
It is highway robbery to tell people who even now cannot make their mortgage payments that they must supply money to a utility with massive CEO salaries and bonuses.
And of course our utility-owned Public Service Commission has approved it with no problems.
Where is the man who ballyhooed his protection of Florida taxpayers a year ago, Charlie Crist?
All Floridians should stand up and say "No" to this forced shakedown of poor Floridians by millionaires who, after making us build the plant, will overcharge us for the power it produces.
Leslie E. Hilburn, Seminole
Punish the lawmakers
If it wasn't clear before, it is clear now that the Public Service Commission does not work for the citizens of Florida but for big business! Allowing Progress Energy and Florida Power and & Light to charge customers, in advance, for new capital assets for the company is no way to protect the public from the excesses of big business.
Many of us seniors will not be alive to benefit from these nuclear power plants. Neither can many of us afford the unreasonable additional expense in the current economy when many are struggling just to pay mortgages and medical bills.
These big corporations should be required to act responsibly and issue corporate debt obligations, also known as corporate bonds, to finance these capital additions to their inventory, not pay for them on the backs of already financially strapped captive customers.
The current Florida Legislature has allowed this. They voted to enable this action by the PSC. Now is the time to vote out the incumbents who allowed this injustice. Let them see that the voters can see what they do.
Bill Balmer, Seminole
A worthless PSC
What an outrage! Mandating that the trapped consumer assume the investors' risk. The Public Service Commission should be renamed the "Utility Investors Protection Society."
Next we will be asked to fund wildcatters searching for oil and still pay at the pump besides. Where is AARP? A great number of their members will be dead and receive no benefit by the time the first kilowatt is delivered.
This is outrageous. Our elected state officials need to be pressed to dissolve this worthless commission and replace it with elected members.
Rocco Capabianco, Palm Harbor
Solar is a better deal
The Public Service Commission should only approve cost-of-fuel rate increases if they include conditions that require utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their power, by 2018, from renewable sources that don't require the continual purchase of fuel. There is no reason the Sunshine State should not be leading the country in solar power; the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida said Florida can produce 7.2 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day from the sun with a 2-kilowatt system. Utilities could use existing roof space or build solar panels above parking lots, avoiding the high cost of purchasing land while shading our parked cars.
At $6.25-million in construction costs per megawatt (MW), and less than two years for Florida Power & Light to bring 110 MW of solar power capacity online, solar is the best and least costly option. Progress Energy's new nuclear plant, which costs $7.73-million per MW, and will take eight to 14 years to come online, is not fiscally sound. Wasting ratepayers' money in hard economic times is irresponsible, but fossil fuel and nuclear power are deadly.
Charles Suggs IV, Palm Harbor
Don't vote for division and discrimination
We are writing on behalf of a dozen interfaith clergy across the Tampa Bay area. Despite our religious and theological differences, we are united in our opposition to constitutional Amendment 2, the so-called marriage amendment, that is on the state election ballot this year.
We are opposed to this amendment for the following reasons:
• It promotes division and fear, not equality and love. We know from our religious experience of worshipping and being together that what unites us as families and as people is much greater than what divides us. We do believe that families need more support in this state and this country, but it cannot be accomplished by writing discrimination into our state Constitution. We need policies that will help create as many stable, healthy families as possible — not impose definitions of what constitutes a family. Our religious commitment requires that we encourage decisions that are grounded in love, compassion and an appreciation of our common humanity. It calls on us to honor, love and serve all of God's children.
• It would write religious discrimination into the Constitution. Religious marriage and civil marriage are different, and each religious group is free to define marriage in its own way. People of faith can and do disagree about what constitutes marriage. We belong to religions that are accepting of different family structures and relationships — individuals in our faith communities would find the state discriminating against them. Florida already has multiple laws banning same-sex marriage.
• It would eviscerate one of America's core constitutional principles — the right to equal protection. Amending the state Constitution solely to discriminate against particular groups of Americans is unethical, unfair and wrong. We should continue our proud national tradition of expanding equality and fairness through our laws — not creating categories of second-class citizenship.
Therefore, we strongly urge Florida citizens to stand with us and say "NO" to Amendment 2 as it would hurt all Florida families.
The Rev. Abhi Janamanchi and the Rev. Leddy Hammock, Clearwater
It won't protect marriage
I'm in favor of marriage. Fortunately for me, so is my wife. Marriage is a wonderful institution that provides just the right balance of social recognition, legal rights and a private covenant of love. Marriage is good for couples and it's good for society, and that's true for same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples alike. That's one reason to oppose Amendment 2. While misleadingly labeled "marriage protection," Amendment 2 is actually antimarriage because it would place in the Florida Constitution restrictions on who can get married.
While marriage is right for many, there are also valid reasons that couples legally eligible to marry might choose domestic partnership over matrimony. For the widowed, remarriage may cause loss of pension survivor benefits or government subsidies. A new marriage might upset estate plans for adult children. Or a man and a woman may seek a domestic partnership for companionship and security without the sexual overtones implied by being married. Whatever the reason, couples should have domestic partnership as an available alternative.
Domestic partners receive important rights: health care and employee benefit packages; visitation rights at health care, correctional and juvenile facilities; end-of-life decisionmaking.
Amendment 2 would threaten to end domestic partnership in Florida. The amendment applies to marriage and also to any "other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof." For this reason, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida recently announced its strong opposition to Amendment 2. Randy Kammer, an attorney and vice president for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, explained, "It's going to have a major impact on our ability to provide benefits for domestic partners."
Some groups that are supporting Amendment 2 are also already launching challenges to municipalities' domestic partnership benefits. Earlier this year, the Florida Family Association started preparing to challenge same-sex partner benefits offered to Tampa city employees.
Amendment 2 does nothing to protect marriage. But it does take away important family protections from all unmarried couples, gay and straight.
The Rev. Meredith Garmon, chair, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Florida, Gainesville
It's about marriage, period | Oct. 15, commentary by Terry Kemple
A fraud of an amendment
Terry Kemple invites us to confuse the subject of the amendment with its effects. Yes, the amendment is "about" marriage. Its effects will be substantially broader.
Look at the amendment itself. If it was only intended to outlaw same-sex marriages, the first sentence is sufficient. Look at the rest of it and think about what it says and what its broader effects might be.
Its passage will be used to go after benefits, yes, specifically of same-sex domestic partners, but that challenge will cause the unfortunate "collateral damage" of destroying those same benefits for all domestic unions. So zealous are the supporters of the amendment in their religious fervor that the statewide disaster that will result is an acceptable side effect of their very narrow attack. It's a shotgun blast aimed at a pinpoint target.
John Gillmore, Tampa
It's about marriage, period | Oct. 15
Divorce threatens marriage
If we are going to go so far as to say that marriage should only be between one man and one woman — especially since, according to Terry Kemple, it's so clearly "for the benefit of society and the welfare of children" — shouldn't we be voting on a constitutional amendment to ban divorce as well as second or multiple marriages?
Divorce is a much more rampant problem in modern marriage. So why isn't anyone discussing altering divorce law if their genuine concerns are for society and families? When one man and one woman marry, they take vows that indicate they will stay with that one person through good and bad, throughout their lives.
I wonder how many proponents of Amendment 2 have been divorced and remarried. How many have dragged their own children through nasty divorce proceedings and custody battles? How do they feel that they are doing the institution of marriage and family any more justice than two gay men or lesbian women who love each other explicitly and make those same vows to each other?
It is not about marriage, period. It's about fear and loathing and nothing more.
Mich Sullivan, St. Petersburg
I am encouraging readers to vote "no" on Amendment 4. This amendment does allow property owners to preserve private land for conservation. However, what the Times failed to mention in its recommendation of a yes vote, and what the League of Women Voters in Tallahassee points out, is that the owner of the preserved property can prohibit public access.
In effect, a land owner could designate large tracts of land for his own private park, thus evading taxes on that private park. And, as the League of Women Voters notes, "Existing policies already favor those who preserve their land."
Karen Carpenter, Bradenton
"Batman" unmasked | Oct. 15, story
Your taxes at work
It is nothing short of harassment that the Tampa police are hunting down some college student out having a good time by arresting him on some archaic law. What a waste of taxpayer dollars to have this particular officer continue to track this individual down who is breaking no other law other than one against wearing a mask. So as a taxpayer, I am paying this officer's salary, the cost to arrest and hold this student in jail, and then paying for him to go through the court system.
How constitutional is this law if this officer is selectively enforcing it? "The law isn't enforced often … So don't worry about Halloween." What a joke.
Are there no actual crimes taking place in Ybor these days? In a time of such financial uncertainty you would think our tax-funded officials could find a more efficient use for our hard-earned tax dollars.
Joshua Spiegelhoff, Tampa