Budget deal hits military retirees | Dec. 16, letter
Basic military benefit not affected
I differ with the letter writer on her view of the "military retirement benefits we worked so hard to earn." The basic benefits are not changed in any way by the recent budget deal. What changes is the increase in the cost-of-living adjustment to military retired pay that has been linked by Congress to the Social Security COLA. For retired personnel under 62, the COLA is reduced by 1 percentage point.
Is it significant? It could be over a 20-year period; I have not figured it out. After I retired from the Army, I was too busy building a second family and a second career. The Army held its end of the bargain and I held mine, even when it activated my hip-pocket orders during Desert Storm.
The COLA is not, and never was, an integral part of the military retirement benefits. COLA increases are completely discretionary and Congress has the right, and duty, to change them as the fiscal conditions of the country require.
Army Maj. Silvio J. Romero (Ret.), San Antonio
Job swaps cloaked in smoke, mirrors Dec. 17, Daniel Ruth column
Columnist nails it
I normally find Daniel Ruth's writings amusing or annoying, but this time he nailed it dead-on regarding the St. Petersburg Fire Department's policy — or nonpolicy — of shift swapping by the firefighters with virtually no oversight.
My father was a career firefighter for over 35 years in Buffalo, N.Y. His shifts were always subject to keen oversight by the chain of command. I cannot imagine the antics that have happened in St. Petersburg being allowed in other fire departments across the country.
Paul Rooney, Tarpon Springs
'You can keep it' | Dec. 13, PolitiFact
Going by the book
Webster's defines "lie" as "an assertion … believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive."
President Barack Obama did not lie because he had no intention to deceive. If he said that the public would continue to be able to buy stone crabs at Joe's, and later Joe's decides not to sell any more stone crabs, the president did not lie. This was simply an unintended consequence of the free market.
The Times needs to use more common sense in reaching its conclusions.
Judy Vogel, Tampa
Administration tries to prevent new sanctions against Iran | Dec. 11
Give Iran deal a chance
On Nov. 23, President Barack Obama announced a historical deal between the P5+1 group (United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, plus Germany) and Iran regarding Iran's nuclear program. While this deal has been heralded by some as a significant diplomatic achievement toward a peaceful halt to Iran's program, others see it as little more than a ploy.
This deal involves a six-month agreement in which the international community will relieve Iran of some critical sanctions in return for some concessions such as daily inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the limiting of uranium enrichment to no more than 5 percent, and the halting of the use of certain new centrifuges.
In the United States, the power to levy sanctions resides in Congress. Since the announcement of this deal, Congress has appeared divided and hesitant. In order for this deal to succeed, or even progress, it is imperative that the United States displays a consistent message with Iran.
Backsliding on this arrangement by levying new sanctions will not only harm U.S.-Iranian relations but cause Iran to more aggressively posture itself against the international community. If sanctions were meant to bring Iran to the table, they have succeeded. Increasing sanctions during this fragile time will not yield a diplomatic advantage. Rather, it will worsen the United States' already poor image among Iranian citizens.
The election of President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's willingness to discuss its nuclear program signal a historic moment. Congress should urge restraint to allow diplomats their due time to see this deal through.
Stephen Strenges, Tampa
There's no free breakfast
I noticed a banner hanging on the fence of a local elementary school this week touting "free" breakfasts for all students.
I appreciate the importance of proper nourishment and its undeniable link to improved student performance. Furthermore, I enthusiastically support the provision of breakfast to schoolchildren who would otherwise start their day without one.
However, to advertise that such breakfasts are "free" is disingenuous; and frankly, such a claim denies those of us who pay for those breakfasts the credit we are due.
Another — and equally egregious — consequence of such careless advertising is that those who benefit from this program are not informed as to whom they should be grateful. That generous donor is the American taxpayer. And … you're welcome.
Mike DeWitt, Tampa
Tampa water project okayed | Dec. 18
Risks of pumping water
Pumping of groundwater from Blue Sink in the Forest Hills area may be a good idea for environmental conditions below the city of Tampa's dam on the Hillsborough River. However, it has some problems that have not been effectively considered, or ignored.
First, the conceptual model used by Swiftmud is marginal, for it does not include a mechanism for the network of open conduits (not sand) within the limestone. Many of these conduits (essentially pipes) are connected to other sinkholes and lakes in the area.
Second, many sinkholes in the surrounding area are what are known as relict sinks. They are dormant, filled with sand, and can be reactivated by pumping of groundwater, such as occurs with the on-off pumping that occurs in the strawberry-producing areas of east Hillsborough County.
Third, no consideration has been given to the potential impact of sinkhole formation or a rise in insurance rates for the Forest Hills area if sinkholes start to form because of pumping.
I suspect that the city of Tampa and Swiftmud may face multiple lawsuits because of a regional rise in the money people will have to pay for insurance because of sinkhole formation. This does not even take into account the loss of property values.
John C. Miller, professional geologist, Tampa