Do your own homework, vote
I was canvassing for the Democratic Party recently and asked a man how he liked Alex Sink. He responded, "I don't know much about him." Voters, please learn all you can about the candidates, and don't be guided by slick, million-dollar TV ads. Study their backgrounds and experience.
Lorraine Madison, St. Petersburg
Big banks' ineptness
As a retired banker with over 35 years of experience, I marvel at the ineptness of the "big banks" in the handling of mortgage foreclosures.
We instructed our clients to do it right the first time. When that didn't happen, it usually meant that the organization did not provide the employee with proper facilities, equipment and training.
If you consider the number of foreclosures that the banks were trying to process, it is evident that their instructions were to get it done as quickly as possible without consideration as to whether or not it was done correctly.
This will cost the banks dearly and cause further deterioration to the mortgage market. The legal ramifications alone could cripple the industry for years. Chalk it up to greed, and remember that bigger is not always better.
Salvatore Pontillo, Valrico
Jim Norman's Salvation Army salary
Who is left to trust? I always believed in the Salvation Army and its work to help the unfortunate. Over the years they have been the charity on the top of my list to give to.
What a huge disappointment to find they see fit to give a $95,000 salary to Jim Norman, whom a judge recently found to be deceitful in his practices. His salary from this charitable organization is outrageous. How many bags of clothes or household items had to sell to make up that $95,000?
Kay Broderick, Dunedin
Wife's call to Anita Hill drags up grudge of 1991 | Oct. 21
"Back off my dude"? Seriously? Calling the Clarence Thomas vs. Anita Hill hearings a grudge trivializes a seminal event in American politics, one with ongoing social and civil ramifications. And saying Anita Hill has "long been called a liberal tool," without also saying who has been calling her that, would seem to violate any number of basic rules of journalism.
Perhaps in the future, such stories would be better assigned to writers more familiar with the Supreme Court than with finding a really cool pair of shoes.
Lynn Stratton, St. Petersburg
Hillsborough mulls tethered-dog law Oct. 19
Don't chain up dogs
As a volunteer for Mothers Against Dog Chaining and Dogs Deserve Better, as well as being the mother of a 3-year-old son, I want to voice my support for the tethering ban under consideration in Hillsborough County. Every day members of our organization see the cruelty, tragedy and devastation that can come to children and dogs when dogs are forced to live their lives on a chain or in a pen.
No dog, regardless of breed or size, deserves to live life on a chain or in a pen, and no child deserves to be injured or killed by a domesticated animal that is forced into living life isolated, neglected and unsocialized and therefore usually bored, aggressive or territorial.
I pray that every county in the nation will wake up to this threat.
Beth Greeson, Athens, Ga.
A sensible plan to cut Medicare | Oct. 21
A better way to save
David Leonhardt offers a reasonable suggestion to reduce government spending on health care. However, even greater savings could be achieved if the United States converted to one of the many national medical systems that produce better results. In more than 20 major countries, citizens enjoy longer life expectancy at substantially lower cost.
Proponents of the our current system have managed to malign the excellent care that Canadians receive, so I suggest we copy Germany or Australia or Japan. In each, people live longer and per capita health costs are so much lower that government spending would be significantly reduced. In addition, small businesses that provide health care would have a large cost burden removed.
Richard Rolfes, St. Petersburg
Class size amendment
Pay successful teachers
Recently the Times ran a story on the class size amendment and the parents who want to keep it the way it was drawn up.
I am a student and disagree that the class size amendment has had any affect on my learning for better or worse. So why go through all the issues and money just to see negligible gains in students?
I am all for improving education in Florida, but the best way is to restore the classes to their previous sizes and actually pay the teachers who are successful and well qualified, to keep them from moving on to better economic opportunities or even retiring.
Alex Prater, Tampa
Social Security COLAs
An outdated formula
The current Social Security formula for cost of living adjustments, used since the 1970s, needs updating. It's heavily weighted to the prices of fuel and clothing and does not take enough into account the meteoric rises in health care and utility costs.
And it's not just Social Security recipients who suffer; it's retired military too. If the Democrats really wanted to help seniors, instead of giving them a paltry $250 per year, they would revise the COLA formula to reflect modern reality.
Richard Golden, San Antonio
Don't subsidize electric cars | Oct. 11
Taxes can't be ignored
This article from the Economist touts the benefit of testing the merits of electric cars by eliminating direct subsidies and instituting a carbon tax. Maybe that's a good idea, and maybe not. One thing for sure, the article — like many others on the subject — neglects one very important point.
You may be able to plug in your eCar and "fill it up" overnight "for pennies" — even with carbon-taxed electricity. But every gallon of Florida gas is encumbered with about 53 cents of state and federal taxes to fund roads and other transportation projects. Somehow those taxes have to get added to the cost of the electricity used each night.
This won't be simple because the tax charge will vary depending on how efficiently each eCar uses its stored electricity. Somehow it will have to be converted to a "gallon" equivalent.
It'll be complicated, but let's make sure it isn't ignored in the same way Internet purchases dodge state sales tax.
Dennis McKenna, Palm Harbor
Problems close to home
I keep reading about how bad the federal government is and how we as a people ought to give more power to the state and local governments.
Am I missing something? We have a Republican candidate for governor who took the 5th Amendment 75 times. We had a Republican speaker of the state House indicted after he granted political favors and was given a lucrative position at a junior college. In Hillsborough County, we had a Republican county commissioner running for the state Senate removed from the ballot for failure to disclose a $500,000 "donation" to purchase a vacation home in Arkansas.
Our state Legislature and its leadership are well known as being bought and paid for by business interests. People who feel that the problem is the federal government need to look closer to home.
Rene Tamargo, Tampa
Money in politics
No allegiance to voters
No longer do our elected officials owe their allegiance to their constituents. They give their allegiance to their political party and to those who give money. Only those who are not of a party affiliation can truly represent the people. Even then, money talks. We, the people, are the ones who suffer because of whom we elect.
Wayne Bengston, Sun City Center