Drug court's first-class success | Jan. 24
Drug treatment saves lives, funds
Hillsborough County has also implemented a drug court treatment program to divert adults who have committed drug offenses from jail and prisons.
These special courts were funded by the state Legislature two years ago by diverting $13 million to build a new prison. Because many of our state leaders understand that addictions are treatable and should not result in expensive prison time, many Florida counties were able to start offering these individuals a chance to turn their lives around, stay in the community, and receive intensive drug and alcohol treatment to assist them back to a healthy life.
Over the past 18 months, the partnership in our county has accepted over 300 men and women into treatment with a very high success rate (70-plus percent). These are men and women who will remain in their own homes, continue to work and care for their families and receive alcohol and drug treatment free.
This is not an easy program and does result in some being discharged and sent to prison. However, the cost savings for those who do complete and continue to pay taxes, care for families, and maintain a healthy lifestyle amount to millions of taxpayer dollars every year.
Hillsborough County has the second highest success rate behind Orange County. Please support treatment in your community. It saves us all time, money and lives.
Sara Romeo, CEO, Tampa Crossroads, Tampa
$288M for customers | Jan. 21
Only in our dollar-driven mind-set could this theft be legally accomplished. In what other type of enterprise can management be rewarded for abject failure? These highly paid executives bungle an attempt to "fix" a problem in which they have no expertise. And now they expect their customer base to pay for their mistakes. Unbelievable.
At one time a guaranteed profit of 6 percent was acceptable. No longer. Now it is above 10 percent and still not adequate for these guys. And all with the agreeable disposition of our dear Public Service Commission.
There is no other business that can realize high profits while paying high salaries and having all errors and mistakes paid for by a captive base of customers without recourse. Only in America.
Austin R. Curry, Tampa
A chance to dish out some restraint | Jan. 20
Personalities and choices
The criticism of Paula Deen's failure to mention that she has had diabetes for at least three years is off the mark. That is a personal matter.
The personalities on the Food Network and other cooking channels are just that — personalities. If you watch and cook everything you observe on TV, you will certainly get more than diabetes, but you have that choice. There is much to learn on these shows, from food knowledge to cooking techniques. And they are just plain entertaining.
If you are a follower of Deen, you know she does encourage moderation. But more important she extols family values and coming together to prepare food and eat with friends and loved ones.
My bet is that her acknowledgement that she is diabetic will drive many people straight to the doctor. And that cannot be bad.
Judy Lavaron, St. Petersburg
For debtors, sell now or pay later | Jan. 22
Bad tax policy
This column warned those who are underwater with their mortgages to sell before 2013 or they will have to pay taxes on the amount a bank forgives in a short sale.
I think it would be more reasonable to tax them for the amount forgiven only if they realize any gains in the sale next time. To tax people on what is essentially a loss (equity) is not good tax policy. Maybe if the government would make the corporations pay their share, this tax would not be needed.
This month Citizens for Tax Justice published a report showing 280 Fortune 500 companies paid 18.5 percent corporate tax instead of the 35 percent stated rate. A GAO report last year stated the derivatives used by Wall Street do not fit easily into taxing structures and abuse can occur. And those making over $108,500 per year do not pay more payroll tax.
Jim Demmy, Kenneth City
Florida GOP primary
Ask relevant questions
When will the press, and debate moderators, start asking candidates of both parties questions that really matter?
Here is a starter question. Why is the interest rate you pay for a mortgage, currently hovering around 4 percent, dozens of times higher than the interest rate you get for your deposit accounts? I'm old enough to remember when mortgage rates were "only" twice, or maybe three times, higher than deposit interest rates. And we wonder why bank execs rake in bonuses in the tens of millions?
Will questions about Newt Gingrich's marriages have an impact on your future? How about Mitt Romney's tax returns? Can questioning Rick Santorum on abortion and gay marriage possibly be more irrelevant?
Charles E. Lehnert, Riverview
Airport security stops senator | Jan. 24
Security run amok
This article makes it abundantly clear that the Transportation Security Administration has gotten out of hand. As a frequent traveler from Tampa, I have the unenviable experience of passing through the TSA checkpoint at TIA weekly. The semi-nude scans were already slow and unnecessarily intrusive. Lately it has gotten even worse.
There weeks ago the screener groped my chest because I was wearing a tie. Last week, their scanner saw a shadow on my knee and another on my backside (I have no replacement parts and had nothing in my pockets). This week the agent insisted on checking under my wristwatch and groping my underarm (again with no cause beyond a false-positive from the scanner).
It is time to rein in the TSA.
Gregg Niemi, Tampa
Atheists and ethics | Jan. 21
A matter of morality
Atheists, so this article says, are widely viewed as lacking any ethical standards. This discussion complacently shares space with details in the paper describing lapses in honesty along with rampant hypocrisy by Newt Gingrich, proud convert to Roman Catholicism and a great advocate for Christian values. As an atheist, I laugh, albeit bitterly.
Abigail Ann Martin, Brandon