Foreclosure crisis still festering
As the 2012 session of the Florida Legislature draws to a close, voters need to know that our state lawmakers have once again failed to pass a single piece of legislation to address one of the biggest issues facing our state: the foreclosure crisis.
While there is one bill pending in the Senate, good senators from both parties recognize that this measure, SB 1890, does little if anything to address the root causes of the problems: bank wrongdoing and continued reckless and irresponsible business practices.
This legislation ignores the undisputed fact that the biggest problems facing our courts today are cases stalled largely because the banks got caught trying to sneak through paperwork that does not pass responsible judicial scrutiny. The pending Senate bill and its companion on the House side are silent on these issues.
Our elected judges and court staff labor under devastating funding cuts while at the same time being criticized for not moving foreclosure cases forward. The reality is that our courts, when presented with cases that meet long-standing rules and procedures, are able to move cases through the system with appropriately responsible efficiency. At the same time, the judges in this community are not afraid to dismiss cases and force the banks to start again when presented with obvious bank wrongdoing.
Our lawmakers should focus on fostering conditions that force the banks to resolve their pending foreclosure cases under the existing rules, rather than passing flawed legislation that serves no clear interest.
Matthew Weidner, St. Petersburg
Alimony reform needed
As the legislative session winds down, among the big losers are those who have been condemned to pay alimony until the day they die, as meaningful reform legislation has been derailed in the Senate by the divorce lawyer lobby.
In my view, the state encourages divorce by telling wives that if they divorce the courts will make the husband pay a "salary" for life. She can quit work now, while he will be made to work until he dies, with no hope of retirement, and if he cannot pay he will go to jail.
Linwood Gilbert, St. Petersburg
What's wrong with Florida | March 4, editorial
Throw them out
Finally, the problem comes to the surface. Why do we, as voters, keep putting people in control of our state who only care about themselves? What needs to be done is every Senate and House member up for re-election needs to be replaced, Republican or Democrat. Let's replace those who care only for themselves.
John Pisculli, Brandon
For a man of God, a terrible test of faith March 4, John Romano column
Protect the innocent
While I favor proposed legislation increasing penalties on felons carrying guns, we would be better off with stricter gun laws for all of us.
Yes, we were stunned by the death of Hannah Kelley, who was accidentally shot while attending church, and we admire her family's courage and ability to forgive. But, as a society, why do we seem to calmly accept the fact that more than 30,000 people in America die from gunshot wounds each year?
If terrorists we're killing this many Americans, we would be in a nationwide panic. Instead, our politicians can only praise our rights to own any gun we want, even military-style assault weapons. Surely there is a way to honor constitutional rights while protecting the innocent among us.
Terry Hammonds, Dunedin
Resale ripoff | March 4
The tea party keeps harping about too-big government, but the Tampa Bay Times' investigation demonstrates clearly that from Tallahassee to local precincts the government is impotent, and surely not big enough, to control these schemes that have developed around many people's efforts to unload their burdensome time shares.
And the Times, or anyone else, can't expect the state's attorney general to prosecute fully the thousands of complaints about fraudulent resale companies. After all, she and her staff obviously are too busy fighting the Obama administration over the new federal health care law.
Donald Rosselet, Dunnellon
Tough road to magnet schools | March 4
Rolling the dice
Director of student assignment Dee Burns' statement that the demand for magnet and fundamental schools in Pinellas County is based on "perception" shows a distressing disconnect from the experiences of Pinellas students and families.
My daughter will start kindergarten in the fall. We are zoned for a school with poor test grades and a history of behavior problems. We have toured seven schools, applied to five and the highest spot we are on a wait list is 45. If we don't get a fundamental seat now, our chances in the future are even more limited — and our zoned middle school is a D school.
There are clear academic and behavioral differences between fundamental and magnet schools and the struggling schools we are zoned for. Our family needs access to schools that work. Last year, the Pinellas County School Board voted against increasing fundamental seats, saying that many families and students can't meet the expectations of fundamentals. Based on the demand, it seems the board is underestimating Pinellas students and families.
Burns is right about one thing: I shouldn't have to gamble to get my kids a good education in Pinellas County schools.
Lisa Signorelli, Gulfport
Merging mass transit can't be a rush job March 5, editorial
Don't forget local riders
I agree with the Times that the merger of the area's two mass transit agencies should be the product of a carefully thought-out process.
While a proposed consolidation would help develop new regional service and augment existing regional service, it should not be at the expense of current and much-needed local transit service.
Some may say that the proposed consolidation is one in a series of gimmicks and proposals brought forward over the past several years to change agency structure and practices in order to save a small percentage of money that theoretically would be used to increase service or applied for some other purpose. However, it is unlikely any savings would approach the amount needed to increase transit service to the level appropriate for a metropolitan area of over 2.1 million people.
Any consolidation should be the product of a transparent process with as much public input as possible.
Pierre Mathurin, Tampa