July Letter of the Month
The winning letter of the month for July is from Laura Vickers of Tampa, who wrote about the phosphate company Mosaic being granted a permit to pump up to 70 million gallons of water a day from the ground.
Mosaic pumps water to dilute waste | July 21
An egregious abuse of Florida's resources
I give up. If Mosaic is pumping 70 million gallons a day from our aquifer (and returning polluted water to streams in its place), how can it matter if I turn off the water while I brush my teeth, or collect rainwater to use on my garden?
This is such an egregious abuse of public resources, and it is allowed by the fine folks at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. We have given away the farm.
Laura Vickers, Tampa
Election stirs police issue | Aug. 4
Outmoded policing concept
The term "community policing" has a nice ring to it. It's what is known as "glittering generality" — it sounds like a good idea but does not work in practice.
I am a former police supervisor, retired from a lifelong career serving on the force of a major East Coast city, and I fully agree with St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon's statements. My city engaged in the "community policing" concept many years ago when the idea first became popular. Years later it was abandoned.
Here are some of the realistic but rarely mentioned difficulties with the concept:
• Neighborhoods needing the most "community" officers (usually based on crime statistics) result in manpower resources being disproportionately distributed. The obvious result is less manpower deployed for service in other, "safer" areas of the city.
• The assignment of "regular" personnel tends to produce an almost inevitable insular feeling among the officers. The prevailing belief being that as long as "their" assigned area is under control, they are not particularly invested in the remainder of the city.
• The officers can become too comfortable (lax?) in their assignment. Being in everyday contact with individuals, groups and community leaders (or self-appointed "spokespeople"), they can become a little too understanding of the day-to-day goings on in "their" area, perhaps even too lax or complacent in the enforcement of the law.
In short: The "community" actually alters the law enforcement function, instead of the police altering the community's perception of them.
As with other outmoded concepts, the idea of community policing has not proven to be a workable model.
R. Gannon, St. Petersburg
State's higher ed boss leaving | Aug. 8
He made system stronger
After four productive years working on behalf of higher education in Florida, Chancellor Frank T. Brogan announced Wednesday that he is leaving us for a new opportunity in Pennsylvania at the end of next month.
We are extremely grateful to Frank for what he's leaving behind — a system stronger than ever. Thanks to Frank's leadership and the hard work of our Board of Governors, we have a more cohesive, efficient system of universities where there was once disjointedness. We enjoy fruitful relationships with state leaders and stakeholders where there was once acrimony. We continue to climb higher toward excellence, with our institutions improving each year in key measures of student success. Our accountability framework for tracking university and system goals has been nationally lauded.
In the coming weeks, our board will appoint an interim leader to maintain our progress as we conduct a national search for a permanent chancellor. The legacy that Frank leaves gives me absolute confidence that we will find another superstar to help lead us. Whoever that person is, he or she will be welcomed by a dedicated and supportive Board of Governors and a State University System that is poised for greatness.
Dean Colson, chair, Florida Board of Governors, Tallahassee
Spending on the arts pays off | Aug. 5
Competition and rewards
This letter brought much-needed attention to federal arts spending. Congress should not cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, a vital federal agency.
However, the accessibility of arts grants, at the state and federal level, needs to be addressed. Grant dollars are typically filtered — and their impact diluted — through institutions and stand-alone programs that only offer short-term employment for artists. For the most part, artwork is not being created as a result of NEA initiatives in Florida, including in the Tampa Bay area.
Congress needs to overturn the ban on individual visual artist fellowships and allow applicants to compete based on merit. This will result in artwork actually being created, and bring the highest benefit to individuals and to the nation's art and cultural life.
Joseph Weinzettle, St. Petersburg
Code system called broken | Aug. 2
Professional help needed
Tampa's code enforcement and DUI squad debacles suggest the city would be better managed by replacing the strong mayor model of government with the council-city manager model. City managers are hired based on formal training and prior experience in city management.
Management education emphasizes long-term planning, something that is lacking in Tampa, particularly for infrastructure and neighborhoods. As an example of how planning can accomplish major goals, in the early 1970s, San Diego (my hometown) planned to bury the power lines and accomplished the goal in 10 years. In contrast, my neighborhood in Tampa has been unable to get a left turn arrow added at a traffic signal, much less get a single power line buried.
Under Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa was transformed into a military state for the Republican National Convention. This apparently occurred because it was anticipated "the public" would show up, but most ultimately stayed home. In contrast, Charlotte, N.C., which uses the city manager model, had a street festival when hosting the Democratic National Convention. They had a festival, while we got the "halt, who goes there" treatment.
Tampa will remain stuck with debacles until it gets rid of the strong mayor model.
Barbara Langland Orban, Tampa