We're too spread out | Jan. 29, letter
Roads and sprawl aren't working
While it's true that New York and Washington, D.C., as well as Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago have a "densely populated urban core," as the letter writer states, that is not true of Los Angeles, the poster child for urban sprawl and car-dependent transportation.
However, Los Angeles — like Phoenix, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle and a host of other urban-sprawl regions throughout the nation — has realized that car-dependent transportation doesn't work. All those regions have well-planned bus rapid transit and light and heavy rail systems that cannot keep up with demand.
Meanwhile, Florida utterly fails to understand urban sprawl realities in its push to create or "improve" ever more car-choked roads.
Once again, the overriding problem is politicians who refuse to work together to create policies that best serve the nation. They have utterly failed to create adequate and stable funding for the nation's transportation needs, both to maintain and modernize existing systems and meet emerging needs. That's a certain recipe for a crisis in an economy totally dependent upon transportation.
I lived and worked in Washington, D.C., when it was struggling to create its Metro system and heard all the rhetoric pro and con. Now I'm hearing all the same blather about public transportation in urban-sprawl Florida, proving that "those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it."
Mike MacDonald, Clearwater
Gun laws no obstacle to teen accused of killing mom, her friend | Jan. 27
Damage done by marijuana
Times staff writer Peter Jamison's article about Benjamin Bishop, the teenager accused of shooting to death his mother and her boyfriend, was remarkable for what it included: frank admissions from the youth himself and a description of the harm heavy marijuana use does to the developing teenage brain.
Just listen: "He talked about how he liked to smoke pot. … Stopped regularly attending school and started puttering, stoned, around the house. … He says his mom hated the way marijuana made him shrink from family and friends. … Strange things had begun happening to him."
Paranoia, withdrawal, inability to focus, anger at family members — these are the symptoms I recognized in the many teenage marijuana users who appeared before me in juvenile court. It was often used by kids who were already depressed, it stayed in their systems so long, and it totally changed their personalities.
In my nine years of experience as a juvenile judge, kids often sold cocaine, but they smoked pot, and it changed them in horrible ways.
Irene Sullivan, retired circuit judge, Pinellas Park
Teacher raise plan: $2,500 | Jan. 25
Scott's support welcome
Political considerations aside, I would like to praise Gov. Rick Scott for his support of the teachers working in the trenches every day in our schools. As a former classroom teacher for 35 years and a teachers' union president in Rochester, N.Y., I faced some of the same issues of how to properly recognize the importance of classroom teachers. It is noteworthy that our governor has made a forthright statement indicating the value of Florida's classroom teachers.
Norman N. Gross, Tampa
Open checkbook, start the smears Jan. 29, Daniel Ruth column
Come together or else
This article speaks of special interest groups trying to defeat the nomination of Chuck Hagel. We've had special groups on both sides trying for years to destroy each other. Just think what the billions of dollars spent in the political arena could have done if used elsewhere.
I'm tired of all the Republican and Democratic posturing. If we don't take a hard look at ourselves, we are in for some very difficult times. George Washington said this country will not be defeated from the outside but can be defeated from within.
John Gianino, Brandon
Downtown Tampa solution | Jan. 28, letter
I agree that a railroad would be good to get people to the game, but that would take years to build. For a shorter-term solution they should send buses to various locations, like shopping centers and retirement centers, to pick people up so they wouldn't have to drive downtown.
I would love to go to games, but my companion can't walk a long distance. I bet there are a lot of people who would go if there was economical transportation.
I'm sure the Rays' leaders already know this — they just want to move the team to a higher-income region.
Harriet White, Pinellas Park
Present tension | Jan. 27
A half-century of paying in
This article compares government payments for Social Security and Medicare to government payments for children. This is like comparing apples to oranges.
I am 83 years old. For nearly 50 years my husband and I paid into a retirement fund called Social Security. My husband lived only five years while collecting his retirement — much less than the amount he invested. I still receive a check, and out of that amount I pay $2,000 a year for health insurance called Medicare.
Where do you get that the government is giving me money? During those 50 years money could have been made on investments. At one time interest on CDs was 16 percent. The government should be ahead.
Mae Cook, St. Petersburg
Inequality to blame
While I decry the lack of spending on children, this article lays the groundwork for generational war. It seems to signal that all older people are just "greedy."
The primary culprit is income inequality, fueled by long-term tax cuts starting in the '80s that led to massive income shifts from the middle class to the rich.
Richard Taylor, Ruskin
Should have seen it coming
The charts show that demographics trump rhetoric. The growth in spending over the past 50 years on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid was predictable, based on the aging of the baby boom population. President Ronald Reagan was able to address this in the '80s by adjusting tax rates and retirement ages, but nothing has been done since then. Congress needs to take similar action now, and revisit the issue every 10 years, instead of bickering and posturing.
Peter Ford, St. Petersburg