Panther deaths break record | Dec. 12
To save panthers, protect habitat
The real killer of the Florida panther hit by a truck in Orange County on Sunday is not the truck driver, but encroaching human development into the panther's home. New transportation corridors, mining, urban sprawl, and conversion of rural lands are destroying the habitat needed for the survival of this endangered species. As their habitat shrinks, Florida panthers move to new areas, cross unfamiliar highways, and unwittingly walk into the paths of cars.
A record 26 panthers were killed in 2012, most by motor vehicle collisions. That's a very high percentage of the 100 to 160 Florida panthers that scientists say remain on the planet.
There is still time to stop the carnage and prevent the panther's extinction. By protecting Florida's vast interior rural landscape from development, creating wildlife corridors to connect conservation areas, and diverting panthers away from our roads, we can give the big cat a protected home and safe paths to travel.
How do we want Florida to be represented — as a concrete wasteland or something still a little wild that we can enjoy, explore and protect?
Alexis Meyer, Sierra Club Florida, St. Petersburg
Social Security and Medicare
We've paid for safety net
I'm fed up with Republicans talking about "entitlements." Medicare and Social Security have not been "given" to us. We paid for them. I personally have paid into my Social Security insurance and Medicare for over 60 years when working. And now when it's time to collect, it's an "entitlement."
The GOP has been trying to get rid of them since their inception, the same way as they've been fighting Obamacare. When we started working back in the '50s we were told this was our old-age safety net. I only want what was promised. No more, no less.
Lou Bader, St. Petersburg
Partisanship at its worst | Dec. 8, editorial
A vote to remember
Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has recently been bumbling through a self-inflicted "age of Earth" imbroglio from which he has yet to extricate himself. Far worse, however, is Rubio's vote opposing the ratification of the U.N. disabilities treaty that is essentially a copy of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, spearheaded by former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.
Treaty opponents made numerous baseless objections, including that the treaty erodes American sovereignty and would interfere with Americans homeschooling their disabled children. Treaty advocate Richard Thornburgh, a Republican and former U.S. attorney general, described objections to the treaty as "pure fantasy." Sen. John McCain, who voted in favor of ratification, said emphatically, "It is not an infringement of American sovereignty."
The United States must continue to lead the world in advocating for human rights, and voters need to remember Rubio's pusillanimous brand of leadership.
George Howlett, Tampa
Obama, Boehner talk, make no progress Dec. 12
Spread the pain around
How about a "skin in the game" approach? Everyone gets on board and does something, however minor.
Tax brackets go from 15 percent to 15.5; 25 percent to 26; 28 percent to 29; 33 percent to 35; and 36 percent to 38.
Compromise on the 15 percent dividend and capital gains rate: Go from 15 percent to 20 percent. Get to a middle ground on estate taxes. Get some sense we are in this mess together. There is enough blame to go around.
This does mean the wealthier pay more, but if both parties give in no one gains a political advantage.
We must also have expense reductions. I would stay away from any hindrance to charitable giving — much of those gifts go to help society, taking many of those helped off public assistance. From there, put it all on the table.
I do not know what the dollars work out to, but how about calculating the revenue effects of the above and plugging the expense side to get to a 10-year goal of reducing our $16 trillion debt to, say, $12 trillion?
Raymond Hetterich, St. Petersburg
Florida at 500: Time for a bigger, better economy | Dec. 11, commentary
Good ideas to build on
Michael Cavendish presents a cogent and very creative plan for Florida's economic future, but I'm hoping he will include in future ideas the following fixes.
The types of jobs he envisions are suited for the more highly educated or skilled but offer little for the many here who would not qualify. There must be a plan that provides long-term, decent-paying jobs for those Floridians as well. I have in mind an apprenticeship program for his craftsmen initiative.
All that agricultural activity will bring with it increased levels of water pollution — those jobs in chemistry/engineering need to include development of ways to achieve this with zero pollution.
This leads to: Developing advanced methods for cleaning up the extensive damage we've already wreaked. This has the value-added of creating another long-term jobs stream: folks to handle environmental cleanup on a large scale.
Terri Benincasa, Palm Harbor
Census of homeless vets falls sharply Dec. 11
Housing for our heroes
Thank you for letting the public know that the number of homeless veterans is decreasing nationally. This decline in homeless vets is a direct result of the funding that the Obama administration promised and delivered to protect and provide stable housing to our country's heroes. The homeless men and women who have served their country honorably should always be a priority in our community.
Thanks to the federal funds that we are receiving in Hillsborough County, we have assisted over 300 veterans and their families into affordable housing and employment. Now if we can only get the resources to assist our nonveteran homeless population, we will have something to brag about.
Being homeless is not a choice for over 98 percent of the men, women and children who sleep in our community under bridges and wooded encampments nightly. Help your local community to provide safe housing and jobs to those who are still out in the cold. It really does take a village.
Sara Romeo, CEO, Tampa Crossroads Inc., Tampa