Swipe fee, indeed | June 11, editorial
Vote aimed to protect consumers
The Times editorial said U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio cast their votes "against small retailers and consumers" when they voted to delay implementation of a cap on debit interchange fees in the Dodd-Frank reform act. It picks on easy targets — big banks, Visa and MasterCard — but fails to comprehend why our senators supported the proposal. It was a vote to protect consumers from new fees.
The cap has several serious flaws: It legislates price fixing by the Federal Reserve. It prevents the Fed from considering all costs that financial institutions incur to offer debit cards, including fraud prevention, employee costs and overhead. And the proposed exemption for credit unions and small banks with assets of less than $10 billion won't work.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has testified that he fears the two-tiered system will cause smaller institutions, such as credit unions, to see significant losses unless the income is made up elsewhere. Without sufficient revenue from debit interchange or "swipe fees," these smaller issuers will likely have to add fees to checking accounts or stop offering debit cards altogether. Is that good for consumers? If anyone expects merchants to pass on reductions in fees to consumers, they should review the testimony of merchants to Congress who said they couldn't guarantee such reduction.
The proposed legislation would have delayed the implementation of a cap on "swipe fees" for one year, allowing the issue to be properly studied. It was not a "bailout" or "gift" to "big banks," but an attempt to provide for reasonable consideration of the impact of a major change. For local, member-owned-and-operated, not-for-profit credit unions throughout Florida, this amendment was very important.
Tom Dorety, president/CEO, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, Tampa
Use evidence-based steps
Red-light cameras are an ineffective intervention, despite local officials posing as "experts" touting their merits. The Tampa Bay area's traffic fatality rate would not be as high as it is if officials were experts in traffic safety. Instead, they seem unfamiliar with evidence-based public health interventions that reduce crashes and injuries.
Further, when signal timings are correctly set, camera programs lose money. The Los Angeles Police Commission, for example, recently voted to discontinue the cameras.
A recent legislative analysis identified Hillsborough County as generating the most revenue from cameras in Florida. I can explain why this may be, creating a pretense of success, since cameras are located at the intersection outside my office at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fletcher Avenue.
Once cameras were activated, traffic volume plummeted on Bruce B. Downs near the camera site, which leads to fewer crashes. However, Hillsborough County officials attributed the decrease in crashes to cameras while failing to consider the traffic volume change.
Bruce B. Downs regularly has a lengthy serpentine of cars in the left lane waiting to turn onto Fletcher. This occurs because the intersection has a short green light timing on the left arrow. This, coupled with a short yellow light, produces infractions since drivers do not anticipate the rapid turnaround, thus producing tickets while also impeding traffic flow.
For safety, Hillsborough County should lengthen the yellow light timing at each camera site by one second. This is estimated to reduce violations by 80 percent, which will also reduce profits by 80 percent.
Barbara Langland Orban, Ph.D., Tampa
Kittens tortured; one killed | June 14
A cruel end
What is happening to our society when a mother is accused of sanctioning and participating in the brutal act of torturing and killing kittens? No wonder we have people murdering and committing other unlawful acts upon each other.
I am very aware of where my animal is, and he is not allowed to roam free. Of course these poor little kittens were likely strays. What a cruel end for helpless little creatures.
Adele M. Bateman, St. Petersburg
GOP fields aims worst barbs at Obama June 14
Hardly a debate
With no real-world questions asked of the candidates, I would not call this a debate.
They talked of tax cuts to create jobs. The tax cuts from 2001 are still there. Where are the jobs?
No one was asked to cite one regulation that President Barack Obama introduced that is preventing the creation of manufacturing jobs.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbied successfully and the Republicans killed a bill that would have ended tax subsidies to companies shipping overseas. No one was asked about it.
GE made billions in profits but paid little or no taxes. GE appliances are made overseas. No one was asked about it.
Chandra Sekhar, Wesley Chapel
Draft of safety ad riles cyclists | June 13
Take a defensive approach
Cyclists need to realize that the campaign idea of "You vs. Vehicle: You lose every time" is dead on.
Many of them think nothing of taking up an entire lane or crossing in front of vehicles to get to the left turn lane. Yes, you may have the right of way (or not), but as I told my daughter when she was learning to drive, "You can be right, but you can also be dead right."
Automobile drivers are killed every day even though they "had the right of way" and a heavy-duty vehicle for protection. Common sense says that you should ride or drive defensively every moment you are on the road.
Diane Flanagan, St. Petersburg
Bears are off endangered list | June 9
Next on the list?
I was delighted to read that the black bear is no longer on the endangered list. However, because of laws passed by the last session of the Legislature and approved by the governor, I suggest that the people of Florida, and especially the state's children, be put on that list.
The Rev. Magar Bedrosian, Spring Hill