Let public's outcry reach capital
More than 1,000 people turned out for the public hearing Tuesday night in Dunedin in response to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's proposal for a private company to build and operate a campground at Honeymoon Island State Park. In my more than 30 years in Pinellas County, this is the greatest number of citizens I ever remember attending a public hearing like this. Not a single speaker supported the proposal. This was a very convincing public display of opposition that I hope will resonate all the way to the decisionmakers on this matter in Tallahassee.
One of the main themes I have heard from our constituents in the Tampa Bay area, and one of my major concerns as a member of the Florida Senate's Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee, is the timing of this process and how little notice the public had about the proposal to expand camping to 56 state parks. As a 40-year veteran of the political process in Florida, I am well aware of the tendency to try to accomplish things of a controversial nature during holiday periods when the public may not be paying attention. I hope the DEP realizes that in this case the public is paying attention.
If the DEP moves further into this process, I hope it will listen to residents and be thorough about studying the impact of such a development on the habitat and wildlife on the island, the traffic, local residents, and archaeological sites.
It was my privilege to represent Honeymoon Island State Park in the Florida Senate from 1994 to 2002 and to engage in numerous projects to improve the park. Having visited the park at least 100 times over the years, I am well aware that Honeymoon Island is a globally significant bird habitat that shouldn't be disturbed any further. I am concerned that private contractors may not have the same passion that the public and the park service employees have for conserving Florida's habitat and wildlife. We must be diligent about protecting this state park from private development.
I am asking Secretary Herschel Vinyard of the DEP to abandon the idea of allowing this commercialization of our park, but if the department chooses to pursue the matter, to at least slow the process so that it can be fully vetted by all stakeholders.
Members of the public who wish to share their thoughts on the proposed campground at Honeymoon Island with the DEP may access the DEP home page at www.dep.state.fl.us or e-mail directly to Jessica.K.Sims@dep.state.fl.us.
State Sen. Jack Latvala, District 16
Managed well, it could work
As an owner of a condo on Honeymoon Island since 1973, I'm following with interest the DEP plan to allow campsites in the park. If the 45 proposed campsites are properly managed and controlled, I don't see an issue.
Back in the '70s when the island was slated for development, the area proposed for campsites was cleared, paved and a drainage system was added. The island had several abandoned cars scattered about, and it was full of litter. Eventually the roads were removed and the area was allowed to grow back once the state purchased the property. So the location isn't exactly a pristine, untouched site as some have suggested.
The goal of having the DEP cover its expenses leaves few options — either increase revenue through what has been proposed or cut expenses heavily. If enough time and public input is allowed to thoughtfully plan the development of the 45 campsites, I doubt the presence of camping vehicles and overnight residents would destroy the island's character. The fact that our own condo development has coexisted for all these years adjoining the Honeymoon Island State Park is further evidence that the campers could work.
Back in the '70s, a proposal was floated to build a Holiday Inn at the far end of the island. While I'm glad that development never happened, I don't think the camping proposal would doom the beauty or uniqueness of what the island offers.
Jim Taglia, Dunedin
Hillsborough drive for jobs gets rolling July 5, editorial
Mind the crime and trash
The biggest stumbling block to attracting high-wage employers to Tampa-Hillsborough County is downtown Tampa. Walk from the Marion Transit Center, past City Hall and the County Center to Channelside, and you can see the problem: empty buildings, weed-choked lots, cracked sidewalks, graffiti and trash. Walk it at night, and you might also experience first-hand the high crime rate.
When delegations from Tampa-Hillsborough travel the world to attract business to relocate here, they proffer incentives and glowing economic development reports. When the delegations leave, the businesses can easily research for themselves, online, what Tampa is really like.
They can find the KPMG Competitive Alternatives 2010 report that rates Tampa highly as a cost-effective large city in which to do business. But, digging a little deeper on the Internet, they will find websites such as Neighborhood Scout that list downtown Tampa among the least safe neighborhoods in the United States.
They don't even have to come to downtown Tampa to see the blight for themselves. Google Maps street view shows photos of every street and block in the city, with every wart and blemish.
For Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to throw more money to hire consultants to once again "plan" downtown Tampa, and for Hillsborough County to fund yet more "studies" is beyond comprehension. First, clean up downtown Tampa. Then hang out the "Open for Business" sign.
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
Expiration is not tax hike
In 2001 and 2003, the Bush administration instituted a number of tax cuts heavily favoring higher earners. The cuts were scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2010.
On Dec. 6, 2010, President Barack Obama, in the face of unified Republican opposition to allowing some of these cuts to expire as scheduled, agreed to a temporary extension.
Fueled by Republican spin, the public now refers to the expiration of these cuts as a tax hike. It is not a tax hike; it is merely the expiration of a temporary tax cut on its scheduled date, as signed into law by George Bush. Obama had nothing to do with it, and allowing the temporary cuts to expire as scheduled does not constitute a tax increase.
Robert Sterling, St. Petersburg
Giveaways are bad policy
I am amazed that after decades of taxpayers renouncing the subsidizing of air carriers that we continue to see that flawed effort occur and be applauded on the local level. Airport director Joseph Lopano is essentially using our tax dollars to lure airlines into Tampa International Airport with the incentive of reduced or no airport usage and landing fees.
I would recommend that all existing TIA air carriers that have been paying the full airport usage and landing fees and have been long-term supporters of TIA stop "playing the fool" and pull out for month and then apply for the new reduced "subsidized" fees offered by Lopano and TIA as new entrants into the Tampa market. Loyalty has no reward in today's world.
Scott Hostler, Lutz