Lawmakers kept children in mind
Just a few weeks ago, things looked pretty grim in Tallahassee. Programs that protect Florida's most vulnerable children faced yet another round of deep budget cuts, even as difficult times drive increased calls to Florida's child abuse hotline and the number of cases ending in a child's death continued to escalate. The economic challenges faced by the Florida Legislature this year were daunting and, while we're not out of the woods yet, our legislative leaders demonstrated their commitment to our children by creating a budget that prioritizes their safety and well being.
Forced to make the toughest kinds of decisions — prioritizing the needs of some citizens over the needs of deserving others — our legislators chose to preserve programs that care not only for the young victims of abuse and neglect, but also those who teach youth and families the skills that prevent or interrupt the tragic cycle of abuse. Why? Because these programs not only make moral sense, but also economic sense.
Despite losing nearly $24 million in child welfare funding in the 2008 legislative session, Florida's prevention and child welfare programs are working. Record numbers of children in foster care are finding forever families through adoption. And youth aging out of the foster care system are discovering hope through independent living services that provide the skills they need to avoid homelessness and become productive members of society.
According to a study published by Prevent Child Abuse America, the estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect is $103.8 billion in 2007 value. If we don't prevent child abuse and neglect, the residual effects continue to sap our dwindling tax dollars as those children later require a myriad of stabilization and intervention services.
While grateful for child welfare's reprieve this session, we celebrate cautiously as the budget is partially built upon federal stimulus money that is nonrecurring and heavily reliant on tax revenues that have declined steadily over the past two years. Enacting the new cigarette tax was a move in the right direction, but we must continue to look for new ways to grow our tax base to avoid further cuts to services that care for Florida's most vulnerable citizens.
Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to these caring legislators for funding services that are critical to the protection of young lives and brighter futures for children. We also hope this thoughtful decisionmaking will continue.
David Bundy, president and CEO, Children's Home Society of Florida, Winter Park
Stimulus road work won't help business
One of the projects in Pinellas County that the stimulus money has funded is U.S. 19 reconstruction from Whitney Road to south of Seville Boulevard. Gov. Charlie Crist and members of the Legislature commented that this could "have a positive impact on reigniting our economy and creating jobs."
Are they really that blind? Are they aware of how many businesses are hanging by a thread in these tough times that are located in this section of U.S. 19? This construction project will be the last nail in the coffin for them. We are talking about car dealers, boat dealers restaurants and so on.
Do they understand that they are only creating jobs for construction workers and these jobs are temporary? Do they know that hundreds of people will lose their permanent jobs if these businesses go under? That thousands of tax dollars will be lost due to lost revenue? Empty buildings with property taxes not collected? Does this sound like we are reigniting the economy?
My family owns Fletcher's Harley-Davidson and for 45 years we have been able to survive the worst economic downturns. I don't know if we will survive this one with this kind of help from the governor. So I ask, what is Charlie Crist going to do for us now?
Laura Fletcher-Taylor, Clearwater
Hispanics to protest liaison cuts | June 18
Time to learn English
I guess the Hispanics do not realize that in Hillsborough County and in this country we are in a bit of a budget crunch and that some services and programs have to be cut or eliminated because there is simply no money in the budget to support them.
It's a real shame that the liaison program may need to be cut or scaled back and that all of you who do not speak or read English may finally have to learn to do so. If you live in my country you need to learn the language and customs. If you are not so inclined, quit complaining and go home.
Charles A. Poppelreiter, Hudson
Words that incite
I am appalled, though perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, at the June 17 letter writers who took exception to Paul Krugman's recent column (The big hate, June 15), which I found extremely insightful.
In my opinion, public figures such as Glenn Beck, Jon Voight, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly have an obligation to behave/perform in a responsible manner and not incite negative behavior in others, which is what I think they do.
For example, O'Reilly's mantra, "Tiller, the baby killer," is, I believe, totally irresponsible broadcasting behavior. Do I think Keith Olbermann is sometimes "over the top"? Absolutely. But I don't think his rantings are dangerously suggestive.
I'm a firm proponent of free speech, but I think it's one thing to express views passionately. It's another to incite, or even condone, dangerous behavior. I find it akin to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.
Diane Kornick, Clearwater
The virtual mosque | June 18, Thomas Friedman column
The power of guns
Thomas Friedman's column was as usual very informing. However, one statement jumped out at me — "The Islamists and their regimes have a trump card: guns. Guns trump cell phones."
Ever wonder where we would be if the men at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill had let the English confiscate their guns? We would still be part of the British Empire. That's why the "one- world thinkers" want strong antigun laws.
The one thing they fear is an informed, armed population willing to fight for their rights.
Tom Bennis, Sun City Center
You're Barack Obama: Now fix health care June 17, David Brooks column
David Brooks owes me about seven minutes of my life that I'll never get back. That's about the amount of time I wasted trying to get the point of this article.
Why your editor saw fit to use so much ink and column space for it is beyond me. Maybe Brooks and/or your editor could print us a synopsis of what was attempted (and never mind explaining the snarky comment about skinny guy with big ears: That point I got).
Al Frymier, Largo