Be vigilant about teen drinking
Underage drinking and binge drinking among Florida's high school students are at historic lows, according to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is encouraging news that should be shared with your teenager. By hearing that fewer of their peers are drinking, teens might feel less pressured to drink to "fit in." This is supported by several "social norming" studies.
Summer is a time to be extra vigilant. Research shows most teens are not purchasing their own alcohol, but rather get it from their parents' home or from other adults. As a physician, here are some useful tips I share with parents of teens: Be aware of the alcohol products in your home; keep close tabs on your teen's whereabouts during the day and at night; ensure that there is adult supervision at all gatherings, and make clear to those adults that you do not approve of underage drinking.
Importantly, always be a responsible role model for your teen if you consume alcohol.
Raymond Scalettar, M.D., professor, George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
Board: Expedite wetland permits | May 21
Improving public service
A recent article and editorial egregiously misrepresented what occurred at a Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board meeting.
The article states, "The … district wants to make it faster for developers to get permits to destroy wetlands, the governing board members said Tuesday." That was never said. What was discussed was the time frame under which permits are being reviewed and approved. The review and approval process shouldn't exceed 90 days. Why would we not responsibly improve how government does business? I do not support any change in how closely a permit is reviewed. My exact words: "If it deserves a permit, and it used to take nine months, all we want to do is get it done in 90 days. If it doesn't deserve a permit, then just turn it down.''
The article contemplates a high level of destruction of wetland habitat throughout Florida. Since 1984, 3,943 acres of habitat have been impacted through water district permitting. During the same period, 30,787 acres of habitat have been restored/created through the district's efforts. The result is a net gain of 26,844 acres of restored/created habitat. Through the district's efforts, nearly 8 acres of habitat have been restored or created for every 1 acre of habitat impacted.
The taxpayer, regardless of occupation, should expect efficient service. WhiteHouse.gov states: "The framers of the Constitution hoped to form … a government that would … serve the people." Government has a service-oriented fiduciary duty to taxpayers. Duplicative reviews by government agencies should be eliminated as they're wasteful. A more efficient review benefits all applicants and taxpayers.
There was an underlying theme of anti-development and opposition to business growth in these previous editorials and articles. I respect that position, even if I disagree. But please don't try to cloud the community's minds with conspiracy theories to promote anti-development and anti-business growth philosophies.
Carlos Beruff, Governing Board chairman, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Parrish
Keep funds for mental health care June 6, editorial
Citizens shut out of process
Instead of emphasizing the inequity that pits county against county, the Times should have publicized the insufficiency of statewide funding for mental health services and other health and human services in Florida. The Times says that "state agencies — not private vendors — should be making these funding allocations." Philosophically, you are right, but in Florida since 2000, "state agencies" have represented the public very poorly.
It is the Legislature and, even more, the governor who are responsible for the inequities. Under Gov. Jeb Bush, the legislation that privatized services to children and families in the first decade of the 21st century also dissolved citizens' health and human services boards, which were composed of local citizens representing the counties affected. This left to the office of governor control over the contracts for services, with no citizens' board involvement.
Alvin W. Wolfe, Lutz
Writing scores questioned | June 19
End the excuses
This article reporting that school officials are questioning FCAT writing scores sounds familiar to me. I still have copies of articles from May 2011 published in the Sarasota Herald. The first reported that FCAT writing scores for Sarasota schools had plunged from the 70s and 80s to the 30s and 40s and that local school officials had made strong complaints to state education officials.
After an investigation it was reported that the cause of declining scores was that the writing test had been made more difficult. The mind numbing-definition of "more difficult" as reported by the Herald was that for the first time writers were required to spell words correctly and use proper punctuation and grammar.
Despite self-serving claims to the contrary by school officials, Florida consistently scores below national averages in SATs and other measures. Perhaps school officials need to spend less time looking for excuses and more time fixing the problem.
Bill Allen, Longboat Key
University prepay may hurt quality June 20, editorial
A break for the middle class
Did you really just write an editorial lecturing us that lowering the cost of Florida's university prepaid program may hurt the quality of college education? Instead of an editorial celebrating the fact that many more average Florida families are now more likely to purchase a prepaid plan, or the fact that the children of Florida have a better shot at a quality education, did you really warn us that our state colleges and universities will probably not be funded adequately by our elected representatives?
This editorial belongs in the Wall Street Journal, where doing anything for middle class America is always disastrous policy or going to bankrupt the country. You have, obviously, decided it is too difficult to take on the politicians or the even the colleges and universities. Much easier to lay a guilt trip on hardworking Floridians who would like a chance at upward mobility for their children.
Bob Carroll, Palm Harbor