Bill fixes red-light violation issues
The people of the state of Florida have won a victory in the red-light camera legislation that was introduced by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and passed during the 2013 legislative session.
The bill cured many of the defects that existed in the previous red-light camera law. Among many of the positive changes in the legislation is the ability of drivers to challenge a red-light camera violation using an administrative proceeding. Previously, citizens had no right to due process unless a uniform traffic citation was issued with a higher fine rate of $264. All drivers who receive this violation now have a reasonable process to follow, and local hearing officers are used to conduct the hearings. The hearing officers are restricted from imposing excessive fines, which are now capped at $250.
Under the new system, a person receiving a red-light camera notice of violation can pay the violation at the rate of $158, furnish an affidavit, or request a hearing within 60 days to avoid receiving a traffic citation. The notice of violation contains information that directs citizens to a website that provides information on their right to request a hearing as well as a standardized form to fill out and submit. Registered owners of vehicles can file an affidavit that names the person who had care, custody and control of the car at the time of the violation. That person is then duly noticed and they may either pay the violation or request a hearing. Rental car companies would file such affidavits and the person renting the car who received the violation would have ample opportunity to pay at the $158 rate or request a hearing.
The tremendous benefit from this legislative fix in the law will be realized by citizens, cities, courts and clerks of court. Now citizens can rest assured that the process has been fixed and that red-light camera violations can be handled in a fair and equitable manner.
Ken Burke, clerk of the court, Pinellas County
Boehner calls for release of Benghazi email May 10
It is clear that the Obama administration sought to perpetuate, for electoral purposes, a fictitious narrative with regard to their success in neutering al-Qaida — facts on the ground and protecting our people be damned.
Even during the Benghazi attack and in the immediate aftermath of it, concern for the narrative trumped a proper response in real time or a forthright explanation with regard to what had occurred, lest their fiction evaporate.
The thought of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton standing next to the caskets of our fallen heroes promising the families that she would bring the producers of the scapegoated YouTube video to justice makes me sick. And for the record: The who, what, where, when and why of what happened does "make a difference" to me.
Dwayne Keith, Valrico
Golden | May 9
What are the priorities?
As I write this letter, today's major news stories are the Benghazi hearings, three missing women freed in Cleveland and the conviction of Jodi Arias. And what is the major story on the front page of today's Times? A football player retired.
It's comforting to know the relevant news is always above the fold.
Scott Whitney, Riverview
Food stamp program faces deeper cuts in House | May 9
Study in contrasts
There were two headlines facing each other in the paper on Thursday morning's pages 4A and 5A: "Food stamp program faces deeper cuts in House," and "As Syria diplomacy gains, U.S. to increase aid."
Need I say more?
Kathryn Halter, Clearwater
Stop squeezing homeless on IDs | May 8, editorial
Time to take action
Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden is to be commended for his decision to waive the processing fee for homeless individuals seeking a state identification card. It is the right and moral thing to do, and I encourage our friends across Tampa Bay to follow his lead.
In Hillsborough County and in the city of Tampa, we have come to a tipping point on our treatment of the homeless population, attempting to balance public safety and compassionate social services. Even before joining the Tampa City Council and becoming a member of HUD's Opening Doors campaign to end homelessness, I have been assisting those in need. Now as an elected official, I find too many who only speak of, or study what strategies to enact for individuals and families living on the street.
Instead, we need people working on preventing individuals from becoming homeless, before they succumb to the despair that accompanies homelessness. What I have found, more than anything, is that we need more elected officials taking the actions necessary to advance to a long-term solution for homelessness.
Belden's decision, as simple and as quickly as it was done, is an example of the actions needed.
Lisa Montelione, Tampa City Council, District 7
U.S. should use caution in Syria war May 9, editorial
Rebels and al-Qaida
Indeed, the announcement that the United States and Russia will hold an international conference regarding the violence in Syria is good news. This is more promising than the prospect of arming rebels in Syria, which is being pushed by Senate hawks, as you mentioned.
Your editorial neglected to mention a few key components regarding this situation. The first is that al-Qaida, sworn enemy of the United States, is fighting among the rebels in Syria. The leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has called on all Muslims to fight with the rebels, and he has declared that Syria should become an Islamic state.
Second, the Nusra Front, a group the United States has labeled a terrorist organization, is fighting to overthrow Bashar Assad.
Thus, it should be made clear that anyone who calls for arming the rebels in Syria is breaking U.S. law since providing material support to groups designated as terrorists violates the USA PATRIOT Act.
Chris Ernesto, St. Petersburg