Wetlands mitigation giveaway | Feb. 28 editorial
Bill promotes mitigation options
This editorial mischaracterizes the intent of my proposed legislation, House Bill 599, relating to environmental mitigation of impacts from transportation projects. Simply put, HB 599 gives the Department of Transportation a choice — not a mandate — to buy mitigation credits that are the most effective and efficient. It provides more, not fewer, options for choosing mitigation. This bill does not seek to elevate a single private industry or allow anyone to corner the market, as the editorial claims.
The editorial also mischaracterized a 2007 study on mitigation banking. The study was described as an examination of the "viability" of the mitigation banks, when in fact the study starts off on the premise that mitigation banks are viable and then examines better policies for monitoring mitigation efforts, which the editorial supports.
I believe this is a good-government bill that encourages more private investment in Florida by buying lands for preservation and funding the management of those lands forever with escrow accounts, thus removing the burden on the taxpayer to manage these preserved lands.
We should want to save the taxpayer money and create a more efficient system that adds new preserved lands, rather than less when DOT is forced to only use existing preservation lands for credits. We should want to give DOT more options that meet both state and federal requirements. This legislation does just that.
Florida House Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota
Comeback puppy | Feb. 23
SPCA acts promptly
The story of Sox has captured the hearts of many people in our community who care about animals. Every case of abuse is heartbreaking. Getting the best results for the animals takes patience and procedure. SPCA Tampa Bay humane officers conduct more than 1,000 investigations each year with one goal: to save an animal's life. Different situations call for different actions.
When we receive a tip from the public, our first step is to visit the owner.
We make every attempt to improve an animal's situation through owner education and persuasion. Our officers give owners a specific time frame in which to make improvements. We always return to make sure an owner has complied. In many cases this is all that is needed.
When we suspect that an owner will not do the right thing, we ask a law enforcement officer to visit the owner with us. This process ensures that we can take immediate action to remove an animal and provide life-saving care.
Animal cruelty charges and arrests of the perpetrators are a police matter. Our role in these situations is to collect evidence, testify in court and follow the case through to resolution. By following proper procedure, animals have a better chance of never returning to an abusive situation and prosecutors have the best chance to bring charges and convict abusive owners.
Please report suspected animal cruelty to the SPCA.
Martha Boden, CEO, SPCA Tampa Bay, Largo
Utility ruse was pot search | March 1
The story of a Pinellas County sheriff's detective posing as a Progress Energy worker reminded me of a similar situation we had in Northern California when I worked for a utility company in the 1980s.
The growing of marijuana in densely wooded rural areas was common. Federal agents would dress as utility line workers posing to work on the high-tension lines but were actually conducting surveillance operations. This became known to the growers and they began shooting at utility line workers.
The practice of posing as agents was stopped, and an extensive outreach campaign was mounted in the rural communities, assuring people that agents would no longer pose as utility workers and pleading with them not to shoot at unarmed utility employees.
Mike Wightman, Safety Harbor
Audit: Schools top-heavy | Feb. 25
Lessons of one-room school
This article made me reflect on my educational experience, which may have some relevance. In the 1930s I attended a one-room schoolhouse with no plumbing or electricity in Center Barnstead, N.H. Alice Powers had the responsibility of educating 20 poor children in grades 1-8 in the same room at the same time.
The eighth grade would be the last one attended by most of these children, as they had to work the farms. All of her students graduated from the eighth grade proficient in reading, writing, math, history and geography — which is hardly the case in high school today. Thanks to Alice Powers, I graduated from college and law school. The math skills developed in her class served me well as a U.S. Air Force pilot.
Why was Powers able to succeed in the education of children from poor, uneducated families, when with modern facilities, Head Start, highly paid superintendents and a plethora of administrators our schools are failing and falling behind nations that spend far less per student?
I am not advocating the return of the one-room schoolhouse, however, what immediately stands out is the competence of the teacher. What can we do so that every child can have an Alice Powers? Unfortunately, teachers are virtually guaranteed a lifetime job and it is almost impossible to remove an incompetent teacher.
The number of administrators has little to do with the education of a child. The emphasis should be on teaching. A first step would be to re-evaluate tenure and implement merit pay. Reduce the number of administrators and apply the savings to the teachers.
Harold H. Dean, St. Petersburg
No, (fill in the blank) is not like the Nazis Feb. 27
Hyperbole on the right
I agree with Dick Polman's criticism of using Adolf Hitler and the Nazis to describe today's politicians. However, he was trying too hard to be balanced. It is the right wing that seems to have a particular fondness for this type of hyperbole.
I have seen many a tea party sign with President Barack Obama's picture altered to look like Hitler. Rush Limbaugh has for years referred to "Feminazis." And Glenn Beck referred to the dozens of Norwegian youths slaughtered by Anders Behring Breivik as being like "Hitler Youth."
Michael P. Shanahan, Apollo Beach