To critics, $120M in 'turkeys' | May 24
Budget items will boost economy
In this year's $77 billion Florida budget, $120 million (a quarter of 1 percent) consists of "turkeys": budget line items that did not pass through legislative committees or go through a review process, according to Florida TaxWatch. There are line items that deserve further scrutiny. But the vast majority are valuable for economic development and will have a positive impact on Florida.
Specifically for Hillsborough County, consider the $5 million allocated for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine for new construction. That means USF Health's scope can expand at a time when there is a critical need for more doctors and nurses in Florida.
Additionally, the Florida Conservation and Technology Center and Center for Conservation are also exactly what our elected officials have said they are committed to: the environment. This is a perfect example of public-private partnership and should be applauded by all elected officials.
The largest budget item impacting Hillsborough County, $12 million for the Port Tampa Bay gantry crane, is just smart business. With the Panama Canal expansion under way and Port Tampa Bay directly connected to this huge commercial waterway, we must prepare for the future. The jobs that will result will allow Florida to grow our economy and change the lives of our citizens as they work to support their families and grow their careers. That is more important than a bureaucratic process.
For every big item, there are dozens worth $100,000 or more for workforce training or educational programs. As our economy improves and diversifies, we need to fund these programs to help people receive the education they need to gain new employment. It's more effective to support workforce programs than to support our safety net programs.
Could the review process be improved? Of course. But until we have a better process in place, the use of budget line items is necessary to fund the projects and programs our communities need.
Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Tampa
As scores go from bad to worse, no time to waste | May 29, editorial
Reading starts at home
When did it become the school's responsibility to teach kids how to read? Reading starts in the home. If parents are not reading to their kids and encouraging them to read on their own, the school has little chance to close the gap.
It's the school's job to make kids better readers, not get them beyond an "inadequate level of success."
Scott Stolz, Tarpon Springs
Deputies deemed Calif. killer no threat May 29
Legal resources available
Many states have laws governing who can file a petition with the court for an involuntary mental health examination of any individual they suspect of being a danger to others or to himself. California's law, however, is cumbersome, often requiring an attorney to petition the court. Unfortunately, Elliot Rodger's family did not have sufficient time to hire an attorney (even if they had known this was an option).
Fortunately in Florida, anyone can file an ex parte petition with the county court detailing their personal knowledge of the individual's dangerous behavior. This petition can be found on every county courthouse website, printed out, completed thoroughly and delivered to the clerk of the court for a notarized signature on the petition.
This then goes to a judge, who has the authority to sign a court order requiring an involuntary mental examination, after which police can pick up that individual to be taken to a mental health treatment center for evaluation and hopefully treatment.
After latest outrage, I'm running out of words May 29, commentary
Answers, not arguments
Leonard Pitts thought he was running out of words after the latest outrage of knife and gun violence. As we all keep shaking our heads due to our own lack of solutions to this ever-increasing horror, I'd like to thank him for continuing to dig for those words and say what we all need to say together: "Enough!" And, if we are willing to work together to solve a problem instead of arguing, we may actually come up with some answers.
Trish Wesson, Largo
Pinellas Judge Patrick Caddell dies at age 60 May 28
Too young, too soon
In the fleeting millisecond when I first saw Judge Patrick Caddell's photo at the bottom of the front page, I assumed he had been given another honor or accolade. Then the headline jolted me into reality. He was dead at 60 — too young and too soon.
As the last of the legendary judges, he had a mystique of affability, enabling lawyers to disagree with him and even laugh about it. Many judges rightly choose to be aloof and stiff, but at legal functions and get-togethers Judge Caddell was always the good old easygoing Pat Caddell who now will live forever in the hearts of the Pinellas-Pasco legal community.
David P. Carter, Seminole
Obama defends diplomacy | May 29
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was all over cable television blasting President Barack Obama's West Point speech. In the midst of an interview on CNN comes breaking news that the Phoenix VA hospital had 1,700 veterans on hidden waiting lists.
What kind of constituent service is McCain providing in his hometown and the state he ostensibly represents in Congress if he didn't know or hear about these issues?
McCain wants the FBI to get involved. Why wasn't he involved? Years ago? If the senator spent more time listening and truly helping his constituents and the veterans he claims to care so much about, instead of attacking the president for every military problem in the world, he might have known about this tragedy.
He should have known about this horrible situation and done something about it years ago.
Bob Harris, St. Petersburg