Early childhood education
Quality care pays big dividends
America's future lies in the overall well-being of our youngest children. Child care providers, advocates and caregivers have dedicated lifetimes to researching, developing and bringing crucial resources and support to communities, like those found across Hillsborough County, all to better ensure that children grow up healthy, safe and ready to succeed in school and ultimately in life.
Then why is it that we've seen a host of tragedies involving child safety in early childhood programs across the bay, most recently in Hillsborough County?
It's simple really — these incidents are a symptom of a broader issue. That is, without consistent, comprehensive quality early childhood standards we will not cultivate the quality of program providers needed in order to have opportunities for our children to be safe and ultimately compete in the academic or economic arenas. Prioritizing funding for early childhood development must be a beginning part of our overall plan to get our state and national economy on track.
We must elect and support legislative leadership that understands the system changes and budget supports that are necessary to sustain and improve quality early childhood and school readiness programs, because our future depends on it.
World famous economists have proven that quality preschool is far more cost-effective than programs that correct educational and social problems in later years.
Quality early learning programs and providers are the most effective and efficient way to ensure that every child has access to the quality environments that provide the academic and life skills to get along and get ahead. It's not just an investment in children; it is an investment in our society and our economy.
Dave McGerald, Tampa
Panel rejects couple listing | Jan. 25
Religion had no place
In voting on a registry for unmarried couples, Hillsborough Commissioner Al Higginbotham cited his religious beliefs in rejecting the measure.
What, however, would God-fearing folks like the commissioner have done if, for example, a conservative Mormon who espoused a belief in bigamy had ruled according to his/her religious beliefs? There is no religious test for office. An atheist could have been elected and, accordingly, ruled based on his/her lack of belief in God.
Rulings informed by one's personal beliefs are no way to weigh the civil rights guaranteed us all by the Constitution. Women may now vote. African-Americans are moving steadily toward political equity, and the LGBT community is equally entitled to the same rights as every other American endowed by his/her creator (or lack thereof) with certain unalienable rights.
Higginbotham's religious beliefs should bear no weight in upholding or denying the rights held dear by the Founding Fathers — whether they believed in God or not.
Christopher Jonathan Gerber, St. Petersburg
Baseball great called "The Man" | Jan. 20
Forever a fan
Thank you for this moving article on the passing of the great St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial.
In the early '60s, I was living in St. Louis and a die-hard Cardinals baseball fan. My 10-year-old nephew Tommy had been diagnosed with leukemia; Tommy was a huge Stan Musial fan.
I went to Stan and Biggie's restaurant in St. Louis on the chance that I would see Stan. He was seated at a large round table with a group of business associates. I brought a new baseball with me to his table, excused myself and asked Stan if he could sign the ball for my nephew. He jumped up and said, "Come with me."
Stan took me to his upstairs office where he had a full complement of memorabilia. He said, "Take anything you want," and he proceeded to write a personal message on the ball: "Tommy, get well soon. Stan Musial."
Tommy died later that year with the ball signed by his favorite player at his bedside. That ball is still cherished by our family, and I am forever a fan of the great "Stan the Man."
Lawrence Scanlon, Largo
Clinton gives forceful defense | Jan. 24
Words or deeds
Recently I've heard quite a few elected and appointed public officials use the term "I accept full responsibility" — notably Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama.
Instead of being an end-of-conversation quote, shouldn't "I accept full responsibility" be a call for action against these officials for their lack of fulfilling their duties and obligations? I wonder what Harry Truman's input might be if he were here today?
Dan Pawlowski, Dunedin
Rays' woes take toll, owner says | Jan. 25
Downtown Tampa solution
The Rays' attendance problem requires no debate. The disappointing crowds predate the dramatic economic downturn, so while regional disposable income is an important factor, the reality is that we have an aging facility located on the fringe of the population center. Even if the handwriting is on the wall, who can blame St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster for his legal defense of the city? Understandably, he doesn't want to be remembered as "the guy who lost the Rays." Unfortunately, whatever informal claim St. Petersburg had on the Rays, it has been forfeited by season after season of empty seats.
But there's hope. Although I live 10 minutes from the Trop and love the convenience, I've been to enough ballparks in other cities to know that a downtown urban center facility has huge advantages. Unfortunately, transportation issues in Tampa on nights of a full house at the Tampa Bay Times Forum already create a problem, so adding a baseball game to the mix will turn Tampa's roads into parking lots.
The solution requires big-picture thinking: an urban entertainment center, cruise and sports complex with light rail connections to the region's major cities, beaches and population hubs. A project of this size will create jobs, foster further economic development, and bring Tampa Bay into the big leagues of national players as a destination location.
The Rays are a statewide asset, and the issue deserves a state-driven solution. The clock is ticking, so let's get to work.
William H. Weller, Tierra Verde