Long, hot summer of wasted chances | Aug. 25, Tim Nickens column
Florida better off because of Scott
Tim Nickens wrote an extremely partisan column that grossly misrepresented Gov. Rick Scott's record. Since taking office, Scott has been laser focused on creating jobs and improving our schools. Floridians care about jobs and education and he has taken them seriously. He has worked every day to ensure job creators have the tools to create more jobs, and that schools have the resources to give our kids a world-class education. For this, our governor should be applauded.
In the four years prior to Scott, Florida lost 832,000 jobs and our unemployment rate had skyrocketed from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent, the second-largest unemployment jump in the country. The state's debt was out of control and Florida desperately needed leadership.
Because of Scott and our Republican Legislature, in just under three years Florida has added nearly 370,000 private-sector jobs and reduced the unemployment rate to 7.1 percent, surpassing the expectations of many economists. Just last month Florida added 34,000 private sector jobs. He has paid down $3.6 billion in state debt and paid back $3.5 billion that Florida owed the federal government for unemployment insurance. And he's done it all while cutting taxes. You cannot argue with this progress; we are on the right path.
Scott has implemented record state-based funding for K-12 schools, implemented $480 million for teacher pay raises, ended teacher tenure, and held the line of rising tuition. Just because Florida has low tuition is not a reason to increase it.
Nickens was using the Democrats' talking points and we won't stand for it. Florida is better off now than it was three years ago and we have Scott to thank for it. Floridians deserve to know their governor is fighting for them.
Lenny Curry, chairman, Republican Party of Florida, Jacksonville
Voters sink Lens | Aug. 28
For a functional pier
Kudos to the folks who fought so hard getting petitions to force the referendum that got the Lens contract canceled. Shame on the politicians and bureaucrats who tried to ram this project down our throats and did everything possible to make petition-gathering and ballot language difficult. It's now clear that almost two-thirds of the voters in this city did not want this farfetched and out-of-place design. We don't need an art project downtown, but rather a functional pier for all to enjoy that is economically viable.
The city should dust off the plans for the original 1926 Million Dollar Pier. A similar design — fitted with reasonably priced shops, restaurants, arcade games and an array of activities and rentals focused on water sports — that appeals to all, not just the high-enders and the artists, would be a winner.
Jeff Francis, St. Petersburg
Incorporate ferry service
Incorporating a public ferry service from St. Petersburg to Tampa and designing a new Million Dollar Pier could catapult us into the future and put us on the map. The pier building would bustle with activity and commerce from both visitors and residents and could be the starting point for expanding public ferries to serve our whole region.
People keep talking about how the Lens concept was similar to the Sydney Opera House in Australia. What most people don't know is how extensively the Aussies utilize their bay and waterfront with boats as a vital form of transit, not just for pleasure.
A public ferry station would be exciting at our pier, and a diversity of shops and restaurants would emerge. Perhaps resurrecting the Million Dollar Pier is the true compromise choice before us as most could live with it. We do not need to "reinvent the wheel" with the 8/28 Alliance.
Ivylyn Harrell, St. Petersburg
The thing that bothers me about the 8/28 Alliance and others discussing the future of the pier is the lack of discussion about the budget. This is the elephant in the room. There is nothing that can be built within the existing $50 million budget that is going to satisfy many people.
Obviously the Lens was not the perfect pier replacement, however if it could have been built within budget the voters should have approved it. In Chicago they are looking at a renovation of the Navy Pier that will cost an estimated $165 million. Granted, the St. Petersburg Pier is nowhere near that large, but if you want something decent, a $50 million budget to both tear down the existing pier and build a new one is totally off the wall.
Chuck Bayer, Redington Shores
U.S. builds a case to act | Aug. 27
Killing is killing
I continue to be appalled at the slaughter of innocent people in the Syrian conflict. It seems that something must be done to stop the senseless killing, even though I would be the first to admit that the idea of intervening and entangling the United States in another no-win conflict (like Afghanistan and Iraq) doesn't seem to be the right thing.
However, what I do not understand are the sudden calls to action based on what appears to be the confirmed use of chemical weapons against Syrian people. While this is a particularly heinous way for a government to attack its own citizens, how is it "worse" to murder citizens with chemical weapons vs. guns, rockets, or any other type of weapon? A slaughter of innocent people is a slaughter no matter the weapon used.
Theresa Hoskinson, Tampa
School grading tweaks urged | Aug. 29
Follow up on students
What good are new learning standards, testing, grading schools, teacher evaluations, hiring, firing, raises, bonuses and accountability if there are no followup studies done to see where the students are five years after they leave school?
I have never seen such a study and suggest we have graduate students in education take on such a project. How do we know that the school curriculum has done any good or any harm? How many graduates went on to college and graduated and are working? How many dropouts are back in school or working or in jail?
If we want to listen to students, why don't we also do it five years later when they can tell us what was helpful and what was not? The public school system has not changed very much in the last 50 years. Does it need change? Let's ask the ones who know the answer.
Gloria Julius, St. Petersburg