Less on foreign aid, more on roads
Congress appears to be at an impasse on whether to fund desperately needed improvements to our infrastructure. If the issue is offsetting spending increases with spending cuts, I would propose that they look to the money being spent by the United States in Germany and Israel. Combined, the two countries account for over $11 billion spent by the U.S. government annually.
The United States supports over 20 bases in Germany at a cost of almost $8 billion annually. Fewer than 30 percent of the Germans deem the United States trustworthy, according to the latest polls. That is their prerogative, but it prompts the question as to why are we there and spending such an exorbitant amount of money. If it is to defend Germany from Vladimir Putin and the Russians, I would suggest that Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany do not believe they need to be defended.
The federal fiscal year 2015 budget shows the United States will pay Israel more than $3 billion. In 2013, Israel established a sovereign wealth fund in part due to a strong currency and the surplus of money Israel was generating from offshore energy discoveries — a rainy day fund, so to speak. While the United States is deep in debt, Israel apparently is not. If true, why are we spending this money?
The next time Congress is searching for money on how to pay for programs that directly benefit Americans, I would suggest that they look at these particular financial outlays closely. It is, after all, our tax money being sent overseas for unnecessary and questionable purposes.
Jeff Thofner, Tampa
Utilities: Lower conservation goals will aid ratepayers | July 24
Utilities' argument is a joke
The argument put forth by the utility companies that relief for the downtrodden ratepayers rests with eliminating the subsidy for solar panel installations is so laughable the Public Service Commission should publicly chastise those companies for such an outlandish claim.
In the current political climate in Florida, I would not hold my breath. Here in Florida, "business-friendly" means, as I see it, "consumers as fish in a barrel."
John O. Chico, St. Petersburg
Scott should come clean on rail project July 24, editorial
Thanks to your editorial and Carl Hiaasen and Daniel Ruth for shining a light on the shadowy and sinister machinations of our Florida politicians, especially Gov. Rick Scott and his chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, who probably don't want the bright lights.
After summarily dumping the carefully considered plan for a government-supported rail system, Scott has embraced this secret plan that would provide profit to all the pols and businessmen involved, at taxpayers' expense.
First we need to get rid of all the politicians playing this game, then we need to rename the train the "Politicos for Profit Power Train."
Lorraine Madison, St. Petersburg
Fundamentals plan shelved | July 23
Parents want fundamentals
The Pinellas County School Board's decision to not expand fundamental schools is perplexing. If you analyze the data, fundamental schools have achieved everything our district aspires to, touting a long track record of being the highest-performing, lowest-cost schools. Furthermore, and most importantly, the demand for fundamentals is huge with a history of long waiting lists. Yet the School Board has decided to ignore the pleas of its stakeholders and expand magnet schools instead.
While magnets make perfect sense in high schools, where the dropout rate is high, I can't figure out why anyone would want to prematurely establish one track for elementary students. After all, I've never heard of an elementary school dropout, but I could certainly predict a student burning out on a particular field of study after 12 years of engineering (before even entering college) or a rigorous International Baccalaureate program from the tender age of 5.
Isn't it just common sense that a child's primary education should be focused on cultivating individual responsibility and mastering the basics (reading, writing and arithmetic) to prepare them for the long road ahead?
Apparently the School Board and superintendent don't agree, in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the success of fundamental schools. Looks to me that money talks in the form of federal grants, but the voice of constituents continues to be ignored.
Lia Prodromitis, Tarpon Springs
Wealth is yardstick for school grades July 24, John Romano column
Shortfalls of testing
John Romano's column on the invalidity of school testing deserves high praise and a full-scale investigative series. Current testing measures what goes in the public education sausagemaker and ignores both what comes out and how.
This approach is a tragedy multiplier. First, some children start in their own end zone and make it out to the five-yard line. Second, other youngsters start on their opponent's five-yard line and cannot get into life's end zone. Third, we fire the coach who had no say in recruitment. Fourth, we go into the next game with neither film nor statistics to coach a better performance. Lastly, schools that coached the walk-ons out of their end zone deserve a higher ranking than schools that could not get their scholarship athletes across the goal line.
J. Patrick Byrne, Largo
Manage recreational fishing to protect stocks | July 25, commentary
Focus on the real problem
As an avid boater and angler, I have seen increasingly restrictive regulations and fewer recreational anglers in the past 10 years. The "chronic problem of overfishing within the recreational sector," quoted in the column, lacks documentation. And anyway it pales in comparison to the Gulf of Mexico long-lining commercial boats that discard approximately 850,000 fish or 60 percent of their total catch as by-catch.
As far as allowing only weekend fishing, I just retired and enjoy fishing during the week as do many others. I don't sport fish. Every fish I catch I eat. The heart of the problem does not lie with the recreational angler.
David Mokotoff, St. Petersburg