License mess avoided | Dec. 8, editorial
Tax collectors do job efficiently
As Pinellas County tax collector, I applaud the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for backing away from its plan to outsource the issuance and delivery of license plates to a private vendor. I would like to thank Gov. Rick Scott and our Cabinet officials for helping to stop a plan that was headed in the wrong direction from the start.
While I agree with department executive director Julie Jones' stated goal of saving the state money, there is no evidence — or even a solid projection — that shows outsourcing would be cheaper than the current model of using tax collectors to distribute license plates. Furthermore, there are serious accountability questions about handing over motor vehicle database information to a private firm. Tax collectors have been successfully managing inventories and issuing plates for decades. Our system is efficient and accountable. We provide same-day services in our offices, along with convenient Internet and mail options for license plate renewals.
I have heard from a number of Tampa Bay residents lately, and many are concerned with the state's push to privatize services without proving a real benefit. In the case of license plates, I want to ensure we don't make unnecessary changes to a system that already functions well. I look forward to working with the highway and motor vehicles department to do what is in the best interest of our state.
Diane Nelson, Pinellas County tax collector; vice president, Florida Tax Collectors Association
State nears gun milestone | Dec. 13
This article about the number of gun permits issued by the state of Florida didn't address some important issues.
How many gun crimes in the state are being committed by persons who have legally obtained a gun permit? The article alludes to a couple of cases involving "stand your ground" incidents, but I seldom pick up the morning paper without reading about a holdup, home invasion or drive-by shooting committed by a felon with numerous prior arrests. By law, these individuals could not and would not obtain a permit.
Also, looking at the Florida violent crime statistics from 1987 to present, is there a correlation between the changes in the gun laws and the decline in the violent crime rate? Legally obtained guns and gun permits are not the problem. If you look at places with the strictest gun laws, like Chicago, you find very high gun crime and murder rates. Do strict gun laws work? Apparently not.
Joe Wareham, Tierra Verde
Boy, 15, shot accidentally | Dec. 13
Don't call it an accident
There is nothing accidental when one child points a loaded gun at another and fires. Newspapers continue to use euphemistic terminology, like "accidentally went off," when reporting these shootings. Guns do exactly what they are designed to do. They fire bullets when the person holding the gun pulls the trigger.
Your reporters leave the readers with the misconception that guns randomly discharge on their own. I am sure whoever pulled the trigger meant no malice, but it was no accident. Accidents are random and hard to prevent. This shooting was completely preventable.
Gregory Laskerr, Wesley Chapel
Educator and mother of legislator dies at 83 Dec. 13
A teacher's life lessons
"Taisez-vous!" The call to order in our class, delivered with a smile, somehow had less sting spoken in French. Reading of Vivian Rouson's death released a flood of memories for me. Madame Rouson taught more than French. As a student in her French class in the early '70s, I learned refinement, diligence and patience. Madame brought together a group of gawky adolescents from disparate backgrounds and gave us a common purpose and a safe haven, touching more lives and hearts than she would ever know. A beacon of serenity in turbulent times, she will be missed.
Marlene Schaaf, Seminole
Cameras seeing wrecks | Dec. 13
Cautions on conclusions
People are inclined to reach causal conclusions even when unwarranted by the data. The furor over the increase in traffic accidents at intersections with red-light cameras provides an excellent example of this tendency.
To reach a valid conclusion about the causal influence of red-light cameras, we must know the traffic accident rates at comparable intersections without a red-light camera during the same time period. Without this "control group," there are many plausible alternative explanations for the increase, including the possibility that the increase represented a random fluctuation in accident rates, or that accident rates the year before were abnormally low due to less traffic because of the weak economy. Cause-effect inferences and especially legislative decisions about red-light cameras should be based on careful examination of sound scientific data rather than on intuitive tendencies to reach causal conclusions.
Bill Sacco, Tampa
Voucher claims due for testing | Dec. 14, editorial
Common standards for all
All students and schools, public or private, that receive tax money should be required to take the state's standardized tests. Taxpayers would be reassured to learn that every student is receiving a quality education. As a retired teacher, I want to know that, too. There are great schools, public and private, that should welcome the benchmarks and scores.
On the surface, the idea of using the Common Core State Standards tests sounds ideal. According to the Times, 48 states have committed to using these standards by 2014. Years ago we had a nationwide assessment that gave America a wide overview of education. Then came the influx of various states' individual tests. With that, all levels of comparison between the states blurred. I believe that all parents and other taxpayers would want to see equalized tests that give scores based on equal scopes of study.
If private schools don't want to hold to the basic core curriculum and provide scores for the state's tests, perhaps they should not take the taxpayers' money. The scope and sequence of the Common Core is the basic design, and school systems can add to those guidelines if they so desire.
Testing itself is not all-time-consuming. If students are given basic tests from the primary grades on, they learn to accept the process. America's future is in having an educated population.
Joyce Ostrom, Oldsmar