We must invest in our environment
I have not seen anything recently about the Werner-Boyce State Park. Many Pasco residents, including myself, were elated to hear that such a beautiful tract would become our first state park. Over the years I have given much thought to its possibilities and here are some additional projects which should be undertaken by the county to improve our local environment:
• Update and improve old surface water controls which are no longer adequate.
• Encourage higher standards for developing, such as larger building lots, prohibiting the destruction of wetlands or mitigation, and greater control of sewage discharge.
• Coordinate activities of the Health Department, state Department of Environmental Protection, elected officials and government employees.
• Review House Bill 727, Senate bill 1424 and consent order 05-2682 for compliance and update.
Must we be confronted with a disaster before attending to our environmental responsibilities? Would the benefits derived from investing in our environment surpass the stimulus given to the automobile industry?
Patrick Raimond, Port Richey
Trim redundancy, boost health care
I know something of our health system. At present I have an Advantage plan with a Medicare provider. Being in very good health I have no problems, though occasionally it is frustrating when I feel that the service of a specialist is needed and the primary care physician is reluctant to provide a referral. I pay nothing except for Medicare B. My two generic prescriptions are free and I am always far from the doughnut hole.
Previously I worked for three companies that provided excellent health coverage (but no retirement) at no cost. My last 25 years were with the U.S. government and coverage was excellent; cheap at first but later requiring steadily increasing co-payments. On retirement I went into Medicare and for a while I kept the government coverage, which was costing over $300 a month with charges for the two prescriptions. With the help of my local congressman, I was able to change over to the Advantage plan (the government did not want to lose my contribution!), which was free and also paid our YMCA fee of $55 per month. My savings over the highly touted government plan amounts to over $5,000 per year.
The Advantage plan is good but it is very expensive for the government. In our county alone there are at least three similar advantage plans. The problem is that each of these is reimbursed by the government for advertising, seminars and administering Medicare. Across the country there are hundreds of similar companies providing similar services and each is similarly reimbursed by the government; the total cost to the government is many billions of dollars each year. What a great savings (enough to provide universal coverage) if there were only one Advantage plan for the entire country! I would gladly go along with such a system and I am 82.
Charles Huhtanen, Port Richey
Fire service cuts would hurt safety
I am a driver/engineer for Pasco County Fire Rescue. I have been with the county for over 10 years and I have been very happy with the job so far. We are over 400 strong now and we had been approaching a point of adequate and, more importantly, safe staffing levels. Obviously that growth has come to a screeching halt with the recent budget concerns.
Its amazing to me how many people outside of the fire service see our comments as whining or being selfish. These people are ignorant. We are already understaffed by more than 20 positions and the possibility of up to 60 more positions being unfilled is simply ludicrous.
We depend on each other as fellow firefighters to not only get the job done, but to get it done quickly and efficiently, and without getting ourselves hurt. Very few jobs in this world rely on the type of teamwork needed in the fire service. There is a reason why standards for safety are in place when it comes to minimum staffing for a fire engine. These layoffs will be jeopardizing our safety, which will ultimately jeopardize the safety of the community we have been hired to protect.
Over the past several years our pay has been attempting to come closer to that of the area fire departments; however it is still lacking. We are still paid less than almost any other department within the Tampa Bay area. The "opportunity to make a decent wage" that Commissioner Ted Schrader mentioned would be that of mandatory overtime. We should not have to work overtime to be able to compare to other departments' regular income.
We work a schedule of 24 hours on and 48 hours off. That's a regular schedule of 96 to 120 hours a pay period. When needed, personnel are forced to work up to an additional 24 hours of overtime. We don't get the choice. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It doesn't matter what you have planned for your scheduled day off. If they mandate you to work you must work the overtime. That doesn't sound like the perk Commissioner Schrader made it out to be. We're already understaffed and the overtime is at an all-time high as it is. Does cutting 60 or more people make any sense?
Neil French, New Port Richey
Shoot first law is vague, dangerous
Pasco sheriff deputies arrested Gregory Stewart in the shooting of William Kuch and charged him with aggravated battery; if Kuch dies it will most likely be a manslaughter charge. Mr. Stewart should not have been arrested and was completely within his rights as stated in the NRA's self-defense law we call the "shoot first" law. A preliminary investigation suggested the situation did not require deadly force, stated Kevin Doll, spokesperson for the Pasco Sheriff's Office.
This raises several questions. Has the Sheriff' Office ever read this law, and why have similar cases all over the bay area — including in Pasco — resulted in no arrest and no charges? What is most intriguing about the statement from the Sheriff's Office is it "did not require deadly force." Most anyone would agree with that. But what statute or law provides for the measure of which situation requires deadly force and which does not?
The answer is no such law exists to measure such situations except the NRA shoot first law. Our old law required all possible moves to avoid a deadly confrontation. The old self-defense law provided that measure of when deadly force was appropriate and therefore legal.
But this law was canceled and replaced and the only measure of deadly force is the language that states if you feel threatened for great bodily harm or death, you do not have to avoid the confrontation in any way; you can meet force with force, including deadly force. In other words, the person who now makes the decision if deadly force is appropriate or not appropriate and the only measure of the legality of such actions is the man with the gun backed by the words of the horrible law.
This language is perhaps the reason Mr. Stewart and so many others who have gunned down unarmed men in this state and walked away without being charged for anything. As more and more gun owners realize that the NRA now has codified what they can now legally do with that gun, the body count of unarmed victims will continue to rise. Repeal this stupid law!
Arthur C. Hayhoe,
Kudos to White on theft arrests
Great job, Sheriff Bob White! The morning I left for vacation I read the story of how the sheriff's intuition and many years of police work led him to apprehend and bust several thieves stealing equipment.
As a business owner, I have been faced with the same theft of our equipment, arriving on the job the next day and having to send the crew home because the equipment was stolen during the night, the cost of employees' lost wages and the company's lost revenue.
Thank you, Sheriff, for going the extra mile to protect your citizens and their businesses.
Kevin Bohne, president
Florida Gas & Electric Corp.