Ybor City chickens
Chickens pose health risk
As a fourth-generation native of Tampa with Spanish and Italian roots from Ybor, I find it amazing that people are promoting chickens as historic to Ybor City in an attempt to allow more than 100 chickens to roam the streets. Maybe 75 to 100 years ago there were chickens in the yards of immigrants who ate chicken eggs and chickens. But they weren't in the streets free to roam Ybor City; they were contained in coops or fenced backyards.
If you want to use "historic" as an argument, you should also allow chickens to freely roam Hyde Park, Bayshore, downtown Tampa, SoHo, New Suburb Beautiful, Parkland Estates and the University of Tampa as well, since that land was once farm and grove land.
The government has made laws to curb and control animals for the public's health and safety. As a citizen, I prefer my rights as a human over this publicity stunt to perpetuate and create rights for a growing population of chickens.
With no predators or containment, the chicken population will continue to multiply and spread geographically. I think if you check the city laws you will find you cannot have livestock in the city limits, much less running free in the streets and defecating on public sidewalks and streets. It's a health issue.
I can't believe restaurant owners want these birds in their restaurants or in their garbage. What about traffic accidents or property damage caused by the birds?
Even licensed and Department of Agriculture-regulated commercial egg farms must follow strict laws that contain chickens, which are extremely susceptible to disease.
Today we know most diseases are spread rapidly by birds to humans, especially when the bird population is in close contact to humans. Why would we want to increase the risk?
If you want to be around chickens, move to the countryside, a chicken farm or a remote island. This is a city, not a farm.
Joseph Costa, Tampa
Help automakers, but attach strings | Nov. 14, editorial
Don't ignore positives of U.S. auto industry
The automobile industry is very complex, and it's not surprising that so many pundits and editorial writers find it easy to bash American automobile manufacturers for their current situations. Unfortunately, much of what is written comes from a lack of understanding.
Did you know:
• It's not just American car companies that have lobbied against raising fuel economy standards; the foreign manufacturers have been part of that lobbying effort.
• General Motors makes 30 models that get 30 or more mpg on the highway, more than any other manufacturer.
• One of GM's "gas-guzzling" trucks is a hybrid pickup that gets 24 mpg in city driving, same as a Honda Civic.
• The first mass-produced plug-in vehicle is scheduled to reach dealerships in early 2010. It is a Chevrolet.
• The biggest barrier to American companies competing in the car market (as opposed to trucks) has been the additional cost of health insurance for current and retired employees. Foreign manufacturers don't have these costs.
• An agreement reached last year between the Big Three and the UAW will alter the financing of health insurance and save the companies tens of billions of dollars beginning next year.
• One of the biggest burdens for the Big Three is their outdated dealer network. All three started consolidating in the late '90s, but franchise agreements and state laws protect dealers from having their franchises yanked. To realign dealer networks could cost tens of billions of dollars.
• GM cannot reorganize in bankruptcy, because in today's credit market there is no lender to provide financing to allow them to buy parts and supplies on credit.
• If GM goes down, its suppliers will go down too, because GM is by far their No. 1 customer.
• If cars and trucks are not built by American companies, then foreign companies will develop the technology (and hold the patents) for the fuel-efficient, pollution-free vehicles we will be driving in 15 years.
• If GM goes down, it will have a worldwide impact. GM makes vehicles in Europe, Asia and Australia. It may be hard to believe, but Buick (yes, Buick) is one of the leading brands in China, the fastest-growing automotive market in the world.
Of course, there need to be strings to any offer of support for America's car companies. But first there needs to be a recognition that the costs of doing nothing would be far greater than the costs of helping them survive the current crisis.
Meyer Baron, St. Petersburg
Automakers in trouble
Unions do much good
Before people blame the United Auto Workers for the ills of the auto industry, they should realize all the good unions have done for the working class.
They put an end to the abuse and careless treatment of the working class. We would not enjoy the comfortable lives we live today because of the decent wages they've bought us. Nobody would have the benefits we enjoy today — no paid holidays, no paid vacations, no paid hospitalization.
Look at the states that have right-to-work laws. Every one of them (Florida included) has a lower standard of living for the working class with fewer if any of the benefits that unions give. I have seen people breaking their backs in grocery stores for minimum wages. I've seen people working two and three jobs just to pay their bills. I've seen people not able to retire in their 70s because there were no pension plans and they were unable to save for retirement because of low, nonunion wages.
If anything, we must bring the unions back stronger than ever. Trust me, companies only look at you as a piece of meat. Unions are the only ones who care about "Joe the laborer."
Robert Murray, Oldsmar
An outmoded industry
The best argument in support of the Chrysler/Ford/GM bailout is that one of every 10 jobs in the United States is related to the auto industry. But is that sustainable, or even desirable?
After all, the era of the single-occupancy vehicle is quickly coming to a close. More and more people are going to find car ownership unaffordable. The typical American commute — one person per car traveling 15 miles or more each way — is becoming financially and environmentally unsustainable.
The inevitable increase in mass transit, carpooling, scooters and bicycles, and higher population densities with shorter commutes can only mean fewer autos on the road and a shrinking industry.
Even if the U.S. companies survive, we should plan on the industry providing fewer jobs in the years ahead.
Chip Thomas, Tampa
Give consumers the money
The Big Three automakers are getting $25-billion to retool their production lines to make more fuel-efficient cars, and now they want $25-billion more to keep their doors open.
Why doesn't Congress consider giving that $50-billion to consumers in the form of a tax credit for buying a fuel-efficient car from whomever they want? If Detroit doesn't get the message when consumers vote with their wallets, then they deserve to go out of business.
This nonsense about losing millions of jobs, tax revenues and damaging the economy is smoke and mirrors. Does it really matter if consumers buy from the Big Three or from some other manufacturer like Toyota, Nissan or Honda that makes cars in the United States? They employ U.S. workers, pay corporate taxes and support secondary suppliers just as well, if not better than, Detroit.
If Uncle Sam were to create a stimulus package that gave every person buying a car a $5,000 tax credit if the vehicle met certain criteria — such as fuel economy of 20 mpg or better, with at least 50 percent of the components manufactured in the United States, and a cost of less than $25,000 — how much of a stimulus do you think that would represent for our ailing economy?
If Detroit doesn't want to build fuel-efficient vehicles, someone else will. If Americans want to buy gas-guzzlers or luxury cars, then they don't get a credit.
Randy Auryansen, Indian Shores
National security at stake
One factor about the auto industry I have not heard addressed is the value of these giants of manufacturing to our national security.
I'm old enough to remember how, during World War II, all of the auto companies quickly converted from making cars to building airplanes, tanks, etc., for the war effort. If we should ever find ourselves in a similar predicament again, will we be able to depend on the Japanese, Korean and German car companies to do the same?
We bailed out the banks, and one of the reasons for doing so was to free up money to buy cars. Was it worth it if we are only going to be able to buy foreign cars with those loans?
I say divert the money from the Wall Street giveaway to loan it to the auto industry and keep millions of Americans working and paying taxes instead of adding to the mounting numbers of the unemployed.
Ken DeKing, Zephyrhills
I can just see it now. If Detroit's Big Three automakers go under, their epitaph will most assuredly read: "Rust in peace."
Herbert Stark, Massapequa, N.Y.
It's a matter of morals, not rights | Nov. 15, letter
Morals change; so do laws
The letter writer thinks voting against gay marriage elevates morality. Morality is a personal issue. It is very subjective, usually espoused by a church.
It was once immoral to divorce. It was immoral to marry outside of your religion. It was immoral to raise your children in a different church or no church. People were excommunicated and shunned until churches changed their rules. It was immoral for heterosexual couples to live together without marriage. Now it is the norm. It was immoral to admit being gay. Now it is socially acceptable.
Civil laws extend civil rights, not church rules. Gay couples can now live together legally without fear of jail or mental hospitals. Mores change as people become more understanding of others' rights and less fearful of having their rights reduced. Civil law may, one day, have to go further to allow gay marriage and make it legal in all states.
Gloria R. Julius, St. Petersburg
Leave marriage to churches
The solution to the same-sex marriage issue is to have the states issue civil unions to everyone, straight or gay, and to leave marriage to the churches. Of the religious sacraments, only matrimony is granted by the states.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a wall of separation between church and state. The states' granting of a religious sacrament is unconstitutional.
Kent A. McCoy, St. Petersburg
Don't give in to fear, hate
As a child growing up in St. Petersburg in the '50s and '60s, I remember it being "okay" for people to say hateful things about African-Americans and to sneer in disapproval at women who wanted to be priests and ministers.
It seems that on our precious Earth there will always be groups that it's still "okay" to hate.
I know that most of us don't mean to be harmful with the inappropriate jokes that are still told in day-to-day conversations about those of varied origins or gays or other "still-okay-to-hate" groups. I think for some it can be like laughing at the guy you see slip on the banana peel. You know it's unkind to delight in disgracing a person; it's more like a momentary hysteria that says, "I'm glad it's not me."
We're better than this, folks. We really are. When the chips are down, we become our noble selves toward each other again, for a moment.
Then, when the clarity dissipates, we retreat to corners of fear to fret about and protect our perceived "roles" in society and the extent to which their power is or is not intact at a given time.
Let's remember who we are, and we will then remember how to treat each another.
John N.C. Meros, St. Petersburg
Give casinos a try
Why haven't we heard anything about establishing casinos in a few select popular tourist areas in Florida? I'm not talking Las Vegas style here. Not only would the taxes collected help replenish the state's coffers and prevent drastic budget cuts, but the trickle-down effect would be tremendous. More jobs would be created and our tourism would once again flourish.
While not an avid gambler myself, I have visited several casinos across the country, and I've seen no evidence of increased crime, prostitution or folks gambling their rent money, with the exception of cities where gambling is the economy, e.g., Las Vegas.
I've witnessed a thriving town or city where there once was a "ghost town," all due to establishing a few casinos. Of course, there would have to be strict regulation of tax proceeds to insure state and local services get top distribution priority.
The religious right would certainly object, but the benefits would be a much needed blessing. Maybe this could avert the "ghost town" effect plaguing us.
June Young, St. Petersburg
Biggest health challenge
Obesity is the biggest health challenge the country faces. If we don't take action now, our children will have a reduced life expectancy. Along with the rise in obesity, we have seen a dramatic increase in diabetes, high blood pressure and many other conditions uncommon in children three decades ago.
We all need to come together to make a commitment to ensure that our children can lead a healthy and productive life.
Julie Ryczek, Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Treasure Island