Cameras a fair way to raise revenue
Regarding the Times' angst over the morality of using red-light cameras to deter red-light runners while bringing revenue to city coffers (Safety, not revenue, Jan. 27), I say, welcome to the new world order in Florida.
I personally have seen drivers who entered the intersection long after the light had clearly turned red. It's almost as though they feel that if cars with the green light aren't fast enough to get going, it's clear to run the light. We will never have remotely enough police officers to effectively enforce red-light rules, but the cameras can — with the additional financial benefit that is being questioned.
The city is going to have to find revenue somewhere, and I can't think of a more fair way to raise it. Property taxes are certainly assessed unfairly now, causing some folks to lose their homes. Hand-wringing over charging $125 to a lawbreaker who is showing blatant disregard for human life? Give me a break.
As to the issue of the ticket going to the car owner and not the driver, tough noogies! If the owner is reckless enough to loan a car to a risky driver, charge him/her. We do it with gun violations/shootings; let the owner pay and wise up. Red-light cameras, when implemented properly, represent a true win-win for the citizens.
Scott K. Wagman, St. Petersburg
It's a money grab
I read in the Jan. 23 St. Petersburg Times that the city of St. Petersburg is considering installing red-light cameras for safety reasons (Traffic cameras get look).
City Council member Jim Kennedy is quoted as saying, "It comes first from a safety point of view and personal observation of people running red lights and that being a dangerous thing."
I laud council member Kennedy on his concern for safety, but I don't agree with him on installing red-light cameras to correct this issue. It has been clearly documented that installing red-light cameras in some instances may decrease T-bone- type crashes but increases the number of rear-end accidents, and therefore is not an adequate deterrent.
As documented by Congress in a 2001 report by House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and by other safety studies, merely increasing the yellow-light time by 1 second, thus giving the driver additional time to make his or her decision, is all that is required to decrease the incidents of traffic accidents.
I and every other red-blooded American know what the red-light cameras are all about. They are nothing more than a revenue generator, an insidious, profitable revenue stream that is not called a tax, thus its insidiousness. .
Americans are sick and tired of people "caring for our best interest" to our face, while reaching into our back pockets with their slimy hands and robbing us blind. That is what this red-light camera system is really all about.
Bill Vear, St Pete Beach
Light-runners don't like it
I think the red-light cameras are very much needed in St. Petersburg. I drive on 34th Street daily and just about every day I see someone run a red light.
I have come to a complete stop at a red light and seen a car or truck behind me go through the light. This has become so common that even the police do it.
I think that the only ones who do not want these cameras installed are the ones running the red lights.
David Richter, St. Petersburg
Ease up on right turns
The proponents of installing red-light cameras will say that anyone who runs a red light deserves a ticket. The unforeseen or maybe foreseen result of installing these cameras is that 90 percent of the tickets issued will be to motorists who fail to come to a complete stop before making a right turn on a red light. The issuance of such tickets will anger many motorists but will increase the amount of money these cameras generate.
If red-light cameras are to be installed, they should have the provision that no tickets are to be issued for right turns on a red light or that the traffic law should be amended so it is legal to make a right turn on red when it is safe to do so, thereby eliminating the requirement of coming to a complete stop.
Al Zvinakis, St. Petersburg
Revenue is the winner
Your Jan. 27 editorial headline said, Safety, not revenue. In safety vs. revenue, revenue wins out every time. If officials were really interested in safety, every yellow caution light would be equipped with an LED countdown (like many pedestrian lights). There would be no question of when it would turn red, and face it, all yellow lights have varying lengths of time built into their systems.
It is truly all about the money, not safety. The prevalent driving syndrome of MTNL (Making The Next Light) is probably due to the plethora of controlled intersections. Want to make your head explode? Count the traffic lights you encounter on the way to work (or all day if you're a masochist).
M. Merta, Dunedin
Coming with $1.25B for rail | Jan. 28
Try a trial train to see if anyone will ride
Florida is getting $1.25 billion for the bullet train! Lots of jobs! That's great! But there's just one huge question: Who will ride it?
After years of construction and billions in investment, will this train do nothing but run empty on a constant basis? Will it make a profit? Will it even cover its costs? Will it really take cars off the road and thereby clean the environment as intended?
Before a nickel of money we don't have is spent, please answer those questions — honestly. Why not try a low-cost trial train on the existing track and a few used cars borrowed from Amtrak? Test the waters. That will answer those questions definitively.
Frank J. Amalfitano, Valrico
Rethink the routes
With the Obama administration promising Florida funds for a high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa, it would be a good idea to immediately revisit the overall plan with respect to alignment of future legs within the state. The current plan envisions the next leg connecting Orlando to Miami, with long-term plans to connect Jacksonville and Orlando.
A better alignment might be to run a line down the west coast from Tampa Bay to Miami, and to later connect Orlando and Jacksonville. Here are supporting points:
The two largest metro areas in the state (Tampa Bay and South Florida) deserve to be connected with the quickest travel time.
An alignment down I-75 and across Alligator Alley would likely be easier to construct using existing median rights of way vs. an alignment down the heavily developed lower east coast. Higher speeds might also be feasible along this alignment, possibly mitigating objections by Orlando interests.
The Orlando and the east coast of Florida are well-served with conventional rail; the west coast is not. Aligning the high-speed rail line down the east coast from Orlando to Miami would result in duplication of efforts on two fronts: Amtrak's east coast rail service and South Florida's Tri-Rail line.
I encourage every elected official from the Tampa Bay area to mount a major push to reopen discussion on the alignment of future high-speed rail lines within Florida.
Bud Wills, Tampa
Stop at TIA
Flying at least twice a year to Florida from the Netherlands to spend some time in your beautiful state, we prefer to fly to Tampa International Airport. In our opinion it is one of the most convenient airports in the United States. And we have certainly seen a lot of them!
So now I read in the Times that Orlando International Airport will be the final stop of the first leg of the high-speed rail project. Why not have it start at Tampa International?
Having a stop at Walt Disney World, this should improve the efforts of TIA to attract more international, specifically European, carriers to choose the airport as their final destination.
John Bakker, Inverness
Include the Trop
Hooray! Tampa — I mean Florida — got money for a high-speed rail system. I'm a little fuzzy on just who's going to be riding this thing. Or it just me?
How about we extend the rail line southwest to St. Petersburg, say by Tropicana Field? You know, for all those folks in Tampa who are afraid to drive to St. Pete to see the Rays. All aboard!
Mark Campbell, St. Petersburg
Central site is urged for Rays | Jan. 26, story
Money for millionaires
Pardon me if I am too dumb to grasp the big picture, but I don't see the benefit to me, or any other citizen, of building millionaires a new stadium.
The ABC Coalition — and by all of the ink allotted, the Times as well — wants me (a guy looking for a job) to buy, through paying taxes, a new mansion for a bunch of millionaire owners and millionaire players. Then I am allowed to pay to park, and pay to enter to see said millionaires play. I'm talking about the players, natch. The owners will be sipping champagne in the suites that are protected from peons like me.
Baseball — and football, and just about anything else with ball following it — is a business. If it's such a great moneymaker, then the owners should have no qualms about using their own money.
Walter Staggs, St. Petersburg
Get Florida back to work
Given our average unemployment rate of approximately 12 percent, it seems that our first priority should be to get Floridians back to work. Assuming that 600,000 workers (exact figure unknown) are unemployed for a year and draw unemployment benefits of $200 per week (about $10,000 per year), that means that $6 billion is being paid for nonproductivity. This does not even include the increased cost of staffing unemployment agencies.
This high unemployment rate also does not include the following:
• Many businesses are still operating, but at reduced profits.
• Many individuals are underemployed, such as college graduates who are not able to find jobs related to their degrees and are working at minimum-wage jobs.
That said, how do we reduce unemployment?
Any government stimulus funds used should first preserve existing jobs in critical areas such as health care, education and law enforcement instead of bailing out failed organizations.
More organizations should use furloughs instead of layoffs. Although it would create some hardship for individuals, it would be better than losing their jobs completely. Also it would reduce the amount that we spend in paying unemployment benefits.
Many home foreclosures are also related to job loss. This further affects an already depressed real estate market, resulting in more layoffs, and the cycle feeds itself.
Unemployed individuals may find it difficult, if not impossible, to pay for health insurance or care.
Finally, companies that continue to announce layoffs may adversely affect consumer confidence as even employed people fear that they may be next.
Let's pull together and get Florida back to work!
Carl E. Graham, Largo
Ironic justice | Jan. 25, letter
It is indeed ironic in that this letter, which accuses President Barack Obama of playing the blame game, is in juxtaposition to Paul Krugman's column on the next page which directly refutes the stated claim. The letter states, "Rather than following the letter's suggestion of a 'unified and repetitive message' blaming his predecessor for the problem, Reagan took the opposite tack. He never blamed Carter …"
Krugman's column states, "It's often forgotten now, but unemployment actually soared after Reagan's 1981 tax cut. Reagan, however, had a ready answer for critics: Everything going wrong was a result of the failed policies of the past. In effect, Reagan spent his first few years in office continuing to run against Jimmy Carter." I think that I agree with Krugman's view of history.
The letter writer again refers to history: "After four years of pleasant encouragement, a united America had solved many problems and Reagan was re-elected by a landslide. Barack Obama might consider calling a time-out in the blame game so he can read a bit of history."
The letter writer certainly remembers history differently than I do. I remember the discord around Reagan's view and actions toward deregulation, which the Republicans continued to push and follow and which, during Bush II, was one of the factors leading to our present fiscal problems. I remember Reagan blaming his failures on Carter.
Rather than Obama brushing up on his history, which he knows quite well, how about the "significant minority" stopping the obstruction game and the misinformation game and the hypocrisy game. The problems facing our country are severe and many and, yes, the majority of them were inherited from the previous administration.
Bill Balmer, Seminole
Stop the blame game | Jan. 25, letter
Typical GOP strategy
The writer is comparing the shape our country was in when Jimmy Carter turned over the reins to Ronald Reagan and what George W. Bush left for Barack Obama. The writer then badmouths Obama for pointing out the shape Bush left our country in.
This is a typical Republican strategy: taking an "liability" and turning it into a "asset." Change the subject and attack Obama.
You never hear about the huge deficit Reagan left our country with. The Republicans keep hammering into our minds what big spenders the Democrats are. But look at the facts. It is just the opposite.
Donald F. Kelly, St. Petersburg