Every day I read the paper and every day I become more and more disillusioned with politicians. The statement made, that several legislators were not aware that the funding for the new district courthouse was included in the 2007 transportation bill, is absurd.
Let's see: $48 million of my tax dollars being spent so frivolously and so casually. Who is minding the cookie jar? It is certainly not our elected officials.
As a taxpayer, I feel helpless. No one is really on our side. They are all about politics. Of course, the other question that comes to my mind is: Why is it just now being brought out? Why was this not made newsworthy in 2007?
Lynn Wood, Tierra Verde
Time for change
Florida's jails are overcrowded. Florida's courts are extremely backlogged. Hundreds of people working for Florida's judicial system have lost their jobs due to these mounting budget crises. Programs like the drug courts, which have proved to help thousands go straight, have been severely downsized.
Yet, Tallahassee legislators (some not aware?) approved the funding for a new $48 million 1st District Court of Appeal courthouse where "each" judge will get a 60-inch LCD flat screen TV, a private bathroom and a private kitchen with, of course, a microwave and refrigerator.
Sen. Victor Crist attached this amendment to a 142-page transportation bill which was approved the last day of the 2007 session. This amendment was also lobbied furiously by Chief Judge Paul Hawkes and Judge Brad Thomas.
Spending $48 million of our taxpayers' money at this time to build a new courthouse for the Court of Appeal while the rest of Florida's judicial system suffers monetarily is a disgrace and shows an extreme lack of responsibility by our legislators. Voters should remember in November that it is seriously time for a change in Tallahassee!
Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City
Something must be done
I find myself forced to comment upon the actions of 1st District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Paul Hawkes for wasting millions of dollars when the court system is laying off staff.
Is it even legal for judges to lobby the Legislature? Did Hawkes do so on state time? If so, he should be fired. If we can't fire Hawkes, can he be demoted or reassigned to a lower court, like traffic court? If nothing else, the state should ensure that no satellite or cable service is ever connected to that building, and the TVs are sent to schools.
Lastly, I find it baffling that the editors of the St. Petersburg Times recommend that Sen. Victor Crist, who purposely hid this abhorrent monstrosity in the state transportation budget on the last day of the session, now be elected to the Hillsborough County Commission.
Colin Povey, Clearwater
What a guy
I just looked through the latest available information on Tampa Sen. Victor Crist's Web page (even back to 2007) and found nothing that indicated he stuffed that amendment into the transportation bill for the $48 million bond issue for a courthouse. I guess he forgot to include that little tidbit of news about the great things he is doing for Florida.
The courthouse isn't even in his district. What I did find was all of the "good" bills he sponsored and co-sponsored for the fine people of Florida. "What a guy." There is even a whole page of accolades from his peers. On April 26, 2010, Senate President Jeff Atwater on the floor of the Senate praised Victor Crist for being an unwavering advocate for a fair and effective judicial system.
Guys like him we can do without. Our property taxes are a farce, sales taxes are being lost because of special interests and alternative energy is so far from the legislators' agenda it is pathetic. That $48 million could have gone a long way for solar energy programs. Although there's not as much in it for the Legislature as the oil and power companies give to them for their re-election campaigns. Hurry up, November.
Joe Kraeszig, Largo
Big impact hits taxpayers
The article stated that the judges wanted a building that would "make an impact on the public." Well, the financial impact will certainly be great. The impact of the arrogance and total lack of thought for the taxpayer that went into this project is stunning as well.
Enjoy your new playhouse, judges. Those of us still employed will be paying for it for a long time.
Glenda Pittman, St. Petersburg
Jobs and the economy are caught in a vicious cycle
I am sick of hearing jobs, jobs, jobs, and that it is the responsibility of the current administration to create them.
Will someone please tell me how the government is going to create jobs without establishing a public works program? I haven't heard any solutions to date.
Senate Republicans are said to be blocking President Barack Obama's small business jobs bill, whatever that is, because they are "thinking about the next election instead of the next generation."
No doubt small business is the backbone of our economy. However, no amount of aid to small businesses, financial or otherwise, is going to create jobs. Because of the recent financial crisis, which is another story in itself, people don't have money to spend.
Since they don't have money, they are not buying. Since they are not buying, businesses are not producing as much. Since businesses are not producing enough, they have no work for employees so they have to lay them off. It's not rocket science to figure that out.
Now, if the government provides more money to small businesses by way of easy loans or instant cash, as has been promoted, how are businesses going to hire more people to produce more goods that people have no money to buy anyway?
The biggest problem in this country, as I see it, is farming out jobs overseas to cheap labor. Every week it seems some company is shipping jobs to India. Until this country puts huge tariffs on this overseas work, there are going to be more and more people out of work and more and more people won't have money to buy more goods or even necessities. It's a vicious cycle.
John J. Tischner, Dunedin
It's a global marketplace | Aug. 11, letter
After a series of letters on the subject of jobs, the one that makes the most sense ends with: "There are no 'simple solutions' and there is no free lunch."
There may be no simple solutions, but the application of reason in a few areas would help. Product "dumping," aided by U.S. corporations that are in the offshore manufacturing business or importing business, has been a nonissue for a long time.
The confusion is mainly over branding. A company that does nothing but import shoes and sell them under a U.S. brand name is just as likely to be involved in noncompetitive "dumping" as a foreign company selling directly to the U.S. market. It's dumping if the Chinese do it, but if we do it it's global competitiveness.
Regulators largely ignore this because the profits of large U.S. companies are impacted by attempts at enforcement. Half the stuff on the shelves of Wal-Mart probably falls into this category.
The majority of importers will argue, we don't need enforcement because if everything else is equal, the marketplace will take care of it. But everything else is not equal. The biggest inequality being the U.S. system of regulation and that of our competitors. It's a system importers and offshore manufactures have grown comfortable with, but as the U.S. economy worsens and unemployment increases, can we continue to live with it?
Russell J. Watrous, Land O'Lakes
It's a global marketplace | Aug. 11, letter
Profit comes later
The letter writer displays a profound lack of understanding of the marketplace. In every market, you do not pay for workers or raw materials with profits. The profits are made after the raw materials are bought, the workers paid, and the job is complete.
George Curry, Clearwater
Of course there are very few jobs here. They've been sent to China, India and other countries. I'm not angry at these countries; I'm sad and angry at our American corporations' greed. Without work, how are we expected to help the economy by buying their products? Remember "Buy American"?
It's shameful that these corporate leaders are only worried about today's profits. If they continue to use foreign labor, then tax them — heavily. At least that will help lower the deficit.
Paula Xenakis, Holiday
Lighten the federal load | Aug. 4, letter
The need for the feds
The letter writer said he did not realize the federal government had become so "sapped" — his term.
My question is where has he been since 2008 when George W. Bush drove the bus into the ditch? The letter writer further wants to give back to the states the federal responsibility for agriculture, charity, education at all levels, environment, industry, insurance and all other things not mandated by the Constitution.
It appears the letter writer has not followed history and does not understand why the federal government must be in charge. The fact that states are strapped for cash seems not to compute. The fact that states have a long history of not doing the right thing also does not compute. This is truly depressing.
Robert Lloyd, Ruskin
A vet's parking frustration
A recent trip to the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa left some thoughts.
You cannot imagine what it is like to have an appointment and can't make it because after 20 minutes or so of driving around and around, looking for a spot to park, you realize it's futile.
As a young Vietnam vet, I experienced less than first-class treatment in this country. I know how much you care for World War II veterans. How I love it — all those films and documentaries, personal stories about local war heroes. The tears stream down my cheeks. Really.
So why don't you take a trip with a vet on an appointment over there and film it? I'd sure watch it. Two idiots riding around a full parking lot, looking for a place to park. Who would want to miss it?
Go over and watch white-haired 80-plus-year-olds creep in and out of that nightmare maze. Watch "the greatest generation" while you can in real life — on walkers and canes, struggling up that concrete grade after a ride that finally stopped for lucky them. I'm searching, ever searching for that empty spot while the seconds tick past my appointment time.
I found out too late that there is a shuttle bus to the VA at a mall a few miles away where you can park your car. Now you tell me. I can't wait till I get a map for next time. What's another 60 miles over and back? Over and out.
Tom Stiefel, Dade City
Big drop in scores adds fuel to feud Aug. 7, story
Students under stress
More power to the Florida school superintendents in their efforts to challenge the validity of this year's FCAT scores. The students will be the ones to suffer if they are not valid.
When Pinellas County elementary schools go from no D's and F's to eight D's and F's, something is very wrong.
The graders couldn't even produce the results "on time." You can bet the teachers and students were in the classroom "on time" for testing days.
If the results are valid, that should be just one more eye-opening reason to toss the FCAT and go back to the "old-school" tried and true teaching and grading methods.
We had pop quizzes, classroom instruction, tests, midterm exams, final exams and yes, homework. The teachers gave out and graded the test and homework, and teachers really do know how to grade papers! The test results were right there for any parent to view and they had the opportunity for input. Extra help was always available for those students who sought it. But ultimately, we as students knew the responsibility was ours.
There was one thing we did not have, and that was "classroom stress," stress that the FCAT has placed on teachers, students and their parents. Students have a large amount of homework and that does concern teachers and parents but appears unavoidable because the teachers are "forced" to teach to "the test."
My heart does go out to some students who might not have enough home support they need, but teachers are teachers and shouldn't be expected to be classroom parents also. That is not fair.
Teaching is an age-old honored profession. Let them really teach again and make learning interesting, challenging and sometimes even fun again.
Jean Briscoe, Clearwater
Test makes things worse | Aug. 10, letter
I agree that FCATs have only made things worse. My definition of it is Forever Confused About Testing Standards. Instead of spending millions of tax dollars (including mine), we should go back to the earlier goal of smaller class sizes.
Putting as much emphasis on FCATs as we have seems to destroy unity among teachers and principals, because now the main concern is having "A" schools based on test scores.
If we can't trust the teachers, principals and others in our school system to provide quality education, we might as well just hire professional testers.
Carl E. Graham, Largo
Stick with the dome
In my opinion Rays manager Joe Maddon is a crybaby. The Rays need a new stadium like Joe needs two left feet. The ball got lost in the rafters. So what? How many times has the ball been lost because the sun got into a fielder's eyes on an open field?
Give Joe a crying towel. I'd rather sit in the dome under cover and not get broiled in the sun or have game called because of rain. Tell Joe to get a life.
Lois Barros, St. Petersburg
Playing by street rules
Sixty years ago, if a fly ball in the outfield (that would be at least 2½ sewers) went into a tree, the same rule applied: If you caught it after bouncing limb to limb, it was out. If not, it was a fair ball. If it bounced off a car and you caught it, it was an out. If it hung up on a fire escape, it was a double; if it bounced down and you caught it, it was out.
The only difference between Tropicana Field and my old neighborhood is no moving trolley cars, buses, cars, parked cars and broken broomsticks going through storefront windows.
P.S. When chasing a ground ball, it hurt when you ran into the sidewalk fire hydrant — which, by the way, was just in foul territory. Not much has changed since Brooklyn.
Anthony J. Volonino Sr., Seminole