Take a stand against plastic bags
It is encouraging to see more people using reusable shopping bags, but the number of people doing this is still a small minority.
A few years ago I wrote a letter to Publix urging them to be more proactive in promoting the use of reusable bags. They did not respond to my letter.
Have you ever seen a bagger use one plastic bag for a pound of butter? I have. Many forward-thinking communities (and countries such as Ireland) have taken a stand against plastic shopping bags. Stores such as Whole Foods have banned plastic bags. For every bag not used the world is better off.
If plastic bags cannot be outlawed in all stores, not just grocery stores, they should charge a dime or a quarter for every plastic bag a customer requests. This financial incentive would persuade many more shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. It would produce a remarkable change.
Why wait for Tallahassee to do something? Pinellas County or individual cities could start a "green" program like this more quickly than the state Legislature.
John Wynne, Dunedin
Try the Irish way
So much head-scratching! Why is it that we fail to look to other countries that successfully have solved issues?
Yes, health care comes to mind, but I'm directing this specifically to the big question of how to solve the plastic bag problem.
Let's take a look at Ireland. A few years ago Ireland imposed a fee of 14 to 15 cents on each plastic bag. Once it did that, presto! No more plastic bags scudding about in the skies, trees, on the streets.
People began carrying their own cloth bags, as did our grandparents. Back to the old ways.
Why not adopt the simplicity of this idea?
Myrna O'Sullivan, Dunedin
We need offshore oil for a better energy future
Last Saturday's "Hands Across the Sand" events were an attempt to dissuade lawmakers from passing legislation that would open Florida's waters to offshore oil and natural gas exploration. While the events received a lot of attention from the media, many news reports did not reflect the views of a majority of Floridians who do believe it is time to tap into the domestic fuel sources off our shores.
Contrary to the rhetoric of opponents, those of us who favor increased exploration for oil and natural gas are not looking for a quick fix at the gas pump. We know that is not going to lower the price we pay per gallon. What concerns us is our nation's and our state's energy future. Without a comprehensive energy plan in place that combines alternative energy, conservation and more domestic energy production, we will face decreased access to energy sources and increased energy costs.
Further, we are concerned about the implications of rising energy costs on our economy. Florida has suffered enough job loss in the last year. Do we really want to hit struggling industries and small businesses with higher operating costs, thereby forcing them to lay off employees? Just this week, tourism officials announced a drop in the number of visitors to the state. Policies that result in making it more expensive to bring visitors to Florida certainly will not help revitalize this anchor industry.
For those who say offshore drilling will hurt our tourism industry, I urge you to learn more about the cleaner, safer and less intrusive technologies that can find and extract oil and natural gas without hurting our pristine coastline.
Protecting our environment and tourism industry is important, but strengthening our economy and energy future for generations to come is paramount.
Nicolás Gutiérrez Jr., chairman, the FLA Energy Forum
Remember our preserves
The current conversation and demonstrations about oil drilling is good because it brings attention to conservation concerns about our environment. It is, however, also noteworthy to be aware of Pinellas County being an aquatic preserve. In 1972 while a member of the Florida Legislature, I proposed to have Pinellas County be declared an aquatic preserve. This proposal was adopted and placed in the laws of Florida and today is still part of the law.
The law places restrictions on dredging and filling activities as well as prohibiting drilling for oil within the preserve. Hence, bay area legislators need to be aware of any attempt to weaken the law so as to accommodate oil drilling activities. All it would take is one sentence or a partial reference for the current law to be weakened.
There are several aquatic preserves within the Tampa Bay waters and now there are a total of 41 aquatic preserves throughout the state. They need to be protected from any intrusive activity that is detrimental to the preserve status. No doubt there are numerous legislators who have an aquatic preserve within or contiguous to their legislative districts. The preservation of these aquatic preserves is a conservation necessity and support from our lawmakers will be appreciated.
Roger H. Wilson, Seminole
Better late than never
In the late '70s I was privileged to serve as president of the Saddleback Regional Chamber of Commerce in Orange County, Calif. To our south was one of the first nuclear power plants in the United States, San Onofre, a safe, efficient producer of energy.
Like most chambers throughout the country, we supported and lobbied for more such plants to be built in the United States. Unfortunately, leftists in the United States staged demonstrations and were successful, along with a friendly media, in convincing a timid Congress that nuclear power was perhaps a dangerous thing.
Across the pond, the French took a different course and built nuclear power plants. Today, the French have a safe, low-cost source of electricity.
I understand that President Barack Obama now sees the wisdom of developing nuclear power to serve our energy needs. He's coming rather late to the dance, and it's going to cost us much more than it would have in the '70s, but at least it's a beginning.
John Hungerford, Palm Harbor
All the little old ladies in my social circle here in Zephyrhills have received our first Progress Energy electric bill of 2010. Mine was $275, more than twice any previous amount. That's almost one-third of my Social Security check. One friend's bill is more than $300 for a single-wide mobile home.
We seem to have no recourse. Progress Energy is a private, for-profit monopoly. They are the only game in town. We either pay them or do without electricity — no heat, no lights, no refrigeration.
The Florida Public Service Commission in Tallahassee is supposed to regulate prices, protecting the consumer. And they did just deny a rate increase that Progress had requested. But something is wrong somewhere. Where did this increase come from? Is this the result of the previous rate increase granted to build that nuclear plant which won't be producing electricity until long after I'm dead? I thought companies were supposed to reinvest their profits for such improvements.
And what is the Florida Legislature doing on my behalf? What happened to all their promises? They protect the big businesses that donate big bucks to their campaigns so they can promise us voters the moon while increasing company profits every year. I'm fed up with them all.
Fern Williams, Zephyrhills
The odd man and woman out Feb. 15, commentary
Julianna Baggott's article captures the simplicity of what is wrong with discrimination, any discrimination. She has clearly and concisely portrayed core aspects of what, why and how discrimination against gays and lesbians erodes decency and honesty.
There are many things that hinder humanity's achievements, but certainly greed is uppermost. Whenever any one person or group of individuals believes that they are entitled and others are not, greed is on its way to securing a threshold of destructive grievance. Baggott has described how that destruction seeps into everyone's lives, how those who enjoy the privileges of marriage are susceptible to feeling tainted and wrong for enjoying that privilege.
Her outspoken analysis of this aspect of discrimination is another big step to exposing thick, hurtful walls of ignorance and division and allowing understanding and love to move forward for the benefit of everyone. Thank you, Julianna Baggott, for your personal expression so clearly portrayed and to the St. Petersburg Times for publishing your article prominently with eye-catching graphics.
Nancy Kelly, Belleair
The odd man and woman out Feb. 15, commentary
Not deserving legitimacy
The abnormal lifestyle choices made by consenting homosexual adults are none of my business. However, attempts to legitimize and sanction an abnormal lifestyle as a "rule of the land" in the United States are very much my business by virtue of my citizenship.
The very fabric of our society will only be maintained by strict adherence to the sanctioning of normal marital unions.
Anita M. Knapp, St. Petersburg
Deputy handcuffs fighting boy, 9 Feb. 12, story
Deputy did the right thing
How easy it is to second guess a police officer's actions from the comfort of our homes.
In stark contrast to the recent incident where three security guards in the employ of the city of Seattle stood by and watched while a 15-year-old girl was brutally beaten and robbed, Pinellas sheriff's Deputy Mark Eastty witnessed an act of violence and immediately took action to defuse it.
Were handcuffs warranted? In a time when children as young as this child carry knives and even guns, it appears that the deputy took prudent action to avoid the chances of an even uglier incident developing. How much more outrage would the community express if the headline read: "Deputy strikes 9-year-old child," or "Deputy Tazes 9-year old child?"
The fact is, a child who appeared to have broken the law based upon the first-person observations of a sworn law enforcement officer was humanely and safely restrained long enough for the deputy to regain control and establish peace. And for this we are outraged?
I'm a parent. I want the police to step in if my child gets punched. I'm a parent. I would not be outraged if a police officer used the minimum amount of force this deputy used to restrain my child if he was punching someone. And if it turned out later that the child acted in self-defense, I would understand that the police officer had no way of knowing that in the heat of the moment.
Leonard Dozois, Palm Harbor
Officer's killer put to death | Feb. 17, story
The law's delay
Twenty-five years: A family mourns a daughter who is murdered in the prime of her life, a daughter they raised and loved and cherished. Her life by all accounts was just beginning. She was shot in the head in the line of duty, in a desolate, dark place.
Twenty-five years: Her killer languishes in jail, 25 years to change, educate himself, embrace religion — at our taxpayer expense. Then he apologizes at the moment of his imminent demise.
How many things are wrong with this picture?
More reprehensible and despicable to my mind is that the killer's supporters — after they are rebuffed in their attempts to obtain the family's endorsement of their misguided attempts to save this miserable creature — continued to harass the family, up to the end, "even obtaining their cell phone numbers."
I must say that I find myself waffling on the issue of the death penalty, but most of that really concerns the absolute guilt of the accused. I know there have been innocents executed many times over the centuries. There was no doubt on this one. His was a particularly heinous crime for which the penalty by law was clear.
Twenty-five years. That is just wrong.
Michael A. Tennant, Largo
Diaz-Balart won't seek return to House Feb. 12, story
A chance for a new policy
Indeed, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's departure marks the end of an era, and he does leave a legacy. Sadly, however, I don't see his tenure in a positive light. If there is any consolation it is, in fact, his departure, which hopefully marks the end of decades during which the power of the vote and of lobbying have been used by Cuban-American exiles for goals contrary to America's national interests.
Diaz-Balart's efforts afforded Fidel Castro's tyranny an isolation as pervasive as all the steel and concrete of the Berlin Wall did for Communist East Germany. That isolation has buffered the Castro brothers' thuggery from freedom's pervasive onslaught beyond the disintegration of the Soviet regime.
As we enter what is essentially a "post-Castro" phase in Cuba's history, it is hoped that anyone who replaces Diaz-Balart will do so based on ability and merit, rather than "family name," political dynasty or authoritarian pedigree. A truly democratic Cuba is essential and in keeping with America's best interests; hopefully we will have Cuban-American representatives who share both these goals — something we haven't had so far.
T. Gonzalez, Spring Hill
I am perplexed. City, state and county governments are cutting budgets and slashing services due to decreases in property tax revenue. How did these agencies balance the budget back before the boom inflated values? Even rudimentary knowledge of economics would have foretold trouble ahead. Yes, my property has decreased in value — a lot. But my property taxes have increased.
My homeowners insurance has more than doubled in the past five years. Construction costs are down, but according to the agents I have contacted, replacement cost of my house is 21/2 times the county appraisal. They blame it on Citizens Propertuy Insurance or say the increases were approved by the state. Oh, alrighty then.
It is costing the average person more and more just to keep afloat while we bail out agencies that didn't plan ahead or help inflate insurance companies' profits.
B.J. Mitchell, St. Petersburg
Overweight airline passengers
Sharing the burden
Citizens who invest time and money toward healthy food choices and strenuous, regular exercise should not be punished by having to share common carriers' expenses in designing larger accommodations for those who don't.
Likewise, those who obviously don't share the same values should not be monetarily penalized by having to buy two seats.
Common carriers should simply designate one third of the transport for "normal weight" passengers (i.e. 5-9 male less than 170 pounds), one third of the craft for "borderline healthy" passengers (i.e. 5-9 at 170 to 200 pounds), and the final third for obese passengers. This appears the most equitable way of sharing the girth with your peers.
Jonas Urba, Brandon
Having it both ways, | Feb. 13, letter
Aiming at imperialism
The letter writer who accuses James Cameron of bashing big business in Avatar confuses science fiction with fact. You really can't bash a business that does not exist on a planet that exists only in imagination and at a time that has not yet arrived.
What an artist can do is use story to warn us of mistakes that we should not repeat. The fictional business in Avatar was, in fact, simply following a policy of imperialism that countries have used since the beginning of history.
For Cameron to remind us that imperialism is not a moral or a successful long-term strategy, rather than being ironic, is completely consistent with a belief in a private/public space exploration partnership.
William Adams, St. Petersburg