July letter of the month
The winning letter addressed challenges to parents.
The cost of family breakdowns
Your editorial correctly says that "educating these children (in the five struggling elementary schools) is hard." But I couldn't help but notice the link between this article and the one a few pages back (U.S. fertility rate reaches a record low) that stated that "69.7 percent of black babies and 52.5 percent of Hispanic (babies)" are born to single mothers.
The economic challenges of single moms, regardless of race, are well documented. On balance, these mothers earn significantly less, are less educated and are more challenged to provide appropriate and stable child care. I'm sure that many of the "overextended parents who work multiple jobs and unconventional hours to keep the electricity on and food on the table" are single mothers trying to beat very long odds. If we don't at least recognize the social cost of our changing family structure, it won't matter how much money we throw at the problem.
Scott Stolz, Tarpon Springs
Better Hillsborough service
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board of directors on Monday will consider a transformational redesign of the HART transit system. We're calling it Mission MAX: Modernizing and Aligning for Excellence.
We are modernizing the system to deliver better service and lay a strong foundation for future expansion. We are aligning routes to better meet the needs of a changing community, with different employment centers and commuting patterns from 13 years ago, and we are focusing on providing excellent service.
Mission MAX is a major effort that will improve transit service for over 85 percent of our customers while reducing our operating costs by over $5 million annually. The redesigned transit system will provide quicker trips to key destinations and more frequency on core routes. Almost all our local routes will run seven days a week, weekend service will run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and all current weekend late-night routes will continue to operate until midnight.
Public transit makes life happen in Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay region. Thousands of residents do not drive because of their age, physical or cognitive constraints, or because private vehicle ownership is not feasible. Nearly a third of our customers say they choose to take transit for its convenience, cost savings and sustainability. Mission MAX allows us to deliver the quality and value that our customers and taxpayers deserve. We are proud to be a public agency that can improve life while being a strong steward of public dollars.
If approved by the HART board of directors, the successful implementation of Mission MAX on Oct. 8 will be a top priority for us at HART. Clearly, public transit matters to everyone in our community.
Katharine Eagan, HART CEO, Tampa
College and alcohol
Parents make the difference
In the coming weeks, millions of college-bound freshmen will be leaving home for the campus for the first time. As parents prepare their teens for college, it's important to set aside time to talk about alcohol.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, teens are much more likely to delay drinking when they feel they have a close, supportive tie with a parent or guardian.
Here are some tips for parents to guide the discussion: Set clear expectations for academic achievement and responsible behavior; talk about alcohol facts, reasons not to drink and ways to avoid drinking in difficult situations; address how to get help on campus for themselves or a friend; keep in close contact to determine if your son or daughter is feeling overwhelmed, making friends, getting involved with activities and enjoying classes; and make sure they know you are there to support them through this transition period.
Even though your college-age student may no longer be living at home, research shows parents have the most influence over their son's or daughter's decision to drink or not to drink. Invest this time together to ensure your teen gets off on the right track for academic success.
Sam Zakhari, Washington, D.C.
The writer is senior vice president of science for the Distilled Spirits Council and former division director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
I have seen firsthand some of the problems with a single-payer health care system. Denmark has such a system and can afford it with the taxes their citizens pay. Denmark is also a rather small country and that helps.
I had a friend who was suffering a serious, life-threatening medical problem. She needed a procedure that could save her life. However, under Denmark's system the more critical cases had first priority for this procedure. So she had to wait. Unfortunately, when she got to the critical stage with her illness there were several people at the same stage. The system could not accommodate them all, so by some method she was not fortunate enough to be one of the ones selected. She died four days after she went into the critical stage.
The health care system was not large enough to accommodate all of the needs of its citizens. The system would not pay for her to go to another country and receive the treatment, and the expense was prohibitive for her and her husband.
Single-payer with no cost to the patient sounds great, but it may have issues that we do not want to deal with. In a single-payer system, the "system managers" will decide what is covered and where you go to receive the care.
The Affordable Care Act is not the system we want and it needs to either be fixed or scrapped. The Democrats passed it without Republican support, but the Republicans can't seem to get their act together on a plan to fix or replace the ACA. I predict that if the Republicans don't come to some consensus on this problem, they will lose the Senate in upcoming elections. I also predict that the first order of business for the Democrats will be to fix the areas that are causing the most problems.
Hugh Sullivan, Tampa