As a former Boy Scout leader, father of an Eagle Scout and part of a family that has been in Scouting since the 1920s, I am disappointed in the BSA's solution to the issue of gays (and especially gay men) in positions of leadership. While a step in the right direction, leaving it up to sponsors of local troops to decide is cowardly.
This position is similar to that faced in the 19th century when states and territories were essentially left on their own to decide to be free or slave-owning — it only postponed the inevitable coming crisis. In addition, this position will pit troop against troop and divide the communities that Scouting so desperately depends upon for support.
The real reason behind this is backward-thinking people who believe having gay men in Scouting will expose their sons to sexual advances and even being molested. This assumption and the ensuing policy is wrong for several reasons. First, there is no proof of a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia — and this notion is so absurd and offensive I hated to mention it, but it needed to be said. Second, Scouting allows "straight" women to be Boy Scout troop leaders — so where is the fear that these women might lose control and get sexually involved with a young Scout?
Lastly, I've known many great troop leaders and volunteers — both men and women, gay and straight. The qualities of a great Scout leader have nothing to do with sexual orientation. They have to do with the character, quality, understanding and leadership of the individual.
If the BSA is truly concerned about the future of Scouting, it should instead focus on the devaluing of Scouting's highest rank of Eagle Scout. Parents, with BSA's tacit approval, have turned earning the Eagle badge into a race and just another notch or "must have" for a college application, rather than an award that is extremely difficult to earn and is the culmination of a long journey of character-building and citizenship. To help Scouting the most, let's focus on the true value and experience of earning the rank of Eagle and not the sexual orientation of our members.
Bill Cook, Tampa
Rays find fans in county | Jan. 30
There can be no solution for the Rays' dilemma without the creation of a regional, comprehensive transportation system for all of Tampa Bay. Fans in 28 other major-league cities can take a train to see their teams. Here, Tampa and Clearwater fans have to fight their way through rush-hour traffic on I-275 and U.S. 19 to get to the Trop. Sadly, oftentimes fans outside of St. Petersburg just aren't up to the challenge after a day's work.
The problem is, if you put the team in Gateway or downtown Tampa, a lot of fans will still have to drive in some of the worst traffic in America. Our lack of transportation choices is our biggest barrier to economic growth, our biggest environmental problem, and the most serious risk factor to keeping the Rays here.
The good news is, Pinellas could have a transit referendum on the November 2014 ballot that could save the day by investing in the infrastructure we need to compete economically with Charlotte, Atlanta and other big cities.
Hillsborough could do the same, and we could have rapid buses and light rail throughout the Tampa Bay area by the time a new stadium is being built that would finally connect us all and let us get to the game without getting stuck in horrible traffic.
Phil Compton, Tampa
Excessive public expense
If the Rays need a new stadium, let them pay for it themselves. The average family of four can no longer afford to go to a game. The players are getting millions of dollars in salaries. I don't care how good they are at the game, players are not worth that kind of money.
Baseball is a business, and the owners should pay for business expenses. At a time when we are cutting funding to police, fire and schools, funding a stadium with taxpayer funds does not make much sense.
Barbara Glaze, New Port Richey
Founding a new GOP | Jan. 30, commentary
David Brooks brings up an interesting solution to the Republicans' dilemma: a more centrist tangent of the party to compete in the Midwest and both coasts. That will be a heavy lift, given that the party continues to drift further to the right.
And I believe the last election revealed another hurdle. The country has gradually shifted from a center-right country to a center-center (or, it could be argued, a center-left) country given President Barack Obama's margin of victory when the unemployment rate was nearly 8 percent.
This has been very gradual in coming, but the explosive growth of Hispanics has finally tilted the country into All in the Family character Archie Bunker's worst nightmare. The minorities are beginning to outnumber the majority.
George Chase, St. Pete Beach
Limbaugh and Rubio hit it off in interview Jan. 30
Loose with labels
You reported on Sen. Marco Rubio's "conservative media tour" as part of an article on his interview with Rush Limbaugh.
Interesting. When you reported on President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's appearance on 60 Minutes, the term "progressive media tour" was absent. Why might that be?
Ray Kelly, Spring Hill
Mayor meets with Sweetbay officials Jan. 30
Community action needed
Sweetbay is a private business and can come and go as it pleases. Why hasn't anyone considered opening a food co-op in that building? That way the Midtown community would be in charge instead of some outside business that is only interested in the bottom line.
Frederick Kann, St. Petersburg
Scott: $1.2B for schools | Jan. 31
Voters need to hone their analytical skills to determine whether Gov. Rick Scott's actions or words are loudest. After slicing education funding, he proposes a one-shot increase. After decimating voting procedures, he denies responsibility, then passes the buck to local officials.
There are few signs that he has backed off his underlying goals: Privatization of public functions continues unabated. Despite a "listening tour" that yielded criticism of his ultraconservative education agenda, he engineered the appointment of an education chief ousted elsewhere for those same views. And now, despite the fact that the national economy seems to be improving, he wants us to believe that he is responsible for Florida's upturn.
Window dressing needs to be pulled aside to see what's inside.
Stephen E. Phillips, St. Petersburg
He stood firm, the flags stayed | Jan. 30
City's appearance suffers
After reading the Epilogue on Michael Barton and the fight he had with the city over his flags being a "code violation," I had to laugh. St. Petersburg has a cash cow with "real" code violators: homeowners parking in the front yard, property in disrepair, homeowners using their property as a business in a residential neighborhoods, parking trucks and trailers wherever they want — the list goes on.
Try making a formal complaint and see how far that gets you. That department is a joke, and our city is looking more and more like a city dump.
Lawrence Kaiser, St. Petersburg
Immigration plans diverge | Jan. 30
Playing by the rules
My grandparents came from Italy and Russia legally in the early 1900s. They learned English without help from the government. They raised families during the Depression without help from the government. They truly loved this country for what it offered themselves and their children. Every uncle served in World War II.
Legal immigration should always be allowed. Illegal immigration without penalty needs to stop.
Patricia Wood, Brooksville
Cleared — and free to gloat | Jan. 31
Florida as punch line
Once again, Florida is a punch line. The circus with radio DJs that cost taxpayers millions and tied up valuable court time for other matters has ended.
I do not know Judge James Arnold nor have I ever appeared before him, but his conduct was beyond exemplary given the climate of the trial.
The conduct of the lawyers is beyond description. I have practiced in a lot of places over 30 years. Only in Florida could lawyers behave the way these lawyers did.
Bruce A. Plesser, Gulfport
Use energy taxes to fight climate change Jan. 31, commentary
The question is not whether we will reduce carbon pollution and pay for it, but how. Under current law, it will be done through EPA regulations that are costly and inefficient — akin to killing mosquitoes with a shotgun. An alternative, conceived by conservatives, is to create a market mechanism to incentivize carbon reduction. They called it "cap and trade." This method is like killing mosquitoes by creating a good environment for birds that eat them — less expensive and more effective.
Ed Bradley, Valrico