In honor of coastal cleanup day, I picked up garbage from throughout the mangroves around my condo complex. After filling up two 45-gallon bags with bottles, cans, cups, shoes, cigarettes, etc., I came to the conclusion that we are a nation of slobs.
I'm aware that only a minority of us litter on purpose. But how many times have we seen someone at a stoplight toss a cigarette or candy wrapper out the window? When are we, the majority of people who love this country and all its beauty, going to stand up and say something to these slobs? When are police going to write a ticket for littering?
Inside of an hour, I can go to any intersection and have video footage of at least five people tossing a cigarette on the ground. Where does everyone think those thousands of butts go when there is a torrential rain? They get washed into the ponds, lakes, rivers and the gulf.
When did we, the majority, become so apathetic to littering? Tell people to stop littering your community when you see them do it. For those who litter: Have some respect for our country.
James Harvey, New Port Richey
Inland insurance shock | Sept. 19
Why was there no warning?
Thank you, Tampa Bay Times, for your thorough coverage on the local impact of the Biggert-Waters Act. The piece by Susan Taylor Martin that revealed the plight of Penny Lee brought tears of frustration to my eyes. Lee paid $200,000 for an inland home and saw her annual premium soar from $1,339 to $8,859.
I am proud to be a Realtor and am (at this moment, at least) in good standing with the National Association of Realtors, the Florida Association of Realtors and the Pinellas Realtor Organization. These are all exemplary organizations to which I have collectively paid thousands of dollars each year since 2001. One of the benefits of membership includes ongoing education and ethics training. Realtors must stay educated and up to date in order to understand changing laws and skillfully represent our clients. Some of this ongoing education is required in order to keep one's license active.
Today I reread a press release by the National Association of Realtors from July 6, 2012, which states: "As the nation's leading advocate for homeownership and housing issues, we are pleased that Congress has approved a long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, which ensures access to affordable flood insurance for millions of home and business owners." Not a peep about the fact that Lee and others like her would have to pay thousands of dollars more for flood insurance.
How is it that the impact of an act of Congress in July 2012 just recently became general knowledge? I'm stunned. I follow the industry press via various printed and electronic formats daily. I even read the old-fashioned periodicals that arrive in my mailbox. If there was a warning that some home buyers and sellers were about to be hit with outrageous increases in flood insurance, I missed it.
Congress had no idea what it was doing when it passed the Biggert-Waters Act. A few of our elected representatives are now scrambling to figure out what they did and how to best undo it.
It is simply unconscionable to me that someone somewhere, be it our elected representatives, my own professional associations, the insurance industry, etc., didn't realize and publish the impact of the Biggert-Waters Act long ago. The new flood insurance rates take effect in just a few days. And the damage was done 15 months ago.
Julia Brazier, St. Petersburg
I'm a newcomer to Florida, and my wife and I have been impressed enough to consider buying a home here in St. Petersburg to retire in a few years. The cost of home insurance was certainly a shock, but the campaign to delay implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act was also a surprise.
I thought this was a strong Republican state, where food stamps for poor, hungry children were evidence of misplaced priorities. We need to rein in government expenses, conservatives tell us. No bailouts or handouts, lest these kids miss the lesson that hard work by individual, independent Americans is the way to succeed.
Now, it seems, many, including both Democrats and Republicans, want the federal government to continue to bail them out when they need to bail out water from their flooded homes. Democrats I understand see government as helping and caring. But for Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott and a bevy of Republicans among chambers of commerce and real estate organizations, this campaign smacks of hypocrisy.
If you want to live in a flood zone, accept the consequences and don't look to taxpayers to subsidize your poor decision.
Robert Griendling, St. Petersburg
Common Core reversal | Sept. 24
Pandering to tea party
Once again, Gov. Rick Scott has thumbed his nose at federal oversight and much-needed improvement to the Florida education system to satisfy a small but vocal group, the tea party.
Scott's goal is not to improve the lives of the citizens of Florida but to pander to those who reject anything to do with President Barack Obama. Over 40 states have embraced Common Core and are implementing its program — but not Florida. We will be the state where you cannot get a good education or health care.
Diane Pearson, Dunedin
In need of a plan | Sept. 22
The 'family glitch'
It is very unlikely that the Hamilton family would have been helped by earlier passage of the ACA, as this article suggests. Because Kala Hamilton had family coverage available through her employer, it is more likely than not that they would have fallen into the "family glitch."
This means that affordability is determined by reference to the employee's premium only. As long as the employee's contribution to her own insurance is less than 9.5 percent of household income, no premium support is available. Their choice would have been to cover Kevin Hamilton and the children through an exchange at an annual cost of $9,400 in aftertax dollars (based on the Kaiser Permanente calculator), or buy insurance through her employer paid for with aftertax dollars.
Mary Anne Reilly, St. Petersburg
Health care players join forces for new ventures | Sept. 25
Regarding the new Tampa General Hospital-Florida Hospital and reimplemented Tampa General-USF affiliations:
It is amazing to see how quickly these potentially valuable medical and educational community affiliations can be forged/fixed when reasonable individuals and parties are involved on all sides.
Reed Murtagh, M.D., Tampa
Problems of our own Sept. 24, letter
In my daily morning habit of perusing the letters to the editor in the Times, I am often amused, sometimes persuaded and usually impressed with the passion and earnestness of the submissions, regardless of whether I agree with the writer or not.
Rarely, however, have I been as shocked by a letter so bereft of either logic or real-world experience as the one that both excoriates most aspects of American society and exults Russian President Vladimir Putin as a shining example of what a leader should be.
I suggest the writer embark on an extended tour of Russia in order to obtain a clearer appreciation of what a "drug-riddled and violent population" living in a "failed petro-state" saddled with a "decaying infrastructure" and "gridlocked government" really looks like.
Predictably, the writer recites a litany of revisionist talking points of the far left, blaming the GOP for wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and denouncing any proposed military action by the current administration to quell U.N.-documented genocide in Syria.
In the shadow of a screed against Sen. John McCain's comments, the writer proclaims herself a "rabid" American while endorsing Putin and his criticisms of America from afar. Really. Perhaps the writer should take a closer look at Putin, the ex-KGB official who has repeatedly and brutally crushed dissent in his own country, before she lectures us about the evils of American society and our apparently misplaced support of international law and human rights.
Robert E. Heyman, St. Petersburg
A drink while pregnant Sept. 25, commentary
Risks and regrets
Emily Oster, an economist at the University of Chicago, noted correctly that the risk of birth defects in babies born by women who drink alcohol in moderation is small. However, if a woman drinks during pregnancy and gives birth to a baby with birth defects, she will wonder for the duration of her life whether alcohol might be a contributing factor.
That is the dilemma. Most women make the choice to abstain from alcohol and reduce their consumption of medications during pregnancy for that reason. Statistics will not reduce the guilt felt by most women.
Apparently, economists are trained to look at statistics without emotion.
Neil T. Feldman, M.D., Seminole