The sinkhole legislation passed in 2011 is fatally flawed and needs to be repealed. The flaws start with the stated purpose of the law "to reduce sinkhole claims." There is no recognition that sinkholes are a fact of life in Florida and that homeowners need to have an affordable way of dealing with this risk.
The law was written at the behest of the insurance industry. In 2010 the insurance industry made political donations in Florida of more than $12 million to influence the legislative process. Seventy percent of these donations went to Republican legislative and party organizations, including to every representative who voted for the law. It is ironic that the law written to reduce sinkhole claims has actually caused an increase in the number of claims.
Because the law was written for insurance companies, it is flawed. The outcome is a disaster for homeowners: astronomical rate increases and less coverage. In many cases the only available insurance coverage is catastrophic, which requires the building be condemned to receive a insurance settlement. The significant rate hikes required by the legislation increase the monthly cost of owning a home and will disqualify many people from obtaining a mortgage — thus increasing the number of unsold, empty homes.
Under the legislation, most sinkhole damage is no longer covered. Without insurance coverage, most homeowners will not be able to afford repairs. The result? Deteriorating homes losing value and lowering surrounding property values.
With over a third of Floridians living in homes valued at less than their mortgages, this legislation is only adding to the number of homeowners walking away from their homes.
The sinkhole legislation is detrimental to the real estate industry, the property tax base and the economic health of Florida. It needs to be repealed and rewritten with the interests of promoting home ownership and increasing the tax base and economic health of the people of Florida.
Lynn W. Lindeman, Hudson
Learning what works for homeless Jan. 3, editorial
Creatively addressing and solving the homelessness crisis is a complex undertaking. The good news is we currently have most of the components to provide the best long-term solutions for many of our most vulnerable citizens.
Homelessness or near homelessness is not just a lack of affordable housing. Other factors may include poverty, unemployment/underemployment, domestic violence, untreated mental health conditions, lack of access to social services and medical care, drug abuse, lack of transportation or child care, financial management, criminal records and more.
Meaningful assistance to motivated homeless individuals is much more than housing. A workable, monitored support plan must be developed by both the care manager and the homeless individual to ensure accountability and a successful outcome.
An example of this model at work is my faith-based community, which is collaborating with area agencies to help stabilize and provide affordable housing, resources and care management for several previously homeless or near homeless families. This workable solution can be replicated and have a profound impact throughout Tampa Bay.
Seattle's $100 million United Way campaign addressing family homelessness is one idea for our area. Crafting meaningful, long-term solutions for our regional crisis requires all stakeholders at the discussion table, including our very resourceful faith-based communities.
Michael Doyle, Tampa
Help for military veterans
The first 10 years of this century have again proven the resolve of the American military. Our troops have endured immeasurable sacrifices, with many making the ultimate sacrifice.
Many find the wounds too deep to heal on their own. Suicide and homicide have ravaged men, women and children throughout the communities where our troops have returned from multiple deployments.
In Central Florida, the Tampa Bay Veterans Housing Network is made up of veterans who know the difficulties of accessing the resources needed for individual recovery and resiliency.
The network promotes programs of recovery from homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness and co-occurring disorders. Peers have access to VA and community resources for housing, job skills training and education.
Our most important program is outreach. Trained peer volunteers routinely assemble and visit shelters, soup kitchens and known sleeping areas. Research indicates that lack of information and access have been the major blocks to recovery. Leading by example is our most effective weapon in this fight to end homelessness among veterans.
Kevin Edwards, veterans peer advocate, St. Petersburg
Step up on pay ladder | Jan. 4, editorial
Higher prices hurt the poor
Hikes in the minimum wage mean that prices have risen (making the poor poorer), and thus hiking the minimum wage means that employers must raise prices even more (making the poor even poorer) to offset their higher costs of labor.
Where does inflation come from? As Milton Friedman so famously said, "Price inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon." In short, the Federal Reserve creates new money (inflation in the money supply) to loan to finance the government's deficit-spending madness, thus increasing inflation in consumer prices as this new money is added to the free-market auction for the existing supply of goods and services.
In short, price inflation causes more suffering for the poor, the very people that you profess to care so much about, but about which you do nothing except cheer efforts to make it worse.
Richard Daughty, Pinellas Park
Hyde Park Home Tour
On behalf of Hyde Park Preservation Inc., we would like to thank the Times for its recent advance coverage of the Old Hyde Park Home Tour. We had our best year since the event began in 2004. More than 1,000 people attended, four times more than last year; more than $25,000 was raised.
Thanks to the Times and other media and businesses that helped promote our event, the monies raised will go toward producing part three in a documentary series on the generations who grew up in Old Hyde Park, so precious history will not be lost.
Ellen Fiss, Tampa
Plan the attraction first
I'm tossing out an idea for the Pier a little late in the game, but here goes. I have many years as a marketing strategist and have observed what works and what doesn't.
To begin, it seems that folks want the Pier to attract tourists, amuse the locals, have it pay for itself, and create a family-friendly focal point for the St. Petersburg waterfront that is not in conflict with existing use. Somewhere along the line, it was thought that a new building was needed for that purpose. My thought is: Not necessarily.
You've probably seen the Santa Monica Pier. It is a 2-acre amusement park that draws 4 million visitors a year, stimulating local businesses and generating substantial tax revenue. It is also Santa Monica's largest employer of youth. It does this by providing rides, an arcade, an aquarium, a trapeze school, restaurants, shops and vendor carts.
It seems St. Petersburg is asking architects to be tourist attraction planners. Architects design buildings, not attractions. Plan an attraction, then hire the architect.
Lauren Shiner, Tampa
Light rail makes sense
The California High Speed Rail Peer Review Group has recommended that the initial bond issue to start the high-speed rail project be put on hold until questions about the project's feasibility and long-term financing can be resolved.
The project's costs have ballooned from $43 billion in 2008, when voters originally approved the bond issue, to $98 billion in recent studies. Voter polls show that a majority of California citizens would like another referendum on the issue.
Isn't it time to re-evaluate the country's transportation needs to determine the best use of limited funding? In the Tampa Bay area, a regional light rail system would make far more sense than the proposed Orlando Airport to downtown Tampa high-speed project that was recently rejected. If you doubt this, take a ride on the Howard Frankland Bridge or I-275 in the morning or evening. The high-speed rail project would have done nothing to reduce this congestion.
We need to ensure that tax dollars are put to the best use.
Joe Wareham, Tierra Verde