What I learned most about Bill McBride came to light over a coffee conversation in the early '90s during which he squinted at me and said, "So, do you think you can help me help kids in a big way?"
So was born the idea for Holland & Knight's Opening Doors for Children Foundation. That effort, spearheaded by McBride's senior partners and executive director Angela Ruth, set the standard for enlisting the forces of a powerful law firm on behalf of powerless children.
"In a big way" was a phrase that personified Bill McBride. He never did anything but take big ideas a long way so others would benefit from his vision. As protege of the iconic Chesterfield Smith, with legal rights attorney Steve Hanlon at his side, Bill cast an enormous shadow on the landscape of the American justice system. As a firm, Holland & Knight's pro bono division took on tough class-action cases while nurturing a new generation of advocates who would carry forward the mission to ensure justice for the least among us.
But for all of his accomplishments, none brought Bill McBride more satisfaction than to be an equal partner with Alex Sink in the parenting of their children, Bert and Lexi. It was in reflection of their growth and development that Bill's pride beamed the brightest.
Bill McBride gave much to many. His legacy lives in all who respect the value of investing time and talent for the betterment of others.
Jack Levine, 4Generations Institute, Tallahassee
Bill McBride dies at 67 | Dec. 24
Bill McBride had big personality and big soul
Florida lost a giant this month. There are some people one respects and admires, and in rare cases there are those deserving of love on top of that respect. Bill McBride was such a man. He was forceful in his advocacy. He was fair in his management. He was gentle in his human relations.
Bill McBride was a big man physically, but even more importantly, he was a big personality and a big soul. He loved this state. He loved the Democratic Party. He loved his wife. And he loved his son and daughter.
His Leadership XV class in 1997 got to know him when he was the managing partner of Holland & Knight law firm. This Florida Chamber program put 50 potential leaders into a program for six or so long weekends (spread out geographically) for a condensed course on all of Florida and for the bonding of the class. Our class included Bill, Pam Iorio and John Peyton, subsequently elected mayor of Jacksonville. Many of the programs included Bill in the back of the room where he was analyzing data and drafting personal evaluations of each of the attorneys in Holland & Knight's worldwide offices while simultaneously listening and participating in discussions about Florida's past, present and future. He did both functions passionately, just as he lived his life.
I will always remember Bill, not because he ran for governor, but because he was a great man in every facet of his life. As a father running for office and a husband supporting the campaign of his beloved Alex, he always knew that being at home every night to be with Bert and Lexi was the highest priority of his life. He was proud of the reforms and growth he carried forward at Holland & Knight, but bragging about the athletic and other feats of his son and daughter was when you saw his face brighten more than any other time.
He was passionate about his politics, but he was a too rare man who lived American values, including respect for those of opposing parties and beliefs. He fought for his beliefs and values, but did not question or attack the motivation or character of his opponents. He was a passionate lawyer whose word was his bond. He believed in, and lived up to the honor of his profession. In every aspect of his life he quietly called each of us to be better men and women by modeling the way that every religion asks us to be.
Clark Jordan-Holmes, Tampa
New hires, 58 layoffs reshape DEP | Dec. 25
Craig Pittman has reported numerous stories in the last year concerning the obviously poorly named state Department of Environmental Protection. The stories have been disturbing and share a common theme of profit for a few at the expense of our environment.
A short rehash includes DEP approval of a wetland mitigation bank project over the objection of its own wetlands expert, encouraging the raking of algae from Kings Bay instead of stopping the pollution that triggers it, and the Christmas Day story of layoffs designed to make DEP even less effective. I hope your continued reporting can help minimize environmental damage until the public replaces these scoundrels in 2014.
Joe Whetstone, Valrico
Since the beginning of Gov. Rick Scott's administration, we have witnessed the slow yet steady evisceration of what used to be a functioning, if not perfect, Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Not any longer.
With the most recent round of cuts and restructuring, we are seeing a wholesale disassembling of any and all vestiges of the former agency, one which at least made efforts to oversee that development followed strict rules and that wetlands and rare habitats were not paved over.
Now certain consultants whose companies once contended with the DEP have been assigned to oversee its operation under the authority of Herschel Vinyard, while veteran employees are sent packing. Talk about doing a 180-degree turn. This reversal of fortunes does not portend well for Florida's natural environment.
Ron Thuemler, Tampa
Name change in order
Reporter Craig Pittman has proven once again that under the current administration, the acronym DEP stands for Department of Environmental Prostitution.
John Ennis, Hudson
Florida giving up on $124M | Dec. 25
Name the tax dodgers
I find it outrageous that the state's public records law provides confidential cover to the names of businesses and residents that have their tax bills waived. The same goes for those who receive too much in jobless benefits.
The first action of the upcoming legislative session should be to require that these tax/benefit dodgers be exposed to public scrutiny. In these days of limited revenue resources, I want to know if the businesses I patronize or my neighbors are tax evaders and putting an unfair burden on those of us who pay our fair share of taxes.
Anything less would be unfair to the millions of Florida businesses and residents who do the right thing when it comes to taxes.
Robert W. Schultz, St. Petersburg
Final stabs at fiscal cliff deal | Dec. 27
Get a budget deal done
In just a few days, federal income taxes may be higher for middle-class Americans. Both Democrats and Republicans have said for months that they don't want this to happen. So if they agree that the temporary tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans should be extended, why not get it done and then work on the disagreements?
What's going on here is that the Republican-controlled House refuses to even consider a bill that extends the tax cut for the 98 percent because it will allow the temporary tax cut on those with incomes of over $1 million to expire.
How much clearer can it be? If you are in the lower 98 percent, you simply do not matter to Republicans.
Dan Favero, St. Petersburg
HART's unhelpful hysteria Dec. 26, editorial
Culture of divisiveness
Your editorial about the HART board's reluctance to move forward with plans to combine with its Pinellas counterpart was right on the mark, and unfortunately another all-too-true reflection of the lack on "one region" thinking.
If there ever was an application for regional thinking, public transit is one of the best. I moved to St. Petersburg almost 12 years ago and quickly picked up on the "culture" of divisiveness and not-so-friendly rivalry between the two cities.
Your newspaper took a bold step in renaming itself to reflect the ideal of a single regional focus, but sadly there are too many examples of provincial thinking that may take generations to overcome. Let's hope it doesn't take that long.
Robert Mathews, St. Petersburg