We all know there are unintended consequences that result from what we wish for. This could be the case with the gag grouper fishery in Florida. Next week, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will consider a final rule that will determine if recreational anglers may catch and keep gag grouper in state waters of the Gulf of Mexico (all waters of gulf coastal Florida out to 9 nautical miles) during the period when federal waters are closed (waters further than 9 nautical miles from land).
What's wrong with allowing Florida anglers to harvest gag grouper in state waters when federal waters are closed? The increased harvest in state waters can result in overfishing, with a likely reduction or closure of the federal season in 2013. Some recreational anglers argue that closing state waters will destroy local fishing economies, cost jobs and ruin tourism. But if overfishing continues because state waters remain open, the possibility of no federal season looms large. What would that do to local fishing economies, tourism and jobs across the entire Florida Gulf Coast?
The hard decision that the FWC has to make is the right decision: Close state waters during the federal closure, allowing gag grouper stocks to recover. The arguments of economics and access to the fish are secondary to the health of the fishery. Be careful what you wish for if you tell the FWC you want state waters open.
Mike Colby, president, Clearwater Commercial Marine Association, Clearwater
Florida GOP primary
Not ready for office
What we learned from being bombarded via TV, radio and print ads for two weeks leading up to the Florida Republican primary is that neither Mitt Romney nor Newt Gingrich are ready to be president.
Where are the ideas on how to solve the unemployment crisis, the housing crisis and the deficit crisis, to name a few? I'd rather see ads addressing the issues instead of the negative attacks on each other. We need a choice of "none of the above" for both the primary and general election.
Jim Steinle, Clearwater
Cutting through the lies
While I agree 100 percent that corporate/PAC money should be banned from what is supposed to be an equal and fair process, we all know it will not happen. The same folks who will decide this issue are the ones who benefit from it.
The best way to make the election process better is to study the issues and pay attention to where the candidate stands. Of course that presents another problem since 99.9 percent of politicians lie through their teeth while campaigning.
Don Mott, Largo
Freedom to text ends at my rear bumper Jan. 31, Daniel Ruth column
I am all in favor of the right to text while driving, with one condition. Put technology to work and reprogram all cellphones so that when you send a text message while driving, your device also sends a text message to your auto insurance company. This would include all vehicle parameters like speed, location, time of day/night, etc. The message would read something like this: "Please feel free to increase my liability premiums by 10 percent. LOL. Thanks." Then let's see how long this madness lasts.
Gary Washer, Tarpon Springs
Bishop renews health law fight | Jan. 31
Free to choose
Bishop Robert Lynch feels that the separation between church and state has been breached because the option of coverage for contraception is offered by health insurance. This is an example of why I left the church many years ago.
Bishop Lynch needs to be reminded that free will is God's gift to us. No one is forced to elect to use birth control just because it is an option. If one's faith is strong, and the choice is wrong, then one will opt for the right choice. We are not in the Dark Ages anymore.
The lessons the church taught me will guide me in my personal choices. To limit those choices is to have no confidence in the church's teachings. I chose not to eat meat on Fridays most of my life, because that's what the church taught. I didn't expect hamburger joints to close on that day.
Amelia Lubrano, Tampa
Millions must manage care of aging parents from afar | Jan. 29
Plan ahead for care
Long-distance caregivers: Be proactive, not reactive. It is important to plan ahead and inquire now about the services you may need for your parents down the road. It is easier to plan for crises and prevent them than it is to treat or resolve them once they have occurred.
You are not alone. There are numerous resources to help. Your parents' local agency on aging is a starting point — a wealth of information. From adult day care to medical advocates, many needed services are available to help your loved ones age in place.
Amy Cuykendall, St. Petersburg
Afghan police: Woman killed for giving birth to girl | Jan. 31
21st century shame
What a shame that in the 21st century there is still a belief that a woman is culpable if the desired male heir is not born.
The killing of a mother because of this, plus other violent acts by family members to save honor, is sad, but the saddest part is that these actions continue under the guise of either religion or customs handed down through the centuries.
Mary Jane Callihan, St. Petersburg
Who will help the ratepayer? | Feb. 1
Voters' voices not heard
It's despicable what has occurred here concerning Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light, not to mention the fact that these utility companies are monopolies. The consumer has no other choices with regard to choosing an electricity provider. I commend the Times for keeping this issue front and center. However, what we lack is a formidable plan of action to remedy the situation. What are our options — besides voting these people out every two to four years? What else can be done?
Florida, among other states in growing numbers, suffers from the "What's the Matter with Kansas," syndrome, where we keep voting against our own best interests election after election. Democracy was never meant to be a spectator sport, but it has devolved into one nonetheless. Our voices have been drowned out by the big money interests, and we must do everything in our power to reverse this trajectory or our democratic way of life is doomed.
Carolyn Beardsley, St. Petersburg
Crashes in smoke, fog kill 10 on I-75 | Jan. 30
Slow down or pull over
The massive pileup on I-75 was unfortunate and mostly preventable. The smoke and fog only set up the conditions that led to it; human error was the proximate cause.
The Air Force recognizes a human syndrome we call "get home-itis." Faced with added danger, people still think, "But I've got to get home." Well, you don't "have to get home," as (now) 11 people learned the hard way.
Over 60 years ago I was taught to never drive so fast that I couldn't stop in the distance I could see ahead. At 30 mph it takes about 79 feet to stop a typical automobile. So, with near zero visibility, no one should have been moving at all in that smog.
In a situation like that, first, don't drive into it at all. If you're already in it, pull way off the road (even off the shoulder if possible), stop, get out of your car, go sit up on the hillside and watch the crashes (because they are going to occur).
While director of safety at a Northern air base, I gave that advice often and was rewarded when told later that it had saved some lives.
So, don't give in to "get home-itis." You won't get home if you're dead. Wait it out or find another route and live to drive another day.
Alfred J. D'Amario, Hudson
Pinellas students losing ground | Jan. 29
Ask for teachers' input
As a classroom teacher for over two decades in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, I was disappointed that your feature article about FCAT scores did not include comment from even one teacher. Over a dozen various politicians, school administrators and even a member from a national think tank are quoted as being disappointed and perplexed by the seemingly mysterious results.
If a local classroom teacher had been asked for input, the story might have noted one big change that happened five years ago in Hillsborough and four years ago in Pinellas that has had a detrimental effect on teaching and learning. Middle and high school teacher workloads increased 40 percent. We went from teaching five classes per day and having two periods in which to grade, plan, communicate with parents, etc., to teaching six classes per day and having just one period in which to get everything done. The class size amendment was circumvented by just giving us more classes.
Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor
Steward of fairness retiring | Jan. 31
A job well done
I enjoyed reading the great article about Leon Russell. It was interesting to read about this man who is making the world a better place for all of us; I had no idea he was out there. I'm sure he is retiring feeling a great sense of accomplishment.
There is a quote about Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service: "There will never come an end to the good that he has done." The same goes for you, Mr. Russell. Great job!
Deborah Rothenberger, St. Pete Beach