Thursday, January 18, 2018
Letters To The Editor

Saturday's letters: Scandal hysteria needs a dose of facts

It is almost comical to see the conservatives operating in lockstep to the drumbeat of Fox News. Thankfully, you included the less partisan conservative David Brooks, who gave a surprisingly well balanced account of the Benghazi talking points brouhaha. He actually looks at the facts. The conservatives seem to throw around a lot of "when did she know it?" and "impeachment" talk without actually having any backup.

Barack Obama was in a tight re-election race with Mitt Romney. Our embassy in Egypt was attacked after a movie with a bad depiction of Mohammed was released. Romney immediately politicized the incident. Later the same day, the attack in Libya occurred. Coincidence?

The Obama administration was, as far as I can see, attempting to "cool off" the political rhetoric to get time to actually determine who, what, where and when the tragedy occurred. They certainly got some things wrong, for which Hillary Clinton took full responsibility in front of a Senate hearing despite the fact that these decisions were made at a much lower level and by the CIA and military, as well as the State Department.

As far as the supposed IRS scandal goes, the independent agency was being run by a Republican appointed by George W. Bush. So Obama calls this Republican to put the clampdown on conservatives? Let's get serious.

After the Citizens United ruling from the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, Karl Rove and others working for their billionaire masters discovered that they could set up various tax-exempt organizations and keep the donors secret. These organizations are not supposed to buy ads for particular candidates but to "generally" lobby for certain policies. After this ruling, hundreds and hundreds of the organizations were set up, huge donations were made as "black pool" reserves, and then distributed to these hundreds of smaller "tea party"-type organizations. Legal? The IRS wanted to know if it was an organized effort to subvert the intent of the law. It may just seem that specific types of organizations were targeted because they were the ones who applied the practices in a systematic way. Perhaps the IRS employees were just doing their jobs correctly. But why investigate when you can just scream "impeach Obama"?

Peter S. Cohoon, Tampa

Hypocrisy in the House | May 15, editorial

Flawed judgments

Many have pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of Florida House Republicans accepting highly subsidized, state-offered health insurance while denying Florida's working poor access to quality health care. Some have further pointed out that House Republicans are against taking federal funds for health care because the federal government already can't balance its own checkbook. These legislators must forget the fact that the state's current budget is already made up of approximately 50 percent federal money.

What is more interesting than the hypocrisy is how easily one representative wants to mislead the public on the Medicaid expansion's viability. Rep. Kathleen Peters at Tiger Bay on Tuesday said that she voted against the health care expansion because it was going to be run by the Florida Healthy Kids program, and she spoke to a pediatrician who said that they do not like the program and do not have the ability to take more of "those" patients. Peters is worried that doctors will be too busy and overly burdened in treating all of these sick kids.

The health care expansion, under Sen. Joe Negron's plan, was to be run by Florida Healthy Kids, as well as other Florida agencies, but that does not mean that it covers only kids. Lets look at Peters' statement. Either she thinks that 1 million poor Florida children should not get health care because the one pediatrician she called doesn't want to treat them, or she grossly misunderstands the entire health care expansion and how it is meant to benefit a much broader swath of Floridians in a more cost-effective manner. In either case, her judgment is severely flawed.

Josh Shulman, St. Petersburg

Legislature's failures

It is with pain, anger and disbelief that I ponder the Florida House of Representatives' refusal to consider expanding health care coverage to a million or more uninsured in Florida by refusing billions of dollars in federal money that would make this feasible. I have heard too many times from Republicans their concern that the federal government will not meet its responsibility in supporting this effort. I am hard pressed to remember when the federal government reneged on its payments for Medicare, its share of Medicaid, WIC, Social Security, or millions of dollars to hospitals to support uncompensated care (that will disappear in 2014) — to name a few.

What I do remember is the Florida Legislature reneging on its mandates: lottery money stolen from the schools to balance the budget; 3 percent taken from state employees' compensation for contribution to their pension fund that instead goes into the general fund; raiding the state's reserve funds to balance the budget; multiple attempts to defund the medically needy program, to name a few. Who is unreliable?

The Florida Legislature has a dubious history of fulfilling its mandates and has proved itself unreliable. Does anyone believe they will care for the disadvantaged in Florida for more than a "few legislative moments"? We need a sincere and honest discussion regarding this issue. The Senate is trying to provide one; we only ask the House to listen.

Bonnie Sklaren, Gulfport

That's a deal | May 14

Rogues' gallery

The photos of the 11 Tampa Bay House Republicans who rejected the $51 billion in federal funds to cover health insurance costs for 1 million poor Floridians should have been captioned, "Hypocrites Hall of Shame." Hypocrite-in-chief is House Speaker Will Weatherford. He began his right-wing reign with misstating that during his childhood his family had received medical care for his brother through a "safety net." His father then correctly pointed out that the safety net was Medicaid — the same program that he so blatantly and arrogantly denied to 1 million other Floridians, while he and his family enjoy health care coverage paid for by Florida taxpayers.

The return of $51 billion will now go to cover health care for persons in other states; Florida hospitals will lose $10 million due to cuts in funds for the uninsured; and Florida taxpayers will still pay $430 million a year for the Medically Needy Program, costs that the Medicaid expansion would have covered.

While Weatherford and these other hypocrites enjoy their public benefits, in denying health insurance to the most needy, they have betrayed the public's trust.

Robert White, Valrico

Yellow light concerns | May 15, letter

Public safety at risk

This week, Ch. 10 aired a news story titled, "Florida quietly shortened yellow light standards and lengths, resulting in more red light camera tickets for you." Shortening yellow light intervals is precisely the opposite of what needs to be done to improve public safety.

A history lesson might be insightful. Through 1976, the yellow light interval had to cover the reaction time to braking, plus stopping time, plus intersection clearance time. This made entries on red rare. Engineers even had the option of adding one to two seconds of an all-red interval for added safety. This worked well, and if you have been driving long enough you can remember a time when red-light running was not considered a problem.

But then the rules changed. In the early 1980s, the Institute of Transportation Engineers changed the calculations, reducing the minimum yellow light interval to reaction time plus stopping time, effectively shaving off about a third from the values that the previous formula dictated. At the same time, the all-red interval was increased. The change resulted in increasing the number of entries on red. While all-red intervals maintain some added safety, drivers now become "trapped" in entering the intersection on a red light during the all-red interval. Finally, in 1999, the all-red portion of the formula was made optional, increasing the probability of severe crashes since cross traffic can be released while drivers may still be entering or clearing the intersection.

This allows for concluding that an inherent conflict exists between safety and revenues. Restoring yellow light intervals based on the pre-1976 formula would again make entries on red very rare. However, since the profitability of camera programs depends on violations, the conflict becomes clear. The safety risks associated with reducing yellow light intervals may be offset by increasing the all-red interval, but that is of little comfort to a driver trapped by inadequate yellow timings.

The conflict has been demonstrated in multiple cases of cities getting caught purposely reducing the yellow light intervals to enhance the revenue generated by their camera programs. This unacceptable and unethical practice has now, according to Ch. 10, spread to Florida cities.

The standards, which were allowed to lapse after 1976, should be restored for public safety.

Etienne Pracht, Lithia

Noise pollution

Booming health hazard

Florida's noise pollution epidemic is causing an increasing public health hazard.

Chronic intrusive noise, such as from loud car stereos, can cause increased blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease, chronic fatigue, hostility, depression, and other serious health problems.

Temporarily undergoing car stereo booms while on the road is disturbing, but the severe damage is to those trapped in surrounding buildings for blocks and even miles. People living and working near roads frequented by boom cars endure pounding that's constant and inescapable. The damage to health can be grave.

Recent gatherings of multiple blasting boom cars in neighborhood parks and parking lots have created situations that are unbearable and sickening.

Action is overdue. The Legislature must protect the health and safety of Florida citizens by enacting strong noise pollution laws now.

Karen Orr, Safe and Healthy Communities chairwoman, Florida League of Conservation Voters, Gainesville


Thursday’s letters: All Americans need health care

Doctor: Trump got perfect score on cognitive test | Jan. 17All Americans need health carePresident Donald Trump’s extensive health exam has apparently declared him physically fit for office. As I was reading about the battery of tests he received...
Published: 01/17/18

Wednesday’s letters: St. Petersburg’s culture, vibrancy impresses

St. PetersburgImpressive culture and vibrancyI recently visited Tampa Bay and celebrated New Year’s weekend in downtown St. Petersburg. I was awestruck by what I encountered and experienced. It has been several years since I last visited, and the tra...
Published: 01/16/18

Pasco Letters to the Editor for Jan. 19

Re: Walking leads to shocking catalogue of trash | Jan. 12 column Bring back anti-littering campaignJust came back from the beautiful, clean city of Singapore, where there is a $1,000 fine, plus community service for littering. I think a presiden...
Published: 01/16/18
Tuesday’s letters: Trump’s accomplishments unheralded

Tuesday’s letters: Trump’s accomplishments unheralded

President Donald TrumpAchievements go unrecognizedAre Americans even aware that our economy is healthier and growing much faster, that ISIS has been defeated and lost their territory, that China and other countries are buying more American goods and ...
Published: 01/16/18

Monday’s letters: Don’t be fooled by drilling turnaround

Deal blocks drilling off Fla. | Jan. 10Don’t be fooled by turnaroundWhile I am very grateful that Florida has been taken off the table regarding offshore oil drilling, it is clear this is a political move to champion Gov. Rick Scott as he conside...
Published: 01/14/18

Sunday’s letters: Left wing late to the #MeToo cause

#MeTooDemocrats come late to the causeThe Times devoted an entire page to the #MeToo issues on Sunday. The ironies here for longtime observers are nearly boundless. Twenty years ago, folks like myself were called "prudes" and worse because we found P...
Published: 01/13/18

Saturday’s letters: A wall of towers isn’t progress

Skyline takes shape | Jan. 7A wall of towers isn’t progressFirst of all, once the 17 projects currently under way are completed, there will be no "skyline." There will be a wall of buildings blotting out the sun and sky. St. Petersburg has become...
Published: 01/12/18

Friday’s letters:

Gang raped at 17. Getting help at 65 | Jan. 7Help available for assault victimsEach sexual assault survivor has a unique story to tell, and Evelyn Robinson’s experience illustrates many of the emotions, and society stigmas, faced by survivors.Sex...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/11/18

Thursday’s letters: Opioid bill could do more harm than good

Opioid bill opponents line up | Jan. 6Bill’s potential to harm patientsLegislators are proposing putting more restrictions on physicians’ ability to prescribe pain medications. Yes, the addiction problem is a serious one, and the law seems well-i...
Published: 01/08/18
Updated: 01/10/18

Wednesday’s letters: Beware candidates backed by billionaires

DeSantis declares governor run | Jan. 6Beware the billionaire backingThis line says it all: "The congressman already has the support of the president and several billionaires." If you continue to vote for billionaire-backed candidates, you will g...
Published: 01/08/18
Updated: 01/09/18