Taxpayers foot bill for big salaries | Dec. 8, letter
Answer isn't to add to the misery
The letter writer is "astounded" that a police department employee was making $90,000 and feels that our taxes are too high because municipal salaries are too high. The average salary for municipal workers in the bay area is probably half that figure, so it's misleading to use one senior employee's salary to complain about high taxes.
The letter goes on to point out that "government employees also enjoy the luxury of health insurance and a pension. This is something many of us can only dream about." True, but which way should we go?
Cutting municipal salaries would make it even harder to recruit good teachers and police officers, making the social problems fiscal conservatives love to complain about even worse. And yes, many private sector workers do not have subsidized health care and pensions through their jobs. This means their quality of life and life expectancy will suffer. But it's folly to want to add municipal workers to this unfortunate group. We should have more people who can afford health care and retirement, not less.
Tom Prendergast, St. Petersburg
Focus on the schools
The city of St. Petersburg's economic development staff recently presented a draft of a community redevelopment plan for the area of south St. Petersburg designated as a community redevelopment area, or CRA. This process, which called for citizen input, is winding down after a series of meetings that will ultimately culminate with yet another plan aimed at helping the "poor and the downtrodden," mostly African-Americans, and addressing blight. Having participated in these processes many times I can predict the outcome, but I always participate with every new mayor and his administration in hopes things will be different.
Once again, I am disappointed.
In March, I and other early childhood education stakeholders in the community redevelopment area began attending budget meetings, CRA meetings and meeting with city officials for three reasons:
• To remind them that three elementary schools that primarily serve African-American children — Campbell Park, Melrose and Fairmont Park — have been C, D or F schools since 2010.
• To accept responsibility for this situation.
• To seek the city's support in a solution grounded in research and evidence-based practices.
The city's response to the citizens who live, work and own businesses in the CRA: We can't put everything into the plan. Their solution: Offer St. Petersburg College scholarship money and call it a partnership and pay academically strong students $10 per hour to read to children attending preschools within the CRA. This while most preschool teachers' starting pay is $11 per hour, and academically strong students must participate in community service projects to qualify for most scholarships.
Maria L. Scruggs, St. Petersburg
Deadly toll of dirty fuel
The New York Times and other reliable sources recently reported that the cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power has been reduced over the past five years. These clean, renewable energy sources now cost less than finite fossil coal.
A product of the Appalachian coalfields, I have firsthand knowledge of the deadly toll of extracting coal. It includes death, injury and lung disease from breathing coal dust. If the Florida Clean Power Coalition is accurate, air pollution from coal-fired steam plants in the United States silently kills more than 40,000 people each year. Another study puts the deaths at 24,000.
Pollution from burning coal costs Americans an estimated $160 billion annually for medical care: 38,000 heart attacks, 16,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, 550,000 asthma attacks and others. Each year in the United States, coal burned to generate electricity spews 96,000 pounds of mercury into the air, threatening the development of more than 600,000 fetuses.
The deadly human toll is one thing, but the environmental devastation is yet another tragic story. One example: Appalachian forests larger than the state of Delaware were destroyed in a recent 12-year period, along with burying or polluting 1,200 miles of streams to extract coal by brutally efficient mountaintop-removal mining. A "horrific process," the New York Times editorialized in "Decapitating Appalachia" — or inhumane greed bludgeoning God's creations, with the approval of our country's leaders.
Contrary to some reports, Europe is making progress to reduce or eliminate fossil fuel for electricity. Denmark now generates 20 percent of its electricity from wind turbines; in the United States it's a measly 1 percent. In the past 20 years, Germany has reduced coal burn by 48 percent. Denmark and Germany produce 75 percent of the world's wind-generating electricity. France produces 75 percent of its electricity using nuclear power.
Without dramatic change, the future looks grave. It's time for spirited action to exploit infinite solar power, take advantage of wind energy and aggressively develop hydro-generated power.
Arnold Fultz, Tampa
Tampa park options for Rays | Dec. 7
Think outside the box
I would suggest the Rays and our Tampa Bay area leaders give serious consideration to a stadium complex built on a man-made island constructed in the middle of Old Tampa Bay either between the Gandy and Howard Frankland bridges or between the Courtney Campbell Causeway and Howard Frankland Bridge. Both these areas are free of any major commercial boat traffic but easily accessible by private boat or water taxi/ferry. Vehicular traffic would be available by access ramps from the east and west off the respective causeways on each side of the site, thus expanding convenient access to a large population/fan base.
Such a site would, indeed, be an expensive project funded by both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in collaboration with the Rays and other potential investors. Accrued revenue would likewise be shared.
Mathis L. Becker, Tampa