It's springtime in Florida's state parks. Let's take our cue from nature, get outdoors and enjoy this time of renewal and rejuvenation.
The Florida Park Service recently launched a PocketRanger mobile app for iPhones and Androids. This interactive, on-the-go guide allows visitors to plan their next adventure in state parks. It features photos, maps, park information, activity and location search tools, and more.
Spring is also a signal for us to begin spring cleaning. State parks do their "spring cleaning" in the form of prescribed burning. This resource management activity mimics natural fires that keep our environment healthy. Prescribed fires, carefully set by trained land managers, prevent wildfires and help our woodland plant and animal habitats by re-creating necessary and natural fire patterns.
When visiting state parks this spring, keep your eyes open for baby critters such as turtles and chicks of all species. It's nesting season in our coastal parks. Visitors can see more than 200 species of birds and their chicks at Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island and Anclote Key Preserve state parks in Pinellas County. Visitors to state parks can also see thousands of native flowers.
Florida's state parks have something for everyone. On behalf of the Florida Park Service, I invite all Floridians to go outside, have fun and learn about our precious environment this spring.
Donald Forgione, director, Florida Park Service, Tallahassee
Don't limit access to notices
Proposed Florida legislation (SB 1666) would change how bank foreclosures are noticed. These changes would be detrimental, as we still have a digital divide that disenfranchises many Floridians. The proposal would place the second public notice of foreclosure on the Internet, diminishing access to public notices.
Currently, Florida law requires that the first and second notices of foreclosures be printed in newspapers. Effective July 2013, notices will also be required to be posted on the newspapers' websites. Moreover, since July 2012, Florida's newspapers have been required to post notices to www.floridapublicnotices.com.
Independent research shows that local newspapers and their websites continue to be a trusted source, yet SB 1666 has a provision that would remove the second notice requirement from a local newspaper or newspaper's website and allow it to be posted on a website operated by an untested vendor.
When Floridians want information, they turn to their newspapers. Research found 60 percent of Floridians surveyed had read a print newspaper in the past seven days. But even if that wasn't true, and posting notices online was better, wouldn't logic dictate that posting these second notices on trusted, well-known newspaper sites would ensure consumers would see these notices?
On behalf of the Florida Press Association and all impacted Floridians, we urge lawmakers to remove this portion of SB 1666 and work to ensure the public is able to view public notices of foreclosures in trusted newspapers and newspaper websites.
Matt Walsh, chair, board of directors, Florida Press Association
Good news went unnoticed
Last Saturday, the support group for the James Weldon Johnson library held its third annual Literacy Festival. Hundreds of people showed up, and hundreds of books were given out to smiling children. Numerous volunteers attended, along with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, Florida Rep. Darryl Rouson, and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's representative.
On this beautiful day, everyone showed up … except the mainstream media. No Tampa Bay Times. No TV news. No Bay News 9. Once again, unless there is a shooting, murder, drug bust or other negative acts going on in the African-American community in St. Petersburg, the media is nowhere to be found. Shame on you.
April Spikes, St. Petersburg
Marching to Lakeland | March 14
Push for penny a pound
I have been amazed recently at the lack of wider knowledge of a vast injustice that is taking place a mere three hours from us. On Sunday I drove to Lakeland to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers as they finished their 200-mile walk from Fort Myers to the headquarters of Publix. They were there to ask again, as they have for the last 13 years, that the management at least meet with them to discuss joining such companies like Taco Bell, McDonald's, Burger King, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and others in giving the growers one penny more per pound of tomatoes that would be used directly to try to end the oppression, poverty and virtual slavery that many of the workers endure. In surveys, Publix customers have expressed willingness to pay the extra penny so that it would not impact Publix's income.
Publix's arguments have a surface plausibility. They argue that it is up to the government and the growers to make sure that the workers are treated fairly, ignoring the fact that the laws are difficult to enforce and the growers are not noted for considering matters of justice when it impacts their bottom line. They are, however, readily influenced by those who buy large amounts from them, and that has accounted for the success of the CIW campaign so far.
However, many of the workers' lives are still unjustly difficult. It is hard to see why Publix will not do this small thing, which will hardly affect them, to make a huge difference in these lives.
The Rev. Kathleen Korb, Unitarian Universalist Church, St. Petersburg
Bills will decide who wins: you or scalpers March 21, John Romano column
Supply and demand
While we may not like it, any economist will tell you that ticket "scalping" is nothing more than a normal — and proper — reaction when something is underpriced. Simply put, ticket prices do not accurately reflect demand. The proper fix would be for artists to add more shows and/or raise ticket prices to reflect demand, but in this case artists are more concerned with selling out venues and not upsetting fans.
As long as tickets are underpriced there will be reselling, legal or not. At least currently, online vendors provide us with a legal, convenient means for buying tickets. And remember, they aren't forcing us to buy them. The truth may hurt, but the government can't change the laws of economics. Remember this the next time you complain about "price-gouging" as well.
Chris Johnson, Clearwater
At CPAC, Weatherford opposes Medicaid's growth | March 17
Serve the poorest
House Speaker Will Weatherford talks about the federal government "giving" the state of Florida what he calls "free money" and says it is "buying us off." I find that a bit hypocritical coming from someone who ran for the House with contributions from large corporations. Were these not "buyoffs" from donors looking for a quid pro quo?
To ask the poorest of Florida residents to go without health insurance because he feels that he is being "bought" is beyond the realm of reason. Weatherford needs to go back to school and take a course in Government 101 to understand how to meet the needs of all of his constituents.
Rosanne Paris, Palm Harbor
Senate leaders pitch Plan B | March 21
The proposed Florida Republican legislative plan would take federal Medicaid dollars, 97 percent of which would have been used for health care, and redirect those funds through private insurers who would skim 20 percent off the top for overhead, if not also for future campaign contributions.
Roland Moy, St. Petersburg
Alternatives are out there
Now there is an idea worthy of consideration. The Children's Health Insurance Program has been successful, and the benefits that accrue to children are noteworthy. Raising the CHIP age and widening eligibility requirements should be especially appreciated by advocates of Medicaid expansion. At a seemingly dead end to the Medicaid expansion debate in the Legislature, here is a new horizon.
Another alternative worthy of consideration is to ask about expanding the eligibility requirements for the Affordable Care Act downward to include those eligible individuals not currently receiving Florida Medicaid or CHIP. Florida could still require the current Medicare/CHIP copayment structure and only be responsible for excess patient copayments, if any, that would not be covered by the ACA.
The expansion of the ACA is an open-minded alternative that includes a free-market approach to health care by allowing private insurers to compete for business in the marketplace and opening the door for health care to those unable to afford coverage. However, until a direction is selected by the Legislature, using the approach most other states have adopted would benefit Floridians by having it as a fallback and not a political issue.
Stuart Berney, Tampa