Stop Legislature from hurting natural Florida
The last few months have been marked by unprecedented attempts by development interests to unravel Florida's environmental protections. We're not just talking about chipping away at the state's environmental armor, but taking a wrecking ball to it.
Organizations like Save the Manatee Club and other environmental groups battle daily to give a voice to Florida's environment and speak for citizens who treasure the state's diverse natural resources, but lately our voices are struggling to be heard over the buzz of chain saws and roar of bulldozer engines and dredgers. If ever there was a time to help us speak up for Florida's wild places, it is now.
Do you love manatees? Have a favorite fishing hole? Enjoy a day at the beach or a hike through the forest? Like to swim in clean water? It's all in jeopardy. Growth management laws could be obliterated through HB 7129/SB 1122, and HB 991 could pre-empt local government environmental controls. The quality of the waters in which we fish and recreate is threatened by HB 239. Aquatic preserve offices in critical locations like Biscayne Bay and Tampa Bay could be shut down, taking away valuable protections for aquatic resources that far outweigh the cost of operating these offices. CS/CS SB 2086 could make citizens' petition initiatives — including an attempt to get a constitutional ban on near-shore oil drilling placed on a future Florida ballot — more difficult. Another damaging bill, SB 796/HB 613, would require less wastewater treatment, increase the amount of secondarily treated sewage being discharged to South Florida coastal waters, and allow the injection of wastewater into the shallow water aquifer that provides drinking water for South Florida and the Keys.
These are not issues specific to one party or one interest group. These are changes that are certain to affect each one of us as Floridians. Contact your legislators and local government leaders and help send a loud and clear message that you love Florida's natural resources and will not stand idly by and watch them be destroyed.
Katie Tripp, Ph.D., director of science and conservation, Save the Manatee Club
The zest for red-light cameras seems to be a legal problem in the making. Running a right light is illegal and incurs points on a driver's license.
In a family (or business) with multiple drivers on a single vehicle, a violation can result in the loss of a safe driver designation, increase in insurance premiums and possibly suspension of driving privileges — all with nothing but a camera as witness. How do you question a picture? Does it show undeniably the identity of the driver?
Thomas J. Cook, St. Petersburg
Extend red-light time
A suggestion to extend the yellow "proceed with caution" light would only result in giving red-light runners a longer opportunity to run the light.
Why not extend the red-light time in both directions so that all vehicles come (or should come) to a complete stop.
Randy Williams, Port Richey
Driver who hit jaywalker left in sorrow April 26
Drivers must be aware
I am tired of reading the phrase "no charges filed." All drivers are responsible for being aware of all that is going on, including pedestrian whereabouts, in their field of vision.
On Fourth and 34th Streets North in St. Petersburg, there are stretches of a mile or longer with no crosswalks. The elderly and handicapped cannot be expected to walk a 2 miles to cross a street.
I have witnessed drivers on the phone, texting, putting on makeup, eating — everything but paying attention. They should be charged when they kill.
John A. Chresaidos, St. Petersburg
Pity the not-so-poor insurers | April 26
Preparing for worst case
This column, reporting that property casualty insurers had a robust 2010, misses the point. The numbers reflect a national picture, but insurance is regulated on the state level, and markets vary drastically from state to state. By law, insurers must base Florida premiums on Florida losses. Relying on nationwide trends also ignores the reality of Florida's risky geographic position as the only state threatened by hurricanes from both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Fortunately, Floridians have avoided any hurricane making landfall since 2006, but everyone knows it is only a matter of time until one hits. To protect consumers, insurers need to prepare for the worst case. Now is the time to enact reforms that address cost drivers and create more competition and more choices for consumers.
Demonizing Florida's property and casualty insurers is easy to do, but insurers are working every day to make their customers safer and more financially secure, while also directly employing nearly 30,000 Floridians.
William Stander, Tallahassee
The Florida Legislature is debating Medicaid reform, with one of the issues being how to provide transportation services to the disadvantaged. The Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged ensures that people regardless of age, disability or income have access to health care, employment and social services.
The Florida Association of Community Transportation Systems, a coalition of 49 providers, strongly believes the current system is the best one for transporting Florida's most vulnerable citizens. Since 1979, this coordinated system has significantly improved safety, on-time performance, passenger assistance and driver training. Taxpayers have realized significant cost savings through elimination of duplication, increased efficiency and coordination of several transportation programs under one authority.
During the past seven years, providers have reduced Medicaid costs from $95 million to $65 million while the number of passengers served rose 31 percent. An independent study by the University of Florida determined that the coordinated system saved Medicaid $40 million annually.
It is imperative that the Florida Senate joins the House position and retains Medicaid clients within the coordinated transportation system.
Boyd Thompson, president, Florida Association of Community Transportation Systems, Palatka
Most local newspaper readers have long recognized the Times as the best regional newspaper available. Congratulations are now due the paper for having the best app in the nation. The Times' new app for iPad is the best currently available for any newspaper, period. I find it far more convenient to read than the traditional paper edition.
Homer Savige, Sun City Center
Going outside for help | April 24
A troubling decision
Given the persistent problems plaguing black children in Pinellas County schools, I was excited to read the headline that the school district was bringing in a researcher to help improve black students' achievement. That excitement turned to dismay when I learned the researcher was previously a paid litigation expert who defended the district against similar charges a few years ago.
I hope he does not begin his new report with a defense of his prior report. I fear a crafted, down-is-up, up-is-down analysis of a problem that needs to be openly dealt with. Before even talking to the district, he claims to be impressed with the district's "openness." Sadly, that is not a word I have heard used to describe our district by any civic, community, litigation or other outside group working to have these problems addressed.
There are many experts working on this problem who know the importance of openness but who have not been paid to defend the district in litigation. Why not one of them?
Joseph D. Magri, Belleair
Mark Wilson, president and chief executive of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, recently touted the fiscal wisdom of virtual classes. In his defense of undercutting public education, Wilson spouted the tired "global competition" argument: American kids can't compete, and besides, we're out of cash. The solution? Technology.
As a public school teacher, I have experience with the challenges of delivering quality instruction via computer. First and foremost, our schools don't have the computers to pull it off. If you don't believe me, wait until schools in some of our poorer districts try to deal with the tsunami of computer-based "end of course" testing the Legislature has mandated. My school has plenty of computers, and testing was extremely disruptive to instruction.
Second, what about motivation and inspiration? While virtual classes are a great alternative for a select group of students, they should not be a requirement for all. I routinely deal with unmotivated students who struggle in normal classroom environments. Kids need to be inspired. Can you imagine telling your kids one day that the teacher who changed your life was an iPad?
Finally, I challenge Wilson and members of our Legislature to take virtual classes themselves. I have taken virtual classes through three major state universities and have been disappointed every time. How will this work at the high school level? Where is the data supporting these policies?
Marlow Matherne, Tallahassee
Nation is overextended
Can we afford to run the world? After 65 years, we're still protecting Germany and Japan. We have a standing army in Korea. Can we afford this?
We have an army in Iraq and are paying to rebuild their infrastructure. Now we are responsible for Afghanistan.
American lives and American dollars — we borrow money to give foreign aid to a great many countries while talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare to our own people. Do we have our priorities mixed up?
Bob Gearsbeck, Zephyrhills
Early retirement hazards | April 26, commentary
Not all can find work
We've been told for years that it is better to work longer, that retirement leads to all sorts of maladies. I believe it. The problem is that working until our late 60s is pie-in-the-sky. There are not jobs to keep people working that long. The great purge of 2008-09 relieved companies of those pesky, bloated payrolls so irritating to stockholders. The jobs are not coming back. They are either moving overseas or being restructured into a leaner, meaner work force.
In time there will be jobs in growing fields, but they will be taken by younger workers, as they should be. I envy those seniors who can stay in the work force, but it's often not feasible.
Gail Burke, Hudson
Cut back on driving
There is a law of supply and demand: Reduce the demand, and the supply goes up. High inventories of gas for producers, refineries and suppliers force them to reduce prices to lower the supply.
Let's create stay-at-home Saturdays or better yet stay-at-home weekends. Let's enjoy neighborhood barbecues, block parties or family days at home. Reducing our need (demand) for gas will increase inventories (supply). When sales drop, so will the price.
Joe Derkacs, Spring Hill
City Hall no place for charity squeeze
April 27, editorial
The campaign for city employees to donate to the Doorways Scholarship Program is nothing new. The same personalized cards are delivered yearly for contributions to the United Way.
It is "suggested" that each director is "hoping" for 100 percent participation. Naturally, this causes one to wonder if jobs might be compromised if the employee chooses not to or is unable to contribute.
B.J. Mitchell, St. Petersburg
A haunting silence in abuse case | April 27
Shame on neighbors
Shame on the neighbors and others who were aware of the horrible abuse of the 5-year-old child in Homosassa but did not report it.
What is happening to people today? It seems there are those who will stand up for an abused animal, which I certainly advocate, but turn their backs on child abuse.
I admire sheriff's Detective Kat Liotta for her dedication in pursuing the case.
Emma Mason, St. Petersburg
I was recently at an Aldi's store with a short list of groceries, but I went overboard to restock my pantry. I had $60 in cash and was sure that was enough. At checkout, however, I was shocked to find I had a total of $80-plus in groceries.
I was embarrassed and asked the clerk to remove some of the items when a gentleman behind me handed the clerk a $20 bill, asking, "Will this cover it?" I responded, "I can't accept this." The clerk had now tallied up $70 and I gave the gentleman $10 back, thanking him profusely. I was so shaken by this unexpected generosity that I didn't get his name.
I wish to thank him again and assure him that I will do the same for some anonymous individual.
Ruth Adams, Palm Harbor