I am a 15-year United Cab driver from Tampa who likes his job. What could be simpler: Someone calls or hails a cab, gets in and you take him or her to the destination.
Beneath this simple picture, however, are issues of competition, meter rates, flat rates, free taxis, permits, conditions of the cars themselves, the background of drivers, public safety, and even the health and safety of the drivers.
All of these issues can be addressed by the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. The groundswell to eliminate this entity is a terrible mistake.
The commission for years had set a limited number of permits for taxi operation. The number was sufficient to serve the public, and it allowed the drivers for United and Yellow to make a living. The major companies would shelve permits in the summer when it slowed down to meet the demand of the market.
Meter rates are established by the commission and meters are inspected by the division of weights and measures out of Tallahassee. Regulating meter rates protects the public by not allowing flat-rating, which is always a "highball" rate and rips off tourists. The only flat rate is to the airport.
An unregulated free taxi service was recently started in Tampa that was mostly a glorified golf cart. It was unsafe, uninsurable and a public safety hazard. The commission did the right thing in shutting it down, and Yellow put out a courtesy fleet of new cars with insurance and background-qualified drivers.
To get a hack permit in Tampa, you must go through a background screening including mug shots, fingerprinting and being run on the FBI computer. The public is protected because they are not being picked up by dangerous fugitives.
The commission also has requirements on the mechanical condition and cleanliness of taxis and requires that drivers dress appropriately.
With the Republican National Convention coming to Tampa in 2012, we need to ensure the city makes a good impression. Without a commission it would be wide open, with all the quality drivers long gone because they could not make a living in this town.
Timothy Fasano, Tampa
Sundays without football
I want to thank the Bucs and the blackout. Previously, Sundays were filled with friends and neighbors coming over to our house for eats and drinks and game-watching. The men would sit around our TV, drinking beer and watching the game. The women would be in another part of the house talking about things that women talk about.
Now, with the games being blacked out, my husband and I sleep in. We have a leisurely breakfast and decide what we want to do for the day.
We take rides to nowhere or go to an amusement park or just stay home and do nothing. My food and electric bills have gone down considerably.
Even the dog seems more relaxed. (Wouldn't you be if you didn't hear seven or eight male voices yelling at the same time?) We've even managed to take care of the outside of the house and paint a couple of rooms inside.
So as a football widow, I want to thank everyone who had a hand in the blackout.
Denise Belanger, New Port Richey
Working lands can play big role in energy renewal | Dec. 14, commentary
The article by Charles Bronson regarding energy from farm land would be more credible if past efforts foisted on us by the government were of any value. Anyone who has checked his automobile mileage before and after the addition of 10 percent ethanol, made from corn, knows that it does nothing except transfer dollars from drivers to the agriculture industry, lobbyists and distillers.
Mark E. Reinecke, St. Petersburg
Who's to blame? | Dec. 10
No loyalty in capitalism
There is no one to blame for Carl Crawford going to the Red Sox. Baseball operates under the same principles as the rest of our capitalist society. Those who have more money (Boston, New York) get better "stuff" (players).
You certainly can't blame the players. They are employees and they go where they have the best job opportunities. There is no such thing as "loyalty" or "fairness" in capitalism or baseball.
Marlene Rubin, Tampa
Don't miss this chance
The state of Florida is being offered a golden opportunity with the offer of additional monies from the federal government to fund transportation projects. I hope our incoming governor and the Legislature realize the importance of this one-time opportunity.
It comes at a crucial time when Florida needs this shot in the arm to jump-start our economy. Just think of the jobs these projects will create.
Marilyn Murphy, St. Petersburg
Only delaying the pain
Our Congress and the American people need a quick lesson in economics. Extending tax cuts will only allow our national debt to increase without abatement. By cutting taxes they are actually increasing taxes. I'm talking about inflation, the hidden tax.
If you have saved money for retirement and inflation robs you of any portion of its value or buying power, you have been taxed. Anyone who believes our government is not printing money to pay the bills is living in denial.
It would be far better to pay higher taxes today than lose the value of our savings tomorrow.
John T. Rice, Safety Harbor
Rich pay big chunk of tax
Your PolitiFact concerning a statement by Sen. Bernie Sanders wasn't the whole story. In it you state that the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income. What you conveniently left out was that these top 1 percent of wage earners paid 38 percent of all federal income taxes.
James Pirretti, St. Petersburg
Lessons from a 5-day, 10-city jobs tour Dec. 12
Just stay out of the way
The article asks: "How can incoming Florida Gov. Rick Scott deliver on his plan to create 700,000 jobs?
The answer is simple — he needs to stay out of the way and don't do anything stupid like his plans for education. As the economy continues to improve, so will job creation.
The Florida Economic Estimating Conference has already predicted, without Scott's plans, that Florida job growth will be more than 1 million jobs over the next seven years.
So he can even screw up Florida's job picture and still hit his goal. And then hilariously some people will give him credit for something that always happens after recessions and high unemployment.
Dan Favero, St. Petersburg
The trouble with ranking heroism | Dec. 12
Too many are ignored
This article on war medals made a number of good points.
Any action on the battlefield has to have witnesses, and the soldier's actions have to follow the chain of command. Normally the medal route would start with the squad leader or platoon sergeant. It can go all the way to the top, but can be stopped at any level and for any reason.
I was in Vietnam in 1965-66 and saw these actions stopped several times. I have seen soldiers who should have received the Medal of Honor who didn't even get a mention.
Colin Kelley, Largo
Vouchers for everyone? | Dec. 10
Bad corporate habits
There is no way someone like Gov.-elect Rick Scott, who is used to working in a darkened corporate boardroom, will be able to work in the sunshine of Florida. His old corporate habits and ego will be his downfall.
So, the public and the courts don't like school vouchers? Let's introduce "educational savings accounts" instead. What an insult to the intelligence of Floridians.
Misinformation and obfuscation will be Scott's answer for everything he wants, regardless of what the public wants or what's good for Florida. Just like one of his predecessors, "Rick knows best."
Kim Adams, Largo
Schools reflect society
After having taught school for over 30 years, it amazes me that people have not figured out why our schools are failing. Whatever the FCAT shows, and whatever Rick Scott says, the bottom line is that our children are near the end of the list when compared to other industrialized countries. This should scare all of us.
Teachers can only do so much. They can instruct and they can encourage. They cannot be the parent of every child in their classroom. Until we value education as a society, we will continue to fail. Schools always reflect society.
Melanie Woods, Palm Harbor
It is my guess that the folks most against school vouchers are the ones who say all we need to do is fund it properly. But it is evident to me that more money is not the answer. Only a small portion of each dollar ever makes it to the classroom.
Schools are a big business, whether you want to admit it or not. Competition is a proven method to improve a product and lower the cost.
I do not recommend a wholesale change overnight. Trial studies should be conducted to verify outcomes.
Ronald Foster, Clearwater
Santa and 'stand your ground'
You better watch out
If I were Santa Claus, I'd think twice about entering people's homes to deliver presents. I would advise him to wear a bulletproof vest if he does. With Florida's "stand your ground" law, I can foresee the following scenario:
Homeowner: Who the heck are you and what are you doing in my house?
Santa: I'm Santa Claus and I'm bringing you and your family gifts and good cheer. Would you mind pointing that gun away from me?
Homeowner: That's a load of bull! Everyone knows Santa isn't real.
Santa: Oh, but I am real. Look what I have for you!
With that, Santa takes a step toward the homeowner and reaches into his big bag.
Bang! The gun fires.
Thirty minutes later:
Homeowner: Officer, I'm telling you … he came at me and he was reaching for what I thought was a weapon. I didn't know it was the GPS I've been wanting for years. I felt threatened.
Officer: Well, you'll have to come with us for more questioning, but it looks like a clear-cut case of self-defense. You'll probably be home by sunup.
Santa, if you're reading this, I advise you to just leave the stuff at the front door and be as quiet as possible.
John Krevens, New Port Richey