It was with great sadness that we heard of Congressman Bill Young's death. While many people are aware of his tremendous support for public health, transportation, sustainable water supplies, and active and retired military personnel, they may not be aware of his pivotal role in the creation of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
In 1990, Congressman Young reached across the aisle to work with Congressman Sam Gibbons, a Democrat, to sponsor the legislation that established Tampa Bay as one of only 28 "estuaries of national significance." Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt was also instrumental in this effort. The result of this truly bipartisan initiative was an infusion of federal funds to jump-start efforts to restore Tampa Bay through the community partnership that is the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
In the ensuing 23 years, Tampa Bay has become an international success story. Overall water quality in the bay is now as good as it was in the 1950s, and we are regaining life-sustaining underwater sea grasses at an all-time high average of 730 acres per year, putting us within reach of our goal of 38,000 acres baywide.
In 2011, Congressman Young entered a proclamation into the Congressional Record recognizing the 20th anniversary of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and stating that it was "an honor to be a partner in this … successful partnership that has made an invaluable contribution to restoring this unique Florida ecosystem."
Indeed, it has been our great honor to have had Congressman Young's support and engagement throughout the years. Tampa Bay's recovery is a testimony to his dedication.
Holly Greening, executive director, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, St. Petersburg
Benefactor | Oct. 19
Little gestures mean a lot
Habitat Pinellas is saddened by the loss of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who was one of our most loyal advocates and supporters. Congressman Young accomplished many great things for our area, but there were also many simple, untold things — little things that mean a lot.
For the past few years, Congressman Young arranged to have flags flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of our individual Habitat Pinellas homeowners. His district representative, Shirley Miaoulis, then presented these special flags at each of our home dedications. These amazing gifts have inspired gratitude, patriotism and a deeper sense of community and connection among Habitat homeowners and local volunteers and sponsors.
Congressman Young, a leader with wide responsibilities and vision, took the time to focus this special attention on ordinary citizens and organizations serving throughout the community. Thank you, Congressman Young. May we continue to serve with such devotion to all people.
Ron Spoor, CEO, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County, Clearwater
On debt and taxes, conservatives can win Oct. 22, commentary
Republicans can't move on
In his op-ed piece, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, purports to have learned from the ill-fated governmental shutdown his party perpetrated. He even admitted "my party was not without fault." No kidding.
Americans blamed Republicans more than Democrats because the fiasco, purportedly over Obamacare, was entirely the fault of House Republicans. It cost the country tens of billions of dollars and destroyed what little faith we had in Congress.
Yet Rooney spent most of his argument refighting the Obamacare battle even though it has survived a constitutional challenge, recent elections and unending attempts to repeal it. Republicans can't leave that losing issue alone even though they know they should. And the reason is clear.
While implementation of the law is suffering an initial technical meltdown, Americans want and need affordable health care. There is the danger (to Republicans) the bugs will be fixed and Obamacare will be a big success. I'll bet Republicans are already wishing they hadn't attached the president's name to the Affordable Care Act.
So even though Rooney says he wants to move on, he and his party can't. And it's too bad. Most Americans want checks and balances in their governmental institutions so that the resulting compromise won't be too radical. What we have now with the Republican-led House are obstructions and imbalances, with no end in sight.
Jack Reed, Palm Harbor
Doctor's orders: Get insurance Oct. 23, commentary
The phone rings. It's that call that every parent dreads. Your college-age son or daughter got the test results: They have cancer. But worse, he or she bought into the on-campus political propaganda by the misnamed Generation Opportunity, funded by wealthy GOP operatives, encouraging young adults to not purchase health insurance. The result: Due to lack of coverage, every single dollar you have earned and saved will be used to save your child from pain and death.
There are no decent parents on Earth who would not spend every penny they had to provide the best care they can for their child in this situation. Making sure your adult child purchases health insurance is about managing risk. At our ages as parents, we know about risk. Young adults, impervious to it, feel "it will never happen to me." Really? Visit a hospital. Accidents and illnesses do not respect youth.
Private health insurance through Obamacare is now affordable and available without pre-existing condition exclusions. Every parent should make sure that their child is covered — for the parent's peace of mind as well as to protect the parent's life savings. The Koch brothers will not be there to hold your child's hand in the hospital. You will.
David Lillesand, Clearwater
Duke should plug into sun | Oct. 23, commentary
It worked for Germany
Julia Hathaway presented an interesting proposition for dealing our energy problems.
Some time ago, Germany had a similar problem. Looking at increased demand, they predicted the need for two new power plants. They also faced similar resistance that we see today. They decided to take money that would be required to bring two power plants online and use it to subsidize residential solar power. This support principally took the form of low-interest loans to the homeowner, and the requirement that utilities purchase excess power from residents at retail rates.
Homeowners found that they could enter the program and reduce their expenses. The program took off, and was recently closed down as so much excess residential power was produced that it saturated their grid. Programs are being set up to export electricity to surrounding countries.
This took place using older technology in an area where the climate is similar to that of North Carolina. We have access to advanced and less expensive technology and much more sun. A similar system could easily work here. It would be fair for power companies to pay a wholesale price for the electricity, to reflect the cost of the grid.
Randy Long, Weeki Wachee
Nation pays high cost for low-wage jobs Oct. 21, commentary
Middle class goes missing
Another cost of low minimum wages is the destruction of America's middle class. Low-wage jobs enrich the wealthy, business owners, corporations and corporate executives. This contributes to the redistribution of America's wealth from those at the bottom to the wealthiest Americans at the top.
The top 10 percent of earners in the United States took home more than 50 percent of all income in 2012, the highest amount ever recorded since data was first collected in 1917. The United States suffers from particularly drastic income inequality. It is worse here than in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
U.S. policy is mostly to blame. The deregulation of Wall Street meant huge profits for the wealthiest, whose incomes took off while everyone else's stagnated.
Jay Hall, Tampa
They're already ready for Hillary | Oct. 23
Voting for the wrong reason
I was incredulous when I read the article regarding the "Ready for Hillary" folks. There are many good reasons to vote for a particular candidate, but here are some of theirs: "I've never had an opportunity to vote for a woman for president," and, "I want a woman in the White House before I die."
We currently have a floundering, failing president because too many people thought it would be a great thing to have a black president. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the person is qualified and committed, which he is not.
Now fast forward to Hillary Clinton: From the Whitewater scandal to Benghazi, her career is distinguished by little of a positive nature and much negative baggage.
Gender, skin color and other physical characteristics have nothing to do with being qualified to lead.
David Haney, Spring Hill
An unblinking eye on America's horror Oct. 24, commentary
Our community is blessed to have Bill Maxwell and his open and forthright approach to some of the issues in our community. His solid suggestions for change are always on the mark. By comparison, I have had enough of Leonard Pitts and his constant harangue. Yes, our country was wrong and yes, we still have a lot of problems to solve. But how about one positive suggestion or one acknowledgement of even a sliver of personal responsibility?
As a member of the "silent moderates," I resent his divisiveness and instead I would rather work together to solve our problems.
John M. Garrity, Clearwater