A simple handshake | Dec. 11
Correct decades of flawed policy
It's about time. I would like to think that publicly shaking Raoul Castro's hand at Nelson Mandela's funeral was planned by our president. A simple gesture could signal further relaxing of our relations with Cuba.
I would love to think that at least this president admits that our policy toward Cuba since the revolution has been a failure. In fact, U.S. policy toward Cuba before the revolution was a failure too. The right time for opening up travel and trade completely with our next-door neighbor passed long ago.
Yes, the Castro brothers are bad news. However, please remember our lap dog before them, Batista, was worse. Also, Fidel came to us first for help before going to the Russians. We turned him down. Stupid move.
So, applause to President Barack Obama for seeing reality and ignoring childish political posturing. The Republicans could learn from this.
Jeff Houseman, Weeki Wachee
Milestone for transit in Pinellas Dec. 10, editorial
Skepticism in order
Now begins the campaign for a 14.3 percent increase in the Pinellas County sales tax to pay for more bus service and a light-rail system. The supporters are well organized. They will be well funded. They will do appealing ads. They are also fully backed by this newspaper.
But before you drink the light-rail Kool-Aid, consider:
• Many costs are going up that we have no control over — electric rates, property insurance, medical insurance, copays, deductibles, etc. This transit tax is one thing we can say "no" to.
• As soon as Amazon builds its Florida facility, the cost of everything we order will go up by 8 percent.
• If you thought the Lens was a boondoggle, watch what happens with light rail. Cost over-runs are all but guaranteed.
• One rail line will inevitably lead to demands for more.
• The train will never be self-supporting through fares. It will require tax subsidies ad infinitum. If the 1 cent sales tax increase doesn't generate enough revenue, the authorities will be back for more.
Bob Potter, St. Petersburg
Fla. slips in solar energy rank | Dec. 10
FPL supports solar power
Florida Power & Light is proud to be a strong proponent of solar energy. We support Floridians who invest in solar panels, and we partner with local installers and hundreds of teachers to bring hands-on solar education to schools across Florida. We have worked with the state to build some of the largest, most innovative solar energy centers in the nation, including the world's first solar-natural gas hybrid plant.
As reported by PolitiFact, nobody operates more solar in Florida than FPL. Solar is an important part of our energy mix, and we want to add more of it in the years ahead. I'm optimistic that the cost, particularly for larger-scale solar, will become increasingly competitive in the near future, allowing us to increase our use of solar without substantially impacting customer bills.
FPL and Florida's 54 other electric utilities have the vital responsibility of ensuring Floridians have affordable, reliable electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is not something we take lightly. With that in mind, I was disappointed by Ivan Penn's piece, which relied heavily on people who have made careers out of bashing utilities — throwing around words like "crime" and flippantly portraying utilities as the only thing standing in the way of solar. It is unfortunate that the Times indulged this narrative, especially without presenting any evidence or counter viewpoint other than a brief, mischaracterized stereotyping of utilities' views.
It's easy to oversimplify issues, but that doesn't make it right. Notably, the Times' story omitted the issue of cost. Consider this fact: In the states that rank above the Sunshine State in solar growth, the price of residential electricity, on average, is roughly 30 percent greater than in Florida. We know energy costs matter to our customers so the issue can't be ignored, even if it's complicated.
Energy is too important and too complex to be dragged down to the sound-bite level. In the future, I encourage the Times to rise above the fray, present readers with all the facts and elevate the conversation to a level where good policy can result.
Eric Silagy, president, Florida Power & Light Co., Juno Beach
Pushing hard even if he's not running Dec. 8
Pinellas' own 'Boss Hogg'
Adam Smith's article gave a perfect picture of Republican political power broker Jack Latvala.
It is unhealthy for our state and county when leaders in either political party have a personal quest for power that outweighs the best interests of the people they represent.
State Sen. Latvala must see himself as "Boss Hogg" from the Dukes of Hazzard television series. Pinellas County and the state of Florida do not need the kind of machine politics found in New York or Chicago.
Paul J. Marino, Largo
Budget negotiators reach a deal Dec. 11
Make Pentagon do its part
Congress has failed in its duty to rein in Pentagon spending and serve the American people. The budget deal: doesn't close any corporate loopholes, doesn't extend emergency unemployment compensation, and doesn't make the Pentagon pay its fair share by cutting waste, fraud and abuse. In fact it increases that budget.
Karen Putney, Tampa
Hold the outrage on Festivus pole stunt Dec. 12, John Romano column
Just relax, people
I've never been inclined to write before, but John Romano's column about the Nativity scene and the Festivus pole was spot-on. It seems we've become a nation that is always looking for the next thing to be outraged by. Relax, everyone.
Brent Ruedeman, Plant City