Department of Community Affairs
DCA facilitates projects and jobs
The Department of Community Affairs, Florida's land planning agency, is frequently blamed for the state's economic woes. For example, during the recent election season, Gov.-elect Rick Scott accused DCA of "killing jobs all over the state." Numerous Republican legislative candidates blamed DCA for "onerous" growth management regulations and called for abolishing or dismantling of the agency. Based on the campaign rhetoric, one would think DCA is responsible for the state, national and global economic collapse. With all due respect to the critics, these accusations are contrary to the facts, do a disservice to DCA and mislead the public.
The "job killer" indictment is contrary to all evidence. The same basic growth management system that is under attack now was in place during one of Florida's longest and biggest economic "boom" periods. DCA and the growth management system did not prevent the real estate bubble, they did not cause the bubble to burst, and they will not prevent recovery.
Far from killing jobs, DCA has been facilitating future development and job creation. During the past four years, DCA has approved local plan amendments covering 950,000 acres of land. These amendments created new, unused development capacity of 600,000 residential units and nonresidential capacity of 1.5 billion square feet. These increases have occurred in all areas of the state and allow a wide range of development types such as inland ports, industrial parks, commercial centers, mixed-use projects, office parks, large and small residential developments, and new towns.
Very little of this development capacity is currently being used because of the collapse of the real estate market. When the market recovers, however, there will be more approved development capacity than Florida will consume for many years.
Blaming DCA for growth management regulations is equally misguided. DCA only applies and enforces regulations enacted by the Legislature. In 2005, 2008 and 2009, the Legislature enacted new growth management legislation that imposed on local governments substantial new regulatory mandates regarding water, school and transportation concurrency, urban sprawl, greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency and planning for and funding alternative modes of transportation. Correspondingly, this legislation expanded DCA's authority and duty to reject local plans for failure to meet state requirements.
This avalanche of new growth management regulations was enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Some of the most vocal Republican legislative critics of DCA voted for all of this legislation. Significantly, DCA did not request any of this legislation. It is disingenuous for legislators to criticize DCA for enforcing regulations adopted by the Legislature. Instead of killing the DCA messenger, it would be more productive to improve the growth management laws.
Tom Pelham, DCA secretary, Tallahassee
As a Muslim, I say:
Enough violence, killing
Enough violence, enough terrorism, enough killing.
When I turn on the television and see blood spattered on the ground and people running and screaming, I am saddened and horrified. I immediately think: What type of person committed this atrocity? A heartless monster with no conscience.
Enough hurt, enough pain, enough sorrow. I am a Muslim and I say enough.
These people do not follow Islam. Under no circumstances are you allowed to terrorize or murder. In the Koran, it states that the killing of one life is like killing all of humanity. Every life is precious; every person matters. Everyone deserves happiness.
Islam teaches us to give to charity, to honor our parents, to respect others, to be honest, to show mercy and compassion. That is what Islam is all about. I am a medical student, determined to learn all I can so that I can benefit humanity. I want to cure illness, alleviate pain and save lives. I am a Muslim who wants to better society.
My brother is an attorney; he works to preserve our rights. My brother-in-law is an engineer; he designs our roads so that they are safe for us to use. The Muslims we know are people who work to improve of our world. As individuals who share this magnificent Earth, we should all contribute. Whether it's volunteering to plant trees, or serving food at a soup kitchen, there's plenty to do. Lets work hand in hand to bring peace to our world.
Mariam Zeini, Tampa
Negotiating with the Taliban | Dec. 12
Smarter strategy needed
Meg Laughlin voiced the big unknown in the middle of her column on negotiating with the Taliban. What's easier: The United States confronting double-dealing allies or continuing military pressure on the Taliban? The former is far overdue if the latter is to make us safer.
Laughlin explains the gradations of Afghan fighter motivation with al-Qaida at the zenith and $10-a-day Talibs at the nadir. America's leaders must start being smarter, open and vocal with "allies" about the motivations at both ends. Al-Qaida are implacable foreigners with a global agenda; the $10 Talibs aren't. Al-Qaida are the well-funded corporate "suits." The $10 Talibs are less ambitious. I am not convinced we must win the hearts and minds of the less ambitious, but we certainly must delegitimize the ideas of al-Qaida. That will require a more dramatic public commitment from the president and our Muslim allies.
We need to reset and better define the lexicon about "the enemy." We need highly publicized and serial fireside chats about the history, motivations, strategy, lexicon and goals of violent Islamists, with the president sitting side by side with king of Saudi Arabia in the Map Room. Without that kind of dramatic reset and bilateral commitment, I fear we will continue to exhaust our military — and our country — while our allies leverage their petrodollars and duplicity.
Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg
Three myths in the news | Dec. 12, letter
We paid for Social Security
I enjoyed reading this letter on the three myths and the analysis of the two classes of people. Where I must disagree is with the statement that we have no right to Social Security. If we do not have a right to Social Security, the government then has no right to extract it from our paychecks. We paid for it.
Gail Burke, Hudson
Art is not about being comfortable | Dec. 12
Campaign not an illusion
This column is a perfect example of the world view of a former ACLU apparatchik. Right out of the box Robyn Blumner critiques Bill Donahue of the Catholic League for inveighing against what she considers to be a nonexistent war against Christians.
Nonexistent? When they're not challenging nativity scenes in every small town and suing high school athletes who pray before a sports event, the ACLU and their supporters are defending so-called artists who depict Christian symbols suspended in urine, covered by ants or spattered with cow dung.
John Kriegsmann, Land O'Lakes