For a Better Florida | March 7
Pay for public projects with user fees
Public "investment" has, to date, always been pushed by those who will benefit. They lobby the Legislature to tax everyone else to benefit themselves.
The Times call for a better Florida is simply more of the same, to be paid by more taxes at a time when the general population cannot afford more taxes.
This is not the way forward. It angers those who cannot pay the added taxes, and their righteous backlash at the polls later causes program cancellations.
Transportation and other infrastructure spending must be financed via user fees. Further, those fees need to be assessed on the causes of later damage and actual use, not on the general public. For highways, this means the powerful trucking lobby will have to be tackled as weight taxes are increased.
User fees are the only way to hold the general public harmless against the desire of the lobbies to spend, spend, spend — as long as it is your money.
In education, the major problem is that we do not know how to measure outcomes. Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests are not enough. We simply do not know which teachers and practices are more effective than others. The teaching improvement literature has, for decades, been full of often contradictory claims about what works — because we can't measure outcomes or can't replicate them.
Until we can measure and reproduce outcomes, any systemic or structural change runs the risk of making things worse instead of better. Thus sweeping changes should be avoided due to the high risk to many students. It follows that we need many experiments, each measured as best we can.
Rolf H. Parta, Bradenton
Goliath Davis firing
Mayor showed leadership
Bill Foster was elected by the citizens of St. Petersburg to be their leader. His sworn duty is to direct and lead our city. In order for any leader to accomplish this task, he must have the courage to make difficult decisions while knowing there may be repercussions. To make no decision is not a solution; it only creates a bigger problem when leadership is required in the future.
When a leader has to make difficult decisions, he deserves the support and respect of those serving under him. The employee must be willing to respect the leader's decisions, plans and directions. Without such commitment by the employee, there will be chaos in the organization. No one within the organization will prosper, nor will the organization be successful over time.
The mayor requested and/or suggested that Goliath Davis attend the funeral of Officer David Crawford, and made that request so as to not further embarrass the mayor and city after Davis' previous absence from officers' funerals. Davis, a former chief of police, out of respect for the mayor, the citizens of St. Petersburg and most especially out of respect for the fallen officers and their families, should have attended.
I applaud Mayor Foster's leadership and decision.
Larry J. Williams, former member, St. Petersburg City Council, St. Petersburg
Criminals go unpunished
Those in power going after unions and the middle class should instead be pursuing the real culprits. These are the Wall Street bankers who designed complex financial instruments then lied about the quality of the loans.
No one is being punished for the crime of the century. This is the real reason every state in the union is practically broke. What those in charge want to do now is to take more money from middle America and bust legitimate unions. That is the last thing we need.
Bobby Lonardo, Seminole
Study saw profit for rail | March 10
I'm amazed that this article on ridership estimates for the (now defunct) high-speed rail project was printed. There was no useful information in it.
According to the article, consultants determined that 3.3 million riders would take the high-speed rail during the first year of operation. What the article failed to do was to provide any sort of journalistic analysis. Nor did it even provide enough information for readers to perform the job that I would have expected the journalists to do.
Who are these unnamed independent consultants? Have they ever prepared a ridership estimate before? What's their track record? How accurate have they been in the past?
Without this information, the article was a waste of electrons (since I read it online).
I could probably hire two independent consultants to forecast that Tampa will slide into the ocean within five years. Without knowing who the consultants were, or by even reading their analysis, the consultants' conclusions are worthless.
And so was the article.
Fredrik Coulter, DeLand
I'd find it much easier to accept the conclusions of this "study" if its punch line had been: "Our rail project will make money in its first year, just like …" I've never heard of a rail boondoggle that made money in its first year. I'd like to hear an example of such a project that ever turned a profit, on an honest accounting.
Your front-page editorializing leaves us in no doubt which side you're on. In your view, Scott is just throwing away free money.
I didn't vote for Scott because of his ethical shortcomings, but he's dead right this time.
Peter Ray, Parrish
Awake the State rally
Democracy at work
How often do more than 1,500 people gather to protest the policies of their government?
On Tuesday evening I witnessed the Awake the State rally at Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa. Teachers, nurses, firefighters, ironworkers, electrical workers and others were present to voice their concerns that Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget cuts will hurt hard-working Americans.
When this many people participate in democracy, it should be front-page news.
Jane Gibbons, Tampa
Scott's hard but sunny sell | March 9
Middle class left out
After reviewing Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address and his budget, I simply ask: What has the Republican Party really done for you, the middle class?
Consider that Scott wants to lay off 8,600 state employees, cut $1.7 billion from education, cut $1.4 billion in state workers' retirement benefits, and eliminate income tax for corporations.
Matthew Mahoney, Clearwater