Hillsborough needs better taxi regulator | Dec. 7, editorial
Agency protects the riding public
The facts clearly show it was the right vote to continue the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.
The Hillsborough County legislative delegation rightfully voted to preserve the Public Transportation Commission and continue protecting the riding public. The reality is that the PTC is currently protecting consumers, ensuring public safety, demanding reliable service and exploring innovative technology. The interim director and current board are developing policies to increase accountability, expand transparency and ensure fair competition.
Moving the PTC into an arm of county government would not save taxpayer money or provide more oversight. In fact, under the current structure, zero taxpayer dollars are used to run the agency. Industry permit fees are utilized for staff salaries and operating costs. The PTC board is composed of elected officials from Hillsborough County and the three municipalities, hardly an unaccountable agency. If you want fair and open deliberations, you do not bury it in a big government bureaucracy.
The PTC commissioners cannot even communicate with each other outside of a public meeting. If buried within the county bureaucracy, that safeguard, afforded by Florida's Sunshine Law, would be lost.
Victor Crist, chairman, Public Transportation Commission, Tampa
Medicare Part D
Keep drugs affordable
Ten years after its passage, Medicare Part D has surpassed expectations with a very high satisfaction rate among beneficiaries, and total Part D costs are on track to be 45 percent lower than initial estimates. Given the program's record of success, Florida's Medicare beneficiaries have a stake in protecting Part D from shortsighted policies that could undermine the program.
Looking forward to 2014, Florida has 35 Part D plans competing in the state, with premiums as low as about $12 monthly, and nearly half with no deductibles. Part D provides seniors and disabled Americans with access to affordable prescription drug coverage. Undermining Part D's competitive approach with government-mandated rebates could result in higher beneficiary premiums, higher copays and more restrictive access to medicines.
As a disabled senior citizen on Medicare and a kidney organ transplant recipient for more than 22 years, I have found the last 10 years to be much less stressful. This is due to the Part D program, which gives me better access, both financially and physically, to the antirejection medications I need.
It would be a step in the wrong direction to make unnecessary changes that could make this program less affordable and medications less accessible to Florida's senior citizens and patients who depend on this program.
We urge members of Congress, especially our Florida members, to make sure Part D is protected from any of these harmful changes, and ensure that we continue to celebrate the monumental birthdays of the Part D program.
Terence J. Stevens, chairman, Citrus Council, National Kidney Foundation of Florida, Orlando
Skepticism in order | Dec. 15, letter
Most make do with less
The letter writer listed some areas of concern for the 14.3 percent increase in the sales tax for transit. Let me offer a couple more considerations.
If this 1 percent additional sales tax is approved, the citizens of Pinellas County can take pride in subjecting themselves, as well as those visiting, to the highest sales tax of all 67 counties in Florida. No other county has a sales tax as high as 8 percent.
Pinellas County has the sixth-highest property tax millage of the 67 counties in Florida. If officials follow through on the commitment to eliminate the 0.75 mills designated for transit, Pinellas County will still have the ninth-highest millage of all Florida counties.
The overwhelming majority of counties in Florida are apparently able to provide necessary and vital services to their citizens and do so taking less in taxes. We should be asking why.
Dave Loeffert, Dunedin
Change for the better
The letter writer lists a number of things that are wrong with light rail and how terrible it will be. These are opinions. The only fact is that our tax would go up a penny. That is money well spent.
I have ridden on transit systems in three cities and know people in two other cities with light rail. All are efficient, affordable and popular. I suppose there will always be some who resist change, no matter how good.
Jim Heady, South Pasadena
Loophole shields hiring of felons Dec. 16
Each time I see an article such as this one concerning the hiring of felons to collect funds for the police, I wonder if people realize that not all felons are hardened criminals.
That dreaded title can come from being arrested for a minor offense such as a controlled substance that has not been prescribed for you. You don't have to attack someone, burglarize their home or attempt a murder.
Most businesses check for past offenses before hiring but will hire immigrants with no source to check their past history.
Felons have gone to prison and paid their debt to society and should be able to be gainfully employed at most any job.
Dottie Clark, Apollo Beach
For Scouts, progress comes with some pain Dec. 14, Sue Carlton column
The Boy Scout troop being asked to relocate is indicative of a larger and ongoing struggle within organized denominations of Christianity as they soul-search to establish their identity in a changing world.
Pope Francis is a great example. The resistance he is encountering as he attempts to lead the Catholic Church back to its mission-oriented roots is striking in its bitterness.
In this column, it is interesting that both the church asking the Scouts to leave and the one providing them a new home are Presbyterian, suggesting something of a rift in ideology within that denomination. I wish us all luck in figuring it out.
Alan Hebdon, St. Petersburg