Campus gun plan meets rare defeat | March 10
Ordinary citizens left out of lawmaking
Reading about the temporary setback to SB 234, which would have allowed guns to be carried openly on school campuses, the most astonishing part was Sen. John Thrasher's admission: "Any other time I might support something like this, but I just can't."
The only reason he couldn't was because his close friend's daughter was shot with an AK-47-style rifle and killed on the Florida State University campus. The girl's father made an emotional plea to block the provision at a committee meeting. Thrasher was deaf to the strong opposition of students and the FSU police chief, but he will listen to friends. And lobbyists, of course.
The takeaway here is that in order to get bills passed that protect a constituent's interests, one must befriend a powerful Republican senator. Teachers, Medicaid patients, firefighters, people who support environmental protection and reproductive rights, etc., have been going about it all wrong. Instead of writing letters, making phone calls and waving signs, they should be playing golf with the likes of Thrasher and House Speaker Dean Cannon. Maybe a constituent could join a foursome and try to counter the lobbyist's pitch during a friendly round. Unfortunately, the constituents are too busy working and probably couldn't afford the club membership anyway.
Thrasher's remark was a stark reminder of how left out ordinary citizens of this state and nation have become in legislative decisionmaking. Far too many politicians have no idea how most people live and are not looking for friends, or even acquaintances, in the working class so they can find out.
It's too bad Thrasher doesn't have more friends, who could tell him about the children they lost to guns on the street, drugs and the lack of health insurance and opportunities.
Bonnie Agan, St. Petersburg
Tests needed if 'teacher quality' bill becomes law | March 14
I am wondering how many times the same Race to the Top federal education dollars can be spent.
Gov. Rick Scott wants to use the money to replace dollars he is cutting from education. Michelle Rhee seems to think those same dollars can be used to develop a teacher evaluation system. Sen. Steve Wise thinks he can use the same funds to develop statewide standardized end-of-course exams.
How many times can the same dollar be spent? Or are these people talking to one another at all?
Jim Hand, Homosassa
Start with parents
The education experts all say don't cut spending, but until parents start disciplining their children, there will be no improvement.
I taught chemistry in Istanbul, Turkey, and on parents' day all of the mothers and fathers took off work. They asked me how their children were doing, and if the answer was negative, their response was, "Well, we'll handle that." Their high school students outperform ours on only a few hundred dollars per student. Parents and discipline, not money, are the keys to education.
Roy E. Rood, Tampa
Tape from Reagan's shooting is released March 12
The placement of this article about the shooting of President Ronald Reagan next to a large color gun ad was inappropriate. I am not antigun — I held a sharpshooter rating for quite some time with the National Rifle Association and for many years had a concealed weapons permit. However, I found this placement insensitive and tasteless.
Tim Keffalas, Tarpon Springs
Citizens reform is touted | March 12
I think this bill giving Citizens Property Insurance a 25 percent rate hike deserves more prominence.
With a recent 10 percent increase, the property insurance for our small condominium consumes 27 percent of our budget. This is several times what we individually pay on property taxes. The proposed 25 percent increase in Citizens' rates would mean that this line item would be about one-third of our budget.
Under the bill, if we can find another insurer within 25 percent of Citizens, we would have to go with it. This would mean that our insurance costs could increase by up to 50 percent, consuming up to 40 percent of our budget.
This is absurd. I guess the philosophy in Tallahassee is, if we can't tax them dry, we'll insure them dry.
Michael Dallmann, Clearwater
Saudis move into Bahrain | March 15
Support freedom fighters
Over the past weeks, rebels in Bahrain have been struggling to bring down the royal family. Like most in the Persian Gulf, the people of Bahrain live under the whim of a monarch. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also have governments that are able to disregard the will of the people without consequences.
Just as the rebels had pushed the royal family up against the wall, troops from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia arrived to suppress the freedom fighters. Our concern should not only be for the fate of our 5th Fleet; it also should be for the principle of freedom.
Jeff Brinckman, St. Petersburg
Death of 10-year-old spurs changes to abuse hotline | March 15
I am a child protective investigator in Palm Beach County for the Department of Children and Families. The department has been in the spotlight due to the recent tragedy concerning the Barahona children in Miami-Dade County, and numerous changes are being made as a result.
As investigators, we have a responsibility to both preserve the family and protect its children. Many weeks, child protective investigators work 50-60 hours with more cases than theoretically we are supposed to be given.
We are short of investigators, and is it any wonder? Protective investigators have not received a raise in the last five years. How are we supposed to effectively do our jobs when we do the work of two and barely get paid for one?
Gov. Rick Scott has proposed to cut 1,849 positions in the department, but despite that DCF Secretary David Wilkins has proposed to hire an additional 80 investigators within the next 60 days. Scott has also stated that he plans to decrease the department's budget substantially, believing, "We've got to figure out how to do more with less."
Many of my colleagues have received accolades for their hard work. Yet there are some in the DCF hierarchy who receive a six-figure salary and have fewer academic credentials and child welfare experience than seasoned and some new investigators.
All these factors contribute to the low morale of investigators, adding to the low retention rates of the department and the potential for mistakes to be made.
Seth Densen, Wellington