Aid for poor given back | July 20
Coalition must make smart choices
The Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County recently hit the headlines when it was learned that the agency returned $2.4 million in unspent funding to the state. The executive director said they just couldn't handle the workload to provide services that could have benefited many children in Pinellas. When there are hundreds of kids sitting on a waiting list for services and hundreds of parents worrying about the kids, we need to utilize every possible resource. To return $2.4 million earmarked for kids in Pinellas County is unconscionable. No excuses can take away the fact that kids and families remain unserved.
Child care services were limited by the coalition when it decided to exclude services for 9- to 12-year-olds in order to focus efforts on younger children. These after-school kids are left to fend for themselves, and parents are left without help. Needless to say, children from low-income families most need the after-school enrichment programs that this funding could have provided.
The Florida Office of Early Learning made the right decision to divide Pinellas' unspent money between Hillsborough and Miami-Dade County. Perhaps it's time the Early Learning Coalition revisit operations and especially the decision to limit services for eligible school-age children. The coalition board, which holds fiduciary and oversight responsibility, needs to take a closer look to ensure this doesn't happen again.
Larry Pintacuda, CEO, Florida Afterschool Network, Tallahassee
Scott slow to review taxing districts | July 11
Special districts' special role
As Gov. Rick Scott continues his in-depth review of special districts across the state, the Florida Association of Special Districts looks forward to continuing to provide information regarding the transparent and highly efficient operation of its member districts and the unparalleled services they provide to their communities and residents.
Special districts provide limited-purpose government on a local level. From mosquito and fire control to community development, all special districts provide unique services and remain accountable and accessible to the citizens they serve.
Independent special districts, like all cities and counties, are governed by Florida's Sunshine Laws. They are required to prepare financial statements, which are then reviewed by an independent auditor and submitted to the Florida auditor general. The vast majority of independent special districts are governed by board members who are elected by area residents or landowners.
Unlike a city or county where residents pay for services to an area from which they receive no benefit, only those residents who benefit from special district services or infrastructure pay for them. Special districts possess the knowledge, experience and resources to meet these needs in an efficient, accountable and transparent manner.
O'Neal Bardin Jr., president, Florida Association of Special Districts, Palm Beach Gardens
Defendant in child porn case travels widely July 21
Time to face the judge
Just when I think I've heard it all. Michael Meister is allowed to travel as often as he wants but is not well enough to stand trial for possessing and distributing child porn? All of which he has never denied doing. The judge, state prosecutor and the U.S. attorney should all be ashamed for letting this travesty get this far.
This man feels sorry for himself (because he was caught, I'm sure) and his family. I have to wonder how he feels about the innocent children and their families' lives he played a part in ruining. If he truly wants forgiveness, he needs to face the judge and take his punishment like a man. I am disgusted.
Valorie Perez, Oldsmar
Mosaic pumps water to dilute waste | July 21
A cascade of insanity
From the perspective of a citizen who is always asked to conserve water during our annual shortages, I find the allowing of Mosaic to withdraw up to 70 million gallons of water a day to dilute polluted water utterly insane. Give me a break! I was under the impression that Department of Environmental Protection rules were written to protect us and our resources.
Orfeo Trombetta, Seminole
This is a great lesson in practical ecology. This situation with Mosaic points out how a company is actually using a resource that belongs to the people of Florida for its own gain. How much does Mosaic pay out of its profits for the water it uses? How much does it pay for sinkholes it causes? How much does it pay for the effects of the pollution it puts into streams? We can consider many other industries that exploit our commonly held resources for private gain in the same way. The private sector makes money but often doesn't pay the costs of doing so. We do.
Gregory Byrd, Clearwater
Big Three don't measure up | July 21, letter to editor
Detroit's real problem
In response to the letter writer who used the Camry to highlight why he believes Detroit failed, that is not only absurd but misses the point. Detroit is in trouble from corruption and mismanagement, not because of the Japanese cars. When you mismanage the general fund and have no accountability for the actions of the municipal government year after year, implosion finally happens.
Stephen Burchett, Seffner
Make employers pay
Hasn't Congress already addressed amnesty with respect to the 11 million-plus undocumented immigrants? I'm talking about the amnesty to employers of undocumented immigrants who were able to exploit these workers for decades.
We need to insist that Congress finally address this "crime" with equal accountability and justice. I propose that all 11 million-plus undocumented immigrants document each employer who engaged their services "illegally." Then Congress can insist that these employers bear some of the costs relating to a fair and reasonable "pathway to citizenship" for these hard-working individuals who have already been contributing to our economy and society. Now that would truly be comprehensive immigration reform!
Cynthia C. Fargo, New Port Richey