Courts shouldn't have to beg | Oct. 7, editorial
Fund isn't sole source of money
This editorial insinuates that a funding crisis has been created due to the inception of the State Courts Revenue Trust Fund. This is not correct.
This trust fund was created to protect and preserve court funding and was never meant to be the court system's sole funding source. The dollars generated in the trust fund were meant to supplement an annual appropriation to Florida's judicial branch, ensuring that the state's requirement to adequately fund a co-equal branch of government and providing access to justice would be met.
Before the trust fund was created, all dollars that would be appropriated to the court system came from state general revenue. There was little control by the courts, and the Legislature could spend these dollars on non-justice system priorities.
The State Courts Revenue Trust Fund allows court system-generated revenues to be separated from state general revenue, ensuring their availability for exclusive use by the court system. Any shortfalls from overestimating revenues to the trust fund were to be covered by adequate legislative appropriations.
The creation and purpose of the State Courts Revenue Trust Fund was supported by Florida judges, clerks, court administrators and the Florida Bar, who all believed this would help stabilize funding for Florida's state court system.
Victor Crist, Hillsborough County commissioner, former state senator, Tampa
Mayor's legacy: fewer playgrounds Oct. 3, editorial
City is serving its residents
The editorial portrays me as having powers of a strong mayor like those in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Alas, I do not have the ability to unilaterally eliminate playgrounds or any other program without a majority of the City Council.
Talks of reducing the number of playgrounds started in 2005 and 2006 with the anticipation of an economic slowdown. These discussions were solidified with the Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan in 2007. The plan was to eliminate playground equipment as it became unsafe, with the parks remaining. The standard today is to have a playground a maximum of 1 mile from every home in Clearwater, and this plan was endorsed reluctantly but unanimously by the council.
No one wants to make tough decisions that make residents unhappy. We had a decrease of more than $16 million in general fund revenue since fiscal year 2006-07, and we are trimming all programs rather than eliminating them. By eliminating playgrounds that have reached the end of their safe life cycle, the city will save approximately $100,000 a year. If we can't cut $100,000, how will we ever get to $16 million? The city must have a balanced budget.
The newspaper article that prompted this editorial grew out of a citizen complaint of losing a playground across the street from her home. What the article failed to mention is that a new playground was built in conjunction with a recreation center just three blocks away.
As mayor, I have championed a healthier community for our children by working with the YMCA and School Board on fighting childhood obesity with "The Mayor's Move It, Move It Challenge." We have enhanced playgrounds at our Countryside complex, Ross Norton Complex and the playground at the Long Center that allows children with disabilities to play alongside peers. We have also focused on our seniors with the Aging Well Center in Clearwater.
I thank the citizens of Clearwater for the privilege of serving them for 10 years. I have initiated many programs and made many decisions, hopefully the majority being good ones. And I hope that any one decision does not a legacy make! I will continue to strive to strike a balance in governing as we do in our personal lives, and I will never compromise my goal of making Clearwater a great place to live, work and play.
Mayor Frank Hibbard, Clearwater
Prostate testing debated | Oct. 9
My choice: Get screened
Not having regular PSA tests for prostate cancer because "most men" might be better off not knowing they have the condition convinces me of nothing. When it comes to diseases that might kill me, frankly I don't care about "most men" — I care about me. I want to know whether I have the problem, how serious it is, what options there are for dealing with the problem (including doing nothing), and what the consequences are of each option. Only then can I make an intelligent decision about how to proceed.
As a prostate cancer survivor who is now officially cancer-free with no complications, I often wonder, would I be so fortunate had I not had all those simple PSA tests that identified my cancer at an early stage? Or would I be like my best childhood friend who, after much suffering, died of prostate cancer 13 years ago because he found out about it too late?
Richard Marr, Inverness
Learn all you can
Count me among those who believe in not just an annual PSA test, but also an annual digital exam. My PSA was well within the "good" range, but a digital exam by my primary care physician indicated a second opinion. A second digital by a urologist warranted a biopsy. The results came back positive for cancer.
After consultation with another urologist, a different primary care physician, a radiation oncologist, reading everything I could find on the subject, and talking with men who have had every possible procedure, my wife and I chose surgical removal. My PSA is now undetectable, I've experienced no postsurgical issues, and I look forward to many worry-free years — unlike men who have chosen "watchful waiting."
Two books I highly recommend are Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer by Patrick Walsh, M.D., and Surviving Prostate Cancer by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.
Paul Cooper, St. Petersburg
Test isn't reliable
Recent articles on screening for prostate cancer serve the public well. I am convinced that the PSA test is nonsense.
I am at the age my father was when he died, not from his prostate cancer but from the treatment that ensued. When my PSA was first elevated 10 or 15 years ago, I declined a biopsy after looking at the numbers. The medical director of a local laboratory shared that the same specimen of serum can be read as normal for PSA in the morning and elevated in the afternoon.
In medical school we were told that the number of men with the disease increases with age but that only about 2 percent of men die from prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society quotes a research paper saying that about 48 men have to be treated to possibly benefit one person.
If you draw enough tests and biopsy enough prostates you will inevitably find cancer cells. But, looking at all the complications of biopsy and treatment, the probability is that the process does far more harm than good.
Mark E. Reinecke, M.D., St. Petersburg