Reducing pedestrian fatalities | Aug. 16, editorial
Drivers, look out for pedestrians
We moved to the Tampa area 18 years ago; the first eight years on Davis Islands and the past 10 in the Town 'N Country area. I'm an avid walker and prefer to walk rather than drive. Yes, I'm the crazy lady with the cart walking to the grocery store. I love it, but I'm also lucky to be alive.
I've been brushed back/knocked down twice, both times on Davis Islands, and have had hundreds of close encounters. Not to mention I have had cups thrown at me, been spit at and cursed at "to get out of the $#@! street."
We cross the intersection of W Longboat Boulevard and W Hillsborough Avenue every morning to take advantage of the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, and every morning we find ourselves screaming at drivers who fail to stop for us in the crosswalk. Again, we get the hand gestures, name-calling, etc.
One recent morning took the cake. It was the first day of school and you would think everyone would be just a tad bit more aware of people in crosswalks, but not in Tampa. And the vehicle that did not stop at all and nearly took our lives was … a school bus! It was 7:30 a.m., it wasn't dark, my husband was wearing a florescent orange shirt, and we only cross with the proper signal. We do everything right, yet we're still targets every day.
The Department of Transportation is redesigning our intersection, so we are hopeful that they'll make all traffic stop when a crosswalk signal is activated. But even so, I doubt drivers will ever acknowledge that pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk.
Susan Small, Tampa
Rockets renew Mideast fighting | Aug. 20
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — ISIS — is attacking villages in Iraq, Syria and other places. They give the villagers a stark choice: convert to Islam, actually Sunni Islam, or be killed. Those who do not convert or flee into the mountains are executed. Women are sold into slavery. Where is the world's outrage?
In Nigeria, Boko Haram murders and kidnaps thousands. They are militant Islamists and kill for the sake of killing. Where is the world's outrage?
In Syria, the government of Bashar Assad has killed over 100,000 people. Barrel bombs are pushed out of airplanes and kill everyone in sight indiscriminately — rebel or civilian. Where is the world's outrage?
Israel is trying to protect itself from the thousands of rockets indiscriminately fired by Hamas into Israel. Hamas digs tunnels into Israel in order to kidnap and murder Israelis. Hamas doesn't discriminate between military and civilian targets. Israeli airstrikes and incursions follow. Every attempt is made to avoid civilian casualties, including telephone warnings, leaflets and "roof knocks," but the world is outraged because of civilian deaths. What's wrong with this picture?
If you were president, would you take steps to protect your citizens if rockets were fired into the United States from Canada or Mexico? Killing is a tragedy and should be always be avoided, but Israel must protect itself.
Am I biased? Absolutely. I am a Jew and a strong supporter of most of Israel's policies. Do the Palestinians have legitimate complaints? Yes, but lobbing rockets and digging tunnels are not the solution.
Targeted "outrage" is discriminatory, confused and self-serving.
Rich Stetsky, Seminole
Improving struggling schools | Aug. 18, editorial
Poverty is the problem
The news that five of St. Petersburg's elementary schools are among the worst in Florida brings the usual hand-wringing from the Times, while the superintendent assures us of his plans for "intervention." Anyone who has been following this story has seen it all before: the failing schools, the unrelenting "achievement gap," the cries for reform and the merry-go-round of failed "leadership." Next comes the threat of lawsuits, but none of this will matter.
Since the release of the Coleman Report in 1966, Americans have known that the quality of a school is determined by, more than any other factor including funding, the students who go through its doors. That is, middle-class schools will likely succeed while those with a preponderance of socio-economically disadvantaged students are destined to fail. The conclusions of this report have been ratified by reams of evidence and common sense.
Yet, here we see five schools whose population of poor kids approaches three out of four, and it's not just in the elementary schools. The issue is not about race; it's about the way our housing patterns form along socioeconomic lines and the failure of school districts to account for this.
We know the solution: No school should have a poverty rate more than two times as great as the district overall, and all classrooms should be "middle class" classrooms. The question is whether or not this School Board and this superintendent have the courage and foresight to implement the kind of reform that will get the job done.
L.E. Brinkley, St. Petersburg
Panel looks into human trafficking | Aug. 20
Protecting youth at risk
This article describes how Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will lead the new Statewide Council on Human Trafficking in tackling the human trafficking issue prevalent in Florida. The new council goes hand-in-hand with the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services' efforts to get critical services closer to human trafficking victims.
The Florida Network is a nonprofit statewide association representing 31 agencies, including shelters and neighborhood-based partners that have served youth who are exploited and trafficked. Through our relationship with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, we hope to aid the council in raising awareness and providing resources for youth at risk of exploitation and those experiencing victimization.
We commend the attorney general, the Legislature and council members for their leadership and look forward to seeing its work in helping current human trafficking victims and preventing future victims.
Stacy Gromatski, president and CEO, Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, Tallahassee