A pursuit of cash, not traffic safety | June 9, editorial
Red-light cameras saving lives
Safety cameras are not about money; they are about helping our police and first responders accomplish their herculean responsibilities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Florida is the third-deadliest state for red-light running, with bicyclists at an especially high risk. Safety cameras assist significantly in reducing those dangerous offenses and protecting innocent, law-abiding citizens.
In fact, the recent report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety credits the cameras with saving more than 150 lives in 2004-08 in 14 of the biggest U.S. cities. The study said that had cameras been in operation in all 99 U.S. cities with populations of more than 200,000, more than 800 deaths and countless injuries would have been prevented.
Certainly, violators are ticketed and fined. These fines have contributed more than $4 million to Florida's general fund, trauma centers and the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.
But these kinds of dollars are not close to being a meaningful resolution to the serious budget issues we face. To the contrary, safety camera programs are designed to pinch the offender in the pocketbook and to modify aggressive or inattentive driving behavior. In fact, over time and because the behaviors change, the revenue will flatline as the respect for the red light increases.
It is unfortunate that cities and counties must continue to bear the financial burden brought on by confusion about legal technicalities. In large part, these arguments are presented by defense attorneys who intentionally misapply provisions of the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act and mischaracterize the evidence to undermine the credibility of an innovative and highly effective public safety tool.
I am confident that after an initial period of startup and as both red-light runners and court officers become more familiar with how the programs work, Florida will see fewer and fewer violations dismissed. Nationally and in communities with longer-term programs, only about 3 percent are contested and few of those are dismissed.
Florida is a perilous state for pedestrians and drivers. Police and fire departments support the use of red-light safety cameras because they deter reckless driver behavior. Safety cameras save lives.
Melissa Wandall, Bradenton
Oil subsidies subvert free market functions June 13, commentary
Alternative energy won't be ready for years to come
Clearly these two ivory tower academics do not understand that an efficient free market runs on energy and that for the next 20 to 30 years we will be stuck with fossil fuels. Alternative sources are great, and I am all for them, but they will be a minuscule supplement to fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.
Those who really want to understand the energy industry should read John Hofmeister's new book, Why We Hate the Oil Companies. Even a professor can learn that 28 separate federal and state agencies now have their fingers in this all-important industry, and those regulatory agencies are led by politicians needing to be elected every two to four years. That is the reason we have no energy policy and possibly never will. One person's subsidy is another's tax break. By that definition, we also give subsidies to the pharmaceutical industry along with many others that make equally huge profits. Bought any prescription drugs lately?
The energy industries are increasingly affected by excessive regulations and laws, as well as attacks by many nongovernmental organizations that subvert the discovery and production of new energy sources. Maybe they deserve these tax breaks just to stay in business and keep our industries running.
E.A. Shinn, Ph.D., St. Petersburg
Matter of recognition
The reason for the Palestinian-Israel conflict has nothing to do with the establishment of a Palestinian state. It is about the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. Even the so-called moderate Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas denies Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
Norman N. Gross, Ph.D., Tampa
Trial junkies scramble for courtroom seat June 12
Wasting their time
I could not believe the article in Sunday's paper regarding the people who are obsessed with being in the courtroom for Casey Anthony's murder trial. Really? People have that much time on their hands and are so fixated on hearing and seeing things that would disgust most people that they are willing to give up all that time and energy?
My advice to those people is to use their time and energy wisely. Volunteer as a tutor, a mentor, at a local food bank, or cleaning up our beaches. Wasting time and productivity on such a thoughtless human being is ridiculous.
Alan Roberts, Belleair
Testing Scott's claim on drug use June 13, PolitiFact
Tighten up eligibility
Gov. Rick Scott's plan to drug-test cash assistance recipients is not the overhaul of welfare reform that we need.
I had a short career at the Department of Children and Families, where it quickly became obvious to me what some of the problems are.
One of the biggest frauds is people on Supplemental Security Income and Social Security disability insurance. Adults are receiving benefits for depression and their children for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The volume of people receiving these benefits is questionable — some entire families receive a benefit for almost every member. The benefit is meant for the truly disabled.
Regarding food stamps and Medicaid, these are programs set up to temporarily help people through bad times. There are families receiving these benefits for a lifetime and teaching their children the game. The only verification needed is citizenship, employment and child support. "Client statement" is sufficient to verify other things.
The goal at the DCF is to process applications as quickly as possible with as few questions as possible so that they are within the scope of the law and can receive huge federal subsidies.
Real reform will take better verification of need, limits on the number of years you can collect, and followup. It is a government program and needs more regulation, and we need more employees (not fewer) to enforce these laws.
Cheryl Colvin, Odessa