Florida pensions safe, sound | July 11, commentary
Pension pats on back not merited
I am concerned about the article written by Ash Williams, the chief investment officer of the Florida State Board of Administration. It seems that Williams either has not been following the markets or is knowingly giving false comfort to taxpayers, employees and retirees that pay for and rely on the Florida pension system.
In justifying his own record, Williams brags that Florida's public pension system "was recently recognized by the Pew Center on the States as one of four model pension funds entering 2008 fully funded." As Williams should know, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped 30 percent since January 2008 and the S&P 500 is off 36 percent. In contrast to these losses, the Florida pension assumes a positive return of over 7 percent every year to assure that current and future pensions are fully funded.
The last three years have dramatically changed the funding status of our state's pension. Three years ago there was no recession, Lehman Brothers was one of the most profitable companies on Wall Street, Ireland and Greece had the fastest growing economies of the European Union and U.S. taxpayers had yet to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into AIG, GM, Citicorp and others.
Retirees, taxpayers and active participants will likely face reductions in benefits and/or increased assessments and taxes to keep the system afloat as a result of the three-year period that Williams conveniently ignores as he pats himself on the back. It is misleading, insulting and dangerous that Williams continues to assure all of the pension system's stakeholders that things are rosy instead of preparing them for the likely consequences of the recession's negative impact.
Lou Gerber, Belleair Beach
What a load of fuzzy, overbearing platitudes! Ash Williams managed to write a lengthy column without writing one clear, declarative sentence or putting down any solid numbers. He's hiding something and that something is him gambling with SBA funds with his cronies.
He could have easily posted a complete breakdown of all monetary allocations — where all the SBA funds are invested by amounts and percentages.
As they like to say on Wall Street, there are two requirements for investing in a hedge fund: You have to be rich and you have to be stupid. Countless famous people — actors, athletes, etc. — have lost buckets of money to hedge funds.
Are the SBA records available to the public? If so, please send over a reporter to get the numbers.
Pete Wilford, Holiday
The public defender's curious decision July 9, Sue Carlton column
Column had its own answer
As a retired assistant public defender in Tampa, I feel that a response should be made to Sue Carlton's column, Public defender won't represent Dontae Morris, but why?
Her column actually explains the "why" of the conflict: While Morris was "on the lam," the public defender took action on behalf of Cortnee Brantley that was "inconsistent with advocating for Mr. Morris." That would seem to end it. But Carlton won't take "yes" (her own explanation) for an answer. Because after explaining the obvious conflict, she then "wishes (the public defender) had found a way to keep (the Morris) case."
But no one's "wishes" can change the fact that according to news accounts, Brantley was in trouble and clearly needed to consult with a lawyer while Morris was "on the lam." Though I have no personal knowledge of the situation, at a minimum it seems clear that before Morris was arrested Brantley needed legal advice about her options and rights: should she cooperate with the police or maintain her silence?; what were the potential charges, if any, with and without her cooperation?; and how, with a lawyer's assistance, might she assist in bringing the search for Morris to a speedy and peaceful conclusion, while not sacrificing her own rights?
It would seem clear that the anonymous "lawyerly grousing" Carlton heard came from lawyers who 1) had no personal knowledge of Brantley's situation or requests for assistance, 2) had no legal or ethical decisions to actually make (because apparently none volunteered to represent Brantley pro bono) and were, therefore, 3) free to "grouse." As in: "talking through their hat(s)."
This would seem to be a situation where the legal "advice" Carlton got was worth exactly what she paid for it.
John Skye, Tampa
Listen to a mom-to-be: Mind your manners July 12, commentary
This may come as startling news, but mom-to-be Taffy Brodesser-Akner and other moms-to-be aren't the only recipients of rude and snide remarks. I've noticed that, most often, such lip-curling innuendos come from the mouths of women.
I've had my fair share of insults. Someone else always knows better, even though her opinion is totally unsolicited. My hairdresser has a way of putting these mavens in their place. Sometimes he stirs these know-it-alls up when he says: "Thank you very much for your opinion, even though I don't remember asking for it. Thank you very much anyway." He tells me that it shuts these folks up every time.
Listen up, folks, and mind your manners. And don't go giving your opinion unless you are asked. That is of course with the exception of writing a letter to the editor.
JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater
Tampa City Council replacements
For council, proven records
The Hillsborough County Democratic Party is pressing Tampa's City Council to appoint one of the party's own to a vacancy. Interim appointments are ripe for propelling a nobody with no record of community service but lots of Democratic connections.
For the party, it's not the here and now that matters but the future of the unproven, untested applicants they are pushing.
The dead of summer and limited local press makes it more difficult for constituents to have a say. If the City Council gives the local Democratic Party front-of-the-line status, even if constituents are heard, will they be listened to?
We can only hope and pray that our nonpartisan City Council will remain that way and appoint interim council members who are best for the districts today, not best for the future of the local Democratic Party.
Gene Wells, Tampa
Almost choked on my morning coffee as I perused the story about Florida's roads being safer. Overall it was a good article, except for one problem: the layout of the page. Next to the pie chart about alcohol-related incidents, under "Things to Do," was an item about a martini party at Lowry Park Zoo!
Sue Slingbaum, Tampa