Transportation can pave way for stimulus
Sometimes we forget how dependent we are on our transportation network. More than 95 percent of workers have a commute that involves roads, rails, sidewalks or other infrastructure. Even the "local" vegetables at the grocery or farmer's market are generally brought in by truck. We rely on this system for our economy and growing population, yet investment in our nation's roads, bridges and transit systems has not kept pace. That is why a sizable portion of the more than $800 billion proposed stimulus package should be used to begin the task of resurrecting our transportation system, which is essential to the safety and economic vitality of our nation.
President Obama has referred to the economic recovery package as a foundation for long-term competitiveness. Investing in the nation's transportation system is not only an excellent way to create jobs and improve lives during these challenging economic times, it is also a way to help ensure America's economic health and global competitiveness well into the century.
In Florida alone, there is a $25 billion to $30 billion shortage of funding just to maintain our current network of roads and bridges. And in terms of new facilities, which could increase capacity and improve traffic safety, there are more than $7 billion in projects that are designed, approved and "shovel ready" but lack funding.
Like most Americans, AAA wants taxpayer dollars set aside for the stimulus package to have the biggest impact possible on the nation's economic recovery. This is no time for passing pet projects that make good press releases but do little for the public good.
Funding for transportation can provide a much needed "shot in the arm" for the economy and begin to address the terrific backlog of transportation needs across our country and throughout the Southeast.
President Obama has promised new approaches to old problems. This would be a good place to begin.
Kevin Bakewell, senior vice president, AAA Auto Club South
Bay area strains capacity of aquifer Jan. 27, story
Water problem rooted in excess demand
It seems to be a too-often recurring theme: Water supplies are limited and river levels are dropping, due mostly to a "drought" and an increasing demand for water. That's where the problem lies, not so much in the supply, but in demand.
When we as a community, and as a state, stop the deeply ingrained lifestyle habit of establishing water-thirsty and overfertilized lawns and landscaping, will we at least begin to get a handle on our overconsumption of water.
Florida may indeed be in a drought, but if we implemented the most efficient water use technologies, along with a reasonable but consistent enforcement of watering restrictions, plus willing changes in our water uses, we might not be facing the water-scarcity scenario that is fast approaching our entire state.
Ron Thuemler, Tampa
The real fate of monkey No. 15 | Jan. 30, story
I can understand why the story of monkey No. 15 would make it into the paper. I was rather annoyed, however, that Trent Meador was seemingly depicted as a big game hunter, defending himself. "You seen the teeth those jokers got on 'em?"
I'm an avid hunterf, and the thing that bothered me the most about this story was that Meador violated the first (and most important) rule of hunting: Know your target. After first ruling out coyote, Meador assumed raccoon, and then shot a monkey. Obviously, even with his scoped rifle, Meador was clueless as to what he was actually shooting. All he really saw was movement in the grass. One hears horror stories all the time that start with a hunting trip and end with shooting a movement in the grass.
If you are going to shoot at something, it would really help if you knew what it was before you pull the trigger.
Jeff Molloy, Inverness
The real fate of monkey No. 15 | Jan. 30, story
Leave them in the wild
Trent Meador is a sad example of a trigger-happy armed citizen who shoots something first and afterward identifies what he shot. In this case it was not a child, or someone's pet, that was shot but a patas monkey. This wild primate escaped from a private zoo and had the misfortune of trying to remain in the wild while on Meador's property.
But I suspect this property owner would have had no remorse while killing the monkey anyway — just for the sport of it-— even while not knowing that it was a non-native animal that could be executed upon sight.
Alas, this troubling occurrence typifies the fate of too many zoo and circus animals. At some point these hapless animals attempt to escape their confinement, an act that results in their untimely death.
Again, we are reminded that wild animals are better off not held captive in zoos and circuses but left alone, protected from man, in the wilderness.
Tom Bird, Tampa
Invocation irony | Jan. 28, letter
A contention not made
The letter writer, who is executive director of Atheists of Florida, Inc., asserted that "Rick Warren's contention that we owe our democracy and freedom to a Christian god is remarkable in the sheerness of its audacity."
This is remarkable in itself. What invocation did he listen to? Certainly not the one at President Obama's inauguration in which Pastor Warren stated, "Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all."
Stephen Small, Indian Rocks Beach
Police officer's shooting
Just when I had hoped African-Americans would get their act together, three young men decide to rob a gas station and in the process shoot an undercover police officer. The idiotic part of this equation is that the family found a lawyer (not surprising), and had the gall (also not surprising) to blame the police for allowing the robbery to happen. How misled and uninformed can these people really be?
African-Americans, blacks, civil rights groups, and bleeding-heart liberals have complained for years about the police using racial profiling to stop black men in the streets for no reason other than being black. I will stand up loud and proud to denounce this type of behavior.
Now the police are being accused of not stopping these three black men from entering the gas station before they robbed it. If the police had actually done this and these three young men were not going to rob the gas station, charges of racial profiling and stereotyping would have been heard.
As far as I know the police do not have ESP and cannot predict or guess what the intent of a criminal will be. So why do these people seem to think the police should have stopped the robbery?
Mario P. Rodriquez, St. Petersburg
Creating a nightmare for American automakers | Jan. 29, letter
Fighting the future
The letter writer decries President Obama's keeping his campaign promise regarding states and clean air standards. The writer goes on to say that this "will surely drive the final nail into the coffins of the Detroit automakers."
To me the writer exactly defines what is wrong with the American auto industry. The problem of building cars to meet various requirements simply means you build cars to meet the most stringent of all the state requirements. After all, I bet the world's largest automaker, Toyota, will figure this out and manufacture cars to meet the standards. How much do you want to bet that Honda and Nissan will as well?
Instead of fighting the future, why don't the American auto executives plan for the future?
Richard Feigel, Clearwater
Bring back the draft
Many countries have mandatory military service. The United States uses a draft system only as a last resort.
The United States should use a compulsory military-service requirement for all able-bodied males and females between the ages of 18 and 25 — a one-year requirement, selected by the individual. In the event of a national emergency, the United States could recall to active duty those trained personnel needed rather than spending a year training individuals newly drafted.
Joseph Welch, St. Petersburg