Vital issues rise from response to oil spill Sept. 17, commentary by state Sen. Ronda Storms
Workers were properly protected
Sen. Ronda Storms showed great concern for our environment and commercial interests in her recent opinion piece. It is disappointing that she appears less concerned for worker health and safety. Her comments on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were not factual. First, OSHA has no standard for heat stress, thus allowing employers a great deal of discretion on how to protect their employees. Said another way, OSHA does not mandate work/rest cycles or any other specific measures to manage heat stress.
Second, the U.S. Coast Guard has responsibility for employee health and safety in the maritime industry. During the Deepwater Horizon response, the USCG and OSHA signed an interagency agreement that gave the USCG health and safety oversight for all recovery operations, with OSHA and other agencies as advisers.
Third, BP appreciates the risk for heat stroke, which still occurs among outdoor workers in Florida and elsewhere. They developed a heat stress management plan that was approved through the Unified Area Command (led by the USCG) and distributed to the Incident Command Centers. The plan is consistent with common professional practice guidelines used by many U.S. employers. Work/rest cycles described by Sen. Storms were part of the plan, but not the entire plan. The schedule of breaks was based on availability of other controls, environmental conditions, and protective clothing, which often prevents cooling by sweat evaporation.
My professional experience with heat stress and the opportunity I had to talk with health and safety staff at the Incident Command Centers and clean-up areas tells me that these workers were not coddled. Nor was it obvious to me that BP shared Sen. Storms' frustrations with worker protection.
Thomas Bernard, chair, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the USF College of Public Health, Tampa
Obama shouldn't evade Senate on consumer post | Sept. 17, editorial
Appointment will be a plus
President Barack Obama did not make a "mistake" by appointing Elizabeth Warren to oversee the construction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I argue that it is the best decision he's made thus far to help middle-class Americans, and if it's perceived as an end-run around the Senate, please remember that this is nothing new in American politics.
Your editorial pointed out her "concerns about the financial security of the middle class" and that this agency was indeed her "brainchild." Yet, you also alluded to the fact that Republican obstructionists (and some Democrats) would ferociously oppose her confirmation. Well, the last thing the middle class needs right now is one more assault on their financial security due to partisan bickering and stalling among elitists in the Senate. Too many senators, and House members, have proven numerous times over the past two decades where their loyalties lie, and they've not been aligned with the middle class. Otherwise, we would not be living this economic nightmare. Furthermore, Wall Street is afraid of her because she understands its previous Ponzi schemes and current chicanery.
Finally, you stated that this appointment "doesn't license the president to sidestep the Constitution's checks and balances." Have you forgotten the fact that most, if not all, presidents have made recess appointments and some remained in place for years? One of the worst was George W. Bush's appointment of John Bolton to our United Nations ambassadorship.
Elizabeth Warren is brilliant, honorable, and trustworthy. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of most senators. If all goes well and she doesn't fall prey to special interest bullying, she will be the first example of the real change President Obama promised. Some senators will no doubt suffer bruised egos, but the middle class is suffering from far worse.
D.A. Fischbach, St. Petersburg
Obama shouldn't evade Senate on consumer post | Sept. 17, editorial
What needed to be done
Anything that the Obama administration can do to keep the Republicans from turning the much hoped for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into a cruel joke and farce, is fair game.
Time is of the essence in setting up the structure and rules before the bankster lobbyists get their grubby hands on the future structure!
Louis A. Carliner, Masaryktown
1 in 7 is living in poverty | Sept. 17, story
The poverty experience
The article states that the current "accepted" poverty level is $10,956 per year (slightly under $22,000 if you are a family of four). So I suppose it follows that if you earn even a little more than that, you are supposed to be able to support yourself (and your family) just fine. What a crock!
Anyone who has been inside a grocery store in the last five years knows that it takes more than that to just feed yourself and keep the rent paid — not to mention transportation, taxes, insurance and utility bills. It seems to me that a more realistic assessment of living costs is overdue.
Meanwhile, I have a proposal to make: Let's set the salary of every elected official in either house of the Legislature $10,956 if he is single and at $22,000 if she is supporting a family. Cut his expense account to $2,000 per year plus office rent of, let's say, $500 per month (the maximum amount a person living at the poverty level can afford.
This should serve as a stimulus for some of those do-nothings to look into actually passing some legislation to address the problems of the 14.6 percent of Floridians who struggle with this situation every day of their lives.
Marion O'Handley, Dunedin
It's a mystery | Sept. 18, commentary
Arms make the difference
The author completely missed the most plausible reason crime is on the decline: the meteoric rise in the number of firearms purchased and concealed-carry permits obtained since 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected.
It's not that people have less to steal, the criminal population is aging, or any of the other reasons so-called experts espouse. If you believe any of those, here's another ridiculous reason: The failed federal stimulus programs have resulted in lower prices for goods, therefore criminals can afford to buy instead of steal.
It's this type of thinking that got us into the recession in the first place. Criminals being more afraid of getting shot or killed is the reason crime is down. It's a known fact that countries that ban guns have the highest incidence of crime. The opposite is also true.
Richard Golden, San Antonio
Pope admits church erred | Sept. 17, story
Missing the good
Please try and be more unbiased when reporting on Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church in general. The pontiff readily admits that the church has "fallen down" in the handling of the church scandals. Now like anyone who has "fallen" we are trying to "get up" by doing the right thing.
What fails to get into print are the measures that have been put into place. No one can work for the church unless they are fingerprinted, background-checked and go through several classes. The scrutiny to become a priest is immense.
As to the pope's visit to the United Kingdom, this was a state visit, the Queen of England invited him. This was the first state visit in history between the head of the Church of England and the head of the Catholic Church. He was greeted warmly, by thousands of Scots, and Englishmen.
It's disheartening to hear only the negative being reported. I think people forget about the hospitals, hospice care and schools that the Catholic Church established.
Of course there are protesters there, but there are also those who realize how they have benefitted from the Catholic Church throughout history regardless of what denomination they are.
Beverly O'Neill, Pinellas Park