Nature meets wrecking ball | Jan. 6, Bill Maxwell column
Don't turn over control to DEP
As Bill Maxwell wrote in his column, Gov. Rick Scott's administration is laying off experienced regulators at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and replacing them with people from the polluting industries.
So this is the worst possible time to put the polluter-friendly DEP in charge of enforcing the Clean Water Act. But that's what could happen.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in November that it will do what the state of Florida hasn't — that is, set specific, enforceable numbers to limit how much sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution is allowed in our water. The EPA's standards are like easy-to-read speed limit signs. Instead, the DEP wants to use bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that allows water to become unsafe before requiring pollution control.
The EPA's number limits apply to about 85 percent of Florida waters. The DEP rules apply to 15 percent of streams, canals and estuaries. We need the EPA's enforceable numbers for 100 percent of our waters. The EPA is now hoping that DEP will propose its own rules for 85 percent of Florida's waters; that would allow the EPA to transfer authority over those waters to DEP as well. It is irresponsible to turn this over to the DEP — we'll be stuck with more slimy algae outbreaks and dead fish littering our shores.
The EPA has scheduled two open house public information sessions at the Hotel Tampa (formerly Hyatt Regency Tampa), 211 North Tampa St. — one on Thursday from 1-7 p.m., and another on Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
David Guest, Earthjustice, Tallahassee
Nature meets wrecking ball | Jan. 6, Bill Maxwell column
Effective against pollution
I have been an environmental regulator for the past two decades. In our district, and around the state, we have dedicated professionals working every day to create a model where we stop pollution before it happens.
While our daily activities and hard work aren't reported in the paper, it does not mean we are not doing our jobs and it is a great disservice to our staff for the media to report that because we have assessed our operations and made staffing changes and are attempting a new process, that any of our staff are being prevented from or not interested in doing the right thing.
Most people and businesses want the same thing: a clean environment to pass on to our children. They also expect cost-effective, responsive government. The staff at the DEP Southwest District is encouraged to work cooperatively with homeowners and businesses to identify and resolve pollution issues, rather than immediately jumping into enforcement. My experience has shown this to be a vastly more effective, faster and cheaper way to achieve remediation, rather than waging lengthy and costly legal battles while nothing gets cleaned up during the process.
Of course, there will always be that minority of individuals who don't care about the results of their actions. Be assured, enforcement is and will be taken swiftly in those circumstances.
Mary Yeargan, Southwest District director, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Temple Terrace
For safety, adjust timing of yellow | Jan. 10, letter
Goal is better drivers
I suspect that accidents decrease because drivers drive better, not because they avoid red-light cameras. The goal is to reduce injuries and accidents.
Red-light cameras are not the problem; some of the drivers are the problem. Adjust the timing and some drivers will quickly learn to time the light change sequence. The ones who know how to stop their cars will continue to do so. The automobile insurance industry will react when there exists a good business case for doing so. Lower overall accident rates over time would be a good example.
Ward Weinstock, Lutz
Mental illness is the trigger | Jan. 11, letter
Guns, not mental health
Our country's problem with mass murders is not a mental health issue. We have no more people with mental heath issues, on a per capita basis, than any other country. We just have easier access to guns. Suggesting that we address this problem from a mental heath standpoint is a wasteful journey that will not fix the problem.
Mental health is a gray science and fallible in diagnoses. Even if you were able to establish a mass murderer mental health litmus test, which you cannot, a person may pass today but a month or year from now an event in their lives can cause them to snap.
Kirk Williams, Hudson
Platinum $1 trillion coin just the ticket Jan. 11, commentary
A dangerous gimmick
Matthew Yglesias writes that we should entertain the idea of evading the law regarding the debt ceiling by having the U.S. Treasury mint $1 trillion coins.
This is not an intelligent solution. When the holders of our huge national debt get wind of this financial shell game, they will begin to divest themselves of U.S. Treasuries to protect themselves from the perceived increased risk.
There will be a resulting global reduction in the value of the dollar and everything we import will cost more. Adding inflation to relatively high unemployment is a recipe for disaster.
The only real long-term solution will cause us all some pain and sacrifice — we must reduce deficit spending by the federal government.
Nathan Rice, Lutz
Realism in Afghan plan a must | Jan. 10, editorial
Listen to the Afghans
In your editorial, you state that "Washington … needs to be … more willing going forward to put America's interests first."
The suggestion is that the Obama administration's policies in Afghanistan are for the good of the Afghan people. This is either naive on your behalf, or blindly nationalistic.
Listen to the words of Malalai Joya, one of Afghanistan's most prominent voices for peace and independence: "Your war, waged under a fake banner of human rights and democracy, is in fact a war against poor Afghan people. You are not only traitors to the Afghan people, but to your own people as well. You are stealing from the pockets of poor Americans and Europeans and wasting billions of dollars on killing and looting in order to safeguard only the interests of a very small, elite minority."
The United States invaded Afghanistan, has killed thousands of Afghans, and you have the audacity to state that Washington should now base its decisions on what's good for the American people? You should ask the Afghan people what they want the occupying U.S. forces to do.
Larry Cutler, St. Petersburg