Scott demands relaxed energy-efficiency goals | June 24
Florida ignores lessons on energy
This is a classic case of "those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it."
It is no accident that California has the lowest per-capita energy consumption in the nation. More than 30 years ago, California enabled energy producers to make money from energy conservation. That was accomplished by aggressive programs to retrofit consumers for the purpose of saving energy — at no cost to the consumer.
California law allowed that saved energy to be sold to new customers at a rate designed to recover the retrofit costs plus a profit. It is called "negawatts," a term coined by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who advised California on its energy effort.
California also enabled creation of alternative energy resources, such as wind, solar, biomass, co-generation and geothermal. As a result, California has been the model for other states — but not Florida.
Florida's energy extension service aimed to encourage conservation and alternative energy. That service had its funding sources reduced by the narrowly focused agenda of the conservative right.
Then along came Gov. Rick Scott to take us back to the glory days of the 1950s to 1970s, when unfettered development turned the Sunshine State into the concrete state, the state of perpetually clogged highways, anemic public transportation, polluted water resources and destroyed natural systems.
We'll be making amends for generations to come.
Mike MacDonald, Clearwater
Janssen faces a deadline | June 24
Game show parallels
The ongoing questionable performance of Pinellas schools superintendent Julie Janssen required a special School Board workshop that concluded with a two-month warning for needed improvement.
This reminds me of television's The Gong Show from the 1970s. I view Janssen frantically darting around the stage attempting to keep a dozen plates spinning on top of long rods or tap dancing on a giant ball while juggling sharp machetes under the keen observation of the judges.
The Pinellas School Board members replace Jaye P. Morgan, Soupy Sales and Rip Taylor as the anxious judges hold their gong mallets with itchy palms.
Will Janssen pull her act together and avoid the dreaded gong, or will her pattern of incompetence prevail with a resounding bong at her job review Aug. 23?
I believe the gong will be struck and Janssen will be made to shuffle off the Pinellas stage, "Gene Gene the Dancing Machine" style, with her pink slip in hand.
Mike McGinnis, Clearwater
Starting the clock on an Afghan exit June 24, editorial
Exit wars; rebuild America
I keep reading that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan depends on conditions on the ground, like in the Iraq war. That's not the reason we must withdraw the troops. We have to bring all the troops home as soon as possible because of our bank account. There's no money left.
If we ran our home like the government is spending money in Iraq and Afghanistan, we would have to file for bankruptcy.
The mission was accomplished. Now it's time to start to rebuild America.
Dominic Grillo, Dunedin
GOP pulls out of talks on debt, budget June 24
Irresponsible on debt
The Republican leadership in Congress is being grossly irresponsible in its decision to withdraw from talks regarding debt reduction because the Democrats persist in discussing the possibility of some tax increases in addition to spending cuts.
The Republicans don't get it, and have never gotten it, that the Bush administration's tax policies (read: nobody should have to sacrifice, especially the rich) were largely responsible for our current condition. The Republican fiscal philosophy ignores hard realities, and their leadership, cowering in fear of the tea party, is doing all it can to impede a fast economic recovery.
Morry Bornstein, Seminole
Cameras coming to a spot near you June 24
Behind the curve
As usual, Florida is not on the cutting edge of technology or open to others' knowledge base in pursuing a red-light camera fad.
Challenges to red-light cameras are on the rise in cities across the nation, according to an article on MSNBC.com. One of those places is Los Angeles, where if the Police Commission gets its way, red-light cameras will have to come down in a few weeks.
The city has 32 cameras, which result in a $446 ticket for a violation. Not bad for the revenue coffers, you might think. But the city controller's office reported last year it found the cameras cost $1 million to $1.5 million a year more than they have generated in fines. This, even though "the program has not been able to document conclusively an increase in public safety."
Good luck, St. Petersburg; let me know how this fad works out for you.
Doug Bauer, Clearwater
Money for retirement's not there June 25, letter
A letter writer tells workers in the Florida Retirement System that they should sacrifice, closing with, "Sorry, but the 'company' you are working for is broke."
I beg to differ.
In a 2008 Times column by Talbot D'Alemberte, the writer refers to a 2005 report that notes how the housing boom allowed a shift away from taxes on the wealthy and onto property taxes collected by local governments, leaving Florida vulnerable to the inevitable bust. D'Alemberte warns, "We could face a situation where Florida, a wealthy state by many tests, would not be able to meet its obligations to its citizens." Well, here we are.
But D'Alemberte also notes how Gov. Jeb Bush left office crowing that he'd cut $14 billion in taxes, most of that benefitting the wealthy and corporations. A bipartisan effort to review sales tax exemptions was blocked. The combination of choices "left the Florida tax system a shambles."
The 3 percent tax on FRS employees may save $1.2 billion, which is a drop in the bucket compared to Jeb Bush's $14 billion handout to the wealthy. Why should teachers, cops and low-wage support staff like school custodians sacrifice while the wealthy continue to give less?
No, the state is not broke. Instead, it is morally bankrupt.
John L. Perry, Tampa