HART's unhelpful hysteria | Dec. 26, editorial
HART leads on regional transit
HART's core mission is to provide transit service to the people of Hillsborough County. The consultant study concluded a merger would not reduce the majority of costs associated with vehicle operations and maintenance. The consultant estimated a potential savings in personnel costs of $2.4 million per year, but estimated about $1.5 million in transition costs and an additional cost of about $10 million to establish a new governing entity. This puts no new buses on the street. We need capital to expand service and operating money to run that service. Simply changing the governance of two transit agencies gives us neither.
The HART board has taken only one formal position regarding merger: We would not support any change in governance of the agency or repeal of its charter that was not approved by voter referendum. We believe that to be a responsible position. HART enthusiastically supported the eight ways in which the consultant recommended we could strengthen the already robust coordination between the two agencies.
HART has been leading regionally while serving locally:
• HART will be the first transit company in Florida to introduce compressed natural gas vehicles, which rely on a cheaper, American-made fuel. The fuel depot will be shared with other local government users.
• HART introduced and manages the future fuels contract, which is shared with PSTA, Lakeland and other agencies to lock in favorable prices.
• HART kicked off a revenue collection work group, including Orlando, Pinellas, and Sarasota, to develop a process to streamline fare and data collection.
• After the failed referendum, HART slashed $5 million from the previous year's budget and began building a prudent reserve fund.
• HART will launch its MetroRapid service between the university area and downtown in the late spring. This will lay the foundation for a future alternative service mode, extending into both the Wesley Chapel area and Tampa International Airport.
We believe a regional transit system will be achieved by incremental service expansion steps such as these.
Fran Davin, chairman, HART, Tampa
Widows face foreclosure due to Catch-22 Dec. 28
Bank should have a heart
This article regarding the widow who faces foreclosure because of a technicality was shocking and edifying. Wells Fargo should use common sense and have a heart regarding these oversights. The loan officer is the one at fault for not having the widow sign the papers in the first place. For that reason alone Dorothy Jackson should be granted an affordable new loan.
I am glad that Morgan & Morgan is taking on banks that deny widows or widowers restructured loans. I am also grateful that my bank, Bank of America, is transferring loans to widows. It just makes financial sense, as the payments were being made on time and it seems most likely they would continue to be once the loan is affordable for the survivor.
Lee Haley, New Port Richey
Teachers savor sign of thanks | Dec. 28
I want to commend the CEO of Tijuana Flats, Brian Wheeler, for recognizing and honoring teachers by providing them a free meal at his restaurant.
Our teachers make enormous sacrifices every day to provide the highest quality education under some very difficult social and budgetary situations. They need to know that their efforts are appreciated, and Wheeler did just that.
I hope his restaurant is only the first of many that will choose to honor teachers, or other professions, in this manner.
Diana Rao, Tampa
Increase for top officials
Hold on to your hat, or maybe your wallet, my fellow Americans. Just when you thought it wasn't safe for our government to go over the financial cliff, it was announced that President Barack Obama has issued an executive order to lift the freeze and increase the pay of federal workers.
As I work for a local VA hospital, I happen to be one of these lucky recipients. However, along with my paltry financial bump, the real winners are members of Congress.
The leadership in Congress, including the speaker of the House, and even Vice President Joe Biden, are getting tidy salary increases.
With all the financial problems that loom in our country, the ones who are doing the least are actually getting paid for it. I'll gladly give up mine if they will give up theirs and start doing their job.
Mike Merino, Tampa
Lessons in losses for GOP | Dec. 30
Conservative to the core
Conservatives lost the 2012 presidential election for one reason only: Many of those who promised to vote didn't. If 8 million more people would have voted, President Barack Obama would be headed back to Chicago.
The election loss has nothing to do with our stand on homosexual issues, immigration, welfare, socialized medicine, abortion, printing and spending money at an uncontrolled pace, paying people not to work or look for work, or any other issue close to our hearts.
Conservatives do not have to compromise values to win an election, but when you don't vote as promised, you get what you deserve. I urge conservatives in Congress not to change their values and to stand up for what is right.
Richard Carey, St. Petersburg
Already familiar with the agenda | Dec. 29
Children are the losers
I am thankful that our youngest is now a junior in college, as the appointment of Tony Bennett as education commissioner will only bring further damage to Florida's school system.
To be a "huge advocate" of charter schools and not the rebuilding of our public schools is truly shameful, but not a shock based on who appointed him.
As Gov. Rick Scott continues to privatize Florida, giving his "base" more profit, our children lose. And as they lose, our society loses. No wonder Indiana did not re-elect Bennett but sent him packing South.
Diane Pearson, Dunedin