Healthy river, healthy economy
The Environmental Protection Agency and federal environmental regulations are under threat. Tampa has a river, the Hillsborough River, that runs along the west side of downtown and empties into the Hillsborough Bay. During the '70s, the river was heavily polluted, so much so that one wouldn't dare fall in at the risk of getting sick. Also, the bay was so polluted that every day it would stink to high heaven. During Tampa's building boom downtown in the '70s and '80s, the river was so ugly that businesses did everything they could to block the view. Then the feds stepped in, and the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, among others, kicked in.
Today, the fruit of those regulations is a renaissance in Tampa. The river is back and can now arguably be counted among Tampa's greatest economic assets. Businesses are trying to reconceive old architecture to get just a glimpse of the river. Some are tearing down infrastructure to completely open their space for employees and customers to enjoy the river. The Tampa Riverwalk, a public linear park along the east bank, is awesome. It is bringing tourists and business to downtown Tampa.
Anecdotally, regulations can be cumbersome, if not burdensome, to businesses. In terms of macroeconomics, however, it's not even close. During the time of an EPA with fangs and heavy federal regulations — the '70s to roughly now — corporate America, and the business climate in general, has thrived. A strong and healthy environment is an economic driver.
Pollutants don't just stay within state borders; they flow downwind and creep downriver. Please don't gut the EPA.
Peter Knight, Tampa
Light rail holds promise
Recently we experienced a delightful ride on the Cross-Bay Ferry from St. Petersburg to Tampa and back. It rekindled the old dream of establishing a light rail connection between these two cites.
Now that CSX and our current administration seem willing to support commuter-type urban rail service, it takes little imagination to visualize the huge economic benefits a convenient light rail service would provide the greater Tampa Bay area.
We look forward to riding this train from Oldsmar or Safety Harbor to a restaurant in Tampa or the beach at Clearwater.
Stanley and Judy Cole, Palm Harbor
Cost of living
Income increases fall short
I was a customer of Bright House for as long as there was cable TV in Tampa. I paid about $135 a month for TV, phone and Internet, including tax. When Spectrum took over, I got a letter raising my rate by $40 a month with no increase in service.
I called the company, our mayor and my councilman. I got the brush-off from all of them. I wrote a complaint to the state attorney general because Spectrum has a monopoly on cable in South Tampa. I was told to pound sand because Spectrum is a private company. However, they do use poles on city property to run their cable line to my house.
My complaint is really the outrageous increase in rates when I got but a 0.3 percent increase in my Social Security and my small federal pension. All my bills are going up, but my cost of living adjustments do not reflect any of this to exclude food and energy.
Spectrum's case is just the most worst example of a huge corporation socking it to citizens whose incomes have not risen in years.
John T. King, Tampa
Phase out private prisons in Florida March 10, editorial
Maintenance is addressed
This editorial states, "Management Training Corp., which runs the prison, requested nearly $10,000 to replace it (a water heater). The state approved the money, but the warden never authorized the work. So much for efficiency being the best argument for privatization." Here is what happened: The heat exchanger (a component of, but not the entire water heater system) was authorized for replacement by the state on Dec. 19, 2016. We ordered the equipment the next day, Dec. 20. The equipment arrived Jan. 16 and was installed that day. We believe this is prompt, responsible service. We've provided local reporters with the documentation that shows that this is indeed how it played out, yet the story has not been reported.
We will be the first to tell you that the facility, which is more than 20 years old, has many physical plant challenges. Last year alone the state and MTC spent more than $130,000 on repairs. The water heater system, which is currently operational, has been repaired multiple times. We're working with the state to provide a long-term solution to this problem, which will likely require the replacement of the entire system, not just individual components. We will also be working with the city to resolve the city-related water issues that have caused problems over the last few years.
As for allegations of refusing to run heat during the winter and prohibiting offenders from using water except to flush toilets, that is not true. We serve more 1,500 offenders at the facility. Plumbing and other repairs are required from time to time. If a water heater breaks, offenders have the option of taking showers in other housing units to make sure they have access to warm showers. We work very hard to provide the women in our care with a clean, orderly and functional environment.
And if you take the time to talk to those who have toured the Gadsden Correctional Facility and spoken with the female offenders themselves, what you'll find is a completely different story. Behind the physical plant issues, which come and go, you'll find a dedicated, professional and caring staff who invest in the future of these incarcerated individuals. You'll find hundreds of offenders in class, earning their GED, learning how to battle their addictions and training dogs to be adopted into loving families. You'll find instructors and students from Florida State University leading a beautiful choir of women whose voices ascend upward. You'll find women making small but significant changes in their lives every day — and this is the real story of the Gadsden Correctional Facility.
Issa Arnita, Centerville, Utah
The writer is director of corporate communications for MTC.