FSU engineering plan may be tricky, costly | April 21
Keep joint engineering program
As former leaders of Florida A&M University, we oppose the move to decouple the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and consider this a sudden and unplanned act, void of discussion and input from the current leadership of the two universities, the university Boards of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors. This action sends the wrong message to the citizens of Florida about how the Legislature and academic institutions should interact.
The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is a strong program that represents a successful collaboration for the state of Florida between two research institutions with elements of their student populations woefully underrepresented in engineering disciplines. It has received high praise for addressing this nationwide dilemma through this long-term collaborative effort. A second program in Tallahassee would compromise the integrity of what is already a very successful venture. In fact, the Florida Board of Governors has made a concerted effort over the past few years to reduce duplication of academic programs throughout the State University System.
As an alternative, we request that the Legislature provide additional support to our existing program, which has produced successful graduates for both Florida A&M University and Florida State University since 1982.
With all due respect to the power and authority of the Legislature to appropriate funding, we respectfully request engagement in a collaborative process to include both academic institutions and our governing bodies to determine how such funding will be used to build on our past successes. We are pleased to work transparently within appropriate guidelines and authorities to create life-changing opportunities for students in Florida to pursue a quality education in engineering through the joint engineering program.
Former FAMU presidents Walter Smith (1977-85), Frederick Humphries, (1985-2001), Fred Gainous, (2002-04), Tallahassee
Amazon sales tax nears | April 17
Amazon's two distribution centers under construction in the Tampa Bay area have made recent headlines for their physical size, technological innovations and substantial employment potential. No doubt the centers will provide a much-needed economic boost for the region. Yet to be discerned, however, are the further implications of these relatively large-scale developments for the area's housing and transportation sectors.
As far as Amazon's Ruskin center is concerned, the only public infrastructure development noted to date has been the extension of a four-lane access road running north and south parallel to I-75 west of the center between State Road 674, a four-lane highway to its south, and a narrow, pothole-pitted, two-lane road (19th Street) to its north. The latter roads run east-west between U.S. 41 and U.S. 301. There is no indication that the I-75 off/on-ramps to/from SR 674 will be upgraded.
All this is troubling for those of us residing in the vicinity of a facility scheduled to employ between 1,100 and 2,500 people, depending on the time of year. When added to the influx of snowbirds in the fall and winter months, the outlook for seriously snarled traffic appears obvious.
Furthermore, most of the people employed by Amazon will be unskilled, low-wage workers. But the area around the Ruskin center is dotted with retirement communities with precious little affordable housing available for low-income families and individuals. Where will most of these workers come from (many from nearby Manatee County, undoubtedly), and how far will they have to travel to get to their workplace, thus further complicating the looming transportation fiasco?
In short, one wonders how well these ramifications have been analyzed and taken into account by Hillsborough County officials who have offered Amazon substantial financial incentives for locating such a large facility in this area.
Fred Kalhammer, Sun City Center
Students get lift at deadly stretch | April 18
Reactive, not proactive
I question Hillsborough County school superintendent MaryEllen Elia's reasoning when she stated "we want to be as proactive as possible" regarding the safety issues with students crossing Hillsborough Avenue.
The definition of proactive is "creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding after it has happened." It seems to me instituting these safety measures after two students have died is reactive. I'm glad the safety measures are being worked out, but it's a shame it didn't happen sooner.
Deborah Green, Sun City Center
Alcohol sales at theater get initial approval April 18
Viewer discretion advised
It boggles the mind that the Tampa City Council is about to approve selling beer, wine and liquor at an AMC movie theater in Hillsborough County. What about the shootings in movie theaters across the country without alcohol? What about the gun laws that allow people to carry firearms? If the council gives final approval on May 15, we will cease to frequent AMC movie theaters.
Fred Dettmann, Oldsmar
U.S. health system bad for what ails us and Suit costs hospital $7 million | April 17-18
Capitalism and care
Dr. H. Roy Kaplan's column asserted that the American health care system does not serve the public well because the business model favors a profit motive. The next day, the article about the $7 million whistle-blower suit against All Children's Hospital for paying inflated salaries to doctors clearly supported this.
As Kaplan pointed out, health care expenditures in the United States exceed every nation in the world, yet statistical measures of good health show this model does not work. Medicare's administrative costs — about 2 percent compared to private insurance administrative cost of about 20 percent — prove false the premise that business does a better job of controlling costs than the government.
Both U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and House Speaker John Boehner have said the United States has the best health care system in the world. This simply shows the leadership in Washington either wishes to mislead the public or doesn't understand that higher costs do not translate into better results.
Jay Hall, Tampa