Local job plan shouldn't be quota
The St. Petersburg City Council will vote this week on a new version of their local hiring ordinance.
Associated Builders and Contractors believes the newly drafted local hiring ordinance is still problematic for the construction industry. We appreciate the council's efforts to help unemployed craft workers, and their eagerness to promote apprenticeship training for the construction trades, but this ordinance still has unworkable parts for the construction industry.
1. Hiring preferences interfere with contracts between private parties — specifically, contracts between a contractor and its subcontractors.
2. The preference should target "qualified or skilled" unemployed/underemployed resident workers.
3. This preference should be a goal (good-faith effort), not a quota. A 25 percent quota for all work hours on a construction project is not a workable solution.
4. There are federal and state limitations on apprenticeship to journeymen ratios for construction projects. Therefore, setting a 20 percent goal could be problematic to comply with federal and state laws.
ABC would like to propose the following changes that would be workable for the construction industry.
1. The entire ordinance should be a good-faith effort goal, not a quota.
2. A good-faith effort for both unemployed/underemployed and apprentices should be based on the number employed on a construction project and not workable hours.
We believe our recommended changes are legal, obtainable and will help our industry's unemployment rate.
Steve Cona III, Tampa
Mental health care
Work to prevent violence
I am encouraged to see media outlets across the nation call for attention to deficiencies in the nation's mental health system. Such focus should have broad support and prompt efforts for adequate action to address mental health service needs.
What is needed is to establish common ground among gun control supporters, gun rights advocates and mental health system proponents. Collectively, much could be accomplished to reduce the risk of Newtown-like tragedies should adversaries join forces and demand attention for adequate mental health treatment, hospitals and evaluation centers.
Should efforts fail to address the recent mayhem, future horrific incidents can be anticipated. Whatever a person's gun control position, no one wants a repetition of these murderous tragedies.
A re-established mental health team could make necessary decisions to keep individuals identified as dangerous off the street and in appropriate treatment. Significant risk to the community could be substantially reduced.
Local police and courts should be on board with such efforts, which would allow improved options when dealing with obviously disturbed individuals. Necessary statute changes would be the responsibility of elected legislators. This action should be on a fast track.
Too often, the jailed mentally ill are released without medication or other critical health services. Many of these individuals should have been placed in residential treatment. On the street they pose serious risk to themselves and local communities.
Gun rights generate polarizing concerns, and each side of that issue will continue its own advocacy. However, there is an opportunity for all to stand together and demand from our political leadership direct action and funding to offer mental health services to anyone in need.
Marc Yacht, M.D., Hudson
Between July 2011 and June 2012, Tampa issued 52,760 red-light violations and St. Petersburg issued 27,086 violations related to traffic control devices. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles' report indicates accidents are down at intersections where red-light cameras are used.
No doubt these traffic control devices represent a considerable revenue stream to local governments and the state. In the immortal warning attributed to Mark Twain, there are "lies, damned lies, and statistics." Why have those who profit directly from these control devices been put in the position to feed information to citizens in an effort to sway public opinion about the devices? Do the red-light cameras generate enough revenue to pay for a disinterested third party to collect and disseminate this information? The way things are being done now reeks of the potential for abuse.
Also, some red-light cameras appear to have "quick yellows." Drivers face a split-second decision to continue through the intersection or brake hard. The solution is simple. We must demand working countdown mechanisms at all intersections using the red-light cameras. If the true purpose of these devices is safety, what is the argument against this logical and fair addition?
Frank Cunningham, Holiday
Protect spousal support
The issue of "permanent" alimony has become a lightning rod for the Florida Legislature in recent years. Appropriate reform has come in the form of a recently adopted supportive-relationship law that ends permanent alimony in the event of the recipient's lack of continued need because of a new supportive relationship. Also, permanent alimony can now never result in the recipient spouse having more income than the obligor spouse. Further protections have long existed, such as that permanent alimony may end at normal retirement age.
Many disgruntled people paying permanent alimony are loudly seeking further "reform." Clearly, what is sought is not reform but the eradication of permanent alimony. This would be a travesty.
The system has worked well since alimony was first adopted statutorily in Florida in 1828. The purpose of alimony and other relief is to "preserve the integrity of marriage." Marriage is intended as a permanent union and is a legal contract with consequences in the event of a divorce.
In the age of no-fault divorce, you can divorce your spouse for any reason, but the state of Florida can require alimony if a disparity in income exists and certain criteria in the law are met.
Certainly, we can all agree that the law should provide relief if one spouse has been out of the work force for many years and sacrifices earning potential to "make life worth living" for the other spouse, and the marriage ends in divorce.
But should the party who "earned the living" in a long-term marriage be permitted to keep all of the earnings that the other spouse helped earn by being a helpmate? This would give one party a windfall and encourage divorce.
The system works. We just need the Legislature and the courts to continue to evolve the law of alimony and to rectify (as has been done) any abuses.
Mark A. Sessums, Lakeland