Mayor takes a pass on DNC | Feb. 28
Missed opportunity for Tampa
With thousands of people out of jobs and businesses closing and laying off people, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has seen fit to throw away the opportunity to bring in over $200 million into the Tampa Bay area by hosting the 2016 Democratic convention. In 2012, the Republican National Convention held in Tampa brought in over $214 million, which was a nice financial shot in the arm for the region.
Granted, we would be competing with other cities for the 2016 Democratic convention, but Buckhorn chose to not even participate in the selection process. Why is it our current Democratic leaders continually turn down job opportunities in business creation and growth? Thanks to Gov. Rick Scott for going outside the state to try to bring businesses here and for helping current businesses create more jobs.
I'll bet if Pam Iorio was still mayor, her staff would be filling out the required DNC paperwork for this opportunity.
John Howie, Tampa
Hung out to dry in the eye of the storm Feb. 20, Daniel Ruth column
Insurers give vital services
Daniel Ruth's column did the Times and its readers a disservice with an uninformed, sneering assessment of Florida-based homeowners insurance companies. Coming up with real solutions to the difficult problem of Florida's property insurance market may not be a serious topic for Ruth, but it sure is for the employees of these companies — many of them in Tampa Bay — who are working hard every day to protect their customers' homes and property.
The reality is that Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation and the law holds these companies to higher standards than government-run Citizens; they must have enough capital and back-up insurance to pay catastrophic hurricane losses without resorting to the assessments that Citizens can levy to pay claims.
Florida-based companies are among the only private insurers willing to write new policies in the state, and they are the best option to bring stability to the riskiest insurance market in the country. Despite Ruth's casual attitude, they are providing a vital service to homeowners and the state's real estate economy.
William Stander, executive director, Florida Property & Casualty Association, Tallahassee
Burdening nonprofit groups
Duke Energy touts a community service policy that, in its words, "ensures our communities have the resources and support they need to thrive — now and well into the future." This is apparently not the case with nonprofit organizations.
Vincent House, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is dedicated to rebuilding the lives of people with mental illness. Duke Energy is now requiring a security deposit equivalent to 150 percent of the monthly energy bill for all nonprofits. In the case of Vincent House, a small organization, this amounts to $3,315.
Vincent House is one of 2,000 nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay area. It has relatively low energy usage and has never been delinquent on its energy bill during 11 years of operation. Using simple math and Vincent House's required security deposit as an average, we estimate that Duke Energy will permanently remove over $6 million from local nonprofits, thus reducing the availability of resources for the most vulnerable citizens in our community. According to Duke Energy supervisor Lyntina Henderson, Duke does not offer nonprofit waivers except to extremely large nonprofits "like Fannie Mae." How interesting.
So help us understand: Where exactly does community service rank within Duke Energy's corporate priorities?
Elliott Steele, co-founder, and William McKeever, executive director, Vincent House, Pinellas Park
Arizona governor: No discrimination Feb. 27
Barriers to inclusion
The recently vetoed Arizona legislation to legalize discrimination seems to have briefly reinvigorated the gay marriage topic on 24-hour news outlets. Catholic League president Bill Donohue recently debated the issue with CNN's Chris Cuomo. Donohue argued that marriage is about establishing a traditional family for the purpose of procreation. Cuomo countered that marriage is about love and commitment.
Much of the conflict seems to emanate from our tradition of combining civil and religious marriage into a single institution. This approach has created barriers to inclusion and turned clergy into notaries for the civil aspect of marriage. Were we to divide "marriage" into civil marriage and religious marriage, much of the conflict would likely dissipate.
Anyone meeting the legal requirements for civil marriage could get one. Religious marriage would be at the discretion of the couple and the polity of their faith community. Since everyone wishing any kind of marriage would have to first obtain a civil marriage, there would be no illegal discrimination, and the debate would move from CNN to internal conversations within each faith community.
Robert H. More, Riverview
Bill promotes three-year transition to Florida Standards | Feb. 27, Gradebook blog
Bridging the disconnect
After reading about the bill introduced in the Legislature to suspend school grades for three years, it is obvious who has the best interests of Florida teachers, students and schools at heart and painfully clear who does not.
Kudos to the two Democratic members of the Legislature who have composed a reasonable and fair compromise to deal with the current disconnect between new courses of study and old forms of testing. Conversely, Florida's Senate president, Don Gaetz, has decided to make disrespectful and flippant remarks toward thousands of teachers and students by comparing them to a bunch of scoreboards on a football field.
Even as Tallahassee continues to vacillate over educational directives, teachers continue to give their best efforts to coach, encourage and educate Florida's children and stand by them through these transitional times. I assure Gaetz that this is no game being played for his amusement. Our state's future is at stake.
Ann Gerakios Arfaras, Clearwater
Drivers are getting better
Red-light cameras help keep drivers lawful. Despite more traffic, I notice people are more careful at stoplights. Sen. Jeff Brandes is just following the Republican Party line to starve government so it can't regulate or function properly.
Nancy Ogden, St. Petersburg