Sliver cut from budget | June 3
Small investment with big return
The state budget signed by the governor included one appropriation that, while relatively small, could provide a more than 625-to-1 return on the state's investment. It might sound too good to be true, but that accurately describes the $8 million investment the Legislature made to protect and grow a $5 billion industry.
The $8 million appropriation will go toward planning for an expansion of the Central Florida Research Park in Orlando, which serves as the hub of Florida's modeling, simulation and training (MS&T) sector. The park, adjacent to the University of Central Florida, is home to military commands and industry partners working together on the latest training technologies.
More than 27,000 Floridians work in MS&T at more than 1,000 public and private organizations around the state, earning an average annual salary of $70,000. In an era of military cost-cutting, this industry — still largely dependent on the Defense Department — needs wise investments to protect its future. Rather than wait for budget cuts to impact an industry that has grown here over the past 50 years, Florida is moving proactively.
Outside of the Pentagon, this is the only location where all military services come together in partnership on one support area, resulting in cooperation that saves money and drives innovation. Research Park expansion would provide real estate that can help military commands lower their leasing costs and grow the atmosphere of collaboration that is already providing cost savings through cooperative purchasing.
Our Legislature — particularly House Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli and Senate President-elect Andy Gardiner, as well as Speaker Will Weatherford, Sen. Bill Galvano, and Reps. Dana Young and Rob Schenck — and Gov. Rick Scott deserve our thanks for investing in Florida's future.
Arthur F. "Chip" Diehl III,
Brig. Gen., USAF (Ret.), Tampa
Keep funds for mental health care June 6, editorial
Essential services at risk
As a mental health professional working in Pinellas County, I am painfully aware of the recent discussions involving the proposed equity funding scheme cited in your editorial. When I first heard of it during a community meeting that I attended, my first question was: "If you enact this, what programs are we going to lose?"
Your readership may not be aware that programs operated by several nonprofit providers in Pinellas County are already underfunded, most even understaffed. The demand to supply noninsured indigent and low-income individuals with services has continued to increase yearly, yet funding has remained stagnant due to the nearsightedness and ignorance of politicians who continue to ignore the growing needs. If we lose the $3.2 million due to the proposed shifting of funds, we'll not only lose programs but also qualified staff including licensed professionals. Most of the staff at these agencies have not seen any salary raises for years.
These essential services allow for adults to lead productive lives in their workplaces, homes and communities; help individuals become healthy and improve family relationships; assist children to thrive at home and in school; and provide underprivileged people who have a diagnosed illness regardless of their age with the medical, therapeutic and support services. What will it take to finally realize that these lives have value and are worth saving?
Joan M. Andrade, Pinellas Park
Weapons of choice | June 7, reading file
The recent report on "weapons of choice" by the Washington Post and Mother Jones listing the number of firearms purchased in the past 30 years for mass shooting was incomplete. How many of these firearms were used by shooters with current concealed-carry permits? The point being that responsible concealed-carry licensed gun owners are not part of the problem.
I would like to see more emphasis placed at the point of sale, followup investigations into applicants for a firearm purchase and increased (criminal) responsibility of parents who fail to supervise possession by their minor children.
H.A. Smith, Palm Harbor
Curb Medicare overpayments June 7, editorial
Ferret out the fraud
I am certain that the same people who can write an algorithm for "high-frequency" trading can write a screening program for overbilling in Medicare. Hopefully, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services knows enough about how they are being gouged to establish "tip-off" parameters to filter certain billing codes or other profile characteristics that would trigger audits.
I don't believe it would take very long — a few prosecutions/heavy fines/prison time — for the word to spread that Medicare fraud is no longer the road to wealth.
Ed Germond, Apollo Beach
A father's saga, told from overseas | June 6
Coast Guard's vital role
Having been raised in a U.S. Coast Guard family, I took special interest in this little-known story of the support provided by the USCG during the invasion of Normandy. Though an Air Force veteran myself, I am not sure I truly appreciated the actual importance of the Coast Guard's role in American and world affairs until reading this article.
My father was captain of the Medium Endurance Cutter Steadfast (WMEC-623), stationed in St. Petersburg in the mid '70s. He lived the Coast Guard culture from the moment he entered the academy in New London, Conn., in 1951, to his retirement 30 years later. Like Kirk Vail, I am now late middle aged; unlike him, my father is still with us.
This Father's Day I will make a special effort to understand fully the man who was responsible for caring for, protecting and nurturing a family of seven while at the same time attending to an official mission of protecting our nation's interests at sea, defending our maritime borders and, most importantly, saving those in peril.
As Harry Truman said, "The only thing new in the world is the history that we do not know." Time for something new, before it is too late.
Carl W. Albritton, Safety Harbor