Polished but not perfect | March 17
Weatherford serves bay area well
Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford may have risen further faster than others in public life — as your profile of him points out — but he also distinguishes himself in one other very important manner: He is an unwavering advocate for the Tampa Bay region.
We are proud of his service in the Florida House and now as its speaker. He is Tampa Bay's best advocate, without putting parochialism above good policy. That's a difficult balance to strike in Tallahassee, and Weatherford has set a new standard for managing those responsibilities.
We look forward to working with the speaker on important issues, knowing he values the role the University of South Florida plays in education and economic development for the region and the state. Moreover, Weatherford notably understands that the long-term health and prosperity of Florida is inextricably linked with a strong State University System and a thriving Tampa Bay region.
Judy Genshaft, president, University of South Florida, Tampa
Ethanol rules drive up gasoline prices March 22
End the ethanol mandate
Your article about the ethanol mandate pushing up the cost of gasoline is another example of the pain we still feel from bad decisions during the George W. Bush years. Add to that unnecessary tax cuts that eliminated budget surpluses and set the stage for massive deficits. Add to that lax financial oversight policies that brought us the great recession. And add political blundering that overrode military advice and gave us two poorly executed wars.
The list is long, but the point is not to rehash blame but make things better. Eliminating the ethanol mandate is one fix that should be easy. It is a win-win.
Conservatives should like it because it would reduce government interference in business and reduce EPA costs. Liberals should like it because it would stop converting a food product for use in cars and eliminate a process that is not environmentally friendly. Moderates (make that everybody) should like it because it would reduce costs for gasoline and food.
It's time for Washington to admit the mandate was a bad idea and now is the time to end it.
Jerry Stephens, Riverview
Shots ring out near Pasco school | March 21
Time to act on gun laws
When I saw the headline "Shots ring out near Pasco school," I thought of Sandy Hook Elementary School, just a few miles from where I used to live, and said to myself, "Please, not here."
I don't understand why, even if there's just a remote chance of a similar tragedy here, our county commissioners do not take action. They could reduce the threat of gun violence to our children, yet they refuse to even schedule a hearing on requiring background checks for the purchase of firearms, including assault weapons, at gun shows. What has to happen to get our commissioners to act?
Larry Schmitt, Hudson
Congress puts recovery at risk | March 22
Voters are responsible
Although insightful, the Times' editorial on how obstructive Congress has become in spite of fragile economic gains fell short of pointing out the root cause.
We, as constituents, failed to hold elected officials accountable for passing a responsible budget based on economic realities. As a result of our own lack of oversight, we'll now be expected to settle for a temporary spending plan that will ultimately be used as re-election fodder.
Sequestration is an expensive reminder that our form of democracy all but guarantees that we'll get the representation we deserve because we elect the government we want.
Jason Medina, Tampa
House approves ban on Internet cafe gambling | March 23
Keep gambling cafes out
Internet sweepstakes cafes sprouted as quickly as weeds in our communities. In neighborhoods across Tampa and the region, sweepstakes cafes with slot machine-style gaming acted as vultures targeting honest people who wanted to engage in legitimate entertainment. It is for this reason that the Tampa City Council took the action of banning new Internet gaming machines and restricting the activities of current Internet sweepstakes cafes.
In Tampa, there are 13 sweepstakes cafes, including eight in District 7, which I represent. All eight are in the southern portion of my district, which spans from the Pasco County line to areas just south of East Busch Boulevard.
At my request, and with Mayor Bob Buckhorn's approval, the Planning Commission and citizens of Terrace Park, Copeland Park and University Square neighborhoods have been hard at work crafting a Community Vision Plan. This will be a guidance document for the city and the private sector, and a blueprint for neighborhood enhancements and future growth.
The citizens in these neighborhoods wish to improve upon the assets that exist within District 7 — like Busch Gardens, USF, Moffitt Cancer Center, the Museum of Science and Industry — and those in Hillsborough County, where Internet gaming machines have already been banned.
I believe the action of City Council to regulate Internet sweepstakes cafes already in existence, and ban new gaming machines, was an action in line with those who saw Internet sweepstakes cafes invading their neighborhoods at a time when they wanted to chart a different path.
One day after the City Council's action, the Florida House voted to ban Internet sweepstakes cafes, but until the Florida Senate and Gov. Rick Scott act, the city of Tampa can only ban future establishments that conduct "simulated gambling." Current facilities in the city will be severely restricted: Minors are not allowed, outdoor signage is limited and no new machines can be added.
It is my hope that the Senate and Scott take action and ban Internet sweepstakes cafes. Until the state acts, the city of Tampa will do what is in our power to make sure these invasive Internet sweepstakes gaming machines are eradicated from our neighborhoods.
Lisa J. Montelione, Tampa city councilwoman, District 7, Tampa