April Letter of the Month winner
April's Letter of the Month is from Kenneth L. Weiss of Treasure Island, who wrote about big investors scooping up homes.
Another punch to middle class
This "land grab" is the knockout punch for the middle class. A few years ago, Wall Street saw the banks making money on real estate loans. The Street grabbed the mortgage market and sliced and diced the now-commodified home mortgages into collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs. When the mortgage pools turned out to be fakes, it tanked the market and middle class pension funds. That was the first sucker punch.
We're now just about a minute into the second round when, in the land rush, those very same Wall Streeters, using money from the first scam, decide to swoop in and buy all of those homes whose owners they conned into foreclosure. Now, even someone with preapproved credit can't compete with their cash offers. Sorry, Joe the Plumber.
So, after they sucked the consumer dry of any equity by overinflating the housing market, they've now turned the middle class into permanent renters. Given Wall Street's predilections for taking, not giving, maintenance won't be a top priority. In fact, it will have no priority. They'll hold for a while, generating income (without associated maintenance costs) and then start selling CDOs consisting of the housing rental income streams. After that, they'll sell real estate investment trusts or mutual funds back to the consumer, and, because the investment bankers will no longer will have any economic incentive in owning the homes, they'll dump the houses (with thousands of dollars in deferred maintenance), just in time for consumers to start buying houses again.
And then the Street will start on the next scam.
Kenneth L. Weiss, Treasure Island
Removal of teacher far overdue May 1, editorial
School district takes student safety seriously
The Tampa Bay Times has raised some legitimate questions and concerns regarding the conduct of a former teacher, Richard Wisemiller, and the timeliness of Pinellas County Schools' response to allegations brought against him. We acknowledge the school district's responsibility for the safety and well-being of our students, and we want to assure our families and the community that we take this responsibility very seriously.
After receiving a complaint about Wisemiller on April 3, 2014, school district staff responded swiftly and appropriately. We immediately investigated the allegations, forwarded the results of the investigation to the State Attorney's Office and the Florida Department of Education, removed the teacher from the school, and informed the teacher that a recommendation would be made for his termination. This series of actions took 10 business days.
A teacher's certificate is issued by the state and any sanctions against the certificate are made by the state's Department of Education. Last year, the district investigated allegations made against the teacher, suspended him without pay and referred the district's investigation to the Department of Education for review by the state, which must prove the allegations and determine the appropriate sanctions against his certificate. The state education commissioner's recent decision to take action against the teacher's certificate is a result of action taken by the school district, not the other way around.
Our school district has a process for dealing with allegations of misconduct. School administrators are trained to report any alleged misconduct to our Office of Professional Standards, which investigates those allegations. In all cases, the protection of students is a priority and we want to assure our families that when the results of an investigation substantiate the allegations, we act without delay.
Michael Grego, superintendent, Pinellas County Schools, Largo
Noncitizen wins backing to practice law in Florida | May 2
A person who is in this country illegally has won the right to practice law in Florida. This person, Jose Godinez-Samperio, has the intelligence and self-motivation to pursue an undergraduate degree, a law degree, and the ability to pass the Florida Bar exam. Yet he does not have the intelligence or motivation to follow the steps required to become a legal citizen. Incredible to say the least.
Further, this person plans to practice immigration law. Does this mean that he will try to justify the continued breaking of the laws that he will have to swear to enforce as a practicing attorney?
Don Holderness, Valrico
Tax could lower Amazon sales | April 29
Jobs and revenue: win-win
The truth is, if you cannot afford the tax, you cannot afford the item. We all pay taxes on certain items in grocery stores, department stores, on new cars, just about everything. That's life.
The taxes generated by Amazon will be good for Florida. The jobs provided by the new facilities in Florida will be good for our citizens. It is a win-win.
Amazon sales may drop for a brief period, but they will rebound. Amazon shoppers are loyal and will accept the tax in time.
Judy Lavaron, St. Petersburg
FSU's Winston gets caught in a pinch | May 1
Trouble follows him
Once again, Jameis Winston is in trouble with the law, this time for shoplifting at a supermarket. He claims "youthful ignorance." Add this to other incidents and what we have is definitely not a role model for youngsters. One thing is correct: His "mistakes are magnified" and as such he ought not to be making them.
Elaine Jerrold, St. Petersburg
Driving safety, not speed, is key | May 1, letter
I agree with the letter writer that we need more disciplined drivers.
Something I read also makes me concerned about higher speed limits. Smithsonian magazine highlights research that shows that people's tempers increase as the weather gets hotter.
If the speed limits in Florida are raised, we'll have among the highest speed limits in the country, among the laxest gun laws, and among the highest temperatures. More road rage anyone?
Elizabeth Corwin, Tampa