Water supply in severe shortage and Is more growth the solution? | Feb. 17
Unleashed development would be a disaster
Kudos to the Times for its placement of two very critical stories in Tuesday's newspaper. The juxtaposition of these two stories on the front page really brought home the point that the last thing our legislators should be pursuing is making it easier for developers to get their projects approved.
Apparently that is exactly what Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, and Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, are doing by promoting two bills. One bill would prevent local governments from collecting impact fees for the next three years and the other would eliminate state review of big, new development projects. Additionally, Rep. Williams said she wants to make it easier to get permits to "take" large quantities of water for new development.
Florida cannot return to an economy based on building more houses and retail. For obvious reasons, we see where that kind vision got us today. Rep. Williams may be too attached to big developers and thus is not making good choices for the rest of us.
Veronica Kirchheimer, Tampa
A too costly notion
The front page on Tuesday left me with my mouth agape. Rep. Trudi Williams is advocating more growth and less regulation to stimulate the economy while water officials say we may soon be put on unprecedented water restrictions. It would be comical if it wasn't such a serious issue.
How did we get to this situation with our water supply? Unrestricted growth and destruction of wetlands. On top of our limited water, more growth without impact fees will add more strain to local budgets. More taxes would be used for the infrastructure to create more sprawl to add to the 300,000 empty houses already on the market, which if miraculously occupied, would undoubtedly stress the water supply to its limit.
And where would the money to offset the impact fees come from? I guess we can take some more out of school budgets, let those without health care go sick and maybe put a few more of the disadvantaged on the streets. But at least the developers would be fine.
I say, they had their day and they blew it. It's time for the rest of us to be represented!
Anita Jimenez, Ruskin
Sacrificing our future
By fortuitous juxtaposition we have an article detailing our severe water shortage above an article detailing a plan to increase development in Florida.
Rep. Trudi Williams and Sen. Mike Bennett believe that making it easier and cheaper to build in Florida will solve our temporary economic problems.
If Senate Bills 630 and 360 are allowed to pass, taxpayers will be saddled for years with the costs of unbridled growth. We, the Florida taxpayer, will pay for roads, schools and other infrastructure that are now subsidized by the developers who profit from them.
Relaxing or reducing environmental criteria for the sake of growth may not be so easily overcome. Wetlands once destroyed cannot be effectively rebuilt. Wildlife habitat lost cannot be easily regained. Attempts will probably be made, at taxpayers expense, but it is not always possible to replace that which is lost. We have proven that time and again.
These two bills are — as is said of suicide — a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Contact your representatives and let them know that we are not willing to sacrifice our future for an unrealistic present and we'll send these two packing in the next election.
Robert Youngblood, Parrish
Growth needs limits
Have Rep. Trudi Williams and other supporting this proposal to lessen environmental regulation been sound asleep for the past dozen years? Florida's natural resources, on which we all depend for life itself, already cannot support the level of development which has been allowed with the current level of regulation — and they want even less?
The sooner we figure out that our government and economy cannot be based on never-ending growth in numbers of homes, people and development, the sooner we'll head off the coming train wreck.
This proposal to give a blank check, or at least a pass, to developers should be dead on arrival at the Legislature.
Ken McLaughlin, Zephyrhills
Deregulation won't help
The push to "simplify" (i.e. deregulate) the permitting process for developers reinforces my fear that Republicans in the state Legislature have lost touch with the realities of the current economic crisis. Putting aside, for a moment, the serious environmental concerns, it's all based on the flawed notion that Florida can solve its economic problems by building more empty houses. Developers stopped building new houses because no one was buying them, not because the permitting process was too expensive or complicated.
It's foolish to eliminate valuable environmental and infrastructure protections in the first place, but it's even more foolish when you know that it won't actually create any new jobs or fill any empty houses. Regardless of permits and fees, developers are not going to create carpentry or plumbing jobs building houses that no one is going to buy.
It would do wonders for public confidence if our elected representatives turned their attention away from the deregulation-cures-everything mantra and toward the real question of why the 300,000 existing empty houses have not been sold to the carpenters and plumbers that built them.
James Michael Shaw Jr., Tampa
The same old thinking
It never ceases to amaze me what the Florida Legislature proposes before and during its annual regular session. And proposing pro-sprawl laws that "streamline" the permitting process is just more of the same from Tallahassee.
It would seem that legislative members believe that more of what got us into this economic mess is the answer. There is no outside-the-box thinking and only party line, pro-business ideology.
While all development is not evil, pro-sprawl legislation is counterproductive to improving the state or stimulating the economy. It's just another piece of evidence (to go along with the loads of evidence already presented to the public over the last several years) that there are no new ideas in Tallahassee but instead more attempts to follow party ideology.
John Fontana, Palm Harbor
Ban automatic sprinkling
We are informed that Tampa Bay is in a bad drought. The only way to get through this is to reduce consumption. Why don't the powers that be bite the bullet and outright ban the operation of all automatic watering and sprinkler systems? The ban should be applied to both domestic and commercial use.
For the long term, if developers must put in lawns, it would also help to require switching from water-guzzling St. Augustine to the many drought-resistant grasses that are available.
Brian Pasby, Floral City
Drastic school pay cut possible | Feb. 18, story
School budget cuts should aim at administrators
I see where the Pinellas County School Board is considering a pay cut of up to 10 percent for teachers and other employees.
I also see where School Board member Janet Clark says we could eliminate an entire layer of administrators at the county office instead.
Right on, Ms. Clark! That is where to make cuts.
When you look at the hundreds and hundreds of administrators/staff developers in this county, it is mind numbing. Very few of the Largo administrators would be missed if they were cut. Most schools run themselves just fine, and the more interference from Largo, the worse they perform. (Ask any teacher in the county.)
As a parent of two children going through the Pinellas County school system, I think the cuts that would be the easiest and least harmful to the students, would be from the bloated/wasteful ranks at the administrative building. Way too many administrators have to create unnecessary programs to justify their positions. The schools would actually thrive without the extra pounding of "new" and "better" procedures in the classroom.
Now is the time to cut the fat.
Let's hope the School Board makes the cuts at the administrative level where they are long overdue.
John Moran, SAC vice president, Coachman Fundamental Middle, Palm Harbor
Drugmaker wants to seal info — for you Feb. 15, story
Don't make things worse
Your article on AstraZeneca's Seroquel left me with more questions than answers. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years and find it hard to believe that not only the company but also the FDA and judicial system are in collusion to hide information from the public without having a very good reason for doing so.
I know the ins and outs of drug development and know that the clinical research process must be highly protective of patient information. The gold standard clinical study insures that the patient, physician and sponsor don't even know whether the patient is taking the study drug or a placebo. Your article did not elucidate what information is being "hidden" and it seems the writer chose to ignore information provided by the company, which makes me wonder what else was not included.
Even if clinical results are very positive, the FDA may require confirmatory studies before a company can release the information. Schizophrenia is a very serious illness and the physician must determine whether the benefits of medicating the patient outweigh the risk of weight gain, which can be controlled by diet and exercise and is clearly indicated as a side effect on the label.
The landscape used to be dotted with state mental institutions, now unfortunately, untreated patients constitute a good portion of the homeless population. Schizophrenic patients who take antipsychotic drugs are very likely to stop taking their medication as soon as they feel better. I hope your article did not exacerbate this situation.
Maryann Brennan, Safety Harbor
Drugmaker wants to seal info — for you Feb. 15, story
The public should know
Kris Hundley should be lauded for standing up and stating the truth in this Sunday article in the Times. It is so obvious to my husband and me that no pharmaceutical company should have freedom from prosecution by reason of having court support to hide the truth about harmful drugs which have been prescribed to masses of people.
All people have the right of informed consent when it comes to taking drugs. A court order sealing documents that would reveal there is great harm to people caused by a drug is aiding the perpetrator of the harm. It is tantamount to driving the getaway car.
Kathy Sweigart, Clearwater
Drugmaker wants to seal info — for you Feb. 15, story
As a pharmacist, I suggest that when a drug company wants to hide data and information about a drug from the public, you do not want to consume that drug. If the company wants to spend millions of dollars to prevent even pharmacists from knowing the data, then the data can be assumed to be unfavorable, and I could not recommend a drug when I do not know all of its potential risks.
In my opinion, with the choices we have today, if a company is not willing to tell us all, we should move on to drugs where we know as much as is available. It's time these drug companies think just a little about the people who will consume their drugs instead of only profits.
Some blame a weak FDA for not forcing all the data to be published. Don't depend on the FDA for your safety. You have to take charge of your own safety. I suggest not using a new drug until its been used for five to 10 years. If we look at the past 10 years, there have been too many drugs withdrawn from the market, because all the data was not known, or at least not released to the public and the medical community.
James Demmy, Kenneth City
Bennett's the best
I recently returned to Pinellas County and subscribed to the Times for Sunday only. Then a neighbor gave me a copy of a Thursday issue. I was so happy to see a Clay Bennett political cartoon on your editorial page, I immediately called circulation and raised my subscription to "Weekend," which includes Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This is because I am such a fan of Clay Bennett. He's the best political cartoonist I have come across, and having traveled extensively around the United States, I have read several newspapers.
I would love to see more of Bennett's cartoons in the Times. Thanks for at least putting him in there occasionally, and please, consider doing it more often. Since Don Addis retired, the Times didn't have anyone I was impressed with. Now I have Clay Bennett to look forward to. Thank you!
E. Axtell, Largo