Editor's note: Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a letter of the month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style. The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly helps.
Help us choose the letter of the month for August 2013 by reading through the three nominated letters and voting on the ballot at the bottom of the web page.
Fighting for Florida's oyster beds | Aug. 14, editorial
Florida also to blame for loss of oyster beds
My family has owned a fish camp in the town of Suwannee at the mouth of the Suwannee River since 1971. I have personally witnessed the destruction of the oysters there over the last 40 years.
In the '70s they were plentiful, and during the winter months we would harvest bushels easily for our own consumption. The '80s brought in the commercial oystermen who were unregulated and overfished many of the bars, contributing to the decline. In the '90s we started having problems with pollution, closing many of the areas that historically held shellfish. In the 2000s we saw sea level rise and decreased freshwater flow, leading to saltwater intrusion.
According to Dr. Jennifer Seavey, who studies oysters from her office in Cedar Key, healthy populations rely on optimum temperatures and salinities. She has documented the destruction of Lone Cabbage Reef and the great Suwannee Reef. These, along with numerous smaller oyster bars, are really nothing but sandbars now.
The lack of freshwater flow in the river stems from overpumping the aquifer and decreasing flows from the numerous springs that feed the river. The Suwannee River Water Management District is still issuing consumptive use permits to agricultural projects, some of which are just a few miles from first-magnitude springs. Also, the Jacksonville area has begun to consume so much water that it is affecting spring flows in the northern area. PCS Phosphate is consuming huge amounts of water from the White Springs area.
It is justifiable for the state of Florida to point fingers at Alabama and Georgia for the demise of the oyster industry in Apalachicola due to lack of freshwater flow. Unfortunately, to see the cause for the demise of the Suwannee oysters, the state just has to look in the mirror.
K.C. Nayfield, Crystal River (Aug. 17)
DeMint: Stop Obamacare now | Aug. 22
Obamacare's conservative origins
Jim DeMint should be ashamed of himself, as should the Heritage Foundation and every Republican who calls Obamacare socialism. The Affordable Care Act was a Republican plan, created by the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1989 and touted by Republicans all through the 1990s.
The essence of Obamacare is a three-legged stool of regulation and subsidies: community rating, requiring insurers to make the same policies available to everyone regardless of health status; an individual mandate, requiring everyone to purchase insurance so that healthy people don't opt out; and subsidies, to keep insurance affordable for those with lower incomes.
The original Heritage plan from 1989 had all these features.
Newt Gingrich, in 2005 during an interview on NPR, said:
"Our goal has to be for 100 percent of the country to be in the insurance system. So that means finding ways through tax credits and through vouchers so that every American can buy insurance, including, I think, a requirement that if you're above a certain level of income, you have to either have insurance or post a bond." He described the very basis for Obamacare.
Do Republicans think we are all unable to separate fact from propaganda? That's partly why they lost in 2012 and are likely to do again in 2016.
Ian MacFarlane, St. Petersburg (Aug. 27)
Standards plus creativity
We must strike a balance.
As a student in the International Baccalaureate program in Hillsborough County, I understand and appreciate the national standards the Common Core State Standards initiative brings to our school system. In the IB program, each student is evaluated against international standards, and the diploma one receives upon successful completion is internationally accredited. My final IB Spanish exam, for example, will be the same test another IB student in Germany also studying Spanish would take. The standardization allows universities and employers, both in the United States and abroad, to know our students have a benchmark educational foundation.
I also agree with the Badass Teachers Association. Creativity is a fundamental component of a child's development, not only as a student but also as an individual. We must educate our youth and inspire them through innovative methods to become our future leaders.
I find that our education system often uses a didactic approach to teaching. I suggest we incorporate creative teaching techniques into standardized education to challenge and inspire students to not only learn the Common Core curriculum, but also to apply their knowledge to develop novel ideas that will cure diseases, develop sustainable energy sources, and feed our starving.
Aleesha Mundra, Tampa (Aug. 31)