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 February 2014 by reading through the three nominated letters and voting on the ballot at the bottom of the web page.
Two sides to SeaWorld boycott | Dec. 29
Amusement parks and zoos
In her column, Susan Thurston asks, "I wonder if Pat Benatar or the Beach Boys — musical acts that canceled shows at Busch Gardens over the controversy — have ever been to a zoo." Frankly, I would ask her the same thing.
Personally, I've been to many world-class zoos, including San Diego, and none of them do what SeaWorld and their ilk do, which is have their animals perform for the amusement of people. Most zoos actually try to perpetuate endangered/threatened species as well as educate people about the other life forms that also inhabit this planet. Reputable zoos don't make Jumbo do stupid pet tricks to teach people about the horrors of poaching and the ivory trade.
Thurston also states that "the sad reality is that humans have been doing cruel things to animals well before Shamu." Is that supposed to absolve these establishments of their actions? Bread and circuses were the way of the Roman Empire, not modern humankind. No creature should be made to live its life in captivity for the amusement of people.
Cheryl Applebaum, Tampa (Feb. 4)
No money, no movies | Jan. 31
Stop corporate welfare
Florida taxpayers paid 60 percent of the wages of temporary workers hired to film three movies. This $6 million is a small part of the $296 million we have spent since 2010 to subsidize the entertainment industry. The rationale is that it helps tourism. Well, there is a rationale for every giveaway to business, whether it is sports, conventions, medical, insurance, finance, manufacturing or tourism.
They all need "incentives" to come to Florida. Every smart business is now playing states and cities against each other to obtain the best deal. The practice of giving away tax dollars to businesses is escalating rapidly toward a zero-sum game. New York state recently raised the ante with its TV commercial that offers 10 years of no taxes to businesses relocating to certain areas in the state.
This madness must stop. If taken to its logical conclusion, this practice of corporate welfare will bankrupt states and cities unless individual citizens are taxed more and more. At its very core, this practice is either bribery, extortion or both. It is also unethical and unfair to existing businesses. It should be made illegal nationwide. In a free-market economy, every business must compete on a level playing field and pay for its share of infrastructure, resources and services necessary to maintain a civil and functioning society.
Jon Erion, Oldsmar (Feb. 8)
'Lobbyist' not a dirty word | Feb. 10, commentary
The problem is money
In his defense of the lobbying profession, Darryl Paulson either overlooked or conveniently avoided the real issue. The problem is not with the those who practice the art, or with the profession itself. Few question their right to exist or their value.
The problem is the undue influence they wield as a result of the vast sums of money at their disposal, money that they pass both over and under the table into the eager hands of those we send to Washington to represent our interests. Worse is the fact that most of their contacts with Congress are cloaked in secrecy. Shut the spigot off, bring the contacts out into the sunshine, and "lobbyist" would no longer be a four-letter word.
Robert A. Shaw, Madeira Beach (Feb. 13)