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 July 2013 by reading through the three nominated letters and voting on the ballot at the bottom of the web page.
'Bro Bowl' mustn't stifle broader vision July 23, editorial
Keep beloved bowl as is, bro
First let me say that I am a "black American" who also happens to be a 49-year-old skateboarder who has enjoyed the "Bro Bowl" since its creation. I realize that there are two sides to every argument, so let me tell you why I believe the bowl should stay.
Skateboarding is a clean, creative and fun activity. It has kept me young and vibrant. Why did the city of Tampa originally build the bowl where it sits today? Because property values were low, downtown did not have the development that it has today, and it was near the projects.
Now property values have gone up around that area and the land has become more valuable. So they want to put the skateboarders on a reservation a little farther north with the promise of its being a really great skating environment. But that's not why we skate the "bowl"! We like its 1970s style, the concrete is a little rougher, and it wasn't designed for today's street skater. The bowl still has surfing in its bones; you can just roll down and catch the concrete wave. Its simplicity has made it iconic. It even appears in Tony Hawk's video game. Everybody who's anybody in skateboarding has heard of the Bro Bowl worldwide!
The frustrating part for me as a black citizen is to hear all this talk of slaves, "the Scrub" and the Central Avenue heydays. It's disrespectful for any black leaders who stand to profit from big developers to invoke any of that. Why didn't they try to save all of Central Avenue when they had the opportunity, like the Latin community did for Seventh Avenue in Ybor?
The descendants of many sides of Tampa's communities enjoy the Bro Bowl daily. It's been a bridge to two different communities to unite through the love of skateboarding for over 35 years.
The black history of that area was destroyed many years ago, and having a few streets named after musicians will not create the unity that the bowl provides.
Cleo Coney, St. Petersburg (July 24)
Detroit, the new Greece | July 23, column
UAW largely broke Detroit's back
Paul Krugman asserts that the Detroit tragedy debate has been hijacked by people who would liken the issue to the Greece crisis. Krugman himself hijacks the debate by asserting that market forces brought about the automobile industry decline. Not so! It was UAW excesses and government actions (local, state and federal) that brought about the demise.
• Federal law required the Big Three to recognize and deal exclusively with the UAW, which would then sequentially "target" them for strike action, relying upon loss of market share as a threat to bring the selected company to terms.
• Michigan law allows for a "union shop," which furthered strengthened the UAW's hand.
When I worked in the auto plants:
• I witnessed numerous acts of sabotage by fellow union workers (e.g., pouring nuts and bolts into crevices of auto bodies, assuring a lifelong rattle). When workers were infrequently caught in the act, they were fired — only to be reinstated after wildcat strikes devoted to such reinstatements. The same was true for workers caught being drunk/drinking on the job.
• Walkouts occurred in the summer because "it was too hot to work." Sabotage of the numerous fans on the production line was a factor, as were windows that were broken. The walkouts correlated strongly with days on which the New York Yankees visited the Detroit Tigers for baseball.
• Walkouts occurred in the winter because the plant temperature was too low. You guessed it — broken windows were still in abundance.
• In the '70s, Detroit made enormous investments in automatic tooling for engine production (as a means of offsetting the competition's lower operating costs). Congress soon followed with pollution reduction requirements that obsoleted the engine and tooling; it gave the Japanese/Honda stratified charge engine a real opening. To amortize the tooling investment, Big Three management continued with the existing engine design/tooling and used Band-Aid expedients, like feedback hoses from exhaust back to combustion. Poor performance resulted (I recall my 1975 Chevy having significant "hesitation" in response to accelerator pedal commands). This is the origin of the "American cars are no good" propaganda — furthered by some bombs like the Chevette and Edsel. These bombs and some management compensation excesses are valid criticisms, but their real effect is negligible compared the previously delineated considerations.
Donald Barnhill, Trinity (July 29)
Mosaic pumps water to dilute waste | July 21
Abuse of resources
I give up. If Mosaic is pumping 70 million gallons a day from our aquifer (and returning polluted water to streams in its place), how can it matter if I turn off the water while I brush my teeth, or collect rainwater to use on my garden?
This is such an egregious abuse of public resources, and it is allowed by the fine folks at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. We have given away the farm.
Laura Vickers, Tampa (July 31)