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 May 2013 by reading through the three nominated letters and voting on the ballot at the bottom of the web page.
Impasse could cost businesses | May 5
Blind to citizens' needs
Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, is quoted as saying that he had little concern for "somebody who is an adult and chooses to sit on the couch." Thus he justified refusal of federal funds to expand Medicaid.
I, in turn, have little respect for politicians who deliberately wear blinders so as to deny reality and justify their votes based on ideology rather than the needs and wishes of their constituents.
Yes, of course, there are some freeloaders who would benefit by the expansion of Medicaid. Is this sufficient reason to leave the working poor without health care? The working poor have no access to medical care except by means of hospital emergency rooms. They can't afford ongoing care.
Nursing homes and many other employers are careful to hire only part-time workers who work less than full-time. As part-timers, they are not entitled to any benefits.
A typical example would be a woman of 50 who works as a nurse's aide, earning a little over minimum wage after years on the job. She works hard. Now she is developing health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, slipped disk from lifting patients, etc. But she can't afford treatment. She earns barely enough to pay her rent, utilities and groceries. Her youngest child is now over 18, so she does not qualify for Medicaid. There are very few insurance companies that offer individual policies, and their premiums are far beyond her ability to pay.
This woman's name is Legion. She (or he) is your cashier in chain stores and convenience stores. She can be found working as an aide in health care fields. She takes care of the physical needs of your elderly parent in the nursing home. But she has no access to medical care for herself.
"None are so blind as those who refuse to see." This adage applies to House Speaker Will Weatherford, Gaetz and other politicians who could easily acquaint themselves with reality. Their chosen blindness enables them to deny the urgent need for medical care by a large segment of Floridians.
Anne Rost, Clearwater (May 11)
Even in surplus, few mercies | May 21
I am deeply saddened by Gov. Rick Scott's decision to veto $1.3 million in funding for a Metropolitan Ministries transitional housing facility. Scott's campaign motto was "Let's get to work," and his priority during the budget process was, "Is it going to help our families get more jobs?" The construction of the facility would have created hundreds of jobs for the struggling residents of Pasco County. The facility would also have provided job training, which would help the homeless to obtain gainful employment in our communities.
The issue of homelessness is very near to my heart. For over two years, I was part of a homeless ministry in Port Richey. Our ministry was small, which allowed us to really connect with the homeless on a personal level and minister to them.
I believe the general public has an overall negative and tainted view regarding the homeless. Most of them are just looking for someone to talk to and for someone who would recognize that they are real people just like the rest of us, but who were unfortunate enough to have been dealt various life challenges.
Judy Prine, New Port Richey (May 24)
What I learned in Cuba | May 19, Perspective
Puerto Rican rights
Although I agree with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor on establishing better relations with Cuba, I think that a larger injustice is being overlooked regarding Cuba's sister island of Puerto Rico. The history of these two Caribbean islands is intertwined. Although the United States let one achieve its independence and the other not, there exists still a degree of solidarity among its people.
I was born and lived in San Juan through the civil unrest of the '60s in a Puerto Rico where just displaying the Puerto Rican flag assured you a spot in the infamous police dossiers along with the "radical" independence advocates. Now the party that promotes statehood is using the argument, used by those '60s "radicals," that Puerto Rico is a colony and we are second-class U.S. citizens.
Citizenship was granted by the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917, and Puerto Ricans have been fighting in wars and conflicts for the United States ever since. Nevertheless we are still treated as second-class citizens since we are unable to vote for president and do not have representation in Congress.
I am afraid that the latest attempt at resolving the status issue (HR 2000) will end up once again in the to-do pile of Washington's bureaucracy. Yes, Rep. Castor, let's fix Cuba; but first look into your own back yard and allow Puerto Ricans the right to choose their own destiny.
Victor J. Cruz, Tampa (May 25)