Scott puts politics on the bench | Nov. 4, editorial
Governor's central role in judiciary
The Times editorial criticizing Gov. Rick Scott for rejecting the Florida Bar's slate of Judicial Nominating Commission members incorrectly points the finger at politics.
The governor's power to make appointments is central to the role of the executive. As part of our system of government, any governor "checks and balances" the courts by choosing the judges in the first place, according to the philosophies expressed by the will of the people who voted.
Real judicial independence means deciding cases fairly and impartially, relying only on the facts and the law, and without fear of political repercussions. For instance, a governor cannot "fire" a judge for issuing an unpopular opinion, and District Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judges can remain on the bench essentially for life, subject only to a merit retention vote that no judge has ever lost.
The truth is that no matter how judges accede to the bench, their view of the role of the judiciary inevitably plays into their rulings. The question is whether our system should allow any unelected group of individuals to "choose the choosers" and substitute their opinion for the opinion of a duly elected official.
For instance, President Barack Obama appointed two U.S. Supreme Court judges without a nominating commission or formal role for the American Bar Association. Would the Times suggest that his appointments threaten the U.S. Supreme Court's independence?
Being a member of the Florida Bar does not automatically make someone a duly elected government official. In order to preserve the "check" on the judiciary, the power to make appointments must start and finish with someone elected by the people. That is exactly what Scott is doing. If he didn't exercise this authority, he wouldn't be fulfilling the role of chief executive.
William Large, president, Florida Justice Reform Institute, Tallahassee
How Florida kept blacks from voting Oct. 20, Perspective
Sad history revisited
The series of articles about the history of voter suppression of blacks in Florida was a great service to the state. It was timely, appropriate, shocking and revealing. It is a shameful and sad history, and we continue to be living it with the purges and rules enacted recently to address a nonexistent problem of voter fraud.
Republicans around the country have admitted they prefer to disenfranchise as many minorities as possible rather than govern in a way that would get their support in elections. It is like a business that is all for free-market competition as long as the market can be rigged to keep competitors at a disadvantage.
Guy Hancock, Largo
Training the drivers
When drivers learn that a yellow light means begin braking instead of accelerating, St. Petersburg streets will be a safer place. If red-light cameras add to city funds during the time required to develop this habit, then so be it.
Lillian Lee, St. Petersburg
Florida needs container law
Florida touts tourism, yet its beaches, streams and roadsides are littered with discarded containers. One sees few beer, water and soda bottles in Michigan and Hawaii. These two states have container deposit laws or bottle bills that mandate a 10-cent or 5-cent refundable deposit on most consumer beverage containers.
Why doesn't Florida have similar legislation? Millions of marine animals are killed yearly by plastic pollutants that collect in our oceans. These oil-rich plastics will take unknown eons to degrade from our environments and landfills.
If no bottle bill, why not mandate a ban on consumer products that can be easily replaced with biodegradable and natural materials?
Stanley Cole, Palm Harbor
Securities bundle rentals | Nov. 1
Worth a closer look
The ratings agencies should look closer at this type of securities bundle. It is a disaster in the making. Many affordable homes were snatched up by these investors, locking out those of us who were looking to purchase homes. This mad scramble by investors caused home prices to skyrocket, making it look like the housing bubble again.
Investors should get facts and figures to verify how many of these purchases are actually rented.
Jane Kisluk, Seminole
State preterm birth rate up | Nov. 1
Healthy mothers, babies
I read with concern the news that Florida has earned a "D" on the latest March of Dimes report card for premature birth rates.
Countering this trend in 2012, 36 of 38 children born to residents of Alpha House of Tampa were at or above the normal/appropriate birth weight. (The two babies born below normal birth weight were twins.) According to a 2010 March of Dimes study, each healthy birth saves the community $29,000 in public health care costs.
Alpha House of Tampa offers homeless pregnant women and mothers with young children safe housing and the tools they need to become self-sufficient and effective, responsible parents. Staff members work closely with each mother to ensure she receives the prenatal care needed to help reduce the risk of preterm birth.
We will continue working with our partners at the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, Healthy Start Coalition Hillsborough County and Healthy Families Hillsborough to provide the support and services our residents need.
Tonja Brickhouse, president, board of directors, Alpha House of Tampa, Tampa