Keep county's toll dollars in community
Last week an omnibus budget bill, SB 2152, was passed in the Florida Senate that would fold the assets of the Tampa Hillsborough County Expressway Authority into the Florida Turnpike Enterprise. This ill-conceived proposal would remove local control of our transportation improvement projects and send our toll revenue to state coffers instead of investing locally generated revenue in our own community.
The authority collects and reinvests 100 percent of toll revenue back into Hillsborough County. It is governed by a board of directors composed of local elected officials and community leaders who understand our needs.
The budget bill would increase the likelihood of toll increases in the Tampa Bay area. The Selmon Expressway alone could face a rate increase of 33 percent by 2012. SB 2152 removes the 20 percent discount for using SunPass and allows for a 13 percent increase through retroactive toll rate indexing.
A further hit to the local economy would come from the loss of jobs that the authority creates. Currently, the authority has a project that will generate up to 1,500 local jobs. The current legislative proposal is placing that project at risk.
SB 2152 would move the transportation needs of Tampa Bay into a waiting line, placing us behind the "priority" of other regions of Florida.
Please join the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce in opposition to this shortsighted legislation.
Bob Rohrlack Jr., president, CEO, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce
Ethical cloud over governor finally lifted April 15, editorial
Profiting and cashing out
I don't know that I would agree with your editorial stating that the ethics cloud has been lifted from Gov. Rick Scott with the sale of his Solantic shares to a New York Investment group.
Most financial advisers would assume his share price included a generous premium because of the anticipated revenue growth arising from pending legislation the governor has indicated he will sign. It sounds like he merely frontloaded his financial gain and at the same time got the story off the front page of the Times.
The governor has pledged transparency. Can we see the financials of this deal?
Chris Youhn, Webster
Excuses can't change facts | April 16, editorial
Problem relying on grades
Your editorial claims that I "defended failure." This is untrue.
I did speak up to criticize Florida Board of Education member Kathleen Shanahan. She repeatedly said, "Nobody should have to attend a D or F school." I pointed out that school grades fail to give a valid assessment of teaching and learning in any particular school.
As an example, I mentioned the fact that Gibbs High School was rated an F in 2009 and C in 2010. In 2009, grades were based almost exclusively on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores. In 2010, about 50 percent of the grades were based on graduation rates, Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses, and on college ready tests. The grade depends on what is measured.
Gibbs has two magnet programs — the nationally recognized Pinellas County Center for the Arts and the Business, Economics and Technology Career Academy, which has been designated as a center of excellence. Although there has been some improvement in graduation rates, Gibbs nonmagnet black students have continued to have very low FCAT proficiency levels.
We all need to focus on helping struggling students learn what they need for success. Rating schools with letter grades is a distraction from the problem.
Linda Lerner, member, Pinellas County School Board, Seminole
It's not Dodge City
I am licensed to carry a concealed weapon and am a member of the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.
I am not in favor of open carry. This is not Dodge City, and I am not a cowboy. I carry for a reason: to protect myself and my loved ones. God forbid that I should ever have to draw my weapon, but if provoked, I certainly will.
I do not choose to let an aggressor know that I am armed until I am forced to display my weapon. Until then, the fact that I am armed is between me, the police and the state of Florida.
Donald J. Krako, Tarpon Springs
Court upholds limit to feeding | April 15
Restrict public feeding
I would urge St. Petersburg officials to follow the lead of Orlando in restricting feeding people in public.
I understand that the Rev. Bruce Wright, who runs a feeding program on Thursdays in Williams Park, has a different opinion. So why don't the reverend and other like-minded people have the homeless over to their house for a meal?
Williams Park and other public places are for everyone to enjoy. Restrictions apply to how long you can park next to the park; why not restrictions about what can go on in the park?
It's too bad that behavior such as public intoxication, urination and panhandling have made St. Petersburg less appealing. These acts are surely not in the best interests of the entire community.
Barry Koestler, St. Petersburg
Fired administrator is back at the trough April 18, editorial
A matter of obligation
You urge Hillsborough County commissioners not to award Pat Bean severance pay. This is not a choice for the commissioners. It is a matter of obligation.
Bean had a contract that entitled her to severance pay if not discharged for misconduct. A review questioned her judgment but fell short of finding misconduct meriting discharge. By law, she is entitled to the money.
Whether the commission or the Times approved of her performance is not the issue. Contracts supersede the preferences of administrators.
Alan Balfour, Tampa
Networks burst soap operas' bubble April 15
Soaps to learn from
To viewers mourning the death of a favorite soap opera, I suggest switching to a Spanish-language station and watching one of the many telenovelas on those channels. At least there will be an educational element to your daily habit.
Tom Santee, St. Petersburg