Dear President Obama: You lied | Nov. 14, commentary
Liberal columnist tells it like it is
Although I am a conservative Republican who seldom agrees with Leonard Pitts Jr., I feel compelled to compliment him and express my respect for this column. Not only because I agree with him that the president repeatedly lied to the America people, but also because he is the first and only liberal columnist I have read in the Tampa Bay Times who has had the courage and integrity to criticize the president when it is deserved.
Compare this to the silence on Obama's lying from the likes of Sue Carlton, John Romano, Daniel Ruth and the rest of the Times staff writers who would rather chew off their own fingers than type anything negative about their idol. None of them hesitate to bash Rick Scott, Marco Rubio or anyone else with an "R" behind their name at the drop of a hat, but they all develop writer's block when it comes to even acknowledging that there might have been some kind of minor dust-up regarding their superhero. Thank you, Mr. Pitts.
Ted Milios, Hudson
As reform stalls, lives left in limbo | Nov. 17
Lawful and lawbreakers
This article left me with several questions. First, if Jose Castillo was able to acquire a contractor's license, why couldn't he immigrate to this country legally? Both require a great deal of time and money. How was he able to receive a contractor's license without legal status in our country? Were his employees required to file I-9's like every citizen?
Why is Julio Calderon more entitled to an education (implied by the tone of the article) than any citizen? Why do people who have broken the laws of our country believe that we owe them consideration? Why do we have to make room, and jobs, for these lawbreakers when we still have unemployment and lack of opportunity for citizens? I can't find it in me to have sympathy for someone who doesn't comply with the very laws that I have to follow every day.
Michael Rice, Clearwater
What 22 icons of Tampa Bay tell us about us Nov. 17, Robert Trigaux column
Boosting graduation rates
Thanks to Times business columnist Robert Trigaux for highlighting the University of South Florida in this column. At USF, we agree that our graduation rate is vitally important to the success of the Tampa Bay region. That's why we've focused so much attention and resources on raising it — and doing so quickly.
USF's graduation rate has risen 15 points in the last five years. Now at 63 percent, USF has the third-fastest-growing graduation rate among research universities nationwide. We carefully examined the impediments to graduation for USF students — 40 percent of whom are either the first in their families to attend college or who rely on federal Pell Grants to support their education — and designed academic advising, tutoring, financial aid and student support initiatives to keep them on track to graduation. Moreover, our faculty engaged in multiple projects with local schools to improve science, technology, engineering and math teaching and curriculum so students arrive at college better prepared to succeed.
Urban research universities across the nation are working hard on raising graduation rates — which historically are lower than those at older, land grant institutions — in full recognition that our nation's cities are the generators of economic activity of the future. The Tampa Bay region indeed has an exciting future ahead, and USF students and graduates are a major force propelling this upward momentum.
Judy Genshaft, president, University of South Florida System, Tampa
Risks on the roads
If the Florida Legislature could be sued for negligence, a good case might be for failure to ban the use of cellphones while driving. It is true they recently passed a weak law regarding texting while driving, but the use of cellphones by drivers has reached epidemic proportions.
I am amazed at the number of people engaged in cell conversations while driving a vehicle. Recently I saw one woman with a cellphone in one hand and using her other hand for a cigarette while also making gestures. Presumably she was using her knees to hold the steering wheel.
The number of deaths due to cellphone usage while driving is climbing at a steady rate. Meanwhile, it appears that cellphone lobbies make sure our representatives give them preference over the people. The Legislature should do its job and legislate for the safety of the people.
Walt Seely, Riverview
Florida reaches tourism record and Americans pay less for sugar Nov. 16-17
On the low road to jobs
Gov. Rick Scott touts the record-setting tourism summer season with 22.9 million visitors between July and September. U.S. Sugar's senior vice president boasts that Florida's sugar industry provides $3 billion a year to Florida's economy. One might conclude that these two industries are the bedrock of a vibrant Florida economy.
While they may be a staple in Florida's economy, they are indicative of an economy "built on the cheap." A vibrant economy attracts high-paying jobs and new residents with above-average net worth.
Both sugar and tourism provide thousands of low-wage jobs and do little to create an above-average tax base that is necessary to build a first-class educational system, an effective transportation system, and funding to protect Florida's fragile environment.
The 22.9 million tourists is an average of 7 million visitors a month added to Florida's population of 19 million. That is effectively 26 million people consuming Florida's scarce water resources, impacting the solid waste and waste water systems. Many Florida highways are highly congested because there are insufficient funds to improve capacity and build a multimodal transportation system.
Florida must invest in education, infrastructure and the environment, which will attract higher-paying jobs.
Donald R. Crane Jr., St. Petersburg