Diversity council accepts new test | Aug. 25Leave hate behind, HillsboroughThe appointment of a controversial Confederate activist to the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council as a representative of Europe is not only a slap in the face to the people who serve on the council but also a slap in the face of Europeans.A European perspective would appreciate the suffering and destruction caused by the idea of racial supremacy. It didn't start with concentration camps. It started with dehumanizing segments of the population. Remember the "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia only 25 years ago? To Europeans, that's not long ago in a kingdom far away. That's in our lifetimes within easy driving distance.A European would not post pictures of elected officials on a list of "Heritage Haters." Europeans remember the "we know where you live" tactic as a way of squashing dissent and intimidating citizens who would stand up for their neighbors. Labor leaders, journalists, pastors, nuns — all enemies of the people — were deemed "haters." Europeans would not invoke "war" to attract donors for fundraisers, particularly in a climate where terrorists drive cars into crowds. This has nothing to do with honoring the fallen.Europeans, too, remember the fallen. Europe is still healing. The families of victims and perpetrators are still healing. Heritage is responsibility. Never again. Healing gives way to a future in which people live together in dignity; where people are not afraid to speak for a cause they believe in. The cause of removing the Confederate memorial proved so popular that the community raised a lot of money to ensure its success. Why? Because Hillsborough County, too, wants to heal — to go forward. It's time.This is what the people want: history in a museum in context, and respect for the members of the Diversity Council, who volunteer their time to help Hillsborough County go forward. They deserve better.Norma Henning, TampaAutonomous vehiclesAdd mobility for seniorsThe Senate, specifically Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is perfectly positioned to enhance the lives of millions of Florida's seniors by passing a clear and unified autonomous vehicle bill — unlocking mobility for all Americans. In July the House, in a unanimous and bipartisan vote, moved AV legislation out of committee, 54-0.When appropriately regulated by Congress, AVs hold the key to remedying access issues. In a state with 20 percent of the population over 65, the highest proportion in the country, Florida's seniors faces various hurdles, ranging from the inability to acquire a license to being limited to vehicles that were not designed to accommodate wheelchairs or other forms of assistance.AVs present a unique opportunity for automakers to redesign vehicles from the ground up. These new designs and technology would allow our retirees to participate more fully in society, enriching their lives by helping them continue their independent activities such as grocery shopping, going to church and visiting friends.AVs also provide an opportunity to increase road safety. In 2015, 539 Floridian over-65s died in road accidents, the highest number in the country, and we're the No. 1 state for pedestrian fatalities each year. With AVs at the helm we can decrease roadway fatalities while simultaneously increasing safe mobility options for all Floridians.But these benefits would only be realized with smart policy that reduces outdated regulatory barriers that prevent automakers from creating new vehicles designed with safety, simplicity and accessibility in mind — likely saving money in the process.As leaders of a seniors' organization, and as Floridians ourselves, the time is now for Congress and Sen. Nelson to pass AV laws to speed up the safe deployment of this technology, enhancing quality of life for all.Jim Martin and Pat Boone, Alexandria, Va.Jim Martin is a former newspaper reporter and graduate of the University of Florida. He is the founder and chairman of the 60 Plus Association, an organization of 7 million seniors, with 1 million in the Sunshine State. Entertainer Pat Boone is national spokesman for 60 Plus. He and his wife, Shirley, reside in Beverly Hills, Calif., but Pat was born in Jacksonville.Small businessBill safeguards franchisesAs the second-generation operator of a family-owned small business, I know how important it is for Florida's small business owners and their investments to be protected. An important legislative proposal will provide basic protections to enable business owners throughout the state to continue to grow and thrive in Florida's economy.There are more than 40,000 franchised small businesses in Florida employing over 400,000 people, providing a $35 billion impact on Florida's local economy. As the backbone of our state's economy, these business owners deserve basic protections under the law. The proposed Protect Florida Small Business Act provides Florida franchise owners with protection from unfair terminations by corporate franchisors, allowing them to sell their franchise and supplies for fair market value, and would give Florida courts jurisdiction in any dispute that arises between a Florida franchise operator and corporate franchisors. These protections will encourage even more Floridians to invest their dollars in businesses that will grow the economy and create jobs.As business owners, we want the confidence that our investments will be protected so we can focus on serving our communities and providing secure and stable jobs to our employees. Florida business owners should not be at risk of losing their life savings because of policy made by corporations thousands of miles away. The legislation will not only protect current Florida small business owners and their investments, it will provide the encouragement and stability to attract new investments and small business opportunities to our state.Florida is a great state in which to live and work, and we must continue to do all we can to support and protect our small businesses.Meg Mairn, Pinellas ParkThe writer is the franchise owner of Griswold Home Care in Pinellas Park.