Rail project would boost quality of life
The Tampa Bay chapter's board of directors of the American Institute of Architects strongly objects to Gov. Rick Scott's decision to reject federal funding for high-speed rail in our state. As architects who care about the quality of our built environment, we can envision our great state with less congestion and safer and cleaner air through the development of a statewide intermodal transportation system.
The decision to forgo billions of dollars appropriated to high-speed rail is misguided and shortsighted. High-speed rail will provide a safe, efficient and sustainable transportation alternative for Florida's citizens and visitors. This is not just a political issue; it is a quality of life and economic growth issue that will help our state recover in a time of recession.
The governor is wrong to suggest that federal funding appropriated for high-speed rail can be used for other transportation projects. Widening highways will only continue to fragment our cities, increase congestion, add to traffic problems and make it even more difficult to safely travel in our state.
This is a missed opportunity to create thousands of jobs and stimulate economic development for our region.
Antonio J. Amadeo, president, AIA Tampa Bay, Tampa
Focus on jobs
I campaigned and voted for Rick Scott and support many of his positions. That said, I disagree with his position on high-speed rail.
The federal government will still spend that $2.4 billion — they will just be spending it in California instead of Florida. We already own the 84-mile right of way, and it looks like taxpayer exposure to overruns is fairly limited.
I live near Tampa, and the reason so many of us voted for Scott was because of his strong focus on jobs. This rail will create jobs both directly and indirectly through transcity commerce and ease of transit for vacationers. We need to jump-start our economy, and this is a great tool to do it with. Even if there is some taxpayer exposure, it still makes sense in this struggling market.
Scot H. Nichols, Brandon
BayCare expands in size, power | Feb. 21
Corporations serve the bottom line first
As a onetime hospital administrator, I question whether patients are the beneficiaries of BayCare's growth and expansion, or perhaps its victims.
As a newcomer to practice in 1949, I treated patients of a health maintenance organization. I had to end the agreement after three months because the volume they required did not allow good care for their patients or my others.
I later served in a teaching hospital that provided service to an insured population. In order to provide quality care rather than the minimum covered by the insurance contract, the institution subsidized the activity by $500,000 to $750,000 annually, in 1970 dollars. When the hospital could no longer afford those sums, it withdrew from the program rather than lower its standards.
My experience as a "provider" has been augmented by limited experience as a patient and that related by others of my generation. We have the distinct advantage of progress in medical science, but we have lost personal relationships with our doctors and our trust in them.
Corporations exist to grow and to produce increasing profits. Conspicuous and costly medical advertising, a necessity in corporate competition, was among the wise taboos of bygone years. Widespread today, and often misleading, it has increased the cost of care with no improvement in its quality.
Conglomerates, trusts and monopolies often thrive at the expense of the public. In medicine, they may also enhance the life of their doctors, but they are a disservice to the public.
Seymour S. Bluestone, Clearwater
Like it or not, AARP is running the country Feb. 21, commentary
Elderly aren't the problem
Columnist Robert Samuelson, who blames America's economic problems on AARP, Social Security and Medicare, is way off base.
Programs that give our elderly and disabled a living income and medical care are not bankrupting America. The superrich and the defense industry are running this country, not AARP.
Nowhere in his column does he mention that our financial crisis bloomed after policies were put in place to cut taxes for the rich and give the Pentagon everything it asked for.
Janice Josephine Carney, Tampa
Unions begin with good intentions but eventually become a parasite to their host, and only when their rapacious appetite begins to threaten the death of their host do they give back, and then only conditionally.
It is ironic that unions generally collectively bargain their way to their own demise from greed. Arguably, unions shaped our safe and fair workplace, but today there are very few mistreatment issues left. Now it is all about preserving the power of the union, political clout and continually asking for more and more, deserved or not.
The United Auto Workers learned some hard lessons in the last decade: that they were powerless to stop outsourcing and offshoring, and that the goose that laid the golden egg could simply collapse and die. They are a very different and better union today than they were in the '60s and '70s.
Public unions are going to have to learn the same lessons. Granted, Wisconsin can't outsource teaching or move its operations to Mexico. But just like GM, the state, at some stress point, has to demand major concessions out of self-preservation and fiscal prudence. The union wants no part of giving back anything. It simply continues to try to take more and more, and to leverage its bargaining with the threat of shutdown and political ruin.
Additionally, I don't believe any government should be in the business of collecting union dues, a glaring example of union greed and fear. If a worker wants to belong to a union, he or she can send a check or set up an automatic debit. Are the unions afraid that their members may begin to question the value of the services provided?
Most of the state and federal unions are at the bursting point of demand on a strained system, and if they don't want to negotiate to help out their city, county, state or country, they should walk out. If they do, they should remember what happened to the air traffic controllers' union a few years back.
The unions in Wisconsin aren't losing any pay or pension or holidays, they're just losing future bargaining chips that shouldn't have been offered by the state to begin with.
Mike Blowers, Largo
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says states have to renege on their obligations "because they just don't have the money."
Isn't this the very reason homeowners are getting kicked out of their homes and losing their credit? They just don't have the money. If this is a valid excuse for governments to bail out on legal obligations, where does it end? Can I just decide I can't pay my bills because "I just don't have the money"?
Of course, the money exists; it is just politically inconvenient to raise taxes on those who have the most money.
And if it weren't for labor unions' collective bargaining, all the power to call the shots and bail out on obligations would be with the states and corporations. It is only the unions that have enough power to force employers to treat employees fairly. History has shown us that.
I don't think I like where this sort of rationalization of dishonor and irresponsibility is leading the United States.
Michael Otto, Oldsmar
The people of Wisconsin have finally responded to a process that's been on going for years. I call it the Republican two-step. It works like this:
Step 1: Cut taxes for the rich. This, of course, creates huge budget deficits.
Step 2: Use these budget deficits as an excuse to cut programs benefitting the poor and middle class.
Republicans justify the two-step with nonsense like this: "It's the rich who create jobs." This is absolutely true. They create jobs in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc., just not in the United States.
The Republican two-step has been incredibly successful. The middle class is shrinking by leaps and bounds. There's a corresponding growth of the numbers in poverty. And the rich are the richest ever, with wealth inequity at an all-time high. The Republican two-step is rapidly turning us into a nation of haves and have nots.
Robert Lloyd, Ruskin