Saturday, June 23, 2018
Letters To The Editor

Wednesday's letters: SeaWorld has excellent record of caring for animals

Help choose Letter of the Month

Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a Letter of the Month, and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year.

Help us choose from the nominations for letter of the month for August by visiting the website listed below. Read through the three letters and vote on the ballot at the bottom of the Web page by Friday. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style. The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly help.

To see the three August nominees and vote, go to

Money talks as public alerted to orcas' plight Aug. 20, commentary

Record of caring for wildlife

Media attention over the past 18 months has been focused on SeaWorld and a film called Blackfish. Much of it, including Carl Hiaasen's recent column published in the Times, does a disservice to the 1,500 dedicated zoological professionals who care for animals at SeaWorld. Our team shares a single focus: promoting the health and well-being of the animals that live within our parks and the thousands of animals we rescue.

I have enjoyed much of Hiaasen's writing. Like us, he is a champion of Florida wildlife. I think he would be gratified to learn that right now, endangered Florida species like manatees and gopher tortoises are being nursed back to health at SeaWorld and prepared for a return to the wild. We are also investing millions of dollars, in addition to our own hard work, in conservation efforts worldwide. SeaWorld is engaged in science to enhance understanding of killer whales and other animals that helps us to advance their care and conservation.

I can unequivocally state that the animals in our parks are thriving, both mentally and physically. More than 80 percent of the whales and dolphins that live in our parks today were born here. Our world is nothing like the image portrayed by the film.

For five decades, SeaWorld has provided experiences that bring families and animals together in ways that are inspiring and educational. If there is a greater awareness of the fascinating animals of our oceans — and a greater sensitivity to the challenges they face in an increasingly imperiled world — surely even Hiaasen would acknowledge that some of the credit belongs to SeaWorld.

Dr. Chris Dold, vice president of veterinary services, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Orlando

No Syria ISIS plan yet, Obama says | Aug. 29

Tentative, ineffective policy

President Barack Obama's admission that he has not yet formed a "strategy" in dealing with ISIS terrorists in Syria should have been no surprise given the many tentative and contradictory foreign policy decisions he has made since taking office. It is no wonder that our allies view the United States as basically rudderless in the sea of potentially explosive situations that exist throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.

As a result of Obama's hollow threats of "drawing a line in the sand" in Syria, his "serious concerns" about Russian hegemony in the Ukraine, and his incomprehensible reaction to Hamas' random bombing attacks against Israel, our enemies have simply stopped paying attention to the chatter coming from the White House.

In response, Egypt has now assumed responsibility for brokering a cease-fire in Gaza, Russia has invaded Ukraine and ISIS has murdered U.S. citizens before a worldwide audience.

One can only conclude that the president has decided to cede our role as a world leader and passively stand by in hopes that NATO forges an acceptable "consensus" that will give the president and the Democrats political cover as the midterm elections approach.

The problem is, fellow Democrats such as Bill Nelson are rightfully calling for clear policies and decisive actions to prevent further genocide by ISIS and protect our interests abroad. The "finger in the air, toe in the water" foreign policy practiced in the White House must stop.

Robert E. Heyman, St. Petersburg

Health site serves only 30 | Aug. 29

Worse than wasteful

My response to this report on the status of Florida Health Choices was a mix of outright hilarity, followed by utter disgust and ending with a deep sense of sadness and shame.

The Legislature rejected the federal program of health insurance subsidy. Florida Health Choice was created as the alternative and has signed up 30 people. Thirty — in six months! That leaves 764,000 poor people with no health coverage and lets federal funds go by the board. It's utterly ridiculous, but there's more. The chief proponent of Florida's plan, state Sen. Aaron Bean, says the state "wanted more business, but the competition is giving it away for free." What did he expect?

And the CEO hired to manage Health Choices says, "We are going to continue to grow and learn about our customers" — all 30 of them — "and enhance the platform." This is the management plan offered by a person being paid $126,000 to cover 30 people. It is absurd, horrendously wasteful and worse than naive to expect Health Choices to ever amount to anything. And in the meantime, 764,000 people are left high and dry, all in the interest of playing politics to avoid federal funds available to help them.

Gary Bullock, Palm Harbor

Expand Medicaid instead

Florida Health Choices claims to help those who do not qualify for Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act. However, only 30 people out of the 764,000 without health insurance in Florida are getting help, and the only "insurance" available is discount plans for things like dental visits, prescription drugs and eyeglasses. No doctor, hospital, clinic or therapy fees are covered. And this costs $126,000 for the CEO and $55,000 for the administrative manager, plus $1,500 per month for the website. By my math, that equals $6,634 in our taxes paid for each of the 30 people enrolled for one year. And each person also pays premiums for the discount plans out of their own pocket.

To me, it would be better to not use any of my Florida taxes for Florida Health Choices and just take $51 billion from federal taxes to which I contribute to expand Medicaid in Florida and get hundreds of thousands of Floridians real health insurance.

Esther Kirk, Riverview


Monday’s letters: College instructors need classes in active shooter training

Active shooter perceptions disproven | June 21We need active shooter trainingThe only guns that I had seen before coming to the United States of America were in glass cases in museums. When I came to America to get a Ph.D. in English at the Unive...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Friday’s letters: What a new Rays ballpark would mean

Rays exec hints at stadium timeline | June 15What a new ballpark would doThe Tampa Bay Rays 2020 organization is working diligently with local business leaders and civic organizations to rally support for the Rays’ new ballpark in Ybor City. The ...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Thursday’s letters: On immigration there has to be a better way

‘Zero tolerance’ ignites outrage | June 20Find better way on immigrationOver the years I’ve voted for candidates from both parties. My observation of the Trump administration’s policy on immigration is not about politics. It has to do with having...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18

Wednesday’s letters: Charters and traditional public schools each have their place

Public school as public good | Letter, June 17Both kinds of schools can workAs a mother and grandmother of children raised in both traditional public and charter schools in Pinellas County (and a 25-year supporting-services employee for public sc...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18

Tuesday’s letters: Keep programs that fight AIDS

For author Biden, it’s a father’s gift | June 6Keep programs that fight AIDSAfter former Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to St. Petersburg, I noticed an article that he co-wrote with former Sen. Bill Frist. It reminded everyone about the ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Is anyone watching the money?Hernando County’s budget shortfall is ever changing going from $6 million to $11.5 million to $14 million to what is assumed a final number of $12.6 million. Who knows the budget shortfall could change again.Who’s watchi...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18

Re: County OKs solar zones | June 8Plea ignored at solar plant hearingThe Pasco County Commission on June 5 voted to identify a utility-sized solar electric plant as a "special exception" use on agricultural-zoned land in Pasco County. What thi...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18

Monday’s letters: Skip those plastic bags and save the environment

To save our seas, overcome congressional apathy | Column, June 16Do your part and skip plastic bagsEvery day we read about the shame of our landfills and oceans filling up with plastic bags, yet most people don’t care. My wife and I always carry ...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/18/18

White House defends splitting up families as ‘biblical’ | June 15The suffering of the childrenI am a mother and attorney with more than 20 years of practice living in Tampa. For the past three years, I worked as a magistrate in a Unified Family C...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Saturday’s letters: Community-based care requires community involvement

Fix foster care, and do it quickly | Editorial, June 15Involve the community itselfWhile the detailed article about the scathing state review of Hillsborough County’s foster care problems touched on leadership, a critical point was not addressed....
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18