DCF secretary steps down | Dec. 2
It's frustrating to see scapegoats carry the burden for a cheap Legislature and an administration that continues to shrink resources to human services in the state of Florida (based on cost of living index). When compared to other states, our record for funding children's programs remains abysmal.
Lucy Hadi has been a public servant under three governors and deserves better than the beating she has taken for the failure of the Florida Legislature and this governor to provide adequate dollars for the Department of Children and Families.
In all fairness, doing things on the cheap for our children has a history going back to before our current governor took office. None of our legislators has clean hands on the chronic underfunding of our most precious citizens.
Luci Hadi is a hero, as are so many other state employees who try to make things work with limited allocations. It's time to admit whether you call the agency HRS, DCF or privatized services; if the funding is not there, the problems remain. The judge should put the blame where it belongs: on our elected officials.
Marc J. Yacht, M.D., Hudson
A governor's failure | Dec. 2
The Times' editorial is on the money in this legal quagmire! Both the judge and the public defender obviously acted in the best interest of the severely mentally ill inmates with understandable frustration. And an equally frustrated public servant resigned.
Anyone in public service in Florida surely must have empathy for these three individuals when a major element of this case is beyond the practical control of them all.
When the control of the state's funds are in the hands of both the two other branches of this state government, when the concern appears to be more for the payback of their party contributors in tax cuts, it should not be surprising that the most vulnerable citizens in this state are overlooked.
Russell Lee Johnson, St. Petersburg
A governor's failure | Dec. 2
Law applies to all
As a lawyer and an advocate for persons with disabilities, I applaud the courage and determination of Judge Crockett Farnell in insisting that the Department of Children and Families abide by our laws as written.
All Floridians - ordinary citizens and state agency heads alike - are equal under the law. Our laws do not afford state agency heads a "pass," not even if it is the will of the governor. To refer to Judge Farnell's rulings as a judicial "temper tantrum," as Gov. Jeb Bush did this past week, is to trivialize the rule of law, the duty of DCF to obey the law, and the lives of the persons who have been affected by DCF's failure to do so, in some instances with dire consequences.
State officials at all levels should view this situation as symptomatic of the woeful inadequacy of the state-funded community mental health system. For very many years, studies have consistently ranked Florida at near the bottom, either 47th or 48th, in per capita funding for mental health among all 50 states.
Community mental health services, when adequate, have been proved effective for diverting persons with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system altogether. The cost of providing an individual's care in the community is substantially less than providing that care in state institutions. However, our state government has been loath to devote resources anywhere close to adequate for the state-funded community mental health system.
I hope Judge Farnell's rulings will spark a much-needed discussion and much-needed action by all our state officials responsible for ensuring an adequate, effective public mental health system.
Douglas Jones, Largo
A governor's failure | Dec. 2
Judges keep us free
Your lead editorial on Saturday was right on. The actions, or inactions, of our governor and his brother in Washington provide us with a great lesson in civics: why it is essential to our democracy that the judiciary stand apart from the other branches of government.
Our "overstepping," "chest pounding," "activist" judges are doing an outstanding job protecting us from tyranny. Next time you see one, thank him or her, for in large part we owe them our freedom.
Russ Denney, Gulfport
8 charged in teen's boot camp death Nov. 29
A bit of justice
Justice for Martin Lee Anderson has finally begun with manslaughter charges levied against seven good ol' boys and one good ol' girl of the Bay County Sheriff's Office juvenile boot camp.
These arrests are also a bit of justice for the countless silent victims of juvenile boot camp abuse who have been threatened to keep quiet, but who carry physical and emotional scars forever.
I wonder how many children were abused over the years by the nurse and guards before the tragic death of Anderson. Observing the video of Anderson being battered, this was "just another day" and seemed routine treatment of the children in their "care." These "professionals" were obligated morally and ethically to provide essential care, and they were also obligated legally. Our society is in great despair when we have lawless law enforcement.
Cathy Corry, president, justice4kids.org, Clearwater
It's official: SRI will be building Florida facility | Dec. 1
St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and the state of Florida continue to waste taxpayer dollars - this time with a $30-million giveaway to a research firm (SRI).
The company, with $390-million in revenues last year, will pay the city $1 a year to lease valuable city-owned land and the state and the county will use the money of hardworking taxpayers to build them a facility.
What makes this company more deserving of special treatment than, say, Wal-Mart, a factory, a dozen small businesses or homeowners?
All these governments are surprised when taxpayers inform them that property taxes are too high and innocently claim they have no idea how they could ever get by with less. A better approach would be for the city to sell or lease the land (at market rates) and use the proceeds to offset taxes. The county and state also could simply send the money back to taxpayers.
It seems the only ones who have to learn to live with less - while they transfer their hard-earned cash to a well connected company - are the taxpayers.
David McKalip, chairman, Cut Taxes Now Inc., St. Petersburg
It is the time of year that we again are reminded there are those who are less fortunate than others. I have made contributions to Metropolitan Ministries for several years, and every year along with my receipt is a succinct "Thank you but can we have some more?"
I have decided that this year was my last for this organization. This charity doesn't seem to consider or care what I might have given up to help them. From now on I will contribute to those charities that are just grateful for what they did receive.
Joyce Berch, Gulfport
Citizenship 101 | Nov. 28
Are we up to the test?
It would be informative to give this revised citizenship test on "the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the themes of democracy and freedom" to all American eighth-graders, high school seniors and college seniors. We might then decide that ignorance is bliss.
Vincent P. Walsh, Clearwater