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CONSIDER COSTS OF RAIL PROPOSALS

Business letters to the editor - Aug. 30

Three cheers for the letters to the editor from former Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman, P.J. Jaccoi and Charlie Bricker, who are a breath of fresh air and bring common sense to the real issues facing the construction of multibillion-dollar rail to the Tampa Bay area.

It's hard to add anything to their educated observations, but recent newspaper stories addressed the need for a new baseball stadium, high-speed rail from Tampa to Orlando, restoration of the Friendship Trail, fixing a dysfunctional water treatment plant, dealing with a major reservoir malfunction, and funding a new $23.8 million park in Pinellas that can't open for lack of money. Anybody going to ask our public officials what's most important and how they plan to pay for critical projects delayed for lack of funds, like water, bridges, roads, sewers, stormwater control, polluted streams, polluted bays, transportation, etc.?

Nah!

At $70 million per mile to build a rail system and annual operating costs five times the cost of a bus system, somebody better quit talking and do their homework to be sure a rail system is practical. Once built, it can't be changed!

All public transportation requires large subsidies. Look at your recent county tax notice and see what you're paying for bus service, plus paying for state and federal grants/subsidies that come from income tax, state sales tax, gas taxes, fees, etc.

All levels of government are desperately short of funds and getting shorter. It should be apparent that the federal government is going to be so far in debt in future years that borrowed "pork" money won't be possible because we're mortgaged up to our eyeballs.

While Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority plans are necessary, nobody has specified any schedules for projects to be completed in the next 10 years with cost estimates, ridership and completion dates. The actual plans and funding will be done by the counties and cities. All TBARTA has done is publish a 50-year "wish list" and given it back to the county Metropolitan Planning Organization for action.

The real question is: How much tax money are you willing to pay to subsidize rail vs. other basic public needs? No public official even comprehends this issue. They're busy trying to get somebody else to pay for their pet projects.

There are no concrete plans, and yet they tout expensive rail, which is typical of government's approach to a problem: "READY, FIRE, AIM!"

Jim Harpham, Palm Harbor

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New life in Florida is not so sunny - Sept. 1

Hey, New Yorker, time to go home

I read the article about Leticia Flores' move to Florida from Manhattan. She is unhappy that she cannot find a job in Florida. She is unhappy with our laborious bus system, nothing like New York's. She is unhappy that the bus connections are not coordinated and that the HART bus stops offer no cover from the sun or rain. She is unhappy with Florida's "puny" unemployment benefits, which she has now exhausted. She is unhappy with Florida's political leadership for its unwillingness to help more people. She says our whole system of thinking is ancient and that it should be illegal what's being done to the residents of Florida with low pay and unemployment. Further, she says Florida's current politicians can't do the job.

Well, Ms. Flores, it is true that our public transportation could use upgrading. Protection from the elements would be a wonderful start. However, as you noted, we are in the midst of a recession. It is true that our wages are lower and it is also true that our apartments are considerably less expensive than the "stratospheric" rents you note, "even in Brooklyn."

Ms. Flores, you state you are considering going back to "chilly New York." I think that is a good option for you. I wonder if your overall negative attitude toward our Florida is showing in your interviews. Could this be part of the reason you are not able to find employment in Florida?

Mary MacKenzie, Pinellas Park

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T-Mobile to bill you for mailing the bill - Aug. 28

Just another way to drain us dry

Under the guise of saving a tree, T-Mobile is saving millions of dollars by charging customers $1.50 for a paper bill. Apparently, the cost of doing business is now customers' burden.

Is it just me, or is anyone else out there as outraged as I am at this new way to nickel and dime us to death? Knowing it won't take long for others to join the bandwagon, can I now expect to add a couple of hundred dollars a year to my expenses to have the luxury of receiving a bill? This practice must be met with much resistance, starting with finding a new phone service.

Kathy Drain, Port Richey

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Involvement brings change Aug. 31

Article's ideas to inspire action

I have recently relocated to the Tampa Bay area after many years away and enjoy once again the newspaper I have bragged about in other parts of the country. Today I am most grateful for Ivan Penn's interview with Bill Newton. As an elder in my new community, I have been shocked by my Progress Energy bills but felt helpless to do anything about the situation. Now, with this article in hand, I have a plan of action. Thanks, Bill Newton and Ivan Penn - and thanks to the Times.

Marilyn Gatlin, Dunedin

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