1. Archive


March Letter of the Month

The March Letter of the Month is from Anne Burnham of Tarpon Springs, who wrote about undocumented workers.

A few questions came to mind when I read this letter on undocumented workers:

- Can you imagine being unable to feed your family? Would you not go where you would have a chance to provide for them? U.S. employers who are most concerned with their bottom line actively seek cheap labor. Are those employers in no way responsible for the immigration situation?

- Can you imagine being deported and having your children separated from you? These immigrants came here in order to provide for their families. Before there were tight border controls, it was common for workers to send earnings back home and return to their families when the seasonal jobs were over; now they are forced to be permanently displaced and raise their families here.

- Can you imagine what it would be like if we didn't have any of these people in our workforce? Who would pick the food to put on our tables? Under the best of circumstances, these workers put in long days in the hot sun doing backbreaking work for poverty wages. We don't see unemployed Americans rushing to apply for these jobs.

We are no different from these immigrants. We all have the same yearnings and wishes for the well-being of our families. We have chosen to benefit from their services, therefore we need to give back to them. For the 11 million undocumented workers currently in our country, a path to citizenship - which would be a long and arduous process for them - provides the only fair resolution to this situation.

Anne Burnham, Tarpon Springs

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Boy, 4, stabbed to death - March 29

Keep tabs on mental illness

As a licensed mental health counselor working in child abuse prevention, I have followed this story with heartbreak. Florida loses yet another child to alleged parent abuse, despite Department of Children and Families contact. Joseph, lovingly nicknamed Turtle, lived his short life within a swirl of toxic stress and trauma.

Child abuse prevention is incredibly hard to quantify. If something never happens, how does anyone know what prevented the nonevent? It is only when tragedy strikes that we laser in with hindsight to find clues to reconfigure the future.

Domestic violence, mental illness and criminal behavior are known risk factors for child abuse.

One thing stands clear in the aftermath of Joseph's death. Family members said his mother had a history of mental illness and had quit taking her medication. Significant detachment from reality earmarks both of these conditions, when untreated.

A person in this situation is most commonly a danger to themselves. Some, however, endanger others. When children are present, they are the most vulnerable.

It is worth considering an order of no child contact when a seriously mentally ill person is off his or her medications. As difficult as this would be for family and friends, the loss of a child is far worse.

Juliana Menke, St. Petersburg

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In-state tuition for immigrants

March 30, editorial

Don't hurt Florida students

Republican Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford indicates that the in-state tuition bill includes "a guarantee that undocumented students would not be given spots allocated for Florida residents." Missing from this is a pledge that Florida students will not be negatively impacted.

Weatherford's pledge is that each university will continue to enroll at least the (apparently pre-existing) minimum number of Florida students required, i.e., the allocation. This is a red herring. For example, say a Florida university has (hypothetically) a required allocation of 100 Florida students but has enrolled an average of 150 such students in previous years. According to Weatherford, if 100 legal residents are admitted in 2015 and 50 slots go to undocumented immigrants, that would satisfy Weatherford's "guarantee" but would result in the admission of fewer Florida kids.

A true Florida leader, recognizing the potential negative impact on Florida students, would try to maximize Florida students' possibilities, not settle for some minimum allocation. So much for Republican leadership.

Tom Waldbart, Wesley Chapel

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Coverage and coercion - April 2, letter

Slippery slope on religion

Some readers have written in support of Hobby Lobby. They believe that the owners should not be forced to pay for coverage for health care procedures that violate their religious beliefs.

I suspect many of these people happen to share Hobby Lobby's moral values. Suppose the company owners were Jehovah's Witnesses, which bans blood transfusions? Would they be in favor of the company being permitted to disallow coverage for this procedure? If so, many surgeries could not be done. There are other religious prohibitions that would be unacceptable to employees who are not of the same faith.

We pay taxes even though none of us agree with all the ways the money is spent. I view the health care regulations in a similar manner.

John Dalton, St. Petersburg

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Ryan budget cuts spending for Medicaid, food stamps - April 2

Facing up to fiscal reality

Rep. Paul Ryan's 2015 budget proposal promises to balance the budget within 10 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Ryan's long-term attack on the federal deficit would produce positive effects by freeing up savings and investment capital.

To do so, Ryan's plan will cut spending in a variety of programs, including welfare. The Democrats will likely seize on this as a campaign issue for November. What they won't tell you is that welfare costs have skyrocketed over 700 percent since the 1960s when President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was introduced, with few benefits to show for it other than a welfare state.

Other cuts include a reduction to the federal workforce (which should help flatten the government), the end of Saturday mail delivery (which the U.S. Postal Service has been threatening for a long time), a 17 percent reduction in health care programs (over 10 years), and a variety of other belt-tightening measures.

Ryan is basically telling us that it is time to make some hard decisions if we ever hope to regain fiscal control of the government. The free lunch is over and our quality of life is about to change. It was inevitable. As in any household, if you haven't got sufficient resources, you either increase revenues, cut spending, or you lose your freedom to those who own your debt, which includes foreign investors.

Although the Democrats are certain to attack the Ryan plan in the fall, it arms the Republicans with a tool showing they are serious about solving the problem.

Tim Bryce, Palm Harbor

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Burden on the poor

Rep. Paul Ryan and his Republican followers are always ready to make the lives of the middle class and poor more miserable and harder to make it from one paycheck to another. Yet when it comes to companies such Caterpillar (using tax loopholes in Switzerland), the Republicans are more than happy to let them avoid their share of taxes by using these loopholes.

Lawmakers need to close these loopholes and stop putting the burden to fix the budget on the backs of the middle class and poor. Everyone needs to pay their fare share of taxes.

Priscilla Haney, Sun City Center

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Political meddling in colleges - April 2, editorial

Legislative overreach

As a professor for 40 years at four different universities, I cringe when I read such accurate descriptions of the many ill effects of "the stripping of the authority of the Board of Education" and "the further politicization of higher education governance" in Florida.

This all started when then-Gov. Jeb Bush dismantled the state's Board of Regents. Prior to that, the board, which had students and professors on it, controlled and distributed legislative appropriations to the state's colleges and universities. Today, our elected officials, caught up in their own needs for power and control, think they can run our hospitals better than doctors, our public schools better than teachers, and our universities better than professors. I guess they never heard the old proverb, "If it ain't broke, fix it 'til it is."

Money is not the answer to all problems. And while some selected courses are taught very well by adjunct faculty and graduate assistants, the fact that they are cheaper is an ever-increasing, powerful driving force.

Fulltime, tenured faculty are relatively expensive. Nonetheless, the academic integrity of colleges and universities is vested in the fulltime professors who engage in independent research and scholarship, are experts in their fields, contribute to their surrounding communities, and work closely with their students.

The brain drain problem refers not only to the top-notch students leaving; it also applies to the top-notch professors who are leaving or not even coming to Florida. Professors are not just interchangeable employees of our universities. Professors are the universities.

William G. Emener, distinguished research professor emeritus, University of South Florida, St. Pete Beach