Extending Albert Whitted runway into Tampa Bay would cost too much | Saturday's letters

Published Aug. 9, 2019

I am supportive of a wide spectrum discussion (especially for non-aviation ideas) for an Albert Whitted Airport master plan. The airport is an asset to a few people who own small airplanes, the owners of various flying service firms, the organizers of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, and for the Hangar Restaurant, which is probably the most profitable enterprise on the property. What does the future hold? Rising sea level will be a concerning issue, the property is in a high-risk zone for flooding, and it would be very costly to raise this property upward or build a dike around it.

One proposal is to move the main runway to the east and jut into Tampa Bay so the landing pattern would no longer jeopardize the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and other properties in the current flight path. The nominal way this is done is to build a coffer dam and backfill it to support a runway. This is not a trivial expense. All of Tampa Bay in Pinellas County is in the Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserve and has stringent standards for water quality. Dredging is very expensive. My experience is being a marine ecology consultant for the Gulfstream Natural Gas Pipeline Project (Port Manatee to Weedon Island, 2006 to 2009). The turbidity water quality standard called for the dredge plume to consistently not exceed one standard deviation above ambient conditions based on daily testing. The operations were stopped chronically because the standard was exceeded time and again. Dredging cost overrun was double the initial estimate. The costs do not justify the benefit to the limited number of people that use this airport. Private aviation has limited possibilities to generate revenue at this location. We do not need to go in this direction. The costs and ecological consequences are not worth the risks.

Walt Jaap, St. Petersburg

The diaper bank

Diapers as a social good

The Junior League of Tampa Diaper Bank was launched last summer in recognition of a simple fact: It is not really about diapers. It is about poverty. Diaper need — the lack of sufficient diapers to keep a child clean, dry and healthy — is experienced by one in three families nationwide. Diapers cost $70 to $80 per month, per child. How many government safety net programs assist families with the cost? Zero. The full burden rests on our families, the 200,000 households in Hillsborough County who live paycheck to paycheck. But I believe that this burden truly rests on our whole community.

Diaper need may not seem to carry the weight of other plights, but consider its impact on a family. Aside from the financial strain of having multiple children in diapers, early childhood education programs, like Healthy Start, require parents to supply five clean diapers per day, per child. Parents unable to meet this requirement cannot attend work or school. Consider: Children who attend early childhood education programs are three times as likely to go on to higher education.

You can make a difference. Find out more. The Junior League of Tampa Diaper Bank procures, stores and fulfills monthly orders and one-time diaper drives for nonprofit agencies in Hillsborough. Community partners like Champions for Children, Dawning Family Services (formerly the Alpha House), Mary Lee's House and Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services are able to place monthly orders for diapers in the sizes and amounts they need to distribute through case workers and Guardians ad Litem as well as directly to families in their programs. In creating partnerships with community agencies, we hope to eliminate diaper need in Hillsborough and, in the meantime, help community agencies reallocate their valuable time and resources to other methods of supporting our citizens. We must protect our most vulnerable citizens.

Melissa Knight Nodhturft, Tampa

The writer is president of the Junior League of Tampa.

Making nursing homes safe | July 17

Rule hurts older patients

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Seema Verma wrote in a recent column that "President Trump is holding nursing homes accountable and reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens. … Today, we released a rule that protects patients' right to transparent information about how to settle disputes with nursing home providers."

But rather than empowering residents and caregivers, the new rule actually takes away most of the protections won by quality care advocates in 2016 when CMS prohibited nursing homes from forcing residents to arbitrate disputes. Most families don't know when they're signing a nursing home admissions form that includes a binding arbitration clause. Companies love forced arbitration because they can dictate where it takes place (often in another state), who pays for the legal representation (the loser of the case) and whether the testimony is made public (most often, it's not and stays shrouded in secrecy).

If you have a loved one who is injured because of a nursing home's neglect or poor care, you should be able to go through the court system and either get financial redress for the harm caused or win sanctions against the facility and/or staff that caused it, protecting others from the same harm. That's your constitutional right. In 40 years of law practice and advocating for patient rights, I've seen the results of bad care. But the Trump administration doesn't care about that, or consumer protection. Sure, this new rule reduces the "unnecessary regulatory burdens" — from nursing homes, not patients. Removing a tool that helps keep nursing homes accountable helps no one but those more interested in profits than good health care.

Steven M. Levin, Chicago

The author is a founding partner at Levin & Perconti, Attorneys at Law and was among the first attorneys in the country to handle nursing home cases.

Agents raid Miss. plants, arrest 680 | Aug. 8

Arrest the owners, too

When businesses are raided by ICE and hard-working undocumented immigrants are arrested, why aren't the plant owners arrested, too? Why are just the immigrants targeted?

Eileen Stafford, St. Petersburg