1. Opinion

Leashes and flotation devices can stem paddle-boarding drownings

Here’s what readers had to say in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
Josh Hensley, 43, was found in the waters of Kings Bay in Crystal River. He was known for dressing as Jack Sparrow. [Facebook]
Josh Hensley, 43, was found in the waters of Kings Bay in Crystal River. He was known for dressing as Jack Sparrow. [Facebook]
Published Sep. 20, 2019

How to paddle safely on a board

Paddle boarder’s body found in Kings Bay | Sept. 17

The body of missing paddle boarder Joshua Hensley (“Jack Sparrow”) was found in Kings Bay. The Facebook photo that Joshua posted plainly shows him not wearing a personal flotation device while boarding. Very likely he did have one on his board as required by law. Neither is he wearing a board leash, which is not required by law. Over the last dozen years the Times has published at least three stories of boarder deaths in Florida. In all probability none of them would have occurred had the boarder been tethered to their board. In one story a young, inexperienced and frightened boarder drowned only yards from a dock when she fell off her board without wearing a board leash. More recently, a highly experienced boarder, well known to the paddling community, vanished on a paddle out from Fort DeSoto. His board was found in Sarasota County. He was not wearing a leash and was never found. More than a hundred years ago surfers realized that board leashes were critical to safe boarding.

State law simply requires that one flotation device per person “be affixed to the board.” A board leash is not required, which “borders” on the ridiculous. I have been involved in paddle sports for more than 60 years, including over 10 years on paddle boards. I can attest that should you fall off your board in any circumstance — including calm water — you have to contend with swimming after your board and your flotation device skittering away from you while you have a cumbersome paddle in your hands. Boards are designed to easily skim over the water. Such an event is at the very least difficult, if not life-threatening. The law should be rewritten to include mandatory board leashes as well as personal flotation devices affixed to the board, which in itself can be problematic. Paddle boarding is immensely pleasurable. We can make it safer.

George Stovall, St. Petersburg

Long rule home rule

State Senate to oppose Hillsborough transit tax | Sept. 10

The League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County defends the county’s right to hold elections — including enacting tax referenda — without interference from the Florida Legislature.

Florida House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum recently asked the Florida Supreme Court to invalidate Hillsborough’s 1-cent transportation sales tax; he, House Speaker Jose Oliva and the Legislature have set a dangerous precedent with this effort to violate home rule and silence this county’s voters. The Legislature must stop meddling in Hillsborough elections.

This transportation tax solely impacts Hillsborough County. The referendum reached the Nov. 18 ballot by voter petition. It was approved by 57 percent of voting Hillsborough residents. The tax, which has been collected since Jan. 1, is paid solely by those shopping in Hillsborough. The funds will be used only in Hillsborough to address transportation needs, including extending public transportation options, road repaving, road design improvements and pedestrian safety improvements such as sidewalks and crosswalks. This is conclusively a Hillsborough issue and should be treated as such by those outside of the county.

Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White and Bob Emerson, both Hillsborough County residents, argue that the tax is unconstitutional and have gone to court, lost, and appealed the case to the Florida Supreme Court. The legislative branch of government should not try to influence the court. It is the league’s position that the Legislature should withdraw present and future involvement from Hillsborough’s voter-approved tax referenda. The transportation tax has a long road ahead through the courts, but this is Hillsborough’s road. The Legislature should take care of its own house and leave voters their home rule.

Emily Hinsdale, Tampa

The writer is the transportation chair of the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County.

Remembering history

USF consolidation needs more work | Editorial, Sept. 12

President Steven Currall’s consolidation plan returns the University of South Florida St. Petersburg to a regressive model that is in some ways even worse than the governance model that was in place when I joined USFSP as its chief student affairs officer in 1984. It was a model that eventually cost USF two campuses, Fort Myers and New College, and contributed to the loss of a third, Lakeland. It almost cost the loss of USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee in 2000.

Indeed, the irony is that if President Judy Genshaft had continued to cling to that dysfunctional USF Tampa-based authority model instead of moving to separate accreditation, it is likely that USF Tampa would, by now, be consolidated all by itself in north Tampa.

There is the adage about people who do not know or forget history…

Stephen Ritch, St. Petersburg

Confiscation isn’t ‘safety’

Why won’t Congress act on guns to save lives? | Editorial, Sept. 8

When I hear people call for sensible gun safety reform the first question is, what do you mean by gun safety because this is a open-ended question. When I hear gun safety it’s all about proper storage, training and education.

So yes if you want to sit down and discuss these issues I will be more than happy. But it’s not “gun safety” these anti-gun groups and politicians are calling for; it’s gun confiscation.

James Dahmer, Tampa

Words and deeds differ

The Florida Power and Light solar facility is seen in Arcadia. [CHRIS URSO | Tampa Bay Times]

Clean energy conservative | Column, Sept. 20

Does someone want to tell the writer that the person she quotes, Ronald Reagan, gutted a multi-billion-dollar clean energy and energy efficiency effort? He took away the wind energy tax credit. This would have been like Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson stopping the Apollo program. It’s nice the conservatives are finally getting on board with energy conservation, but they could have done it long ago.

Carlos DeCisneros, Tampa


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