I can’t afford to live here
Low-cost housing plans stalled | Oct. 6
I am white, privileged and educated. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh summa cum laude, and I cannot afford to live in Tampa Bay, specifically, Bradenton. I was only able to live here because of the generosity of my parents for the last two years. Almost all of my friends live at home. We are in our 20s and 30s, working service-related jobs, because this area offers little to no professional work. At $11.87 an hour, I hustle 40 hours a week as a library assistant at Selby Library in downtown Sarasota, and on the weekends I babysit, dog-sit, cat-sit … or just sit (as in doing laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills…).
I love Selby; I love books, my co-workers, the idealism and freedom that public libraries still offer. I don’t love that anything costing over $10 takes considerable thought as to whether it is necessary or not. When trying to find affordable housing, I simply had to laugh because all I could budget for on my current salary is $250 a month; a cheap HOA fee for some. I am completely priced out. In a culture (still) deeply divided by race, class and gender, how are our black, brown, Latinx and queer residents getting by? I am not. They are not. We are not. So tip generously, act kindly and remember all of us invisible folk, the ones who serve you day after day. We are trying so hard to simply make ends meet. Vote to increase minimum wage and take a stand — for us, for this community. Until then, I have to move to where the grass is greener on the other side (as in anywhere, but here).
Emily Grant, Bradenton
Be fair to the Coasties
The government shutdown
In January, Pinellas resident Chelsey Gutierrez, the wife of Coast Guardsman Chris Gutierrez and mother to two young boys, wrote me, sharing the pain the government shutdown had brought to their family. Unlike our sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines, the entire Coast Guard was going without pay. This was the first time in America’s history we failed to pay military service members due to a government shutdown. To bring attention to the increasingly desperate situation, I brought Chelsey as my guest to the State of the Union address. She described being forced to beg creditors and utility companies just to keep the lights on, all while Chris was deployed.
As governor and now as congressman, I have witnessed firsthand the impressive work the Coast Guard performs every day. Pinellas County is home to the nation’s largest Coast Guard Air Station, in Clearwater, and Sector St. Petersburg conducts the most search-and-rescue deployments in the country. The Coast Guard plays a vital role in protecting maritime commerce, but as the smallest military service — and the only one under the Department of Homeland Security — the Coast Guard is subject to greater budgetary risk than its fellow military branches. Looking toward the end of the year, uncertainty around keeping the government funded remains high. No one wants a government shutdown. But if it comes, we shouldn’t withhold pay from a branch of the U.S. military. The Pay Our USCG Parity Act, which I am proud to support, would ensure our Coast Guard is paid. The Gutierrezes and all Coasties deserve absolute faith that our country, which they so dutifully serve, will be there for them when they need it.
Charlie Crist, St. Petersburg
The writer, a Democrat, represents St. Petersburg in the U.S. Congress.
On insurance, name names
Faster hurricane relief is proposed | Oct. 16
With all the news coverage on the problems people have had with Hurricane Michael damage claims, there is not a mention of which insurance companies are to blame. Why not out the companies who are stiffing or lowballing their clients or dragging their feet on the claims? I’m sure the people of Mexico Beach and thereabouts would be happy to name names. A prominent expose might even embarrass them into getting out the checks.
Pete Wilford, Holiday
A nightmare about sprawl
Moratorium buys time to plan growth | Editorial, Oct. 16
In 1988, when I was about 17, I was headed west on I-10 to Fort Hood, leaving basic training in Georgia. On an isolated stretch of interstate, my truck quit. The fan belt had broken. I grabbed it and started walking in the dark. Soon a carload of people pulled over. The driver said, “You’re lucky that you are carrying that fan belt. I wouldn’t have pulled over if you weren’t. I own an auto shop. We’ll take you home for dinner, then go to my shop and get you a new belt.” We ate, went to his shop, matched the belts. We drove to my truck, and he helped me put on the new belt. I went on my way.
Ten years later, I driving north on I-75. I passed a broken-down car and saw a young man carrying a gas can. I pulled over. I said, “It’s a good thing you’re carrying that gas can. I wouldn’t have pulled over if you weren’t.” His face lit up. He looked at me and said, “You don’t remember me, do you? I’m the boy who you had chicken dinner with 10 years ago when your fan belt broke.”
When I was little, I had a dream that I was driving on the Gandy Bridge with my father. I looked up, and above us was another bridge with houses built on it. I looked left and right, and the whole bay was nothing but bridges with houses built on them, because there was nowhere left to build. It’s strange how dreams become reality. As a 49-year-old Florida native, I feel it’s time to slow down urban sprawl. We are pushing the threshold of environmental impact, and our infrastructure can’t handle what we’ve already done.
Blake Bishop, Tampa
Are they sub-standards?
School standards changing again | Oct. 13
It was interesting to read of Florida schools’ “high” standards. We had just enjoyed a dinner including three teens, two of them seniors in Hillsborough public schools. Despite getting good grades, the three between them could name only one country in Europe, and that is because one of us recently traveled there. When standards are revisited, we deserve well-educated students.
Linda Aiken, Tampa