A dog’s life
October letter of the month
Editor’s note: The October letter of the month celebrated the life and mourned the death of the world’s oldest dog.
I just read that Bobi, the oldest dog in the world at 31 years, died in Portugal last week. I think his long life can teach us some good lessons. His owner said in a news story that Bobi lived on the family property all his life. He had roots. He was a guard dog as well as a family pet, so he had a job. He worked at that job all his life — no 25 years and a gold collar for him. He was never on a leash. He ran where and when he wanted, like all dogs are meant to do. He ate what the family ate, although his food was soaked in water to remove any seasoning. So, bland is good. And he was loved for all of his 31 years and 165 days. Good dog.
Fred W. Wright Jr., Seminole
The fears of former Education Board members
ACT scores hit a 30–year low | Oct. 31
Are Florida’s seniors ready for college and career? We have the answer from 105,000 high school seniors in the class of 2023: Only 17% of them are proficient across ACT’s four benchmarks: English, math, reading and science. The ACT test, a standardized test used for college admissions, is not required in Florida, so about 80,000 seniors did not register for the exam. No one knows how they would have scored, but it’s hard to imagine they would have done better than those test-takers who were putting their college or job applications together.
The leaders of companies, sports teams and most other human activities always ask, “Are we doing better than last year, the last five or 10 years, or is this the best year ever?” Is the trend up or down? As former members of Florida’s state Board of Education, all of us are keenly aware of the trends in Florida’s ACT scores. We want parents, students, potential employers, politicians, leaders and the public-at-large to know: The trend is down, and it has been over the last five years.
Florida is doing many things very well, but it can do better to ensure more students reach proficiency before receiving a diploma. The current downtrend must be reversed. We need to make sure we invest heavily to build an education system grounded in quality that proudly prepares every high school senior to be competitive in their next phase, whether that’s college or the workforce. The seniors graduating high school in the next decade are in our schools already. It’s up to our educational leaders and all “adults in the room” to have strong accountability policies as a check on the system. Florida’s students depend on us to be ready to excel. We can’t let them down.
Sally Bradshaw, Gary Chartrand, T. Willard Fair, Bobby Martinez, John Padget and Kathleen Shanahan
The writers are former members of the Florida State Board of Education.
The ‘Deep State’ has a heart
2nd Lt. Gilbert Myers obituary | Nov. 8
I found the obituary of 2nd Lt. Gilbert Myers very moving. I am so impressed by the work that obscure agencies of the U.S. government did for many years to find and identify his remains after his death in a U.S. bomber crash in Sicily in World War II. The hard work and investment of so many finally led to his return home to St. Petersburg and his burial in a marked grave, and not an anonymous, distant farm field, this Veterans Day weekend. So it’s clear, we have the much-maligned “Deep State” to thank for this — faceless and nameless (to us) but dedicated and able government workers who knock themselves out to do the work of able government, in spite of the endless hectoring abuse from the know-nothing faction of our country.
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Steve Douglas, St. Petersburg
A trail to the future
For Tampa Bay officials, Rays stadium deal is big | Sept. 22
I recently attended a news conference that focused on St. Petersburg’s efforts to obtain federal funding to connect the Historic Gas Plant site to the surrounding districts. In the Tropicana Field Site Master Plan process, the notion of altering I-175 to better connect the site to southern St. Petersburg was introduced. The Downtown St. Petersburg Mobility Study demonstrated that changes to I-175, Eighth Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street are warranted. I have been working to advance the Trails Crossing Park Project to connect the Warehouse Arts District to the Historic Gas Plant site and leverage the Pinellas Trail as a community asset. This planning effort directly relates to the city’s federal funding pursuits. My office lies in a converted section of King Street, so I’ve witnessed firsthand the positive outcome for businesses and access.
The constraints have been cost of undertaking, the narrow Booker Creek bridge and that one-way roads can move large volumes of traffic during Rays games. The bridge is now being widened to match the rest of MLK’s measurements. The Rays embraced two-way traffic in their letter of support for the city’s federal grant application. This is at least a $35 million price tag that’s not readily available. In asking the feds for $1.2 million to leverage a $300,000 investment match by the city, a clear road map and initial design is a smart first step. It also positions ourselves for future federal construction dollars so we can finally get it done and get it done right.
John Barkett, St. Petersburg
The writer is vice president of the MLK Business District and co-founder of the nonprofit Friends of Trails Crossing.