The problem with plastic
Nature at risk? | Jan. 14
“Mom, I found another one!” I grimace. I wish we were hunting for missing socks or caterpillars, but we’re pulling plastic bags out of the mangrove roots along the southwest side of Old Tampa Bay. My 11-year-old son uses trash grabbers to shove it in with the other bags, bottles and foam containers that we’ve picked up during this community cleanup. All of this makes my blood boil, but none more than the ubiquitous and unnecessary plastic bags. Nothing that we use for just a few minutes should pollute our waterways for hundreds of years.
Twelve states and roughly 500 municipalities around the country are enjoying the benefits of plastic bag bans. A new report from the Environment Florida Research and Policy Center found that bans in just five locations have cut single-use plastic bag consumption by about 6 billion bags per year. According to a 2021 survey from the state Department of Environmental Protection, more than 90% of Florida residents and local governments believe regulations on plastic are necessary. But new proposed legislation would specifically prohibit regulation of single-use plastic and polystyrene containers by local government. And it’s retroactive, making at least 19 current municipal bans illegal.
We should have the freedom to make decisions about single-use plastic in our communities. Protecting ourselves and our environment is more important than protecting the billion-dollar plastic industry. Unless we make changes, our children will inherit this legacy of pollution. With that in mind, I grab a reusable bag when I head out.
Mia McCormick, Oldsmar
Behind the wheel, not bars?
Tampa police arrest suspect in road rage shooting at car that injured 4-year-old girl | Feb. 1
Someone needs to explain this to me. How is it that a 34-year-old man who “has served at least two stints in Florida state prison for attempted first-degree murder, armed robbery, illegally possessing a firearm and aggravated battery” is even out on the streets of Tampa?
Mark H. Campbell, St. Petersburg
Very different outlooks
Conversations on a cruise
My wife and I just went on a cruise. When we go to the buffet, I find and secure a table while my wife makes her selections. I like to talk to the people busing the tables. I happened to speak to a nice young lady from Zimbabwe. She said she had been doing this for six years so that her sister could attend medical school in the United States. Once her sister has completed her medical residency, they are going to move near relatives and the woman who was busing our table is going to work on opening a cafe.
A Black lady behind us overheard our conversation. She interrupted and asked the woman busing our table if she had ever heard of “Black Lives Matter,” white supremacy, how proportionally far more Black people are killed by law enforcement than whites, and the blatant discrimination and bias against Black people in America. The woman busing our table said that she had visited the United States several times, staying for extended periods. She then asked the woman if she had ever visited Africa. She invited her to her hometown, where all the streets are dirt and there is no running water or sewage treatment. She said some of the neighboring countries have been engaged in civil wars for decades with one side raiding the other side, killing the elderly, raping women, taking young girls as brides and young boys as future soldiers. The conversation ended.
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Tom Craig, Riverview
But the former president does it …
Donald Trump is on the hook for $83.3M in defamation damages. What happens next? | Jan. 28
How can American parents raise their children to be mature members of a functional society when the very leaders of the nation deserve detention for their public behavior? “But Mom, Dad, the former president has lied, cheated and is very nasty to others. Why are you punishing me for doing the same things?” Let us remember, that not all conservatives or believers in conservatism belong in the same category as former President Donald Trump. There are useful, effective and ethical conservative policies and great leaders to implement them. Leadership must change.
Tom Feaster, Tampa
A wrongful bill
Wrongful death bill debate | Jan. 29
How many women will have to die when they are unable to get medical care when a pregnancy goes bad? I don’t understand the view of the women supporting this bill that would allow civil lawsuits for wrongful death regardless of the age of the fetus. Imagine being pregnant with a very wanted baby but at about five months things go wrong and the woman needs a medical procedure to save her life, while the fetus has already died inside her.
Gail Dudley, Sun City Center
More than a name
Recently, Florida has stopped permitting transgender citizens from having their gender marker (for example, male or female) updated on driver’s licenses, according to a memo from the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Similarly, the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Vital Statistics has stopped permitting those born in Florida to update birth certificates to match their identity. Until a year ago, with a physician’s letter, both were permitted.
As a collaborative family law attorney who has represented many transgender clients, I see how these policies are affecting families. Imagine when you were born, your parents named you “Thomas.” However, on your birth certificate, someone mistakenly misspells your name as “Tomas.” In school, you constantly have to correct your teachers to spell your name Thomas, rather than Tomas. You get teased by your classmates because the teachers cannot seem to get your name right.
As you grow older, your driver’s license reflects the wrong name. Whenever you get on an airplane, you get questioned whether your name is Thomas or Tomas. In fact, you may not be able to get on an airplane at all because security checks show a mismatch between documents. When you apply for a job or a student loan or a mortgage, you have to explain you are Thomas, and not Tomas. And, sometimes, the potential employer or lender may deny you simply because they do not want to deal with the hassle. And then imagine Florida says you can’t fix your documents. This is what transgender citizens are facing.
Adam B. Cordover, Tampa
He’s back, and I’m worried
Welcome back, Gov. DeSantis | Jan. 28
I am a parent and queer person from Orlando. With the news that Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended his presidential campaign, I’m personally worried about what it means for my day-to-day life, moving forward. While on the campaign trail, he had little regard for the people he was elected to represent here in Florida, who are continuing to struggle to pay for basic necessities like rent, gas and groceries in an economy where prices are rising. Now that he’s home, there’s no doubt he’ll double up on his commitment to continuing to roll back protections for vulnerable communities like LGBTQ+ people and people of color. I’m not sure which option is preferable — his being gone or coming back home. DeSantis’ early end to his unsuccessful campaign should send a message to other candidates: Voters are paying attention. We want a president who will make tangible positive change for us and our loved ones, not take cheap shots at people already struggling in an effort to advance his own selfish, unattainable political ambitions.
Heather Wilkie, Orlando