Sharing economy good for state
Travel and tourism have long served as the backbone of Florida's economy, which is now the 18th largest in the world. In Pensacola, where I am mayor, we're proud that our city has emerged as a driving force of this growth industry. In just the past year, the Pensacola region welcomed 2.7 million visitors who have invested $787 million in our community.
For both our community and our state, a major priority is to not only maintain the current levels of tourism we enjoy, but to attract even more visitors. One key step we can take is to embrace the sharing economy: empowering middle-class residents in Pensacola and elsewhere to provide transportation options through Uber or Lyft or alternative lodging through Airbnb, Home Away or Vacation Rental By Owner.
In Pensacola, I've focused on making our city as welcoming as possible to residents who wish to share their homes as short-term rentals. The Pensacola News Journal recently featured an Airbnb host who took a previously vacant downtown building and turned it into a flourishing short-term rental, which is now economically recharging the neighborhood instead of dragging down housing values.
I urge my fellow mayors across the state to consider looking for ways to work with the short-term rental industry, because it ultimately helps bring visitors to our diverse and beautiful communities, infusing cash into the economy and creating jobs for Floridians.
There are a handful of Florida cities that have chosen to crack down on short-term rentals and penalize taxpaying homeowners. I fear this will have a chilling effect on tourism, and I know it has already alarmed many residents in my community. I am committed to working with all of Pensacola's residents — those who choose to share their homes and those who don't — to spur innovation and grow our local economy while avoiding overregulation.
Ashton Hayward, mayor, Pensacola
Some intangible presents
As we enjoy this holiday season, let's remember that not all gifts are wrapped in shiny paper and decorated with ribbon and bows.
There are many intangible gifts of the heart we can share with those who deserve special recognition and attention. Here's a "emotional gift guide" I hope will be meaningful in this season of celebration.
• To yourself: respect, confidence, faith and fortitude.
• To a family member: communication and understanding, even if there have been challenges.
• To a friend: a heartfelt, caring spirit and appreciation.
• To our natural world, animal and plant life: admiration, protection and preservation.
• To a good cause: generosity of time and treasure and ardent advocacy.
• To a traveler: an open door of hospitality.
• To our military forces and first responders: honor, admiration and support to heal the wounds.
• To the ill and hurting: conscientious concern and comfort.
• To the hungry and homeless: compassion, emergency care and creative community solutions.
• To the abused, neglected and abandoned: representation, security and hope.
• To someone with a special challenge: recognition, acceptance and a path to independence.
• To the addicted and troubled: open arms, forgiveness and a positive path to recovery.
• To an infant and toddler: attention, attachment, safety and learning opportunities.
• To a child or teen: patience, guidance and a positive example through mentoring.
• To a parent in need: a helping hand and valuable guidance.
• To an elder: reverence, gratitude and dignified care.
• To a customer or client: excellent service and lasting value.
• To everyone you see, friends and strangers alike: a warm smile, kindness and positive energy.
• To people of every age: unconditional love and sincere gratitude.
• To all the peoples of the world: justice and peace.
Jack Levine, founder, 4Generations Institute, Tallahassee
Arrests made in shark-dragging case
Working against abuse
Thank you for the article relating the charges against the men who dragged a dying shark through the water. I am grateful the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission invested their resources on this investigation. Abuse toward animals has been linked to abuse toward humans. Abuse against humans or animals should never be tolerated, and I believe it is time for society to reflect on how we treat others — human and non-human — in our lives. Whether it is the horror of factory farming/slaughtering or the tragedy of abuse to a person, society seems poised to make progress. Let's hope we don't miss the opportunity.
Melanie Ransom, Ottawa
Gifts for corporations
Republicans seem to think if they say "tax break for the middle class" often enough, everyone will believe them. But we all know that this, along with the elimination of net neutrality, are simply gifts to the big corporations and the most wealthy while the middle class will ultimately pay for it.
As for Sen. Marco Rubio, he caves for just $300. To parrot Donald Trump, the GOP is a disgrace. So sad.
Emiliano Quindiagan, St. Petersburg
A plan Scrooge would love
As Clay Bennett's editorial cartoon illustrates, President Donald Trump's tax plan delivers massive tax cuts to large corporations as well as America's wealthiest top 1 percent — which includes our dear leader. Never mind the rest of us who will have to fend for ourselves.
Bah, humbug! Ebenezer Scrooge couldn't have done better himself.
JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater