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  1. Letters to the Editor

Monday's letters: Children, not parents, come first

Published Mar. 25, 2016

Bill in best interest of children | March 22, commentary

Change in law is bad for children

While chastising the Times for making up facts in an editorial opposing the 50-50 custody bill, Sen. Tom Lee seems to have engaged in some creative writing of his own. His most egregious misstatement is this: "The bill's requirement that a court begin a custody determination with a premise favoring approximately equal time-sharing is not a significant change to existing law." The fact is that the bill is a substantial and potentially devastating overhaul of child custody law.

Present law orders the judge to "determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child." The focus for decisionmaking is the welfare of children. Under the 50-50 bill, the focus is on parental rights. As for what's best for kids, the bill requires the court only to take their best interest "into account," not base its entire decision on what's best for the children as present law dictates.

Lee's contention that the bill will prevent use of the children as leverage is just wrong. A parent who doesn't really want custody will be empowered by the bill's "approximately equal" time-sharing "premise" to bargain away some time-sharing in order to pay less child support. And a man who beats the mother of his child can have his lawyer tell her he will give up equal time-sharing if she will drop her restraining order. That's not just leverage, that's dangerous.

As a circuit court judge for nearly 16 years, I presided over thousands of divorces, custody and child support disputes, and domestic violence injunction (restraining order) cases. That experience tells me that a judge's decision on child custody should start and end with what's best for the kids. The 50-50 custody bill changes that and should, therefore, be vetoed.

Robert Doyel, Winter Haven

The writer is a retired Florida circuit court judge.

TIA needs help to name people mover March 25

Buy U.S. products

Why is Tampa International Airport contracting to spend $131 million to buy trains made in Japan by Mitsubishi, when Wikipedia lists 21 active American-owned companies that build locomotives, including General Electric? Surely some of them can make people movers, and if American goods are more expensive, so what? The money circulates and radiates economic benefits like train horns radiate sound, and it all stays in this country.

Why do we see road-building equipment made by Komatsu when there is at least one competing American company, Caterpillar?

How many American jobs have been lost because governments spend our tax money to buy foreign instead of American?

We should spend tax money — and private money — to benefit Americans. I don't want my taxes going to a Japanese worker so he can buy a Toyota when the money could be used instead to create a job for an American.

Charles Matthews, Tampa

Failing to think big on transportation March 21, editorial

Portland's example

Having moved here from Portland, Ore., I am constantly amazed at the sorry state of infrastructure and transportation in the Tampa Bay area.

The Portland light rail project (MAX) was started in 1982 and opened in 1986. It had one line running 15 miles and cost $214 million, 83 percent of which was paid for by the Federal Transit Administration. It currently has five lines traversing several counties. MAX gets people to work, and thus out of cars, in a timely and clean manner.

There is easy bus access throughout the Portland metropolitan area. There are bus hubs and park-and-rides in many places that bring commuters to the MAX lines. Currently, 97 stations serve the Portland metropolitan area. MAX trains run every 10 to 15 minutes. Instead of paying exorbitant parking fees downtown and causing gridlock, people can take MAX to work, theaters, galleries, restaurants and the many clubs dotting the area. MAX also goes to several malls in the area.

Thousands of cars are off the streets because Portland had the vision decades ago to plan these multiple transportation systems one by one. No wonder Portland is one of seven finalists of the Smart City Challenge and the Tampa Bay area is not. Portland thinks big but starts small.

Gail Lowy, Largo

Campaign 2016

Policy, not the personal

Now is the time to earn the trust of the voters by attacking issues rather than each other on a personal level. Due to the way the country has been led downhill for the past seven-plus years, Donald Trump was a voice that was needed. He inspired people to speak up and get over political correctness, our biggest problem other than ISIS. But now the Republican candidates are beginning to act "Obama-like." Without a doubt Barack Obama is the most thin-skinned president ever, needing to respond to any criticism directed to him. Candidates should take policies to task, not wives' looks.

Don Niemann, Seminole