1. Letters to the Editor

Saturday's letters: Local government responsive to citizens

Published Jun. 23, 2017

Corcoran touts Legislature as more responsive | June 18

Local government is responsive

Last week, I was surprised by fellow Republican Richard Corcoran's remarks at a Tampa breakfast. The Florida House speaker praised top-down Tallahassee solutions and claimed state politicians are less susceptible to special interest influence than local leaders.

"To get something through in Tallahassee," Corcoran argued, "you've got to get something through one chamber with 120 people, something through another chamber that has 40 people, and then you have an executive with veto power."

Essentially, the speaker suggests Tallahassee is better because the scale of influence-peddling is greater. There are over 2,000 registered lobbyists in our state capital, many of whom draft the bills that eventually become law. While local officials also face pressure from special interests, strict sunshine laws ban the secret meetings that are so commonplace in Tallahassee.

Corcoran invoked our "founders' belief in constitutional hierarchy" to justify the growing power of the state. However, before invoking the founders, the speaker should heed Thomas Jefferson: "Government closest to the people serves the people best."

While Tallahassee's halls are lined with lobbyists, most local commission meetings are attended by ordinary citizens. Ultimately, city government is "next-door government." Unlike state politicians, local officials cannot hide from the people they represent — and that's a good thing.

While state lawmakers are often preoccupied with the business of politics, local leaders must focus on the business of government — filling potholes, putting out fires and picking up trash. After all, law enforcement, libraries, parks or public works are not partisan issues; they're simply jobs that need to be done.

I am from the same party as Corcoran, so my concerns with his comments are not partisan, they are practical. Florida's 412 municipalities or its 67 counties don't need Tallahassee's sledgehammer solutions. In fact, when it comes to transparency, accessibility and fiscal stewardship, state lawmakers could learn from local governments rather than attacking them.

Susan Haynie, Boca Raton

The writer is president of the Florida League of Cities and mayor of Boca Raton.

The dangers of all this rage | June 18, commentary

Don't normalize this abuse

Why do we question how we arrived at today's hate-filled political environment? Isn't it obvious that Donald Trump and his team of "deplorables" facilitated this new political climate?

Had you ever heard of "fake news" or "alternative facts" before Trump, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon came along? Had you ever heard politicians encourage supporters to "just smash them in the face" or chant "lock her up" or lie about a sitting president's place of birth?

Do we think name-calling of political opponents — like "little Marco," "lying Ted" and "crooked Hillary" — is okay? We may have gone overboard with political correctness, but when our leaders resort to lying and name-calling then we've gone too far the other way.

The scary part is that we, the electorate, don't recognize the enablers of this political hatred and don't publicly denounce them for promoting it. Please don't let this become our "new normal."

Anthony Edl, Odessa

Lessons from Ben Franklin

As we near the Fourth of July, manners are on my mind. What weighs on me is a national rise in rudeness and what it might tell us about ourselves. Benjamin Franklin was viewed by his contemporaries as a successful ambassador for our young country during the American Revolutionary War. Thirteen virtues guided his life. One of those was humility.

Franklin believed that we should court humility as an antidote to pride and be courteous to one another. I like to think that his humility helped him persuade France to lend us critical funds to fight the British.

What benefit might have come from Franklin being rude? Certainly he would not have persuaded France to be our ally.

This Founding Father believed that civility must rule despite differences. I wish I could say he would be happy to see the fruits of his work today. Would he be disappointed to see Americans pecking at each other, as if we have lost sight of our ethics — whether they be based on our faith, spirituality, conscience or upbringing? Where have we lost our sheer good sense?

In honor of Independence Day, may we remind ourselves that we can have opposing perspectives yet still engage in civil discourse. We can work vehemently to sway each other, and yet part with respect. In this way, we honor the legacy of our Founding Fathers, more than 40 presidents, thousands of civil servants, our brothers- and sisters-in-arms: all who birthed and built this country. We honor ourselves.

As we joyfully gather together to partake of hamburgers and veggie burgers, root beer, ice cream and apple pie, may we remind ourselves that we need not think alike to be kind to each other.

The Rev. Patrice Curtis, Clearwater

You may well need Medicaid | June 18, commentary

Medicaid's importance

This article illustrates just one of the many alarming, harmful impacts the pending American Health Care Act will have on everyday Americans. Medicaid is such a dirty word — health care for the poor — until you, or your mother or father, become the one in need. As the article indicates, Medicaid accounts for one-sixth of U.S. health care spending. But few people realize that two-thirds of that spending is primarily focused on long-term care services such as nursing homes. This is a service, unless you are well-heeled, you or a loved one is likely to come to depend on some day.

The AHCA proposes to cut $800 billion in Medicaid spending. Shame on America if we play innocent bystander as Congress cuts a vital program in order to make room for a sizable tax cut for the least needy among us.

Michael Vanater, Riverview


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