Thursday's letters: Legislators and their rights

Published Aug. 12, 2015

Map gets a third round | Aug. 11

Lawmakers and rights

I'm trying to come to grips with our Republican lawmakers' belief that having to redraw Florida's congressional districts "in an open and transparent way" violates their First Amendment rights.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, says the Florida Supreme Court's opinion and directions to the Legislature "violated his right to speak freely with his colleagues … about the maps." Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, compares having to record map-related discussions between a senator and a staff member to the police recording "conversations with suspects."

I applaud Negron's use of the word "suspects." I think it might be instructive for the senator to think of the police in this case as the citizens of Florida.

Richard Downing, Hudson

Hillsborough highway project

Residents engaged on plans

The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization has cast its first vote on the Transportation Improvement Plan, which serves as a statement of the county's priorities for improving transportation in Hillsborough County.

With this vote, the state's variable toll lane project got its first bump up the chain, but there are many votes yet to take place before one spoonful of dirt is turned. Funding from the Legislature to the tune of $3.4 billion must be allocated, and I wouldn't be donning a hard hat yet.

What we heard, overwhelmingly, from neighborhoods most affected by expansion of Interstate 275 and Interstate 4 is that they want mass transit. I agree with them that the best way to reduce congestion is not building another lane for cars. While they were surely dealt a blow by last week's vote, I believe there were positive takeaways.

What this project gave us is an engaged citizenry. People who are passionate about protecting our urban core mobilized. What this project will give us is also of enormous benefit; according to the proposed project scope, it will not only accommodate variable toll lanes but a transit envelope and redesign malfunction junction. We moved the needle with the DOT's District 7 staff for assistance in funding bus service that will utilize the toll lanes. We learned that the DOT would commit to include building amenities underneath the roadway.

While we continue to plan for expanded mass transit, express bus service, more frequent headways for local bus service and, yes, a modern streetcar line, every option to alleviate gridlock should be explored. Doing so should enhance our city and not be done at the expense of one neighborhood while serving others. Our future depends on an active and engaged citizenry and even more so on an engaged leadership. We all understand that saving our historic fabric makes Tampa special and is worth fighting for.

Lisa J. Montelione Tampa City Council, District 7

Governor to settle suits for $700,000 Aug. 8

Can't afford another Scott

This governor has repeatedly shown his disdain for Floridians and the issues they care most deeply about, including voting rights, health care, government in the sunshine and the environment.

I was revolted when I read that, in order to settle these lawsuits, he would — naturally — spend the public's money and beyond revolted to read that $445,000 of that would come from an agency that has already been plundered: the Department of Environmental Protection!

All of the constitutional amendments in the world have not kept this fox out of the henhouse. Vote wisely, my friends. One more governor like this one, and Florida as we know it will be gone.

Scott Hopkins, Brandon

Election process

Stages of elections

The evolution of our election process has gone from voter power to money power, and from meaningful discussion to "I'm right, you're wrong,'' and with media coverage turning it into a sporting event, Red vs. Blue.

It should be no surprise that we're entering the next stage: politics as a sensational reality show. And who better to lead that transition than "The Donald,'' a masterful self-promoter.

Derek Roberts, Clearwater

Meet in middle on taxi, Uber regulation Aug. 11, column

No more regulation

So Times columnist John Romano is in the pocket of the taxi drivers, is he? His suggestion that the Uber and Lyft drivers lower their standards to meet that of the taxi drivers is insulting. There is never a need for overregulation. Government needs to get out of the way and allow business to prosper. How many more background checks should there be, and why cast aspersions on Uber drivers stating that "accusations" have been made against some of them? Have accusations ever been made against, say, journalists or maybe lawyers? Overall, we need less regulation, not more.

David McRobert, Largo

In support of maternal child health

A bipartisan effort

Thank you Reps. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, for co-signing a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to maintain strong U.S. investments in maternal and child programs.

While great strides have been made, we still see 6.3 million children dying of mainly preventable and treatable causes before they reach their fifth birthday. And 289,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes each year. The majority of these deaths occur in the poorest places in the world. This need not be the case.

Our local representatives have shown bipartisan commitment to using our resources to press for elimination of preventable death and disease. I applaud this and hope our other local representatives will join this commitment to maternal and child health.

Ken Schatz, Tampa