1. Letters to the Editor

Tuesday's letters: HSN committed to ethical business practices

Published Feb. 6, 2017

Importer profits; artisans go unpaid | Feb. 5

HSN committed to strong ethics

At HSNi, we believe in a culture of generosity. We are committed to empowering women and helping families in need, from our local communities to across the globe. This is not only the mission of our company; it is also a personal passion of mine.

That is why we have stopped selling Bajalia jewelry.

Like many others in the nonprofit and media space — including Newsweek and the Daily Beast — we applauded Bajalia for the work they told us they were doing to help women in developing countries.

However, recent allegations have put that work in a different light, and we have taken a number of steps to address the issue.

When we learned of these claims, we removed all Bajalia jewelry from our websites and programming and put a hold on all product sales. We also initiated an internal review. The issues raised in the recent Tampa Bay Times article will now be included in that review, and we have asked Bajalia to provide us a full accounting of all products sold on HSN and status of payment to those vendors. We will review this information to ensure that anyone who had done business with HSN was treated properly and take appropriate steps if they have not.

We are unwavering in our business ethics and in our commitment to acting as global citizens. Our work through HSNi Cares is changing lives, and we will continue to partner with those who share our values and standards. Our work with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF has raised more than $2.5 million to support the world's most vulnerable children. In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, our employees have volunteered thousands of hours to build homes in Pinellas County and have contributed nearly $1.5 million to help families build a better future. Since 2005, HSN has raised over $13 million for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, helping them advance cures for catastrophic pediatric diseases and ensuring children cared for at the hospital never receive a bill for their treatment. Those programs are in addition to the work we do with organizations and companies like Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center, TOMS, Good+, the American Heart Association and many others.

We are thankful to have caring and giving customers who share our passion for these causes and want to make a positive impact. We cherish their trust in us, and will always do the right thing when it comes to our customers, our partners and the charities we support.

Mindy Grossman, CEO, HSN Inc., St. Petersburg

Vacation rentals

Bill reverses local overreach

Short-term rentals have become a vital component of Florida's tourism industry, granting property owners and visitors more flexibility when planning the duration and location of their stay.

In 2011, the Florida Legislature recognized these benefits by passing a law that banned local governments from prohibiting short-term rentals.

In 2014, the Legislature changed its mind and gave more power to cities seeking to dismantle the industry. Since that time, we have seen local governments run wild, enacting onerous rules that have dampened our economy while trampling on Floridians' property rights.

Take Miami Beach, for example, where some homeowners have been fined $20,000 for violations of short-term rental ordinances. These exorbitant penalties have functioned as a de facto ban for many homeowners who would have liked to rent out their property to potential vacationers.

I have introduced SB 188, a bill that will stop this kind of overreach and return the law back to its 2011 version.

The debilitating effects of current law are not limited to just travelers and short-term rental owners. Diminishing tourism activity ultimately harms local businesses and job creation, depriving Florida of valuable tax dollars.

Opponents of my bill claim that short-term rentals invite the potential for "party houses" when justifying the restrictions enacted by the cities. But cities have their own local laws that address such nuisance complaints, and all homeowners — fulltime or parttime — are subject to these rules. It is also important to clarify that this bill does not affect local homeowners' associations and neighborhoods that have adopted their own set of rules.

I don't think the government should be in the business of picking one person's property rights over another.

By passing SB 188, we will re-establish strong statewide standards that protect all Floridians' property rights while ensuring the wellbeing of Florida's tourism economy.

State Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota


U.S. in unsavory company

I noted with dismay three articles in the paper in the last two days. Congress is considering removing prohibitions that keep 75,000 Americans with mental health issues from buying guns. The Florida Legislature is considering allowing guns on campuses and in public buildings. And the city of St. Petersburg just spent $700,000 on gear to counter active shooters, money that could have been spent on other needs.

I wonder whether our legislators know how the United States compares with other countries in gun deaths. According to a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, Americans are 10 times more likely to die from gun violence than our counterparts in 22 other wealthy countries. Those aged 15 to 24 are 49 times more likely to die of gun violence than their counterparts.

With half the population of the other 22 countries combined, the United States accounted for 82 percent of all gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed by guns and 91 percent of all children under the age of 14 were killed by guns.

Our level of gun violence places us among the ranks of Afghanistan, Iraq, the People's Republic of the Congo and Pakistan.

I have heard many Americans defend our right to bear arms, but I look at countries with stricter gun laws and I believe we should value lives more and guns less.

Elizabeth Corwin, Tampa


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