Rail lines keep economy rolling
Infrastructure is my business at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. It is one of the Florida Chamber's six pillars for the state's economic future, and I see each day how a robust transportation system can attract businesses, advance growth and create jobs.
Among this important network of trucks, barges, trains and planes, Florida's freight railroads distinguish themselves on infrastructure because they're paying to maintain and enhance their lines with little help from taxpayers. Freight rail is injecting billions of private dollars — $25 billion annually for the past several years — into the nationwide network that hauls finished products to our ports, raw materials to our manufacturers and goods to our customers.
A new report from Towson University in Maryland quantified the impact from freight rail investments, finding that spending by the largest U.S. railroads created $274 billion in economic activity and generated nearly $33 billion in total tax revenues in 2014.
The cascading effect of these investments is hard to overstate. Enhanced rail operations in Florida, not to mention the rest of the country, mean that our ports can move more imports and exports and meet the increased demand of an expanded Panama Canal. Port Tampa Bay, for example, is continuing to invest in rail connectivity as part of a long-range development plan that aims to bulk up its presence in the container market.
Smart policies have allowed companies to make significant private investments in our state's all-important transportation network. Florida needs to keep these good policies, and others like them, rolling.
Christopher Emmanuel, Tallahassee
The writer is director of infrastructure and governance policy with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Rubio's rotten record
We are sickened and heartbroken by gun violence in our homes, nightclubs, schools and protest rallies. We are also angry.
Angry that Sen. Marco Rubio continues to block legislation that would save lives. He repeatedly made it easier for dangerous people to buy guns and voted to block legislation on the Senate floor that would help reduce gun violence.
In the past month alone, America suffered both the deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest attack on our police officers since 9/11. Eight days after Orlando's massacre, Rubio, representing the state where the shooting occurred, voted against a bill that would have required background checks for all gun sales.
Rubio cares more about earning his "A" grade from the NRA than he does about protecting our families.
Catherine Durkin Robinson, Tampa
NRA's self-serving advice
As I have watched the coverage of the police shootings of innocent black men in Baton Rouge, La., and St. Paul, Minn., and the killing of police officers in Dallas, my first thought has been of how much hate and fear is being exhibited to no one's benefit.
Two black men are dead, likely because police officers feared those black men more than they would a white man under the same circumstances. The police officers are dead because a black man attacked them in a rage of anger to get even, killing people indiscriminately who had nothing to do with the tragedies of the previous two days.
My second thought is of something I heard said by an official of the NRA. He was advising blacks that they would be safer by arming themselves instead of advocating gun control. Yet the man in St. Paul who was killed was honest enough to tell the officer that he had a gun and was licensed to use it. In Dallas, a black man armed himself with an assault rifle — perfectly legal in Texas — and killed, was killed, and yet changed nothing for the better.
I pray that something good comes out of these senseless killings. One lesson I hope we learn is to stop listening to the NRA.
Rene Tamargo, Tampa
Make fundamental changes
Unfortunately, the Second Amendment to the Constitution was created precisely for the actions of the police-killing sniper in Dallas. Our Founding Fathers included the right to bear arms in order to form a well-regulated militia. I interpret their purpose for this amendment was to enable the overthrow of a tyrannical government, similarly to how they had overthrown the British.
In their minds, if the experimental government they were creating became as tyrannical as the kings and queens they had just overthrown, it would need to be overthrown in the same way — through armed conflict.
For those young black men and women who, stopped by government authorities for minor infractions (walking in the street, selling a cigarette, driving without registration or with a broken light), end up dead, it cannot be denied that this is a form of tyranny. Tyranny buoyed by racism, even if only carried out by a few members of society, can ensure that our racial scars never heal. Racial tyranny is tyranny nonetheless.
The Second Amendment to our Constitution does not directly condone killing, but what else do militias and arms do? I think it is time to take a serious look at whether we continue to need or want Second Amendment protections. The Dallas sniper did not accomplish what he wanted by taking the wrong approach to ending racial tyranny. He instead dug the racial scars of our nation deeper with his actions, all of which were enabled by the Second Amendment and availability of weapons we have come to condone as a society.
Not many Americans understand the Second Amendment that they fiercely protect, and many will be offended by my suggestion. Still, the lives of all of the people murdered in recent days matter, whether they are black, white or brown. And those lives likely all would be still intact if it weren't for the Second Amendment and our related adoration of weapons.
Brad Rosenheim, St. Petersburg