By Times Staff
Published May 6, 2007
Soaring off to greener skies? May 1
Make tax system fair for everyone
It looks like former Gov. Jeb Bush's pet project - giving away billions of taxpayer dollars to businesses that promise to locate operations in Florida - has begun to backfire. Avantair Inc., a firm that apparently established its headquarters in Clearwater without benefit of a Bush administration giveaway, is now threatening to move out of the state unless the Florida Legislature enacts a law that would exempt Avantair from millions of sales tax liabilities. Is Florida headed down a slippery slope of granting special-interest tax exemptions to compensate businesses that don't qualify for the "new business" incentives?
Let Florida's Legislature focus attention on a tax system that is fair and applicable equally to all taxpayers, not a system so full of special-interest loopholes as to penalize businesses that don't or can't employ high powered lobbyists and lawyers to obtain favored tax status.
Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg
TECO boosts stock dividend May 3
Power plant money is a tax
I am delighted that TECO stockholders got increased dividends. They invested their money into the company, became its owners and rightfully share in profits. They also risk losses if the stocks' value should go down or if operating and building expenses go up. This is American free enterprise.
Bills in the Florida Legislature to transfer the cost and risk of power plant construction to the public is just plain wrong. These would let the power companies bill us rate payers for the construction now, then bill us for the electricity produced. The public doesn't benefit from the profits of that investment. The power company stockholders profit. I strongly agree that new, safe and clean-burning power plants need to be built in Florida. I'm just saying that the power companies should sell us stocks or bonds to finance them, or the Legislature should call this new construction funding what it is: a tax.
Fred Jacobsen, Apollo Beach
HMOs profit from provision May 2
CEO makes way too much money
It is disgraceful and a wasteful misdirection of taxpayer money for the care of those needing medical attention and society's need for emphasis on prevention to permit a profit-making private entity, having no interest in quality of care or preventative medicine, to perform a government function. And it is a criminal diversion of my tax money to pay a CEO $5.3-million. That's more than the president of the United States gets and more than all the super-grade employees of the federal and Florida agencies dealing with our citizens' heath are paid.
Alexander Goldman, Sun City Center
They get paid more to do less?
Please tell me if I am reading this article correctly.
- The new state budget will increase monies for HMOs, which provide care for Medicaid patients. This increase was slipped into the budget without going though committee scrutiny.
- The budget also repeals a requirement calling for specific amounts for care of mental health patients. But at the same time our state is building more jails in order to house mental patients because funding for care of mental patients is underfunded.
- At least one of the HMOs, which will receive this increased funding, has reported a net income of $25-million in the first quarter of this year. An amount almost 50 percent more than in 2006. This same company pays one person its CEO, president and chairman $5.3-million approximately per year.
- Profits by HMOs can be minimized by placing them in a company in the Cayman Islands.
Did I actually read this article correctly? Will HMOs actually get more funds and be required to do less? And what does a company, such as the one whose income was quoted, pay in federal, state and local taxes on its profit and on the funds it can tuck away in the Cayman Islands?
Joanne Hannon, Pinellas Park
Are we any cooler? April 29
Pasco County feeds Roanoke
I have had the good fortune of sitting with Richard Florida a couple of times, correspond by e-mail and know one of his associates. I wrote a letter to the editor of Fast Company magazine in response to the negative article they ran about his research that was published in the most current edition.
According to Census data between 1995-2000, 307 people from Pasco County moved to Roanoke, Va. Pasco was the No. 1 county outside of the state of Virginia with in-flow to Roanoke.
Stuart Mease, Roanoke, Va., Retaining and Attracting Young Adults in City of Roanoke
Arts community needs measured
I would bet that the answer to your question "Are We Any Cooler?' is: 'We Don't Know!' That is because no one is measuring on an annual basis whether the Tampa Bay area is gaining or losing arts-related businesses/activities.
There may be a Chamber of Commerce figure that says some number of people "participated" in art activities, but this does not really "measure" the health of the bay area arts scene. It would help if there were an annual census of art organizations/activities and art people to compare to previous years. It would be critically important to include activities that are not present, but should be so that questions can be asked as to how that can be changed.
Businesses measure their profits and losses on a monthly basis and make appropriate changes. The art community can do this at least once a year.
Malcolm Johnson, Seminole
A sense of culture keeps kids home
In my experience, it seems that the kids from south Tampa and Temple Terrace stick around longer. The ones whose parents are in Ye Mystic Krewe or Sant' Yago - or the ones who have been involved with the community since a very young age - these kids get a sense of community because their whole family for many generations back are from Tampa. It is unheard of to move away for good in the culture I grew up in. My great-great-grandmother moved to Tampa from Italy. We have been a south Tampa/Ybor City fixture for over 100 years. I have no choice but to come back to Tampa someday. I want my kids to experience the same sense of place I have experienced for most of my life.
However, most of the young professionals that live here are from other places. It is kind of cliquish, especially in south Tampa. It's hard to meet people and hard to understand the little things that make Tampa so great. Tampa is a wonderful city, but a lot of my friends that recently moved there liken it to the book (and movie) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with its weird traditions and a sense of place only if you grew up there. That's a problem for a city that wants to maintain its traditions, keep its culture (a weird mix of Southern and Italian/Spanish) and attract young people. It's a hard balance to achieve. I think it is just a matter of letting the "new" people experience that tradition too. Emerge Tampa really tries to accomplish this. It is a great program and allows young professionals to make new traditions and experience the older ones, too.
Karla A. Stevenson, Iowa City, Ph.D candidate, University of Iowa
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