Today's Letters: Water worries are real and should not be ignored

Published May 14, 2007

We need drought to wake up our leaders to crisis May 7, letter 

The letter writer may be a little over the top by praying for an extended drought, but she scores on several points regarding Florida's ongoing water crises.

For too long, county commissioners and members of the South Florida Water Management District have refused to address our fundamental water problems. They continue to approve proposed housing developments, thus simply kicking the can down the road and hence leaving the hard decisions to future Floridians.

Every time I read about another shopping mall or housing development being approved, I immediately think, "How can there be a water shortage?" To most Florida residents, I'm sure the problem is clearly a growing demand for a finite water resource. The easy solution today seems to be just smaller slices from the same pie. Recycled water, xeriscaping, etc., while helpful, will not solve the shortage. Where is new water going to come from? What's next? Twice-a-week showers? Rain dances? Nature is not going to supply new water simply because future growth needs it.

How often have we heard the phrase "People need places to live"? Developers build, deposit their profits and move on. Water problems? Not their concern! Currently, a retired millionaire doctor is attempting to win government approval on a monster coastal development in Taylor County, assuring destruction of a large area of pristine coastline and creating even more demand on Florida's underground waters.

The letter writer made a very good point, one I believe most Floridians would agree with. When the drought becomes permanent, then maybe our government officials and agencies will catch a clue and act in a responsible manner ... maybe.

Phil Sachs, St. Petersburg

Impact fees essential

Remember when companies were allowed to pollute streams and air rather than pay the costs associated with properly disposing of their waste? Like when paper mills dumped sudsy dioxin into our streams or treatment plants dumped partially treated sludge into our bay. Who paid? Fishermen, waterfront homeowners, the general public.

In the early '70s we'd had enough and enacted clean-water and clean-air laws to stop that. Now cleaning up their own waste is a part of the cost of production.

Development, too, has costs of production, and once again we are paying them in taxes, fees and diminished quality of life. A house's unit cost does not include paying for traffic jams, school crowding, increasing electrical capacity, stressed water resources or public services.

Impact fees set by local governments are supposed to make development pay for these externalized costs. That's why developers hate them. And because they are politicized, they are vulnerable to manipulation.

Basic economic theory says that when all costs are not borne by the producer, that product becomes overproduced. We can see that here in the Tampa Bay area with housing.

As long as developers are allowed to pass a portion of their production costs onto us, they will continue to overproduce, and our taxes and fees will continue to rise.

Properly assessing externalized development costs and staunchly enforcing these impact fees is the most powerful weapon we have in defending our quality of life.

Lauren Shiner, Tampa

Failure in Tallahassee

The No. 1 item for this legislative session was tax relief for all property owners in Florida. And what did we end up with? A special session in June to "deal with it."

Next time we should disguise ourselves as the cable companies or maybe the telephone companies or even a major biotechnology company. It seems that if you are part of those "special groups" our politicians have no problems passing huge subsidies or tax breaks during a regular session and with hardly any debate or disagreement.

They failed miserably during this session. But at least we did get a paper trail back again for when we vote. I can't wait to vote these failed politicians out of office. In the future we will be able to recount the paper trail again and again and again, to make sure they were voted out.

Jim Steinle, Clearwater

Bias for authority

In just three days last week, local law enforcement officials killed two men with Tasers.

In the first case, which was reported on May 6, the article detailed the past legal troubles of the person killed, seemingly as a way to rationalize why five police officers needed to shoot one man multiple times with Tasers. Although the history of the person killed was dissected, no discussion of the police officers' past was raised. It seems appropriate to know if any of the officers had been involved in a Taser incident in the past, or if any were previously reprimanded for overly aggressive behavior.

In the second case, which appeared May 8, it was reported that a man died after Pinellas County sheriff's deputies shot him with a Taser. The article somehow failed to mention that it was the second such incident that week. I have a hard time believing that if two police officers were killed in a three-day span anything short of a crisis would be proclaimed.

Why is it that when the police kill a citizen, the media quickly accept any possible reason why the killing was justified? It would be nice if the media actually acted in an unbiased fashion instead of taking the default position that the people in power are always right.

Chris Ernesto, St. Petersburg

Keep arts momentum

I came to St. Petersburg from Boston in 1986 to attend Eckerd College. On the few occasions when I could get off campus to explore St. Petersburg with friends who had wheels, I took notice that the city was quite desolate, particularly the downtown area. There might as well have been tumbleweeds blowing down the sidewalk.

Since then a lot has changed; the city has experienced quite a renaissance in the past decade and a lot of that has to do with the city's support of arts and cultural programs that encouraged growth in the community and more cultural awareness. It has given local schools more outlets for teaching, children more after-school opportunities, local residents more options for fun, and visitors more to do.

I have been fortunate enough to work in the local nonprofit arts community for the last 15 years. I have witnessed firsthand the incredible progress that has taken place across the board. To stop the momentum now would be extremely detrimental to the community as a whole. All involved with city budgeting should reconsider the choices that will ultimately undo the progress of the last 10 years. The arts community is a huge reason why St. Petersburg has become such a cultural destination and has therefore benefited in so many ways.

Please think hard and reconsider these heavy-handed cuts. It will affect the city in ways we cannot imagine.

Mich Sullivan, St. Petersburg

Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton? No thanks May 8, Nicholas Kristof column

Stick to qualifications

Apparently Nicholas Kristof doesn't think the country should elect Hillary Clinton for president because of the "political aristocracy, " as he put it.

This letter is not an endorsement of Hillary Clinton (not that my endorsement would mean very much), but I think the electorate should decide who should be president based on his or her qualifications.

Decisions should not be made on the basis of sex or race. And they should certainly not be based on a surname!

Morton Goldstein, Palm Harbor

France's new drill sergeant May 10, Maureen Dowd column

Positive portents

There is every reason to be optimistic about the future success of the new French president. To be panned by the poison pen of Maureen Dowd is no small thing!

John Hungerford, Palm Harbor