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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Today's Letters: With market-based health care, too many lose out
Letters to the Editor
Published November 3, 2007
Giuliani botches cancer stat Nov. 1, story
As Rudy Giuliani and the other candidates predictably trot out the scare tactics regarding universal, national health care programs, they would do well to remember these facts:
1. Everyone is covered, period. There are no pre-existing conditions, insurance ratings or other tricks to deny coverage.
2. Health insurance does not evaporate with the loss or change of a job, nor is it different if you are injured at work, in a car accident, disabled, below the poverty level or if something happens to you at home or abroad.
3. Medical decisions are made by the patient and doctor, not an insurance company or government bureaucrat.
4. Medical care is the same for everyone, regardless of race, socioeconomic status or employment.
5. Bankruptcy from medical bills, or living in fear of it, does not exist.
6. We pay far too much now and receive far too little in exchange.
If "market-based" health care is so wonderful, how did it lead us to the miserable state of health care in this country today? Our leaders seem to have forgotten the fundamental truth of market systems: There are always "winners" at the expense of "losers." Will we, as a nation, continue to accept our fellow citizens as health care losers in order for health insurance companies to be the big winners?
I, for one, cannot.
Greg Silver, M.D., Palm Harbor
Rudy Giuliani might have said he's lucky to be alive because he had his disease in the United States, but he should have said he's alive because he could afford the treatment that cured him.
This is just another case of Republican shortsightedness. They seem to think that just because they have enough resources to cover all their medical problems that this country doesn't have a health care problem.
I think it's time to put all our politicians under the same health care and retirement plans the rest of us have. Which means no plush pension plans, no medical programs and no perks that they get as government officials. Then let's see if they still feel we have no health care problems.
Robert Murray, Oldsmar
For the sake of equity, get rid of the property tax
Gov. Charlie Crist must have moved to Fantasy Land if he sincerely believes the rhetoric - "the people have won" - he is spewing about the recently passed tax plan.
I am one of the suckers who moved to Florida within the past three years; my taxes are more than $5,000 higher than my neighbors' and Crist thinks a $240 "savings" is going to "buy" my silence?
When does the issue of equality ever enter into the Florida real estate tax equation? How on earth do the legislators believe that people will desire to move to the Sunshine State if they know their taxes will be up to quadruple their neighbors' taxes? Are you kidding me?
Eliminate the ridiculously unfair property tax altogether. This would immediately jump-start the moribund real estate market and attract worldwide praise highlighting the progressiveness of Florida. Allow the voters to decide if an increase in sales tax to pay for the lost revenue is the best solution to this ever-increasing disaster called Florida!
Jack Davis, Treasure Island
Solution is elusive
I'm starting again to see in print the idea of having no property taxes and a 9 percent sales tax instead. If the Times wished to provide a grand public service, their financial experts could easily put that concept to rest. Crunch the numbers to see how much low, medium and high-end property taxpayers must buy in the way of taxed consumer goods to make up for not paying property taxes. The numbers are astronomical, and this doesn't include lost revenue from: the underground economy, Internet sales, goods purchased from out of state, etc. Is the goal here to double the size of the tax collecting bureaucracy and the number of guards at the state line and entry ports to watch for untaxed goods coming in?
Maybe if all goods and services were taxed and all loopholes closed, the taxes collected would head in the right direction. We should recall, however, that former Gov. Bob Martinez fell from grace when he made that suggestion. And logically, certain industries such as ad agencies and others would leave the state because the added sales taxes would make them uncompetitive. We need a fair tax proposal, and for the life of me I have no idea what it should be.
John Piemonte, Clearwater
Property tax cut emerges from fight Oct. 30
Tax cut is not justified
I had to allow myself a few hours to cool off after seeing that our intrepid legislators are congratulating themselves over their proposal to slash property taxes by $12.4-billion, including a $2.8-billion loss of school revenue - otherwise this letter would have contained language not fit for a family newspaper to print.
Will Florida ever have legislators with the guts to ask themselves if Florida's property taxes really are too high? There are 49 other states out there, most of them with property taxes higher than Florida's. What is needed is not a tax cut for all taxpayers. What's needed is an overhaul of the existing tax to make it more fair by eliminating a lengthy list of special-interest deductions and exemptions already in place.
How on earth can a $12.4-billion cut be justified when Florida's quality of government services is already below average compared with the other states?
For me, the picture of a laughing, triumphant Gov. Crist declaring that "the people have won" was the last straw. Won what? A crippling blow to a tax system that would condemn Florida to third-rate status for still another generation? Or was it a victory for the redneck attitude that taxes - any and all taxes - are too high?
Responsible people - people who want to see a Florida of quality government - will vote on Jan. 29 against this proposal to gut the property tax by $12.4-billion.
Joseph H. Francis, St. Petersburg
Some real estate relief
I am as disappointed as the next guy about the amount of the property tax cut plan delivered by the Legislature, however any plan that can pass under the 60 percent rule is better than an aggressive plan that will fail in the January vote.
While the previous "super homestead" plan would have offered deeper cuts, it was looking as though it didn't have enough votes to actually be enacted. And quite honestly, the people of Florida are not savvy enough to pass an increased sales tax plan which would offer the greatest future for the state.
I am encouraged, however, to see the homestead portability measure make the ballot. A huge portion of the real estate market's decline was based on this issue. In the past, a large portion of real estate transactions were local homeowners, moving up or down within the market. That has been almost totally eliminated in the past two years due to the tax issue. Hopefully, the governor is correct and the real estate market will experience a large resurgence.
While the amount may not be that large, if it can stem the decline in real estate values, we are all better off in the long run. Also, we all need to hold our government officials to their word that this is "only the beginning."
Dave Hoyt, mortgage broker, Palm Harbor
Grateful for a break
Let me get this right: They doubled the homestead exemption. They made the present "Save Our Homes" cap portable, and they placed a yearly cap of 10 percent on our rental properties.
What property owners in their right mind could find fault with this? Surely not in my neighborhood.
Thank you, Gov. Crist, for the first tax break we can vote on in 30 years.
Guy Nash, St. Petersburg
Giving up on Florida
As the owner of a nonhomesteaded property here in Florida, I was outraged when I read that I wouldn't be getting any relief from Gov. Charlie Crist and his cronies in the Senate. The condo I own has had its taxes trebled in the past six years. Additionally, the homeowners insurance has more than doubled, not to mention the fact that I just received a cancellation notice from my current insurer because it no longer wishes to do business in Florida.
As a native New Yorker, I advise anyone who asks me about buying property in Florida to just forget it, because the deck is certainly stacked against you.
P.T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute." Well this sucker is about to say "See ya" to Florida and its lopsided tax scheme. I'm selling my place and going to look for a state that doesn't bite the hand that feeds it.
Michael Cundari, Clearwater Beach
It's a raw deal
I have to believe our legislators did try, but it looks like all they have gotten done is to put a little lipstick on the very big pig.
I get maybe $300 off on my property taxes and I am still going to be paying six times what some of my neighbors are paying for the very same condo unit, and I paid three times what they paid for the unit, just because I arrived to Florida's sunny shores within the last six or seven years.
The savings is no big whoop for me. I get a 5 percent savings and they get 25 percent knocked off what was already a steal. I won't be pulling the lever in favor of this raw deal. What enterprising lawyer would like to take on this case for those of us who are getting ripped off? Is this what it will take to do away with Save Our Homes unless it considers all homeowners, regardless of when they bought their homes? We have some taxpayers who have been freeloaders, and if the taxes were all fairly assessed, we wouldn't see more Floridians moving to Tennessee and the Carolinas.
Sandy Hutton, Belleair
Floridians deserved better
Considering how serious the property tax situation is here in Florida, I find it difficult to believe the action that our Senate took on the issue. They just threw their proposal down on the table and walked out with the attitude of "There is no discussion, take it or leave it." We as residents deserve more than that.
I applaud the House members for the direction they were heading. It was across the board and eased the burden on everyone. If our Senate feels it's their way or the highway, I think we need to show them the highway and find replacements who will work with others to come to a solution that all agree on. I myself promise that I will not be voting for any incumbent in the next election.
Edward S. Hirst, Brooksville
A tax cut illusion
A lot of Times readers and the Times itself are disappointed in the new tax plan. Not enough, they say! But people should remember, the plan is not about you, it's about government revenue. Gov. Charlie Crist knows it. Only the public does not. This will "jump start" the real estate market, declared the governor, and that will jump start tax revenue pouring into Tallahassee. The plan never was intended to cut spending, and cutting taxes is illusionary, at best.
Even so, government officials are already lining up to defeat the plan and take back into their coffers even the average $240 per household. The plan "isn't good enough" is the tack being taken by Democrats who owe their jobs to the unions. The plan will cut spending on schools and close police stations, say those who live off the tax revenue (local government officials).
In August, the government (state and local) noticed that tax revenue was short $1-billion due to plummeting home sales. That forced them to make some superficial cuts (cut vacant positions or reduce hiring, put new construction off 12 months, etc.). In 2008, the deficiency will be another $1-billion-plus as the real estate industry continues to stall. The real message from your government officials is: Don't expect even $240 off your tax bill. In fact, be prepared for higher millage rates in '08.
One recent letter to the editor offered a solution to the problem: Vote all incumbents out of office 12 months from now. Start fresh with a message to those who replace the incumbents, that they could be next.
Bill Boyd, Apollo beach
Retirement dream sours
I am a nonresident, baby-boomer condo owner. I retired one year ago with a dream of spending my retirement years in sunny Florida. Exorbitant property taxes, outrageous insurance costs and homesteader favoritism have turned my dream into a nightmare. Unless these issues are resolved, I am left with no choice but to sell my property in Florida and find value for my dollar elsewhere. My baby-boomer buddies from the North share my beliefs.
State legislators just do not seem to get it! To maintain the state of Florida as the No. 1 retirement destination for North Americans, they must significantly reduce taxes and insurance costs. Otherwise, the exodus has just begun.
Wade Hoddinott, St. Pete Beach
Valuing all human life
The Oct. 21 article Holocaust's other victims raises awareness of the suffering and loss of life in Poland under the Nazi regime. History tells us that if Adolf Hitler had completed the conquest of Europe, the next Holocaust would have occurred with the planned resettlement of German citizens on the lands of the "inferior" Poles. The result would have been a Holocaust against the Polish people that could have been equal to or might have exceeded that which occurred against the Jews.
In last year's program, the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg featured the graphic and heart-rending depiction of the Nazi occupation of Poland in an exhibit by Polish artist Jan Komski. The mission of the museum is that of teaching the inherent worth and dignity of human life of all races and cultures.
Herman Waldman, Florida Holocaust Museum volunteer, St. Pete Beach
Put school bus riders in seat belts Oct. 30, letter
Seat belts pose problems
Obviously, the letter writer has never driven a school bus since he doesn't know the reactions of students. Even in a fender bender, they panic and become hysterical.
The seat belts that are installed in the buses are lap belts only; no shoulder harness. When I drove a bus with seat belts I always checked to see if they were on properly before we left the school. In the mornings it is different since we cannot leave our seats at the bus stop to be sure everybody has their belts on; we can only remind them to put them on. We cannot refuse to transport a student for not wearing the seat belt, only write referrals. And it takes quite a few to get the student suspended off the bus. Some are never suspended regardless of the number of referrals.
As far as injuries during an accident, lap belts alone can be more harmful. Why do you think they added the shoulder harness in cars? If the bus is in an accident and tips over or flips upside down then the weight of the child is putting pressure on the belt and it will not unlatch. I tried.
There was a bus in Pasco that missed a curve and tipped over. Of all the elementary students on the bus there was one broken arm and minor bumps and bruises. I'll take that over internal injuries from seat belts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does know what it is talking about.
Sharon Hodges, Clearwater
Put school bus riders in seat belts Oct. 30, letter
I have been driving buses about 15 years. I drive for several private schools. My greatest fear is not being able to get kids out of the bus. Seat belts would slow any rescue.
I have parents ask about seat belts all the time. I tell them about two classes of fourth-graders (my own daughter was one of them) that I had to get off the bus due to a tire fire on Interstate 275. No one was hurt, but I am sure we could not have emptied the bus as fast if seat belts were in place.