The public's right to know | April 7, editorial
Email privacy is least of worries
As our state government debates additional public records exemptions of email addresses for registered voters, I ask: What do they think they are protecting us from? I have choices; I can choose to vote by mail, walk in early to vote or vote at my precinct. My email address only becomes public record if I give it to the elections office. My home address is public record, my telephone number is public record (and far more annoying!), so what's so special about email? What difference does it make if a campaign contacts you by mail or email? Today election records have limited uses by law, but you can go online and see what a neighbor's home is worth or how many driving tickets he has.
Each year the Internet becomes a more powerful force in every part of our lives. A savvy business owner can buy data that will let a company know what you buy, where you shop, how old your children are and where they go to school. When I Google a product, advertisements for that product show up on Web pages I view over the next few days. So why hide an email address that someone volunteered to give to the election office? What's the difference today between an email address, a street address and a phone number? I would take emails over phone calls at dinnertime any day of the week.
Neil Brickfield, Safety Harbor
A legacy forged in iron | April 9
She faced up to evil
Britain's "Iron Lady," former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, will be sorely missed. She and her Conservative Party and Ronald Reagan's conservative Republican Party faced the evil empires of their day together and changed the world for the better, and we could surely use some of their leadership today, with all the bullies in the world flexing their nuclear muscles.
What a first-class lady and leader.
Ray Brown, Tampa
Dancer gets prison for tax fraud | April 5
Put criminals to work
The report on the dancer and her lucrative tax fraud raises some interesting questions. How did a person with her background acquire such remarkable skills to outwit our top-notch IRS bureaucracy, when so many of us struggle with computer filing programs and expensive accountants?
The dancer and her ilk in this enterprise are having such astounding success while the authorities are experiencing a dismal failure in recovering even a fraction of our stolen money, let alone stopping this colossal robbery. Perhaps a good solution is to enroll these tax fraud specialists to train in prison as accountants, CPAs and potential IRS investigators.
Mukunda Rao, Tampa
Fewer to get tuition award | April 3
Yes on higher standards
As I prepare to graduate from USF in a few weeks, I have intently followed the actions of our Republican-controlled Legislature for the last four years in regards to higher education. Increasing the standards to obtain a Bright Futures scholarship is the only decision that myself and many peers seem to agree with. As current seniors, we have faced repeated cuts to Bright Futures as well as double-digit tuition increases since fall 2009, primarily due to loss in state tax dollars.
Increasing standards is the only way to go to maintain this award for high-achieving and hardworking students in light of declining tax and lottery dollars and increasing enrollment at our state universities. Otherwise this Legislature will continue to cut or maintain low award amounts, rewarding new students at the expense of penalizing existing students by lowering their award amounts, in order to keep the total cost of the program in control.
Braulio Colon and the Florida College Access Network should work toward helping current high school students, regardless of race or economic background, reach high grades and test scores in high school to meet the higher standards.
Toby Thomson, Tampa
Missing the mark | April 7
Enforce the law
Not far into your front-page report on Florida's gun loopholes, I was shocked and disappointed to read that "officials say the lack of enforcement is also due, paradoxically, to an absence of public concern about the voter-approved background checks." Really? Once a law, especially one vital to public safety, is passed, it requires an ongoing effort by the public or else it won't be enforced?
Is it the mandate of law enforcement to enforce only the laws that the public has to constantly complain about? Helping to ensure that only qualified people purchase guns shouldn't need that to happen. I suspect the hesitancy comes from a different place — fear that's generated by people believing that any gun law will lead to abolishing the Second Amendment.
Your follow-up report should look into gun crimes committed in those seven Florida counties since the law was passed.
Fred Mitchell, Safety Harbor
Door is closing
The headline of your story, "Missing the mark," is a good metaphor. Another metaphor could be, "The window is closing." By that I mean the window of opportunity created by the terrible Newtown shootings, which sent us all into a righteous rage, clamoring for a change in the gun laws and the gun culture of America.
Insanity, it is said, is defined as doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different outcome. If that is so, then we, the electorate, must be insane because we keep re-electing the same elected officials over and over. It is time to stop the merry-go-round.
John Ways, St. Petersburg
Because of an editing error, Linda de Bottari's letter in Thursday's Times mischaracterized her point about individual assistance for students. She referred to "average students," not those with special needs, as those who "could have benefited from such individualized education planning" but did not get that assistance.