Trump's plan: to drill | Jan. 5
Drilling not worth risk to Florida
As a Republican and a supporter of President Donald Trump supporter, I am appalled by the proposal to drill for oil off Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts, whose beaches and economies would be devastated by an oil spill. Florida beach tourism generates $50 billion in annual revenue and a half-million jobs, which even a small oil spill would severely impact. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused relatively minor beach damage but the national and international publicity caused tourists to stay home in droves, bringing economic havoc that cannot be risked again.
David P. Carter, Seminole
National Mentoring Month
Benefits of helping youths
January is National Mentoring Month, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay invites you to help celebrate by joining us. As the oldest and largest one-to-one youth mentoring organization, we match caring adults with thousands of children and youths in the communities we serve who could benefit by having a Big Sister or Big Brother role model. The impact of these special relationships is nearly as positive for the volunteers (called Bigs) as it is for the youth (called Littles), whose lives are changed for the better in significant ways.
Having a Big in their lives increases a youth's confidence and self-esteem. This results in improved school behavior, academic performance and higher graduation rates. It also results in improved relationships with their peers and other adults. In addition, fewer youth become pregnant, get arrested, or use alcohol or drugs. The outcomes we see encourage us to work harder to provide even more of these great kids with a caring Big Brother or Big Sister whom we screen, train and coach all through this volunteer experience.
There are many ways to get involved: by subscribing to our free online newsletter, by becoming a volunteer Big Brother or Big Sister to one of the hundreds of children on our waiting list, by donating to support our matches, or even by purchasing a Big Brother Big Sister specialty license plate at your county tax collector's office. For information about our programs, go to www.bbbstampabay.org. Thank you.
Stephen A. Koch, CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Tampa
Fighting for social justice
The St. Petersburg Branch NAACP has worked tirelessly since its reorganization in September 2015 to take measured steps toward the goal of social justice in St. Petersburg. To that end we would like to offer a summary of the branch's 2017 accomplishments.
Effective governance and fiscal accountability are the foundation of our advocacy efforts. Advocacy efforts were launched against the city of St. Petersburg for the following: only seven African-Americans have held a command position in the history of the St. Petersburg Fire Department; ensuring that the $100,000 budgeted for a comprehensive plan in south St. Petersburg is utilized to contract with a facilitator that has a track record and experience in urban redevelopment; and support of the Southern Poverty Leadership's efforts for juvenile justice reform. Education advocacy still serves as the primary advocacy issue for the St. Petersburg NAACP Branch.
Disaster relief and emergency preparedness is one of the newest game changers for the NAACP. The St. Petersburg Branch partnered with the Edwards Group and Jameis Winston to open a FEMA registration site for 600 residents and also to feed 1,500 residents.
The St. Petersburg Branch NAACP continues its call for unity with a focus on our political leaders in hopes they recognize the sun will never shine on all when concepts of sustainability and economic viability are discussed and those same leaders remain disengaged from the pursuit of social and economic justice for all.
Maria L. Scruggs, president, St. Petersburg Branch NAACP
Emergency room myth | Dec. 28, commentary
System needs reforms
This column addresses how having affordable health care does not decrease emergency room use. While the data is correct, several cautions are needed in drawing conclusions.
First, ER overuse is a problem for both the uninsured and insured. Changes in the health care system and incentives for its use are needed. Many wait too long for care, don't know when to use the ER, and there are cases of drug-seeking behavior.
Second, the health system must be restructured to allow easy and affordable access to urgent and primary care other than the ER. Across the country, hospitals and insurance companies are partnering with pharmacies and grocery stores to provide urgent/walk-in care as alternatives to ER.
Third, patients and providers need behavior change and incentives to use settings other than the ER. The author referenced increases in ER use in Oregon resulting from covering health care, but did not reference that Oregon expanded Medicaid and that Oregon providers are now implementing programs to change the behaviors of ER overusers. The impact of these programs will not be seen immediately.
A local example of financial incentives is that the Hillsborough County Health Care Plan for low-income individuals has capped its total annual payment for ER use as a provider incentive to refer patients to primary care for followup/ongoing care.
The true community value of coordinated care is not the direct health care cost saving; it is the positive economic impact of keeping people productive. This is particularly true for an area like Tampa Bay that relies on small businesses and hourly workers. When people cannot work because of illness, they lose income and contribute less to the economy. Their family suffers and there is a negative impact on parenting and family development. Poverty and illness also can lead to increased crimes and increase the cost of the justice system.
It is folly to expect that we can give access to care for more people and not invest in system change and be surprised that the costs go up. It is also folly to expect these changes immediately and not include the real community impacts due to keeping people productive and their families sound.
Dave Rogoff, Temple Terrace