Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Difficult choices take no holidays

’Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the county — well, let's just say politicians were dealing with plenty.

Getting no holiday from hard choices, the Hillsborough County School Board wrestled this week with whether to put armed guards at its elementary schools in the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook, Conn., shootings. Sound idea, or big, expensive overreaction?

And just down the street, Hillsborough County commissioners were deep in debate over a controversial way to deal with the stray cat population by trapping, fixing and releasing them back into the world. Humane, or a horror show in which cats live short, brutal lives?

They were both emotional issues, the kind you hope the people you elect have the smarts and sensibilities to handle without pandering, pontificating or politicking.

Turns out at least some of them did.

School superintendent MaryEllen Elia pushed the plan for armed guards in all 144 elementary schools at a yearly cost that could climb as high as $4.5 million when the plan is fully implemented after four years. And will you look at that, principal after principal showed up to help make the case. Elia is no slouch.

But who could blame principals for wanting an extra layer of protection that could also help deal with angry parents and other potential problems?

For the record, Hillsborough's middle and high schools already have sworn law enforcement officers, and guards are at 19 elementary schools where they were determined to be needed.

And after Sandy Hook, local school districts took sensible security measures like installing locks, buzzers and fences. But none armed all of their schools.

And is adding a hired guard a real solution to stopping a planned and violent attack?

So this discussion gave a pretty good glimpse of some board members and the stuff of which they are made. Newest member Cindy Stuart was unafraid to speak frankly and like a grownup, sans pandering, about the lack of real need for this. April Griffin, who has advocated a larger approach to deal with the underlying issues, said clearly, "I don't want to live in a police state."

And then there was swing vote Stacy White, invoking God and country, throwing in how we need to get back to basics and "stop our relentless pursuit of irrelevant material goods made in China." And no, I did not make that up. And, yes, he is running for the county commission.

And so the first year of an armed guard plan that seems more Band-Aid than solution passed 4-3.

Meanwhile, over at the Hills­borough commission, they were getting an earful on a plan to trap, neuter, vaccinate, microchip and release strays known as "community cats." (Which sounds like a bunch of cats getting together for a neighborhood potluck.) Part of the ambitious "Be The Way Home" program, it's actually a tough-choice option for dealing with strays and working to reduce how many cats are killed at the animal shelter each year.

Commissioners also heard from those opposed, including some veterinarians, who said such cats can spread disease and lead brutal lives, that euthanizing is still the best option.

And the board voted 6-1 to make the tough choice and begin the program, and pandering took a holiday.

Difficult choices take no holidays 12/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren joins other prosecutors in protesting Jeff Sessions' 'tough-on-crime' policy


    TAMPA — Andrew Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, is among signers of a letter from 31 district prosecutors nationwide voicing opposition to the tough-on-crime policies of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Hillsborough State Atttorney Andrew Warren is among the signers of a letter from 31 top prosecutors nationwide opposing Attorney General Jeff Sessions' 'tough-on-crime' policies. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  2. Suspect tells police he killed roommates for disrespecting his Muslim faith


    TAMPA — A man accused of shooting his roommates in a New Tampa apartment told police he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with the two men until he converted to Islam then killed them because they disrespected his faith.

    Devon Arthurs, 18, of Tampa told police  he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with his roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk, until he converted to Islam and shot them because they disrespected his faith.
[Photo courtesy of Tampa Police]
  3. Nelson, Rubio want Trump to back off cuts to drug office


    Citing an opioid crisis “devastating Florida,” Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are asking the Trump administration to back off plans to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    A letter to the Office of Management and Budget
  4. US President Donald Trump, left,  meets with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Monday, in Jerusalem. Trump opened his first visit to Israel Monday, a two-day stop aimed at testing the waters for jumpstarting the dormant Middle East peace process. [AP photo]
  5. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times