Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

What Jan Platt's name really means

You expect controversy at the Hillsborough County Commission.

Taxes and transportation, redistricting and development — all deserve big battles and public dustups.

But controversy over naming a successful land preservation plan for the commissioner who came up with it? Opposition to adding Jan Platt's name to the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Preservation Program — Platt having been one of the good guys in government?


Now 77 and involved in causes from Head Start to libraries, Platt showed up at a commission meeting last month to commemorate a quarter-century of ELAPP, which over the years has preserved more than 61,000 county acres.

That's when Commissioner Kevin Beckner floated the idea of naming the program for her, or at least adding her name to it — not that "ELAPP" isn't downright melodious.

And get this: Though Platt is a Democrat's Democrat, the idea won unanimous initial approval from commissioners of all stripe. And some days these guys can't even agree on where to order lunch.

"I was very, very touched," Platt says.

So: A popular, well-meant program honoring the person who conceived it — a no-brainer, right?


Some involved in environmental causes contend that adding the name of a politician could hurt a program that's had nonpartisan support.

As a commissioner, Platt fiercely protected the environment and refused to hand over the keys to developers. She was also known for steadfastly, even primly, playing by the rules.

And here is the truth about being one of the good guys: Not everyone is going to like you for it.

Commissioner No, they famously called her, though Commissioner No Nonsense fit pretty well, too.

Do those opposed really think people will change their opinion of ELAPP because it has "Jan Platt" attached?

Do they truly believe her name will overshadow how people see the pros and cons of the actual program?

Because this seems highly doubtful to me.

Yes, you have to be careful about which names you hang on buildings and such. But odds are slim to none that Platt — whose worst detractors probably can't come up with much uglier to say about her than "goody two-shoes" — will embarrass us.

And if we decide we're no longer naming things for important politicians who influenced them, we're going to have a whole lot of naked schools, parks and public buildings on our hands.

Interesting historic note: The commission raised a fracas a few years back when it voted to name its Moral Courage Award, the highest honor given to citizens, for the late Ralph Hughes. That controversy was well deserved given that Hughes was a millionaire activist who contributed thousands to commissioners.

This is not that.

This is about props for an advocate of a popular environmental program, twice extended by voters by the way, to keep the best of what we have around here.

Asked what she thinks, Platt says it's up to the commission.

Here's hoping they go with honoring true public service over bowing to controversy when, for once, there really isn't any.

What Jan Platt's name really means 10/15/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 9:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft


    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Editorial: Pinellas cannot ignore homeless families


    They are living on our streets and in our parking lots, in cheap motels and spare bedrooms if they're lucky and in old cars if they are not. Their kids attend our schools, and parents often are afraid to seek help. Pinellas County has made progress in recent years in providing temporary shelter for the homeless, but …

Ariana Turner, 22, and her daughter, Namine Cowell, 2, are living at St. Petersburg Free Clinic Family Residence after falling on hard times. Pinellas County has made progress in recent years in providing temporary shelter for the homeless, but homeless families with kids are virtually shut out. It's a crisis that requires public and private leadership to find an answer that is both compassionate and cost-effective.
  3. Report: USF faculty complained of a hostile, sexist, boorish boss


    TAMPA — A certain University of South Florida academic may be an unpopular and insensitive bully, but he did not break USF rules, a lengthy legal review has concluded.

    Herb Maschner was removed last fall as the head of a technology center at the University of South Florida after the school learned his previous employer found he engaged in inappropriate, on-campus sexual behavior. A new report looks at Maschner's tenure at USF. [Idaho State University]
  4. Oh, deer! Two bucks seen on video duking it out in Tennessee


    Deer generally are seen as calm and serene creatures, but that was not the case in this video posted Wednesday on the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency's Facebook page.

    A video, shot by Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency wildlife officers Amy and Bubba Spencer on one of their trail cameras, shows two bucks on their hind legs and flailing in an open field. [Facebook]

  5. Pedestrian dies after being struck by vehicle near USF Tampa campus


    A pedestrian was killed near the University of South Florida Tampa campus on Friday after he was struck by a car on Fletcher Avenue, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.