Thursday, May 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

St. Petersburg city officials are exploring how to cut down on single-use plastic straws, a commendable effort to make the city even more environmentally minded. But to succeed, City Council members should craft a modest, reasonable restriction that encourages businesses and consumers to change their habits. The worst thing they could do is pass an outright ban on straws, which would correctly be branded as government overreach.

City Council member Gina Driscoll, who was elected last year, is leading the effort. In a news conference on Tuesday, Driscoll cited a National Park Service statistic that Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day, millions of which end up in waterways where they threaten the health of ecosystems. Communities like St. Petersburg have a lot invested in keeping the coastline clean, including tourism, seafood and responsible environmental stewardship. The campaign, dubbed No Straws St. Pete, has already drawn the support of some two dozen local hospitality groups as well as sponsorship from Bank of the Ozarks. The enthusiasm is encouraging.

But Tuesday’s news conference was something of an echo chamber, with T-shirt-wearing activists cheering every sound bite about saving the planet. When the council meets Thursday sitting as the Health, Energy, Resiliency and Sustainability committee, it must take a wider view and a more careful approach. Banning restaurants and other businesses from providing plastic straws would be going too far. What would be the point, other than symbolism that inconveniences and angers residents, of a ban in St. Petersburg that is not in effect in any surrounding city? It would also do more harm to the cause than good, as customers who reach the end of a drive-through lane realize they absolutely, positively cannot have a straw to stick in their soda. The backlash would be fierce.

A far better approach would be an ordinance that prohibits businesses from automatically handing out plastic straws with every drink. Businesses could still stock them, but they’d be kept behind the counter and customers would have to specifically ask for them. St. Petersburg would still be the lone Tampa Bay community that restricts plastic straws, but in a way that retains consumer choice. In fact, some businesses in St. Petersburg such as Pom Pom’s Teahouse & Sandwicheria are already providing straws only by request. Activist-minded customers will no doubt want to reward other shops that get behind the effort voluntarily. That’s the best way to build support — from the bottom up.

Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke in support Tuesday of No Straws St. Pete but wisely did not promote an outright ban on single-use plastic straws. Cities have a role to play in combatting climate change and instituting smart environmental policies that can spread to more communities. But they shouldn’t be the lifestyle police. Persuading consumers to change ingrained habits is tricky work — and it can backfire. A gentle nudge that requires customers to ask for a straw instead of getting one strikes a reasonable balance and could make a small difference.

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Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

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Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

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Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

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Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
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Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
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Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18