Tuesday, August 14, 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: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

Editorial: A big first step toward improving transportation in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County transit referendum that has made the November ballot is significantly stronger than two efforts that failed to reach the end zone in the past decade. The one-cent sales surtax would generate enough money to meaningfully improv...
Published: 08/09/18
Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

Editorial: Bondi should stop fighting smokable medicial marijuana

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida should have ended with the resounding 2016 vote authorizing it in the state Constitution. Instead, the battle for access drags on, with Attorney General Pam Bondi waging the latest round in a lengthy legal b...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

Editorial: Warning signs of a mental health crisis in Florida

They reach from South Florida to Tampa, from a high school to a college campus, from troubled kids to troubled parents. But there is a common thread connecting these tragedies: Florida has a mental health crisis. Addressing it would require spending ...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

Editorial: Time to pursue or sink ferry to MacDill

A proposal to use local money to ferry workers to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa always has been a questionable idea. The loss of nearly $5 million in federal money toward the project makes it all the more suspect. It’s time the ferry supporters off...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Blood on the streets of Chicago

Blood on the streets of Chicago

A hot summer weekend, when Chicago should be at its most livable, brings an undercurrent of dread and horror to this city. Summer is block party season, beach season, baseball season. But in some neighborhoods, summer is killing season — when armed g...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/10/18
Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

Editorial: FDA should not penalize premium cigars

A well-meaning but poorly designed effort to keep tobacco from children could sink a niche industry and end Tampa’s fabled history as a cigar-making capital. The Food and Drug Administration needs to recognize not all tobacco products are alike...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/13/18
Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

Editorial: New St. Petersburg Pier spot for Echelman art better, not perfect

The St. Petersburg City Council has listened to the concerns of constituents and forged a compromise on where to install a signature public art piece in the new Pier District. Plans had called for an imposing aerial net sculpture to soar above Spa Be...
Published: 08/06/18
Updated: 08/07/18
Editorial: Sharpton wrong to call for sheriff’s badge in stand your ground case

Editorial: Sharpton wrong to call for sheriff’s badge in stand your ground case

The Rev. Al Sharpton misfired when he suggested Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was influenced by racial considerations when he decided not to arrest Michael Drejka for shooting and killing Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot ...
Published: 08/06/18