Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the city’s dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills come due, and water rates are about to go up for everyone. Requiring those who use reclaimed water — a discretionary service — to pay the full cost is the fairest way forward.

The City Council will consider a rate increase today that is drawing angry opposition from reclaimed water customers, who would see an initial jump of 26 percent, or about $5 a month. Over five years, the rate would double. It’s not an insignificant hit, especially when combined with an $11-a-month increase to the average water bill that is also part of the sewer costs. Both could show up in bills beginning in January.

But unlike regular water and sewer service, reclaimed water is something of a specialty product. It’s treated wastewater that can be used for watering lawns and washing cars but is not safe for consumption. Customers who use reclaimed water for those purposes enable the city to buy less water from the regional consortium, Tampa Bay Water. And it’s environmentally friendly, because it conserves drinking water. But reclaimed water rates now cover only about 70 percent of the cost, so in effect the rest of the city’s utility customers are subsidizing a system used by a relative few.

Those few are generally in neighborhoods such as Snell Isle, the Old Northeast, the Old Southeast and Shore Acres. City Council member Karl Nurse has characterized these as wealthy areas, which is too broad a generalization. But his underlying point is valid: Property owners in those neighborhoods can more easily absorb increases to their monthly bills than those in low-income areas. With utility bills rising for everyone, there is simply no defense for making everyone, including the poor, help pay for a service they don’t use.

This is only the beginning of what will be a long, expensive repair job to St. Petersburg’s sewer system. The city’s utility customers will feel the burden of higher bills for years. It’s only right for the City Council to implement the increases fairly, starting with reclaimed water rates that cover the entire cost.

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Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

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The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

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Updated: 04/16/18