Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

A chance to clear roadside clutter

The St. Petersburg City Council has a rare chance tonight to correct a mistake and vote for a more beautiful Sunshine City. For the second time in a year, it will consider a much-vetted proposed ordinance and agreement with Clear Channel that would allow six digital billboards along the interstates after the removal of 80 traditional billboards, most of them on the city's surface streets. The council should not miss another chance to achieve so much aesthetic improvement so quickly.

Under the plan, within six months of its application approval, Clear Channel would have to remove up to 80 traditional billboard faces and their supporting structures before it could erect the first of up to six digital billboard faces along I-275 and its feeders. The signs would be tightly regulated, including a minimum 10-second duration for messages. They also would be available for emergency messaging and some city advertising.

The company would be banned from advertising products inappropriate for minors within 500 feet of schools or areas where children congregate. And the ordinance restricts any future construction of even traditional billboards to the interstates, ensuring the elimination of blight is permanent.

What residents would notice: Several of the city's major thoroughfares — including Fourth, Martin Luther King, 34th and 49th streets, and Tyrone Boulevard and 38th Avenue N — would be dramatically cleared of billboard clutter quickly.

In an ideal world, the blight would already be gone. Twelve months ago, the council surprisingly rejected a similar deal on a 5-3 vote after two council members switched their votes amid considerable pressure from critics who argued the plan didn't do enough to get rid of billboards. They wanted the council instead to embark on the legally complicated process of banning both digital and traditional billboards. But the shortsightedness of that rejection should be clearer now. In the intervening months, the city has taken no steps toward a ban, and the city remains as cluttered as ever. And comments by several council members in June at an initial public hearing suggest sensibilities have changed in the past year.

Today, the council should vote to make the City Beautiful even more so.

Comments
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18