Monday, July 16, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A national catastrophe

Few could have imagined the scope and scale of the suffering now under way in Texas, where the catastrophic winds, rain and flooding from Hurricane Harvey already have destroyed entire neighborhoods and pushed tens of thousands of people from their homes. The immediate task is for the federal government and the state to provide the resources to save as many lives and as much property as possible. But Florida and other states along the Gulf of Mexico should learn a lesson from these searing images. The nation needs to harden itself against the threat of rising seas and better manage the growth of coastal areas.

Houston's emergency response system is overwhelmed, and it doesn't take much to imagine what a disaster of similar size would do to the Tampa Bay area. Even modest flooding from routine summer storms threatens dense, low-lying South Tampa and parts of St. Petersburg. New flood maps have helped to better define areas particularly at risk, but the downtowns still branch out from the water, and the rush of new construction in both city centers has only added to the concrete jungle of impervious material that keeps floodwaters from seeping into the ground. Much of the vital infrastructure also is at risk, from low-lying highways and civic arenas that could double as public shelters to Tampa General Hospital, the region's premier trauma center.

Cities can do what they can ­— invest in newer and improved sewer capacity, revise land use policies to steer development away from flood-prone areas — but any meaningful plan will take a combined effort with the state and federal governments. Gov. Rick Scott has expressed skepticism about man's impact on climate change and offered no statewide strategy to reduce the impacts of a warming planet, from rising seas to the frequency and severity of major storms. President Donald Trump earlier this month reversed an Obama-era rule that called for the federal government to consider changes in climate when constructing new public works projects. These are all steps in entirely in the wrong direction.

Just as with Hurricane Katrina submerging portions of New Orleans more than a decade ago, there will be plenty of lessons from Harvey about how to better manage these disasters in sprawling metro areas. First among them is the need for mayors and the governor to be on the same page about evacuating before a storm. Tampa Bay is improving capacity on the bay area bridges to move residents, but the interstates are limited in meeting the region's transportation needs. And the infrastructure needs across the region outpace the ability of the counties to pay for them.

A task force from the bay area has been dispatched to Houston; the swift-water rescue teams should be a welcome sight in a city where demands for service are expected to only grow in the coming days. The state of Florida also dispatched wildlife officers and rescue craft to Texas, and Trump is to visit Texas today.

A disaster of this magnitude reaffirms that hurricanes are a national catastrophe, not a state problem, and that the federal government is uniquely obliged to provide substantial help through providing disaster assistance, reconstruction aid, affordable and obtainable flood insurance and emerging strategies to deal with global warming. Florida should help Texas much as it can — and learn from this catastrophe to better prepare for one here.

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Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
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‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18
Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Americans are accustomed to celebrating the nation’s birthday by blowing up Chinese fireworks for days — a rite of recklessness that kills seven people a year and sends another 13,000 to hospital emergency rooms. The tragic toll struck close to home ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

The Florida Legislature’s meddling in local issues has created another mess for neighborhoods across the state. No family should have to put up with a short-term rental next door that overwhelms their street with constant visitors, traffic and noise ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/10/18
Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

Editorial: The real forces behind mass shootings

It’s the refrain by gun advocates in the wake of every mass shooting: The attacker was mentally ill. They obtained their gun illegally. The message is that gun violence isn’t about guns but mental instability and gaps in law enforcement. But a recent...
Published: 07/08/18
Updated: 07/09/18