Tuesday, January 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: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18
Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

The Trump administration’s abrupt reversal on its foolhardy plan to allow more oil drilling off Florida’s coastlines is a win for the Sunshine State, regardless of whether it is based more on politics than environmental concerns. Drilling poses a uni...
Published: 01/10/18
Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Getting to the bottom of the shootings that left two people dead after a New Year’s Day teen party, one a 15-year-old girl, is the job of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators so far have said that the two security guards who fired ...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/12/18