Saturday, July 21, 2018
Editorials

Another voice: Learning Harvey's lessons

When disaster strikes, Americans generally respond to the call. And despite the political sniping we've witnessed before Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters even had a chance to drain — from President Donald Trump's inappropriate boast about crowd size at his speech in Corpus Christi to the hypocrisy of Texas lawmakers who opposed relief funding for victims of Hurricane Sandy five years ago but now expect a big check from Washington for Harvey victims — the time is fast approaching for Congress and the White House to do the right thing and provide a record-breaking package of emergency aid commensurate with the enormous level of destruction caused by a record-breaking storm.

Yet before that check is signed, before taxpayers are put on the hook for what is likely to be tens of billions of dollars to assist the victims and rebuild communities like Houston and Galveston, there is one quite reasonable request that ought to be made: Let's not repeat our mistakes. Harvey wasn't just an anomaly; it was a warning. This country needs to be smarter about where and how it grows and how it prepares for coastal storms or else such emergency relief will be shamefully wasted with communities rebuilt only to be toppled again when the next major meteorological disaster arrives.

Years ago, disaster relief was regarded as sacrosanct. You appropriated aid first and worried about how to balance the federal checkbook later. But that's unlikely to be the case this time around. It was, after all, Trump's own budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who, as a member of Congress, proposed financing Sandy relief with across-the-board cuts to discretionary programs. Texas Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz falsely decried Sandy aid as costly pork barrel spending when there was actually precious little of that in the appropriation. Will offsets be required this time around?

Houston provides a case study in sprawl and, frankly, dumb growth. The city has been hit hard not just by a record storm (and, admittedly, there's no city in the country that wouldn't be devastated by the downpours that Harvey brought) but by its lack of planning. Houston is famous for giving a free hand to developers, and that has severely constricted flood controls, both natural (wetlands) and man-made.

The Trump administration may be in denial over climate change, but taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for such unbridled ignorance. Texas deserves our help, but some reasonable standards need to be in place or else Congress will just be wastefully and mindlessly throwing money at a problem that is destined to repeat itself, particularly with so many vulnerable coastal cities. The record books may have been rewritten by Harvey, but there's a good chance they'll be rewritten again soon enough. Forget one-year offsets; ignoring what's happening to the climate is far more financially ruinous.

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Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old p...
Published: 07/20/18
Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

The CrossBay Ferry appears headed for another round of rides across Tampa Bay, with local governments pledging one more year of financial support. But as more taxpayer money is steered into this project, it’s important to recognize what purpose the f...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
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...
Published: 07/13/18

‘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