Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Editorials

Convention security plan needs tweaking

Tampa's City Council gets its first crack today at the rules that would govern public assemblies and protests at this summer's Republican National Convention in Tampa. The ordinance proposed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn would in many ways expand the rights the public has under current city rules to gather and demonstrate. But several proposed restrictions are too broad and would violate free speech rights. Others are pointless and impractical, and the council should suggest some changes. Three areas in particular need work:

Time limits. The proposal would limit any single gathering to one hour, a restriction that would frustrate demonstrations of nearly every size and be impossible to fairly enforce. City attorneys said the intent is to guarantee that all groups have an opportunity to hold an event on public property, and to ensure that police are not endangered by having to remain deployed in the summer heat for excessive periods of time. These are practical considerations. But neither warrants limiting public assemblies to 60 minutes each. By almost ensuring that groups could not have their voices heard, the rule could provoke the very confrontations the city wants to avoid.

Security zone. The so-called "Clean Zone" where speech and movement would be restricted is far too large. It extends miles from the convention site at the Tampa Bay Times Forum downtown into the neighborhoods of Ybor City, Tampa Heights and West Tampa. Officials say they want to prevent any violence stemming from the demonstrations from spreading into the residential areas. But if a riot erupted, wouldn't the police respond anyway? The city has already said as much, promising that its regular police presence will not be shortchanged by the convention's security demands. So if residents within the "Clean Zone" won't suffer any drop-off in police protection, why include them inside a restrictive security bubble?

Prohibited acts. The measure forbids people from carrying a range of objects all across the city. It makes sense to keep weapons out of parks and highly charged areas where demonstrations are taking place. But the ordinance would ban everything from bike locks to string in the "Clean Zone," in addition to face masks, which are used by people with respiratory illnesses. The rules also give police the discretion to arrest people for carrying all sorts of objects citywide and far from the convention area. That amounts to a blank check for harassment, especially since the banned items include everything from hair spray to squirt guns.

The city has worked in good faith to balance security with free speech protections. And all sides benefit by having an ordinance in place early so the public knows what to expect and police can be trained. But the measure is too far-reaching. It is imperative the rules be clear and concise, especially since the vast majority of officers working the event will be from outside the Tampa Police Department. The council members should work with the administration on a more balanced approach even if it takes another couple weeks.

Comments

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17