Monday, April 23, 2018
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
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18