Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Editorials

DEP chief is mum, and that speaks volumes

There aren't many jobs that employers are handing out in this economy without anyone asking for them. But Herschel Vinyard is running Florida's Department of Environmental Protection in his own way. Vinyard hired a right-hand man who didn't even apply for the newly created post. And he won't publicly explain the official's job responsibilities, which have included overseeing the layoffs of 58 employees, some of them veterans with decades of experience.

The hiring might not raise such alarm if Vinyard were a transparent public official and a committed protector of Florida's natural resources. But neither is the case, which makes the renegade nature of Randall F. "Randy" Greene's hiring and his portfolio so troubling.

The Brandon businessman said he was offered the job after applying to Gov. Rick Scott's administration for an unpaid position on the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, an agency that oversees water use permits in a 16-county area. In his application, Greene cited no experience with government or environmental regulation, and he didn't mention his time with a chemical company or his work coaching CEOs. Instead, Greene touted his work as a subdivision developer and as president of a utility company. When Greene sat for his interview in mid 2011, Vinyard offered to name him the agency's chief operating officer.

Vinyard won't publicly explain the appointment; he walked away from a Times reporter who asked him about Greene during a public meeting in Tallahassee. But in a five-page memo to his boss, Greene listed a number of accomplishments. Among them: initiating a reorganization of the Tampa district office (where he spoke with companies the DEP regulates) and vetting candidates for senior management jobs. The reorganization of the two agency sections saw 58 layoffs, including some employees with 20 or more years of experience. Greene said he didn't make the decision on which administrators to retain but "might have" recommended whom to ax.

This is another egregious example, even for Scott's administration, of freelance governing on the part of a public agency. And Vinyard's refusal to publicly account for the arrangement speaks to why this side deal shouldn't exist. Farming out decisionmaking authority on the operations side to a contract employee reeks of political gamesmanship and undermines the morale of career employees and the department's reputation. Vinyard still doesn't grasp the concept of public service, and the secretary's poor judgment reflects squarely on the governor.

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Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Allowing felons a meaningful chance to reclaim their right to vote and rejoin civic life is edging closer to reality in Florida. On Tuesday the state announced that a yearslong petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot h...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Published: 01/22/18

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Published: 01/22/18
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18