Thursday, April 26, 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: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
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...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
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: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

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
Updated: 04/23/18