Sunday, June 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Add transparency to Dade City decisions

Dade City needs to add greater transparency to its City Commission's method of conducting public business. The commission is scheduled later this month to hear proposed changes — no binding votes in workshops, no voting on nonagenda items during regular meetings and a standing invitation for public comment at all city meetings. Commissioners should endorse these new rules in the aftermath of a majority's recent ploy to create a new job at city hall in a predetermined vote that came during a work session with no public comment. The vote was legal, but detrimental to good government and discouraging to public debate.

On Oct. 21, in a workshop setting, a three-person majority of Jim Shive, Eunice Penix and Mayor Camille Hernandez voted to split the job of city clerk/finance director into two positions amid rationalizations of greater efficiency and improved customer service. In reality, the trio added $4,000 to the city payroll in salary and benefit costs during a tight budget year in which the commission could accommodate one-time bonuses, but not across-the-board raises for city employees.

Worse, the maneuvering to strip long-time employee Jim Class of his clerk's duties and the attempt to promote his assistant came without formal job descriptions for the two roles or a customary job posting to seek applicants for the newly created position. Class' designated successor, assistant city clerk Joanna Akers, hadn't even applied for the job when the majority offered her the new role. The whole episode carried a whiff of retaliation toward Class for some unspecified reason. It also smacked of micromanaging by Shive, a former long-time utilities department employee, and hypocrisy from Hernandez who campaigned for office seven years ago on a platform promising inclusive and collaborative governing. Inclusion should extend beyond two other commission members.

The City Charter allows the commission to split the combined city clerk/finance director job into two positions and the recent vote now means the commission will have direct oversight of four employees: city manager, city attorney, city clerk and financial officer. It's a bit much for a city government representing just 6,500 people. If Shive, Hernandez and Penix truly want to boost efficiency, they would ask the voters to consider a charter change to make the clerk and finance director answerable directly to the city manager. That would eliminate the temptation to make rash (or punitive) changes to the organizational chart from the dais and would allow the commission to correctly focus on policy rather than on day-to-day operations at city hall.

It's an idea worthy of public discussion — just as long as the discussion comes in a commission meeting as part of a publicly noticed agenda item.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18