Thursday, February 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Arresting homeless is no solution

Pasco County should rethink its planned tactic to deal with homeless people by sending them to jail. Public officials are suggesting a misguided policy aimed at chronic violators of the county's six-day-a-week ban on panhandling.

To halt the soliciting along U.S. 19, and, more importantly, silence the complaints from nearby business owners, the county wants to ask the court to jail repeat offenders.

It's an extreme reaction to a narrow problem.

The Sheriff's Office issued 153 citations in 2013 and 31 so far in 2014. But, the targets of the crackdown are just five people who routinely ignore citations for illegal panhandling, decline community service or skip court dates altogether.

In response, the county is considering allocating money to cover legal representation for the indigent offenders, which would allow deputies to arrest chronic violators on a criminal charge, rather than just issuing additional civil citations.

The exasperation is understandable. One person has been issued 53 citations and could have received hundreds, senior assistant county attorney Kristi Sims told commissioners.

But, the criminal justice system shouldn't be expected to solve a social welfare problem. More importantly, the county needs to talk about a broader approach to address shelter, transportation, mental health care and job opportunities as a way to move people from the streets to safe housing, not to jail.

It's not a foreign concept —considering the county is almost four years into a decade-long action plan to end homelessness — but commissioners still seem at a loss as to how to proceed. In a Jan. 28 meeting, Commissioner Jack Mariano asked Sims to involve a food pantry near the intersection of U.S. 19 and Beacon Woods Drive as a potential solution to the panhandling, and Commissioner Pat Mulieri talked of volunteering on a soup kitchen and finding people unable to work because they have no reliable transportation.

A logical place to start would be encouraging and helping the homeless to obtain identification cards, a critical tool for transients in finding a place to live and applying for jobs. Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano said his office issued just 64 identification cards to the homeless in the first half of 2013 compared to nearly 1,000 cards in Hillsborough County.

Likewise, commissioners declined to add code enforcement officers during last year's budget deliberations. The penny-pinching was imprudent considering a key task for code enforcement is ensuring empty houses don't fall into disrepair and attract squatters.

And commissioners should consider the skewed wisdom of another investment in this proposed crackdown. Besides paying for lawyers to represent the indigent, it costs the public $56 each day to house an inmate at the Pasco County Detention Center.

Shooing panhandlers away from major intersections might improve appearances, but it is expensive, inefficient and not a solution. Commissioners need to focus on more than aesthetics in considering how to address homelessness.

Comments
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18