Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Arrests don't amount to a homeless strategy

The city of Tampa is poised to crack down on panhandling and the congregation of homeless people downtown when it should be engaged in a broader discussion about long-range solutions. The City Council endorsed two proposed ordinances last week that come close to criminalizing homelessness, and there should be a more thoughtful debate when council members return to the issue July 18. Any long-term solution will require a new strategy from the city for moving homeless people into safe and stable housing, not making arrests.

The proposed ordinances include a tighter ban on panhandling downtown and in Ybor City, and outlawing sleeping in city parks and other public places. Some restaurant owners have complained that aggressive panhandlers have harassed customers at sidewalk cafes. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says homeless people have taken over some downtown parks, turning them into "campgrounds" that drive away people and sully the city's image. These concerns are overblown; the police average only four complaints a day about panhandling in the downtown and Ybor City area. But there still are legitimate public health and safety issues to address, and that requires improving conditions for the homeless as much as improving the environment for anyone else.

Buckhorn should work with Hillsborough County on a far-reaching solution. While the county is legally responsible for providing social services for the homeless in Hillsborough, those on the downtown streets are for all practical purposes a city problem. Though the county is finally starting to address chronic homelessness, it has done little for thousands of people who bounce between friends, cars and motels because they lack the money or support services that would put them on course to find stable housing.

City Council member Mary Mulhern, who deserves credit for being the only one last week to vote against both proposed ordinances, correctly pointed out the courts have ruled that communities must provide some alternative to the streets if they adopt more aggressive steps to outlaw panhandling and sleeping in public places. The homeless are in Tampa's parks because there is nowhere else to go. Many shelters close during the day, forcing the homeless to take their personal belongings with them. Chased from private property, they congregate in the parks' shaded areas to escape the heat. There is nothing unusual about why homeless people go where they go. And public parks are open to everyone.

The city has not yet made a compelling case to broaden its panhandling ban to include entire zones of downtown. It has plenty of ordinances to bar aggressive solicitations, loitering, blocking the streets and sidewalks, open drinking and any other conduct "that interferes with the use and enjoyment" of the city's parks by other users.

The city has an obligation, though, to make the parks and public places accessible to all and as safe as possible. The mayor and council should search for common ground on a broader strategy that needs to pass legal muster and have a chance of working.

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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
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

St. Petersburg city officials are exploring how to cut down on single-use plastic straws, a commendable effort to make the city even more environmentally minded. But to succeed, City Council members should craft a modest, reasonable restriction that ...
Published: 04/10/18