Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Big shoes to fill as top prosecutor

Robert E. O'Neill set the right priorities in his three years as the top federal prosecutor for the Middle District of Florida. His focus on public corruption and tax and health care fraud well served the population of the nation's second-largest judicial district. As the president looks to appoint a successor, the White House should seek a candidate who similarly understands the criminal and consumer issues facing Floridians and who appreciates the office's obligation to be active, fair and transparent.

O'Neill announced this month he will step down this summer to join a private risk management firm led by former FBI director Louis Freeh. His departure after 20 years in Central Florida and three years as the top prosecutor will mark a loss in institutional history for the entire 35-county jurisdiction, which extends from Jacksonville to Naples. Federal prosecutors have a reputation for ham-handedness — a byproduct of the secrecy surrounding federal court — but O'Neill worked well with local law enforcement. His successor should recognize that treating local authorities the same way helps both sides.

O'Neill personally prosecuted public corruption cases over the years, raising the profile of his office's anticorruption practice. These are typically complex and time-consuming prosecutions. But O'Neill's investigations into housing fraud and bribery have cleaned up local government and strengthened public confidence in the political process. The next U.S. attorney needs to devote the same attention and resources to these types of cases. Similarly, O'Neill's successor should stay on top of health care and tax fraud, which have taken off in the Tampa Bay area, in part due to the region's high number of elderly people.

The next U.S. attorney also needs to follow O'Neill's example in answering for his office. The public deserves to know what federal prosecutors are doing and why they make certain cases a priority. O'Neill explained his thinking publicly, and he was not afraid of feedback. That sense of openness is vital for holding the office to account. And it keeps the U.S. attorney plugged into the community he or she serves.

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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: 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: 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

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
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18