Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Breaking the cycle of homelessness

Hillsborough County's system for serving the homeless has failed the needy and taxpayers alike, so it makes sense to consider whether private nonprofits could do a better job. But finding a better way forward cannot be a ruse by the county to wash its hands of the problem. The county alone is legally responsible for serving this population. And any solution must include more than temporary housing if the county hopes to break the cycle of homelessness.

Hillsborough's housing program is in shambles. In a series of reports, the Tampa Bay Times has chronicled how the county has used taxpayer money to house low-income residents in squalid, crime-ridden properties. Officials estimated last month that about 200 people receiving publicly subsidized housing aid were living in unfit conditions. Emergency inspections revealed that dozens of units failed even basic housing codes, and some landlords have decided to leave the program rather than bring their properties into compliance.

County commissioners are exploring whether to hand the job off to the private sector. That could offer several benefits. Area nonprofits such as Metropolitan Ministries have established track records in serving the homeless. Their history and reputation in the community enable them to attract private fundraising that could stretch the existing public housing budget. The nonprofits' narrower mission might ensure that the housing program does not get lost in a larger bureaucracy. The risk is a private sector program could be less transparent and accountable.

County commissioners also need to acknowledge that any solution involves finding the right people. Hillsborough's program failed not because it was county-run but because the operation was ignored. Going forward, the housing program must require that all units pass county health and safety codes. Conflict-of-interest rules must keep family, business partners and favored landlords from using their ties to win public business. And if the nonprofits take over, the county still needs strong oversight to enforce compliance with the county contracts.

Commissioners also need to be clear about the scope of the problem they are addressing. The challenge is not merely to expand the mission of the nonprofits, but to improve Hillsborough's safety net to provide the homeless with a bridge to self-sufficiency. That requires a stronger housing program, but also wraparound services such as mental health, job assistance and life-skills training. The county will need to elevate its sights and follow through with plans for both temporary shelter and more permanent affordable housing.

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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