Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Climate threat to Tampa Bay area

Hillsborough County Commission chair Stacy White says he's comfortable addressing the threat from rising sea levels but doesn't want to discuss climate change. That's like planning a moon launch and ignoring gravity. It's time to get serious and for local officials in this low-lying, coastal region to play a significant role in a debate that involves the health, security, livelihoods, property and essential infrastructure for millions in the Tampa Bay area.

White's comments came as the commission discussed a recent Washington Post report that said the Tampa Bay area had "barely begun" to assess the threat from sea-level rise, despite a finding by experts that the region was "the must vulnerable" in the United States to flooding and hurricane-related damage. County Commissioner Pat Kemp, a Democrat who ran on an environmental platform, wants the commission to address the problem more forcefully. White told Kemp she might have a "real ally" on the issue — so long as it does not address climate change. "If this turns into a debate on global warming, you're likely to lose me," White said. "I really think our federal officials should be looking at that."

The Republican's parsing — agreeing to discuss the impact of climate change (such as sea-level rise) but not the cause — is nothing new. He said virtually the same thing in 2015 when the county considered for the first time accounting for climate in the long-term growth plans for local governments. It was a cop-out then and apparently nothing has changed for a commissioner still skeptical of the science: "I do question to what extent, if at all, it (climate change) is man-made."

The science is established. NASA and other agencies have determined the changes have been driven largely by human-made carbon emissions, noting that 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurred since 2001. And for nearly a decade before the Post story, Tampa Bay has been ranked first or in the top tier of metropolitan areas most vulnerable to storm surge and rising sea levels. As a study for Hillsborough County noted in 2014, coastal water levels in the bay area rose about an inch each decade since the 1950s, and they are expected to rise even faster through the rest of this century.

Still, area governments are taking a hodgepodge approach to the problem. St. Petersburg has hired a sustainability manager and also plans to hire a resiliency czar. In Tampa, the city disperses that responsibility across its public works department. Both Hillsborough and Pinellas have looked to make their public infrastructure more sustainable to climate impacts, but Pinellas seems further along in tying its long-range capital needs with changes in the environment.

Hillsborough and Pinellas are two of the six largest counties in the third-largest state, and they have an obligation to lead on an issue that is both a local and a national priority. The debate on the science is settled; what's left to resolve is a smart approach for pooling the region's resources to protect the Tampa Bay area. This leadership won't come from Gov. Rick Scott or President Donald Trump, but it's not acceptable for local government to pass the buck, either. Any search for solutions begins with an open dialogue that is realistic, clear-eyed and science-based.

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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...
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William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

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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...
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Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

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Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

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Updated: 11 hours ago
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...
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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...
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Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
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