Thursday, May 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: County favoritism at public's expense

THE DECISION by four Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday to bypass the top-scoring company vying for a construction contract appears to be more home cooking than good government. The choice of the well-connected Clearwater firm that narrowly ranked second could spawn a costly bid protest and smacks of favoritism. So much for bringing market forces to government spending.

The county staff issued a solicitation for proposals in May to build a $4.5 million federally financed medical clinic for the poor and homeless in Clearwater. The commission was expected to approve the staff's rankings of the three most qualified firms and authorize negotiations with the top-ranked firm, Peter R. Brown Construction, which has been recently acquired by a South Florida company.

But instead of routinely approving the consent agenda item, Republican Commissioner Susan Latvala suggested the commission direct the staff to begin negotiations with the second-place finisher, Creative Contractors. Sitting in the audience was the company's chief executive officer, Alan Bomstein, who has long been active in local politics and civic endeavors.

Latvala claimed it wasn't politics. She just wanted to avoid giving another major project to Peter R. Brown Construction, which already has a $9 million job to build a county parking garage. Three other commissioners, Republicans Karen Seel and John Morroni and Democrat Janet Long, agreed.

Latvala said she was employing a sensibility she said was common practice during her time on the Pinellas County School Board — spreading projects across multiple firms. If that's the goal, the commission should rewrite its bid process to prohibit employed vendors from submitting again for new jobs. But when government artificially limits the pool of qualified bidders, taxpayers are virtually assured they will pay more due to a lack of competition. If the situation had been reversed and Creative Contractors already had a big county contract, would the commissioners had been so concerned about spreading work around?

Latvala and three of her colleagues cast aside a sound bid process for political convenience masked in professed good intentions. Creative Contractors is surely able to do the job, but county staff determined it wasn't the most qualified company that applied for this particular project. When taxpayers are paying the bills, the first-place finisher — not the second — deserves the first crack at negotiating a contract for the job.

Comments
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18