Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Fiddling as old bridge crumbles

The old Gandy Bridge had a good life in retirement as an over-the-water recreational path called the Friendship Trail Bridge. But Hillsborough County has spent five years toying with the notion that a private sector sponsor will step forward and take this crumbling liability off the taxpayers' hands. It's time the county find a developer or move ahead with demolition.

County officials will spend the next three months drafting bid requests for private sponsors interested in the bridge. This marks at least the third round of floating trial balloons looking to find a suitor. Gandy was closed to vehicular traffic in 1997 after the new bridge was built, but the county converted the old span into the Friendship Trail at the request of preservationists. The trail, which links South Tampa to Pinellas County, attracted hundreds of thousands of pedestrians, cyclists and runners every year. But the county closed it in 2008 after engineers reported the underside was cracking and unsafe.

Several proposals to save the bridge have come and gone over the past few years, but the hurdle has been the same: money. The county doesn't want to spend more tax money on upkeep — much less on the major overhaul the span would need — and no private entity has stepped up to pay for a redevelopment project that could cost up to $25 million.

It's unclear whether three more months will shake out a deal when the bridge and its much-touted potential have been so visible on the public radar. Hillsborough County commissioners have been patient and supportive in trying to find a new owner and purpose for the bridge. The trail is a nice amenity, but the county has better priorities for its parks budget. It's time to either find a private sponsor or to tear down the bridge before the demolition costs go up or someone near it gets hurt.

The county needs to ensure that any applicants have a solid business plan to guard against having the bridge end up back in public hands. Any new use needs to serve a broad public benefit and, ideally, be accessible from both sides of the bay. Officials should be cautious about any plan that overcommercializes the waterfront. And any venture must include protections that ensure the taxpayers will not be liable for demolishing any new structures. Spending a few more months working to save the trail is fine. But if the numbers still cannot work, it's time the county moved on before the expense of keeping the bridge gets even worse.

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Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the stateís safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last weekís massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Associationís solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasnít enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldnít take months or another tragedy for Florida ó which is hot and full of seniors ó to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. Thatís why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18