Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: GM, regulators must do better on safety

Businesses constantly lobby to reduce government regulation, but the unfolding debacle at General Motors is a reminder that industry can't always be trusted to do what it should to protect its customers. GM chief executive Mary Barra has issued an apology for the deaths that occurred after the company failed to recall small cars for a part it knew was defective 10 years ago. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also needs to re-examine how it failed to see the problem after three separate investigations. Both the free market and regulators failed American consumers.

This is when General Motors should have been doing a victory lap. It has emerged from bankruptcy, repaid government loans and installed its first female chief executive. But instead the company finds itself in the middle of a growing controversy. GM last month finally ordered a recall of cars with faulty ignition switches that shut down engines and kept air bags from deploying — but not until the defect had been linked to at least 12 deaths, and possibly many more. As the New York Times reported, a report for the Center for Auto Safety conducted by Friedman Research Corp. suggests that 303 people died in two of the recalled models in crashes in which air bags failed to deploy. GM has also recalled another 1.7 million cars this week for a variety of safety concerns.

GM now acknowledges it first learned of problems with the ignition switches on its Cobalt line of cars in 2004. Over the next decade, GM's engineers confirmed the problem on the Cobalt and other product lines, including the Saturn Ion, Pontiac G5 and Chevrolet HHR. GM filed reports of product failures with federal safety regulators. But neither the company's engineers nor the federal safety experts connected the dots until last fall when GM's engineers finally uncovered the source of the ignition switch problems.

Now Barra has ordered a comprehensive internal safety review, issued the additional recall and is preparing for congressional hearings. GM says the combined recalls and repairs will cost the company nearly $300 million. It should also expect a torrent of private lawsuits. The Justice Department has launched an investigation to ascertain if GM broke any laws.

But GM isn't the only one that needs to review. NHTSA, the traffic safety agency, needs to explain what steps it will take to keep closer watch on automaker defects and responses. In this case, the agency failed to act despite numerous complaints and two investigations into fatal accidents involving 2005 Chevy Cobalts in which the ignition switch had switched from "run" to "accessory," causing the engine to shut off or the air bags not to deploy. An investigation into a third fatal accident in a different model also found the engine had shut off.

Hopefully, GM has learned a lesson and won't drag its heels on future recalls. But consumers can't count on that, and there is a clear need to reinvigorate auto regulation. Americans should be able to trust that their government demands that major automakers, particularly one that has benefited so much from public goodwill in recent years, meet safety standards.

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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...
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
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...
Published: 01/16/18