Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Hillsborough commissioners should revisit vote on Confederate monument

It should be clear to those on both sides of the Hillsborough County Commission's decision to keep a Confederate memorial in place that the commission's so-called compromise doesn't work. The dignified protest outside the memorial on Tuesday reaffirms that the pain from this history isn't going away, and the commission should find a more appropriate home for the statue instead of creating a diversion with spin and public money.

The commission voted 4-3 last week to keep the memorial, which stands outside the old courthouse in downtown Tampa, after hearing opposing views from those who view the memorial as a symbol from the racist past or as a historical marker of Florida's Confederate heritage. Those two sides will never see eye to eye, and Commissioner Victor Crist's awkward, expensive attempt at compromise will not look better with time. The commission allowed the memorial to stay, ordered up a mural behind it to celebrate diversity and committed $250,000 toward an anti-racism campaign.

Nobody asked for a mural, and throwing money at an anti-racism campaign to ease the sting of keeping a symbol of racism is illogical. Hillsborough commissioners have to look no further than St. Petersburg to see the difficulty of trying to commission public art that somehow makes amends for racist symbols. And in St. Petersburg, the racist art has been long gone and City Council members still abandoned a plan to fill the blank wall in City Hall with new artwork that also was controversial. Imagine creating a mural to reflect inclusiveness behind a statue saluting the racist past.

The Hillsborough Commission's decision will only keep this issue alive. Mayor Bob Buckhorn took the extraordinary step to remind everyone that the decision was by the county, not the city of Tampa, even though the statue sits only blocks from City Hall. The City Council followed suit hours later, lamenting the image that Tampa would suffer in the national spotlight. The Tampa area is on a progressive roll, and a simmering controversy over a Confederate memorial is the last thing a community needs as it competes for high-tech jobs and young workers.

This memorial was dedicated in 1911 with a speech calling blacks "ignorant and inferior," and it's an ode to racial discrimination. There is no reason for the county to destroy the monument, but it doesn't belong on prominent public property and certainly not outside any hall of justice. The county should work with monument supporters to move the statue to another location, which would be a real exercise in leadership.

This decision was out of character for two commissioners in particular who declined to move the memorial. Sandy Murman and Ken Hagan are better public servants, more attuned to the community's diversity and more thoughtful than that. Upon reflection, they should recognize that the vote has only the veneer of compromise that will produce more hard feelings. This is a moment the public is looking at them for leadership and sensitivity.

The last thing Tampa needs as its downtown is booming and thousands of new residents move to the area is a public homage to an ugly era. The average outsider makes no distinction between Tampa and Hillsborough County, and this vote lumps everyone under an umbrella of backwardness and intolerance. That only damages civic pride and the region's appeal. County commissioners should revisit their decision and find common ground on moving a memorial whose symbolism has no place outside a courthouse that welcomes all.

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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