Thursday, January 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Hillsborough housing program under repair

Hillsborough County has taken the first step toward cleaning up its troubled housing program. The staff and policy changes at the Homeless Recovery agency should hold the program more accountable and create better housing options for the poor. The next step is for county officials to bring Hillsborough's three cities and the private sector together on a long-range plan for tackling chronic homelessness.

County Administrator Mike Merrill showed the right sense of urgency by replacing two senior managers at the agency and by making sweeping changes in how the county moves the needy into temporary housing. The moves came after the Tampa Bay Times reported that the former Tampa Port Authority chairman, William "Hoe" Brown, had been paid more than $600,000 by the program since 1998. Brown resigned as port chairman in July after the Times reported on squalid conditions at some of his rental units. But this was hardly an isolated problem; Merrill announced last week that about 200 people receiving publicly subsidized housing assistance through the county were living in unacceptable conditions.

By moving forcefully, Merrill has brought new direction to the housing agency and put his own reform plan on the public radar. The new requirement that rental units be inspected should ensure better living conditions for those in the program and scare away slumlords who want an easy buck from the government. The move should give clients the confidence and leverage they deserve in dealing with the usual array of landlord-tenant issues. And regular contact between the agency and its providers should help the county stay on top of any problems.

County commissioners, though, need to make housing a higher priority. In Hillsborough, the county is largely responsible for dealing with homelessness (even in the urban areas), but it has not taken up the issue in a far-reaching way since the failed effort years ago to build a tent city. The county should reach out to public and private partners and craft a strategy for getting the chronically homeless off the streets. Keeping a watch on landlords in the housing program is fine, but it does little to address the number of homeless people coming into the system. Merrill's reforms create a new standard for clients served by the housing office. But the larger problem the county needs to address is why so many need temporary housing in the first place.

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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...
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

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18