Sunday, December 10, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Hillsborough redevelopment idea has promise

Creating jobs in some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods is no easy task. But a new approach in Hillsborough County to target redevelopment efforts there is worth exploring, particularly if the county can ensure the program doesn't become a slush fund for elected commissioners.

County staff has proposed establishing a $20 million fund in the 2015 budget to finance redevelopment projects across the county in "under-served areas." The county would borrow the initial $20 million, and supplement it on an annual basis with about $1 million or more to create a fund that acts as seed money for other public and private investment. The initial amount would be repaid with a portion of proceeds from the increase in the county tax base.

The money would be directed to projects that improve the jobs climate and quality of life in cash-strapped areas. Those catchphrases are amorphous, but the concept is to improve the public infrastructure in ways that bring new jobs and private investment to challenged areas. That could mean funding everything from new sidewalks and flood-control projects to larger efforts aimed at cleaning up contaminated lands. The county hopes these new assets will improve an area's business climate and appeal.

The idea is still largely a blank canvas; county staff say they will provide more detail by October, including a work list of potential projects. But the process is being guided by sound principles. The challenge will be in writing clear criteria for these projects while also being fair and flexible enough to address the different neighborhood needs across the diverse county.

Officials, though, have offered a thoughtful framework. The plan recognizes at the outset that the redevelopment fund will not act as a surrogate for the delivery of core county services. These projects need to go above and beyond the infrastructure work that already is lagging on the county's work list.

The plan would also leverage money from other institutional sources, such as state, federal and foundation grant money. That could provide new streams of revenue and technical help with redevelopment efforts. And it opens the door to new public-private ventures that could give the county more bang for the buck.

The trick, of course, will be to draft a credible way of ranking the projects. Commissioners will have the final say on what gets funded. That's no different from the current budgeting process, but the sums of money involved and the high profile of this fund will make it a coveted political target.

Used responsibly, though, the fund could be a tool for getting community plans off the ground, for promoting small business and for creating a sense of place in areas of the county that need a shot in the arm. This in no way should distract the county from working more strategically to diversify the industrial base. But it can work in concert with larger economic development efforts by linking jobs and neighborhood vitality with quality of life. It's at least worth a worthwhile shot.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17