Friday, April 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Important stakes in low-key election

As voters fill out mail ballots or visit early voting sites this weekend, they should recognize that the stakes are higher than the low-key, low-turnout primary election would suggest. Nonpartisan races for judge and school board are open to all voters and will be decided on Tuesday, except in a handful of cases where there are more than two candidates and a November runoff is possible. Outcomes of primary races for county commissions and legislative seats could be revealing about the shifting moods of both Democrats and Republicans.

In Pinellas County, two Republican primaries for County Commission could be particularly illuminating, and voters should resist the impulse to go with the most familiar names. Incumbent Norm Roche swept into office with support from an angry tea party wing four years ago, and he has been an uncooperative, divisive presence who frustrates other commissioners from both political parties. Roche pushed to take fluoride out of the drinking water in 2011 and was the only commissioner to vote against putting it back in last year after a public backlash. The Times recommends Ed Hooper, a former Clearwater city commissioner and departing state legislator who is a mainstream conservative with a more even temperament, in this District 2 countywide race.

In the crowded Republican primary for District 4 in North Pinellas, the Times recommends Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers based on his experience and consensus-building skills. There are other credible options among the seven candidates, including Palm Harbor dentist Johnny Johnson and Oldsmar City Council member Jim Ronecker. Former state legislator Peter Nehr has the most familiar name. He also has a history of personal bankruptcy filings, inappropriate personal conduct and ownership of an Internet sweepstakes cafe even as law enforcement officials were shutting down those illegal gambling operations. That record led Sen. Jack Latvala, the county's most influential Republican, and former Sheriff Jim Coats to urge voters to steer clear of Nehr. It is sound advice, because Nehr's history of poor judgment suggests he would set the commission backward.

In Hillsborough County, the outcomes in three races will measure voter attitudes about nasty campaign attacks, outside influences and conservative hyperbole.

In the four-way Democratic race for Florida House District 61, supporters of Sean Shaw have used out-of-town resources and race-baiting politics to attack Shaw's main rival, Ed Narain. The mailers tar Narain as a protege of Gov. Rick Scott, a blatant attempt to inflame the heavily black, liberal district in east and central Tampa. These may be the usual tactics from the hired guns in Tallahassee, but voters in this district need a committed local voice. The Times recommends Narain.

The three-way Republican primary for the east Hillsborough County Commission seat has been about everything but competence. That's because Janet Dougherty is the only candidate who has it. While the other campaigns try to out-pander each other and pump up their conservative credentials, Dougherty talks about how fast-growing District 4 can protect its quality of life. It is an agenda that well serves the suburbs, and the Times recommends her.

No race in Hillsborough offers voters such a stark choice as that for the Group 12 county court seat. The Times recommends incumbent Chris Nash, who has done a superb job. Norman S. Cannella has run a mean-spirited and overly political campaign. He faults Nash for accepting an appointment to the bench even though Cannella himself was up for a gubernatorial appointment to the county bench four years ago.

In Pasco County, the three-person Republican primary for the District 2 commission seat being vacated by 20-year incumbent Pat Mulieri has turned into a referendum on special interest money and Tallahassee influence. Businessman Mike Moore had raised close to $100,000 as of last week, quadrupling the combined total of his two opponents, former state Rep. Ken Littlefield and financial planner Bob Robertson. After a Tallahassee electioneering committee also mailed two full-color campaign pieces supporting Moore, Littlefield urged voters to reject outside influences, saying Moore is beholden "to Tallahassee and its special interest groups and their seemingly unlimited amounts of money to make sure their handpicked candidates are elected." The Times recommends Robertson.

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Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Natureís Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. ē The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region wonít make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Floridaís citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nationís health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18