Saturday, April 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Kriseman puts city spending in the sunshine

In a democracy, taxpayers should always be able to follow the money. That's particularly true when it comes to how local government decides which private groups get public dollars. For the second time in recent months, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is promising to upend the status quo at City Hall and demand more transparency in money matters. That's a good thing.

For years in St. Petersburg, the process for tapping into a relatively modest pot of public money for community events and groups has been opaque. Why or how private entities — from museums to youth employment programs — received a share of $1.5 million for their priorities has never been quite clear. The process was so opaque that apparently commitments weren't even communicated appropriately sometimes. That became clear earlier this year when Kriseman faced an unexpected $25,000 bill for a commitment to the Blue Ocean Film Festival that former Mayor Bill Foster had approved.

Contrast that with the far more elaborate process the city has long had for granting private groups permission to use public spaces for events such as parades or festivals. As part of that open, public process, the participants have to assure the city that security and cleanup are taken care of, and sometimes that evolves into in-kind contributions from the city in the form of police officers or sanitation crews. Interested members of the public have a way to track those decisions, and in-kind taxpayer contributions.

But no such process exists for cash contributions, yet. Kriseman anticipates going forward that groups would have to fill out a standard grant application that would be available for public viewing. He and his staff would act on requests for under $100,000; larger requests would go before the City Council. That will give local groups a chance to more fairly compete for limited dollars and the public better ways to assess if elected officials are being responsible stewards of public money.

Earlier this year, Kriseman halted another dubious funding practice at City Hall, where unspent dollars lingered indefinitely in construction accounts long after a project was complete — only to be tapped when leaders wanted to pay for something not in the formal budget. Such shell games prevent the public and other elected officials from seeing a complete picture of the city's resources. Kriseman has the right instincts: How the public's money is spent always should be public.

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Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 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...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
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: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s 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