Sunday, May 27, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: New Pinellas administrator offers a new direction

It comes as no surprise that the Pinellas County Commission's search for a new county administrator ended Tuesday without really leaving the county courthouse. Interim administrator Mark Woodard has worked for the county for more than 25 years, and the lavish praise commissioners heaped on him short-circuited a national search. Woodard's audition as the interim went well, and his knowledge of the county and its challenges provide stability and a new sense of optimism.

Since taking over in April after the commission fired County Administrator Bob LaSala, Woodard has done more than keep the seat warm. He reworked everything from the county's mission statement to the names of some departments. He strengthened his relationships with commissioners who felt ignored by LaSala. And he changed directions from the course LaSala had set in several key areas.

The county's proposed budget for 2014-15, for example, was under construction when LaSala was fired. Woodard, who became an assistant county administrator in 2001 and served as LaSala's chief of staff, sought more input from commissioners before rolling out the spending plan. He made clearer what money the county will have available to spend, cut back on consultants and agreed to spend millions that LaSala had planned to save in case the economy weakened. "All of the arrows seem to be pointing in a very positive direction,'' Woodard told the Times editorial board recently. "I think previously there was always 'the sky is falling' view of the world.''

Of course, for several years the sky did appear to be falling for local governments as the economic collapse caused property values to plummet and businesses to fold. Pinellas was forced to cut tens of millions in spending and roughly 1,700 jobs. Commissioners credited LaSala for ably steering the county through the financial crisis even after they fired him for being too confrontational and fumbling a couple of issues. Woodard will have the benefit of rising tax revenues, record tourism numbers and general optimism about the future.

Aside from the county budget, Woodard and the commission also have charted a new direction on stabilizing the Emergency Medical Services system. They abandoned LaSala's push for aggressive changes in favor of detente with the cities and fire districts and more modest reforms, negotiating a deal with St. Petersburg and working on separate agreements with the others. The Veterans Services Office that had been buried under layers of bureaucracy in the county's health program is back to being a separate program and staffing up to reduce backlogs of requests for help. An ambitious building project to expand health services that commissioners were not sold on also has been significantly scaled back.

Woodard's expertise has been with budgets, and now he has much more on his plate. Pinellas faces many challenges, including negotiating the remaining EMS agreements, strengthening efforts to help the homeless, providing access to health care, encouraging economic development and pushing for a robust mass transit system. The new county administrator has brought new energy, openness and collaboration to those efforts, and his success hinges on sustaining that approach.

Read all of the Times' recommendations for the Aug. 26 primary at www.tampabay.com/opinion

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18