Sunday, February 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: On transit, keep pace and merge

The opponents of merging the two transit agencies in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties may sneer at saving a half-million bucks a year, but a new report shows that consolidating still makes financial and operational sense. While the savings might not be as great as earlier predicted, at least initially, the money is still substantial and could amount to millions over time. Combining the operation also has a larger value: A regional transit agency could better serve the area's 2 million people and more effectively compete for federal transportation money. The question is not whether to merge but how and when.

Merging the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit into a single operation would save taxpayers about $339,000 a year. Those savings could reach more than $585,000 annually after a unified agency paid severance for redundant workers and other start-up costs. Consolidating the bus fleets and administrative operations could cost $5 million or more, the report found. But streamlining the fleet and business functions could save millions more in the outlying years through avoided maintenance, inventory costs and other efficiencies.

Opponents of consolidation, particularly at HART, are using the findings to blow holes in an earlier report that estimated the initial savings of a merger could reach $2.4 million per year. That is a misguided, self-serving way to read the numbers. Apart from saving millions in salaries and benefits, the agencies could save by automating their business practices, sharing warehousing space, consolidating purchases and other measures. Given that neither bus system is going away, the only honest approach is to look at the savings over the long term.

The benefits go beyond money. More than ever, political, business and civic leaders are embracing the reality that Tampa Bay needs to act as a region to compete nationally and globally. That transition is already taking place in job development, tourism and environmental efforts. Uniting the two counties under a single umbrella provides a framework for designing a seamless transportation system. It makes the region more competitive for discretionary grants by offering more bang for the transportation buck. And consolidation builds on the state's offer to accommodate rail on a new Howard Frankland Bridge.

This region is growing, and the architecture for preserving the area's quality of life needs to keep pace. A single agency would still meet the needs for local service while acting on a higher plane to bring a modern transportation system to Florida's west coast. It's time to think not about next week but next year and the year after that, when the county lines will become even more artificial than they are now. Saving money is a plus, but it's only one aspect of creating a better transit system.

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Editorial: Learning from St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Law violation

Editorial: Learning from St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Law violation

A recent state appeals court opinion strikes a victory for open government in finding St. Petersburg city officials violated the state’s Sunshine Law. City councils and other government panels in Florida are allowed to meet in secret only in very lim...
Published: 02/25/18
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18