Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Rebuilding support for better Hillsborough transit

Hillsborough County officials are watching the Pinellas transit referendum in November, which asks voters to approve a 1 percent sales tax to pay for expanded bus service and a new rail system, and wondering what the next step is for Hillsborough. The Pinellas effort has rekindled interest in transit in Hillsborough, but the discussion is unfocused. The county needs to sharpen its approach and learn from the failed Hillsborough transit referendum in 2010.

The rollout last week of the advocacy campaign for the Pinellas plan, called "Greenlight YES," is an important step in educating and selling voters on the vision. In Hillsborough, political, business and civic leaders are rekindling public interest in another transportation initiative. City and county officials are meeting to build consensus on a package of transportation priorities. Some want to tie road improvements more directly to jobs; others want to broaden the scope of the county's mass transit agency, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, elevating HART from a transit provider to a larger agent of economic development. And younger activists are calling for greater urgency in bringing a new Hillsborough referendum to the ballot.

It's good news that Hillsborough officials are ready to move forward nearly four years after losing the flawed and incomplete plan for raising a 1 percent sales tax for transportation. The economy has improved, bus ridership has increased and more residents are realizing that expensive and frustrating road work — such as the remake of I-275 in Tampa — is not the entire answer. The challenge is channeling this new interest into a transit package that is pragmatic and appealing to the voters.

City and county officials meeting on transit should acknowledge that bus and rail must play a central role in any transportation fix. The local, state and federal governments do not have the money to keep condemning property and walling off entire neighborhoods to add more lanes. Officials also need to better explain to suburban residents why mass transit is important to preserving their lifestyles. Expanded bus service and a new rail system would limit sprawl and reduce the need for more road projects.

Philip Hale's retirement as HART's chief executive offers a chance to recast the agency's mission. It should spend less time complaining about its financial challenges and more time envisioning a sustainable future with more muscular service. HART chairman Mike Suarez should start raising expectations about what an ambitious transit operation could accomplish and position HART to take a lead role in developing the urban core and connecting the county's gateways and employment centers.

Those pushing for a fresh transit vote in Hillsborough should build on the momentum from Pinellas but put substance before expediency. Hillsborough's next transit package needs a clear route and a reasonable price tag for rail, a more robust role for buses and a timetable for taking the system to the suburbs and to Pinellas. It also needs to be backed by smarter land use policies that curb sprawl and preserve scarce transportation resources.

Hillsborough Commissioner Mark Sharpe should use his final year on the commission and his position as chairman to focus this debate. He should point to rail systems in Central and South Florida as examples of how the bay area has lost ground by not thinking regionally. Hillsborough already has learned from Pinellas' transit referendum effort by recognizing that any transit plan must be clear and easily understood months before the election. The first step in getting there, though, is for policymakers to figure out what they are selling besides vague promises.

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Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18