Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Recycling gains don't offset inferior service

Pasco's curbside recycling program is showing modest growth in participation and even greater gains in the amount of material being collected. The upward trends are encouraging, but they do not offset the need for overhauling the every-company-for-itself private garbage collection system across the county.

In June, the county attempted to upgrade its two-decade-old voluntary recycling program by accepting a greater variety of plastics and by allowing residents to use their own containers rather than mandating plastic blue bags. In the three months that followed, participation increased roughly 2 percent to 27 percent of the households served by nine commercial haulers. The amount of recycled glass, plastics and metal jumped nearly 11 percent to more than 928 tons for the second quarter of the year.

Any improvement is welcome, but commissioners shouldn't be satisfied with the limited results and should move toward franchise agreements for trash collection and universal recycling. The county could award contracts to serve franchised areas based on geographic boundaries that would end the current inefficient system in which eight haulers fight for market share across the county.

Nearly a year ago, the commission's top recycling advocate, Commissioner Henry Wilson, briefed the board on the pending recycling changes and suggested the county should consider franchising the county's trash collection system if the recycling rates didn't improve. He should rekindle the now familiar debate. Twice since 2009 commissioners agreed to seek franchise contracts for trash collection, but retreated to the status quo amid heavy lobbying from private haulers.

The private sector's bottom line, however, can't be the only consideration. Just check the data in a Dec. 6 memorandum to commissioners from their utility department in response to a requested rate increase from Waste Management of Pasco. The monthly rate is capped at $12.44 per household for twice-a-week garbage collections and twice-a-month recycling. The suggested increase of nearly 17 percent would push the cost to $14.54, a rate supported by only one other hauler, Republic/Seaside. County staffers recommended rejecting the rate request and commissioners should do likewise when they consider it in January.

In the meantime, they should make note of the staff's survey of hauler rates in surrounding counties. In Hillsborough County, which updated its franchise agreements earlier this year, residents pay $6.88 per month for better service than Pasco haulers offer. In Hillsborough, the service includes weekly pickup of recycling and yard waste. In Hernando County, the 2011 franchise agreements cost residents $6.16 to $8.41 per month, depending on location, for similar service.

This should be the data that matters to commissioners. Their constituents are paying nearly twice as much as their closest neighbors for inferior trash collection service. It is time to modernize the system, give Pasco households a financial break and simultaneously boost the county's recycling rates.

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Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

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
Updated: 04/23/18