Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Rooting out rot in housing program

Hillsborough County should hit the pause button on reforming its housing program and investigate the indifference and incompetence that enabled slumlords to live off taxpayer money while poor people with housing vouchers were forced to live in unsafe and sickening conditions. If the county mismanaged the program so egregiously before, why should the public have any confidence that it can get it right this time by supervising charities to do a better job instead? There is no real fix without understanding the depth of the problem.

The Tampa Bay Times' Michael Laforgia and Will Hobson reported Sunday how the county's mismanagement of its Homeless Recovery program endangered the very people whom taxpayers were getting off the streets. During the past five years, the county paid for space in buildings in blighted areas of central and north Tampa where homeless people, including families with children, veterans, the mentally ill and the working poor, were lumped together in filthy, crime-ridden slums. Caseworkers sent these clients to live in moldy, bug-infested rooms where some had to live alongside sex offenders or step over puddles of human waste to a bed paid for by taxpayers.

The hardships that residents relayed show why some homeless people would rather take their chances on the streets. Residents put poison on their mattresses to kill bedbugs. A father of three found syringes on the bathroom floor. Since 2009, police or sheriff's deputies visited the rentals some 5,500 times, or once every eight hours for five years. They chronicled reports of more than 300 assaults and 150 thefts. One-fourth of the $4.3 million the county has spent in the past five years has gone to vendors whose buildings were routine hazards or hotbeds of crime.

The county responded to the Times' reports by replacing two senior managers and moving to outsource the housing program to nonprofit groups. That is a step in the right direction, but it's clear the operation was shoddy throughout the ranks. So why is the county guaranteeing that the staff members replaced from the housing program will find new jobs in county government? It is appalling that these conditions existed, yet no one else is being held responsible for failing to enforce any order or decency.

County Commissioner Les Miller should start focusing more on reforming the housing program than on insisting that these employees all but be guaranteed a job if the county farms out the program to the nonprofits. The county also should consider whether it has the expertise to help nonprofits build the capacity to take over the housing operation. The new standards requiring housing units to pass health and safety codes are a step in the right direction. But why did no one at the county have the common sense or initiative to address these horrid conditions that regularly existed for years? The problem was lazy employees as much as bad policies, and the county must correct both issues to ensure the poor are housed in a more humane and responsible way.

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‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

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Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

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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...
Updated: 6 hours ago
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
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