Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Slumlord port official should go

When a powerful official ignores the law in his private business, the public has every right to question whether he can be trusted in his public position. The slum rentals William A. "Hoe" Brown kept on the Seminole Heights property that includes the office of his private real estate business are shameful enough. But when a slumlord taking advantage of poor people and flaunting city code also is the chairman of the Tampa Port Authority, it's unacceptable. Brown should resign from the port authority board or Gov. Rick Scott should demand it.

Today came even more revelations about the rental operation Brown had been running at 106 W. Stanley St. — including five illegal and squalid mobile homes and five apartments inside his office building, none of which had the required city rental certificates. Mobile homes, in fact, aren't allowed in the city limits except in mobile home parks, and Brown had never sought permission to put them on his property. As the Tampa Bay Times' Jamal Thalji and Will Hobson reported, Tampa police have been called to the property an average of once a week over the past 18 months for reports of crimes such as assault, battery and grand theft. In March, police were called after the death of a tenant living inside Brown's office building. Brown acknowledged knowing about the death.

But Brown, a prominent Republican fundraiser, claims to have been ignorant of the extreme conditions in the mobile homes, which were each split into two furnished apartments that cost tenants a reported $550 a month. When a Times reporter visited last week, the stench in 67-year-old Victor Gonzalez's apartment in a mobile home was overpowering; Gonzalez had open wounds on his forehead that he blamed on scratching at bugs. "Where else could I go?" he asked.

Brown on Tuesday moved quickly to relocate the tenants and haul away the mobile homes — but only after the Times began asking questions and city code enforcement director Jake Slater visited the property. Brown acted only after the threat of embarrassment to his public image, not after city officials in April had alerted him that his property was out of compliance. And his defense is not believable. A savvy businessman and civic leader was just blind to a deplorable and illegal operation happening in the backyard of his business office?

This episode has nothing to do with holding a public official to a higher standard. No property owner should get away with operating rental property that Tampa's code enforcement chief called "deplorable" and "not fit for human habitation." But it does reflect on Brown's fitness for a public job as chairman of the port authority's governing board, which oversees a $15 billion economic engine that supports more than 80,000 jobs. He is a public face of an agency that plays a major role in the development of the Channel District and the downtown area. If he won't keep an eye on what's happening out the back door of his office, what will he overlook in his public duties?

Brown should resign from the port authority, which needs a more responsible board chairman.

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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
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18