Saturday, April 21, 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: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

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

Editorial: Womenís 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: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castroís 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

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
Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Natureís Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Natureís Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. ē The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18