Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Smart to keep TBX road plan moving

Hillsborough County did the right thing this week by moving ahead with Tampa Bay Express, the state's controversial and costly plan for improving the region's interstate system. While TBX has flaws that need to be addressed, it made no sense at this early stage to reject billions of dollars in state transportation improvements. By keeping TBX alive, local leaders have created space to work with the state on improving TBX, softening its impact on area communities and augmenting the road work with new investments in mass transit and neighborhood design.

Hillsborough's Metropolitan Planning Organization voted 12-4 to retain TBX in its long-term plan after a marathon meeting that ended early Thursday. The plan calls for remaking I-275, I-4 and I-75 (partly with express toll lanes), fixing interchanges and building a new northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge. The MPO acknowledged reality with its lopsided support; these roads are already badly congested, and they need a serious and timely fix if this region is to grow, compete and retain its quality of life.

While TBX has polarized some business leaders and neighborhood activists, the public hearing that drew hundreds of people and scores of speakers exposed a budding middle ground. TBX is not the cure-all that some advocates claim, and it doesn't have to be the neighborhood-killer that many opponents fear. There is room here to build a larger interstate but rethink its design. That requires an honest assessment of the role the interstates play in the region and an appreciation for the urban renewal in Tampa that has strengthened the inner city tax base.

County Commissioners Sandy Murman and Kevin Beckner, who took opposite sides in the MPO vote, strengthened the plan Thursday by pushing through measures that call on the state Department of Transportation to be more open and deliberative about ways to lessen the impact of the construction and expand mass transit. By approving these amendments unanimously, the MPO increased its negotiating hand with the DOT, setting the right expectations as the conversation over design and scale of the highway unfolds over the coming year.

Neighborhood activists will lose this battle if they frame the debate exclusively as a policy choice between roads and mass transit, or as a red line against suburban sprawl. The interstates are where they are, and they are not moving. The land development patterns are already in place, and residents and businesses need better regional connectivity. On the flip side, business interests should recognize the huge stake Tampa has in fostering the urban renewal taking place in Seminole and Tampa Heights and the Ybor area. The two sides have more in common than it appears, and they should unite in improving TBX, from challenging the size of the interstate's footprint and the DOT's planned use of toll lanes to pushing for stronger commitments on mass transit spending.

The MPO's decision is only the start of a serious conversation about TBX. By seeking common ground, the local community can build the essential state support for a modern and truly balanced transportation system.

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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
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

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18