Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: St. Petersburg has a new must-do list

It is less than six typed pages, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council should read every word. The mayor's transition subcommittee on public safety has performed a public service with a crisp, candid and critical assessment of the city's police and fire departments. Both departments need new leadership, more discipline and smarter approaches toward spending money — and the time for progressive change is now with a new mayor and a re-energized City Council.

Kriseman will conduct a national search for a new police chief to succeed Chuck Harmon, who served an honorable if unspectacular 12 years as chief before retiring this month. But there are serious issues awaiting a new chief, and the transition subcommittee concluded there "may be an underlying systemic problem'' that has led to an unusually high number of police officer-involved shootings. At least 10 times last year a St. Petersburg officer shot someone. The suspect was killed in seven of those shootings, and at least four times the suspect was also mentally ill. Officers were found to have made mistakes in three of the shootings. The trend lines are not good, and the transition subcommittee reasonably recommends considering additional training.

The report makes a number of other predictable suggestions such as tightening the chase policy (as Kriseman did last week), eliminating or restricting the use of red-light cameras, and revising the lenient policy on take-home cars that costs taxpayers $400,000 a year just for gas for officers living outside the city. But the transition subcommittee also offered two provocative proposals that run counter to conventional political posturing and should catch Kriseman's attention. It suggests an outside review to determine whether additional police officers are needed, arguing that traditional calculations are outdated. And it calls for more police interaction with neighborhoods without returning to old-style community policing, which it calls outmoded and inefficient. Kriseman embraced the philosophy of community policing during the campaign, and he should heed the report's warning that "there is no need to turn back time.''

The mayor also would be wise to follow the report's suggestion that he replace fire Chief Jim Large. The Tampa Bay Times reported last month that for decades firefighters had the remarkable flexibility to swap shifts with co-workers with no oversight by supervisors by either trading hours or paying cash. The lack of regulation appears to be unique in Florida, and Large should have tightened the policy years ago rather than acting only after the newspaper revealed the indefensible lack of oversight.

The transition committee proposes saving money in both the fire and police departments by streamlining administration, and its thoughtful suggestions should be given strong consideration by the mayor and the City Council. But change will not come easy. Spending money on police and fire protection is usually popular, whether or not the costs are justified. The police and fire unions are politically aggressive, and it is curious that three City Council members were suddenly singing the praises last week of a fire department that needs a new chief and fights every attempt to reduce emergency medical service costs. A police union official already has called for the transition report to be "shredded" and complains it is anti-law enforcement. It is nothing of the sort.

A respected retired assistant police chief, a former firefighter and union leader, and a neighborhood association president are among the members of the transition subcommittee who wrote the report. It provides an excellent road map for improving the police and fire departments by embracing the future rather than clinging to the past.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18