Saturday, February 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Stronger stand needed against racial discrimination, remarks

There should be zero tolerance in government for employee harassment — particularly from a supervisor. Yet in St. Petersburg last year, a white supervisor kept his job after spraying a black subordinate with white spray paint and making a reference to the Ku Klux Klan. The incident and lax punishment occurred under the former mayor, but Mayor Rick Kriseman's muted initial reaction to a followup investigation under his watch suggests there is more work to be done. City Hall should set clear standards for civil behavior and equal treatment and have no tolerance for racist remarks or discrimination.

As Kameel Stanley reported Sunday in the Tampa Bay Times, the incident occurred last October when veteran stormwater operations supervisor John Paquette sprayed white paint onto the back of veteran city technician Donald Pittman's shirt and said, "It looks like someone sprayed KKK on your back." Those facts are not in dispute. There is a question as to whether Paquette actually sprayed the three letters or just some lines. And Paquette is known as a jokester. But that doesn't matter, as the city's investigator appropriately concluded in December: "The mere act of spraying markings of any kind" was offensive and inappropriate.

Yet rather than fire Paquette as most private businesses surely would, department director Jerry Fortney did little more than slap him on the wrist. Paquette, 51, was suspended for 10 days without pay and told to attend a sensitivity class. Pittman, 51, was assigned to a new crew.

Kriseman told Stanley that Paquette's punishment was out of his hands by January, when he took office. He wasn't familiar with the results from the followup investigation, recommended by the initial investigator, into the department's racial climate by the human resources department. He said he deferred to department heads to handle such matters.

But Kriseman shouldn't have been out of the loop. Finished in July, the climate study mirrors comments heard earlier this year as Kriseman's administration heard from police officers about longtime tension between some black and white officers. The stormwater department climate survey confirmed black employees were not being promoted equally when it came to the position of foreman and that training opportunities were not clearly communicated to all employees. The study also found a sharp divide on the question of racial tension in the department. Black employees perceived tension; whites did not.

By Monday, Kriseman was being more direct. He posted to Facebook that incidences such as Paquette's "will not be tolerated on my watch" and pledged to move forward with plans to address the climate in the stormwater department. That's a good start. The mayor should be sending his strongest message to all city employees that age-old discrimination and unequal treatment in some city departments will be dealt with quickly and directly, not just tolerated and quietly handled when someone complains.

Comments
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18
Editorial: TIA expansion a reminder to aim high

Editorial: TIA expansion a reminder to aim high

Thereís nothing particularly exciting about a tram, much less a rental car facility. But the new projects at Tampa International Airport set to open Wednesday are a sign of confidence in the bay area ó and a challenge to improve regional transportati...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/09/18