Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Tampa Bay helps Puerto Rico while Trump tweets insults

The contrast Thursday on Puerto Rico could not have been clearer, with President Donald Trump threatening to shut down the federal relief efforts even as public and private leaders in Tampa Bay look for new ways to rush needed supplies to the island. In short, one man was reacting to searing criticism of his leadership in Puerto Rico while one community turned its attention instead to the human crisis from Hurricane Maria.

The differences in substance and style are alarming given how devastated the island remains three weeks after Maria blew ashore, leaving scores dead or missing, drowning villages in hip-deep floods and leaving the vast majority of Puerto Rico's 3.4 million people still without power, running water, medicine and other everyday essentials.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Trump threatened to pull back on the relief effort, declaring that recovery workers would not stay "forever," and blaming Puerto Rico for making the recovery even worse. "Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes," Trump tweeted. He also said that Puerto Rico had to face a financial crisis "largely of their own making."

Puerto Rico has faced a fiscal crisis for years, but bringing it up when most residents there still don't have power, drinking water or critical supplies was beyond insensitive. And it comes after Trump has faced sharp criticism for the breadth and pace of the relief effort on the U.S. territory. He was personally lambasted for his behavior last week after he hurled rolls of paper towels like basketballs at Puerto Ricans during a press event. The relief effort will be a long, costly and grinding one, and Trump's tweets only fueled more outrage and despair on the island.

A team from Tampa Bay set a far different tone and was far more productive. After returning from a one-day survey trip last week, Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, began planning a resupply visit. As the Tampa Bay Times' Tracey McManus reported, Cruz began by asking the Tampa Bay Rays if they could help pay for a barge to deliver water, medical supplies and food to residents in rural areas still waiting for aid. Rays senior director of public affairs, Rafaela Amador Fink, said she wanted to do more. The team has players and staff with deep community ties to the island, and it arranged a charter flight for a relief mission.

The Boeing aircraft that flew Wednesday from Tampa carried 11 generators and thousands of pounds of water, rations and other supplies, including four vapor containers to ferry vials of cancerous tissue samples from a lab in Puerto Rico to the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for safekeeping. While crews unloaded the supplies from the Rays' jet, Cruz and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman visited a local shelter, where Cruz untied her own blue Nikes and gave them to a woman left with only dirty flipflops.

Rays pitcher Xavier Cedeno took the flight and stayed on the island to help with the recovery in his hometown of Guayanilla. In the past week, doctors from the University of South Florida surveyed rural areas and made lists of critical supplies. More relief flights are planned. Earlier this month, Tampa cardiologist Kiran Patel offered the use of his plane for a mission that brought about 6,000 pounds of food and other essentials to the island. "It's society's problem," Patel said, "and we all have to act."

Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and a recognition we are in this together is what the island needs. It is hard to imagine that Trump would threaten to pull the plug on hurricane recovery efforts in Texas or Florida. It was bad timing for another insensitive tweet from the president, and Tampa Bay is setting an example of genuine empathy and real assistance for our fellow Americans that Washington should follow.

Comments

Wednesday’s letters: How home rule can help fight Red Tide

Red Tide on march | Sept. 18How home rule can help fight Red TideAt the end of 2005, as Red Tide ravaged the beaches and intracoastal waterways of Southwest Florida, volunteers from the Suncoast Sierra Club formed a coastal task force to begin de...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 19

Cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 19

Editorial cartoons from Times wires
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/18/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18

Column: We’re measuring the economy all wrong

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Bros., the official economic statistics — the ones that fill news stories, television shows and presidential tweets — say that the U.S. economy is fully recovered.The unemployment rate is lower tha...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectation’’ is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18